A Beginner’s Candid Interview About TM
As a long-time Transcendental Meditation teacher, it is clarifying to get a fresh perspective on the TM program. I spoke with a woman who was very recently instructed in the TM technique in order to get a vision of one young woman’s expectations, hopes, and experiences when she starts exploring the development of consciousness.
Kim, a charming, refreshingly honest, sensitive, and intelligent young woman talked with me about her past, her hopes, and how the TM technique fits into the trajectory of her ideals and goals.
Q- Kim, thank you for giving us this time. To lay a foundation for this article, please tell us a little bit about your background.
A- My pleasure, Janet! I am a 32-year-old highly sensitive woman. Having grown up with a single mother, who always had to struggle with taking care of herself and her daughter with no family support, I have come to realize that I have always been in a basic state of stress—not a neutral or trusting state, but of constant fear of all the things that could go wrong and need to be addressed head-on.
The most obvious symptoms have always been trouble with sleeping and nightmares, as well as a strong restlessness during the days, and chronic stomach aches. And each morning I would wake up with a racing heart, instantly thinking of all that I need to do at work and in my private life that day. Ever since I realized what the root of these problems was, I have been looking for ways to relieve this stress. I have been trying to find natural ways of calming my mind and my body…especially since I have a history of addictive behaviors, all of which have not helped me and are not what I would consider part of living a healthy life. Before learning TM, I had made improvements by implementing a number of daily routines, such as yoga each morning and mindful meditation, and going for a walk each afternoon. These have helped me to calm down somewhat during the day, but I still had trouble sleeping and still had nightmares all the time.
Q- I understand that you just learned TM recently. What were your expectations about learning? Before you were instructed, did the introductory presentations give you some clarity as to what to expect?
A- Yes, I only learned TM five weeks ago and I have already noticed significant changes in my life since then. I did not have any expectations about learning—only hope for it to improve my daily life by adding more calm to it. Before my first day of instruction, I watched the introductory video on TM-women.org and was very impressed by all the studies on health improvement that are shown there, especially since I knew how harmful stress can be to the body long term. But I still did not really know what to expect from the TM practice for me personally.
Q- Was learning TM easy? Did you find the practice itself as easy and natural as it is described? What did you feel mentally and physically in your first meditation?
A- Indeed, I found learning the TM method very easy and natural. The first few times I practiced, it was also overwhelming to me because it has only been in very rare situations in my life that I have felt relaxed. I was quite surprised about how I felt after practicing TM at first because, ordinarily, it takes a long time for me to relax. For example, going on a holiday for two weeks, I would finally feel relaxed in the last three days, and then go back to work… and back to being stressed. But during and after practicing TM, I immediately felt calm in my body. My heart wasn’t racing, and my mind was also suddenly very quiet. I still had thoughts and emotions and was aware of my body during the meditation, but not overwhelmed as usual. And I did not feel the need to instantly jump up and get things done after the practice.
Q- Did you find that the course of instruction in TM was comprehensive and informative enough to answer all your questions and enable you to continue to meditate successfully on your own?
A- The questions I had were all answered, either during the instruction or when my instructor regularly asked me if I had any questions. My “learning type” is to understand and make sense of the new information I want to learn. So being given a lot of detailed instructions and background information, in combination with practicing the TM technique, really made me want to learn more and to practice regularly to get all the benefits. I have meditated successfully on my own from the get-go.
Q- What benefits have you noticed since learning?
A- I have noticed a variety of positive changes since learning TM. The most significant one for me is that most nights I have no trouble sleeping and no more nightmares. (Only if something very significant is happening and upsetting me, I still experience these.) But as a highly sensitive person, I tend to process a lot of emotions and impressions in my sleep. My guess is that during the two practices of TM each day, stress dissolves and I don’t have as much to process during sleep. What I’ve also noticed is that I have more trust in myself and in life. Before regularly practicing TM, they were more of an overwhelming storm inside me.
Q- I understand that you’ve had some difficult experiences in the past. If you had learned TM prior to those times, do you think it would have supported you?
A- As I mentioned earlier, I think I personally need a combination of understanding cognitively what is happening or has happened to me in the past, and practical methods to support change or to give me calm and self-confidence. Therefore, I think, that TM would have probably helped to speed up my progress in psychotherapy or in making self-caring decisions in my life sooner.
Q- For a while, you were a social worker. Many social workers say that the job is extremely stressful and can have a deleterious effect on emotional and physical health. How do you think the scientifically verified benefits of TM would have supported your own well-being and productivity as a social worker?
A- Practicing TM might have helped me be calmer and preserve my inner resources. As a social worker, I would wake up and already be stressed, then be stressed at work, and be restless and exhausted after. If I would have known to practice TM each morning and each afternoon, I suspect I would have been calmer during the day and then be able to process the events of the day more easily. Maybe I would not have burned out or felt frustrated with all the challenges in my profession.
A- Yes! I would highly recommend this to everybody who wants to be more in touch with themselves and get relief from stress or anxiety to give TM a try. I am not the kind of person who thinks there is one kind of solution for everybody. But I have been searching for a very long time for something that truly helps me and I already feel like I have found a big piece of the puzzle after just five weeks of practicing TM.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA.