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Are All Meditations the Same?
by Ann Purcell

David Lynch Foundation Blog    Translate This Article
25 August 2015

How is Transcendental Meditation different from other forms of meditation?

One of the most common questions I get asked is how Transcendental Meditation (TM) differs from other forms of meditation. There are many types of meditation on the market today. It seems that around every corner a new yoga studio or meditation center is opening for business. Even doctors are prescribing meditation to help their patients reduce stress. But are all of these practices created equal?

Very often people will come to me expressing that they have tried to meditate, but find it difficult. They say that they have too many thoughts and can't quiet the mind. Instead of settling down in meditation, they want to jump out of their seat. They are so bored, so restless!

Most meditation techniques are difficult

My experience is that most meditation techniques involve effort: effort to silence the mind, effort to concentrate on one thought or image, effort to watch the breath.

Para Steinmann says in her blog post, ''Not All Meditations are Created Equal'':
''Guided meditation'' is a case in point: One is told to move from one visualization to the next, thus keeping the mind continuously engaged on the conscious thinking level—the surface of the mind.

Trying to stay focused on a thought or an image is difficult for most people. The mind tends to wander and consequently does not settle down to quieter levels of the mind.

I was extremely fortunate to learn Transcendental Meditation 42 years ago. The reason I like TM and have stayed with it all of these years is that it is easy, and does not require any effort. In my very first meditation, I sank to the most peaceful silence I had ever experienced. I continue to do so every day, twice a day, without any effort or trying.

Trying to concentrate is unnatural

The ocean is a good analogy to explain the different types of meditation. On the surface of the ocean we have waves, sometimes more rough, other times calm. These waves are like the surface level of our mind. According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. Thoughts can be more if we are stressed or less if we are rested and balanced. Either way, that is a lot of waves!

Mindfulness meditation aims for one to be present observing the waves of the mind, or to observe them dispassionately.

Concentrating on an object or thoughts is another popular form of meditation today. Meditation techniques involving concentration aim to keep focused attention on the moving wave, which is difficult to do. Also, if what one is trying to concentrate on is not pleasing to the mind, the mind will wander. It will also be a strain for the mind to try and focus on something that is not particularly engaging.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the West, taught that the mind would automatically stay concentrated on something that is enjoyable without any effort or need to discipline the mind. The TM technique allows the mind to naturally settle down to quieter levels. Because those quiet levels are extremely charming, the mind will automatically stay there. Going back to the analogy of the ocean, instead of observing the waves on the surface, with TM we are transcending the waves and sinking into the silence at the bottom of the ocean.

Transcendence—the goal of meditation

It is a common misconception that to rein in, or get rid of thoughts completely is the goal of meditation. Trying to control thoughts is a wrong understanding, which, unfortunately, pervades society and makes most people feel like they don't even want to learn to meditate. People feel they are so active that there is no way they can quiet, or empty their mind.

Only a technique that allows the mind to go within, settle down, and experience more quiet states of awareness deserves the name meditation. Such a technique effortlessly leads the mind to transcendence: inner wakefulness along with pure silence. This has been my experience with TM.

It is the natural tendency of the mind to seek more happiness. If we are talking with someone and our favorite music comes on in the next room, naturally the mind will go there. Transcendental Meditation uses this natural tendency of the mind to go toward greater happiness, but rather than putting the attention in the outer direction, TM turns the mind inward. The mind will automatically go to the transcendent because it is a field of greater happiness and peace.

Again, when we give the mind the experience of greater happiness, contentment, and inner peace, it will naturally go there. It is only a matter of learning how to turn the mind within and the rest is automatic.

The transcendent is beyond space and time. It is a field of eternal silence, yet also totally awake. With regular practice this state becomes established so that, even in activity, one enjoys that inner peace and happiness.

Enlightenment—the goal of transcendence

Eventually, the state of transcendence takes over so completely that everything in the outer world is experienced as a wave of that same silence experienced in deep meditation. This inner silence along with dynamic activity is the state of enlightenment. It is as if the deep inner value of life expands to overtake the whole of our outer world. All life is experienced as a state of oneness, a state of unity.

Enlightenment is the ultimate goal of all forms of meditation.

Everyone has to choose what meditation technique is most comfortable for them. Personally, I have learned that strain and discomfort prolong results.  I now tend to favor what is natural, easy, effective and enjoyable in all aspects of my life.

I hope this article has helped you in one-way or another. If you have any questions or insights please share them in the comments section below.

With thanks,

Ann Purcell

Ann Purcell is an author and has been teaching meditation around the world since 1973. In addition, she has worked on curricula and course development for universities and continuing education programs. Her latest book, The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment was released on March 13, 2015.

Copyright © 2015 David Lynch Foundation

See related articles:
The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment: An Interview with Author Ann Purcell
The Power of Transcendence

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