Transcendental Meditation: stressless or stressful?

Just to Relax?

So, you just want to relax?
You're a reasonable person, right? As interesting as it all sounds, let's say that you're not taken in by promises of supernormal powers. And you're also not tempted to add "advanced techniques" or "yogic flying" (hopping on foam) to the original plan of sitting down for 20 minutes, twice a day. You're not planning on spending up to four hours per day "releasing stress" or spending any extended periods of time in special "meditation programs," shown to have devastating effects on unsuspecting participants. (See Personal Stories and Research Demonstrating Harmful Effects from TM. )

No -- you just want a simple, no-frills method to relax. Isn't TM, then, a good idea?

Even under these circumstances, TM is not recommended for the following reasons:
  • Research shows that some people experience negative effects from practicing TM -- even at just 20 minutes, twice a day.[1]

  • If someone encounters problems from practicing TM, the TM Organization provides no real help in resolving these issues. They don't acknowledge that TM can produce negative effects (except to label them as "unstressing"), and therefore are unprepared to help you resolve them.

  • TM practice alters biochemistry. ) Some of those effects are increased serotonin; change in secretion and release of several pituitary hormones "similar to the effects of synthetic anxiolytic and tranquilizing agents such as benzodiazepines"; increased AVP secretion; loss of normal diurnal rhythm for the hormones ACTH and beta-endorphin; and increased phenylalanine. Altering biochemistry has both short-term and long-term consequences. Depending on the biochemical make-up of the individual, these changes may be beneficial or detrimental. They could also be beneficial in the short-term, and detrimental in the long-term. (See Biochemical Changes and TM & Serotonin: Model of Effects .)

  • The TM Organization promotes increasing the basic TM practice of 20 minutes twice-a-day, by selling "advanced techniques", the "TM-Sidhi Program", and "residence courses". Increased TM practice has been reported to significantly escalate the experience of detrimental effects. (See Harmful Effects .)

  • If you were planning to use the TM technique as just a relaxation technique, for the purpose of improving you overall health, then there are other less risky methods of improving health. Dietary changes and moderate exercise programs are proven methods of improving overall health and increasing your experience of well being.

  • TM practice appears to fit a model of trance effects, with corresponding brain chemistry and biochemical changes. This model appears to explain most, if not all, of the most severe consequences of the practice, such as muscle twitches and convulsions, depersonalization, depression, nervous breakdown, etc. It also appears to explain some of the subjectively reported benefits: "going deep" (trance experience) "feeling better" (serotonin increase) "increased alertness" (phenylalanine increase).

No one can tell ahead of time just what kinds of effects will be experienced in short-term TM and TM-Sidhi practice, or what might develop from long-term practice.

Notes to text:

[1] See
Personal Stories , Research Demonstrating Harmful Effects from TM and Bensheim, Germany: (Institut fur Jugend Und Gesellschaft, Ernst-Ludwig-Strasse 45, 6140.) Institute for Youth and Society, 1980 (188 pgs).