How Transcendental Meditation Helped Me Find a Sense of Calm
Even while living with my parents.
People mostly know me as a woman who writes about the latest beauty trends or wellness practice, but I *am* a multi-faceted person beyond my bylines. I have friends I love, cats I care for, and hobbies, like singing karaoke and writing poetry. In the vein of opening up to all of you, I may as well share how 2020 was for me, right? At the start of the pandemic, my partner (who I was living with) and I broke up, and about two hours after our breakup, I was packing my cats and belongings to move back to my childhood home in Queens—with my parents. About a week after that, I had lost my job and was still reeling from the notifications pushing to my phone that recited news of a global pandemic, economic crisis, and heartbreaking social injustice.
I fell into a state of depression, had panic attacks over minute things, and was in a constant state of fatigue, all while still trying to navigate the editorial world since I had just graduated from college. Simultaneously, I was trying to figure out how to properly be an adult while living under the same roof as my parents, which isn't an easy feat for someone with the nickname Beba, which means “baby" in Croatian. (My family still calls me Beba to this day, and it's because I'm the youngest child. Sometimes, I still feel like I'm treated as my name suggests.)
I went down many wellness paths to get to a space where I can finally reach homeostasis, and a lot of them worked in short spurts but never truly made me feel at peace with myself in the long run. I've known about Transcendental Meditation (TM) and its benefits for alleviating anxiety and general angst for years, so I thought, Why not try this out?
This year I went to the Brooklyn TM Center for my first foray into this meditation technique. Although there are over seven million people who practice TM daily, you can find very little information on the internet on how to practice TM. It's so mysterious that I honestly sat in an Uber on my way to my meditation lesson thinking: Why does it seem that only celebrities do this? Why do I have to pay? Am I about to join something along the lines of Scientology? Rest assured, it is so far from that.
TM is a meditation technique that you do every day for 20 minutes twice a day using a mantra assigned to you by a TM teacher. Simply put, you sit in a comfortable position and silently repeat a mantra to yourself until your time is up. It was initially brought to the States by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi over 50 years ago and has deep roots in Vedic traditions from thousands of years ago. It's a practice that requires you to relinquish control over your thoughts and just let everything be. There is no emphasis on being in a quiet place or sitting criss-cross in a field while incense wafts around you—the focus is on the pure and innocent act of enjoying the silence one can create within themselves through meditation.
So what is TM exactly? To understand TM, one must first understand the mind's state of consciousness. The TM organization compares the mind to an ocean. Waves crash at the top of the ocean, continually causing abrupt movements that can make a swimmer lose all control over their bodies. On the contrary, there is minimal movement at the bottom of the ocean, where one can find an escape from the waves above. The mind is much like that, where at a superficial level, racing thoughts play vicious games of ping-pong with each other that can lead a person to a state of heightened worry. Yet, as a person submerges themselves into the bottom-most layer of their consciousness, there is nothing but peace and silence, away from the racing thoughts of deadlines and noisy housemates, compared to the crashing waves above.
Riffing off the ocean analogy, it's not the safest thing for a person to dive into the deepest layers of the ocean without proper gear. With transcendental meditation, a person uses a mantra to act as a wet suit that allows them to delve into that deep level of consciousness safely. The mantra delivers a person from that hectic ping-pong game that intrusive thoughts can play and helps them embrace the deeper layers of the conscious mind, where there is nothing but peace and stillness. The mantra itself is nothing but a meaningless sound, and the meaninglessness of that sound allows for a person to step away from anything else that has thought or meaning attached to it, which brings a person to a state of deep consciousness, where the mind can feel empty in a tranquil way.
Now, why TM, and not just any other form of meditation? With typical meditation, we are taught to focus on the breath, focus on the body, or focus on a phrase that we can use to set our intentions for that day. These forms of meditation are amazing as they allow for a person to reconnect with themselves through grounding. Yet, with transcendental meditation, the goal is to relinquish focus over the mind and body and simply be. Within TM, it is said that deeper layers of the conscious hold all beautiful things that live intrinsically in all of us, like creativity, happiness, and motivation. When you practice TM, you're able to bring these attributes out into your daily life and use them as tools to thrive (whatever your definition of thriving is).
Unfortunately, I cannot say anything about how to practice it because of what I like to call the "spiritual NDA" I signed—a contract that states that I will never teach TM to anyone, nor will I ever repeat my mantra out loud. You can only learn TM from the professionals at your local TM center, and this is to ensure that you are practicing TM correctly and safely. TM is a precise meditation technique, and if you are not learning under the guidance of a professional, you may find that instead of feeling a heightened sense of self, you'll likely experience headaches, neck pains, along with hardships while meditating. And it's why you pay, too, because just as you would pay a yoga instructor to teach you a proper way to stretch so as not to hurt yourself, you'll want to learn how to do this meditation correctly to reap all its benefits.
With the simple act of meditating twice a day in the corner of my room, I'm able to find inner silence within myself, where boundless bliss and creativity flourish. I'd say they're great things to grab hold of during my daily life of living at home with my parents as someone in their mid-20s navigating the ways of life as a beauty and wellness writer.
TM taught me that I had the ability to look within, no matter what is going on around me, and tell myself that everything will be OK (eventually). It has helped me find a solid base of calm within myself that has quickly trickled into my daily life, too. And, according to a 2016 study, TM has proven to create “a decrease in state anxiety and cognitive worry" in individuals practicing TM. I'm no longer worrying so much about my schedule, but am instead focusing on ways I can tick things off my to-do list, one task at a time. And I've found that although my world may feel like it's falling apart at the seams, I luckily have myself to check in with. It reminds me that all bad things that have happened to me do not have the ability to tear me down but only strengthen me.