A 100% honest take on Transcendental Meditation


 By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini 
 Apparently This Matters 

My path to enlightenment began with a stop at Trader Joe's.

The email instructions from the Atlanta Transcendental Meditation Center noted that, for my first training session, I was required to bring six fresh cut flowers and two pieces of fruit.

Thus, I found myself in the produce aisle thumbing through a bundle of pears. I wasn't sure if I would be required to eat my offering. But, just in case, I went with something I liked.

Sadly, Doritos don't technically count as fruit.

I had been meaning to learn the ways of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for quite some time. Howard Stern and Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen and Oprah and all sorts of other creative people swear by the calming benefits of the practice. 

So, to help quiet and liberate my own cluttered mind, I thought, "Welp. Celebrity-endorsed quack pseudoscience should do the trick!"


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and some band from Liverpool

The first step, I was told, was to attend a free information session to learn, in a broad, general sense, more about the basics of TM. 

I declined. 

For me, taking the plunge didn't require convincing. TM was something I already wanted to do. And, like anything new in my life, reading the instruction manual seemed like a waste of time. 

I live a delicate balance between haste and efficiency that usually ends with me returning stuff to Amazon.

So, in lieu of going to the information session, I agreed to watch an 18-minute online video introduction by Bob Roth, Director of the David Lynch Foundation.


After watching, I was not only sold. I was excited.

A week later, on a Saturday, I drove up GA-400 to start my training. A podcast played on the radio. A Trader Joe's bag sat shotgun. 

Flowers and fruit.

The Atlanta TM center sits in a rather nondescript building within a rather nondescript office park. It's quiet. And unassuming. You could legitimately run a low-budget porn operation from inside and nobody would know. Or care.

Ready to get my meditation on, I walked in to the center where I was promptly greeted and relieved of my groceries.

"So long, pears!"

The room was bland. A few rows of chairs. Some informational posters on the wall. And a TV and DVD player on a stand at the front. It was flanked on the left by a framed image of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the late developer of the TM technique. And, on the right, an image of Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī, Maharishi's master.


Swāmī Brahmānanda Saraswatī

After filling out some paperwork, I was introduced to my instructor who ushered me into one of two secluded back rooms of the center. He was an older gentleman. Calm. Happy. Relaxed. And the room was simple. 
Dimly lit. Two chairs. And a table serving as an altar with ornaments for the forthcoming ritual.

Now, I won't get into the particulars of the ceremony. They ask that it remain a secret. And, despite being a horrible, cynical human with limited values, I'm happy to respect that. So, all I'll say is that it involved flowers and fruit. 

"Hello, pears. We meet again."

The spoken portion of the ceremony was my instructor chanting and singing in Sanskrit. My job was to listen. And then I was given my personalized mantra. 

A mantra is simply a sound. Or a word. Or an utterance. And, when repeated silently during meditation, it is the sacred foundation of the TM technique. One which, again, the organization asks that individuals do not share. It's supposed to be private and special. And I fully agreed to these terms.

So, for the sake of conversation, let's just agree that my personal mantra is: Gary Busey


"Gary Busey. Gary Busey. Gary Busey."

Having concluded the ceremony and received my mantra, I began my first meditation under the guidance of my instructor. It was twenty minutes of sitting in a chair and, without moving my mouth, silently repeating,"Gary Busey. Gary Busey. Gary Busey."

From time to time, my mind would wander off. I'd think about things. Mostly Premier League soccer. But I would learn that this mental meandering is totally natural and expected. Not a problem. The goal is to just get back to the mantra.

"Gary Busey. Gary Busey. Gary Busey."

After twenty minutes, I was done. And ... rested. It was delightful.

It probably marked the longest period of time (save for sleeping or Jell-o wrestling) when I wasn't tethered to an electronic device. And for someone as overly-connected as I, that, alone, was reason enough to embrace TM.

This first meditation concluded day one of training. On the way home I treated myself to Taco Bell. I thought I deserved refried beans for my efforts. You know ... just like Maharishi instructed.

The next three successive days were reserved for group training where a handful of us newbies learned, together, the science and slightly more advanced-techniques of TM. And each session included a group meditation with our instructors which was surprisingly less awkward than I imagined. Just seven grown adults sitting in a room not saying anything for twenty minutes.

It was like an IT orgy.

Twenty minutes. That's an important unit of measurement. TM is recommended twice a day for that amount of time. Which seems like a lot. And if you have a busy schedule ... it is a lot.

Ultimately, one just has to weigh the benefits of carving out forty minutes from his or her day for meditation as opposed to finding the end of the internet. The struggle is real.

So far, I'm doing well. Mornings are easiest for me. After a few alarm snoozes I wake up, walk into the living room, plop down into my recliner, and start my session. At which point my dog and girlfriend promptly readjust in bed, thus making my return an impossibility.

If nothing else, it gets me up. For good.


It's his bed. I just get to borrow it at night.

The afternoon sessions seem more beneficial. I can really feel the day's tension being released. But it's also more difficult to find the time. 

Read: I have Netflix.

It's been a couple weeks now since I took my TM training. And, despite some of the cooky-ness, I love it. Pseudoscience. Real science. Quackery. Sincere. I really don't care. It just works. 

After meditating, I'm sharper and more alert. 

Still bald and short. But those other things are kind of nice.

Almost more importantly, I'm 100% confident I didn't somehow join a cult. Not that I'm opposed to joining a cult. Should a good one come along.

TM also isn't a religion. Or a belief system. Or a commitment to anyone but yourself. Quite frankly, it barely requires any effort at all. And that's sort of my primary concern when doing just about anything. 

Not burning unnecessary calories.

TM is literally just sitting and letting go. I feel more rested. More relaxed. And less connected to the digital world. Admittedly, sometimes I miss a session. Sometimes I only go fifteen minutes. And sometimes I lose the mantra from start to finish. 

But I do my best. And I make it what I want.

So, I'm sticking with it.

"Gary Busey. Gary Busey. Gary Busey."

A note on pricing
For many, TM is expensive. They ask about $1,000 for adults. I didn't pay that. There's definitely room to negotiate. But that's sort of on you. However, it's worth knowing that the organization does teach TM - for free - to certain individuals such as kids in school and soldiers suffering from PTSD. So, knowing that my fees would help subsidize others (and appreciating that these instructors don't just work with people like me out of the goodness of their heart) I was comfortable with what I ultimately paid. Here, in this essay, I chose to concentrate on the actual practice of TM and my positive personal results as opposed to the financial aspects. 

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