A Personal Story —
Learning the Transcendental Meditation technique
By Tom McKinley Ball
Even though millions around the world have learned the TM technique, the practice is taught in the same, personal way that it always has been. With all the talk about scientific research and the technique's clinical applications, it's not always obvious how intimate and personal TM practice is. So here's an account of one meditator's personal experience of learning the TM technique.
When I first heard of Transcendental Meditation, at age 16, I found the words alluring. ‘Transcendental’ sounded deep, beyond the familiar. I’d been studying Zen and trying to practice it — reading every book I could find about meditation of any kind. I soon found myself at a local college campus attending an introductory TM talk, given by a mild-mannered, clean-cut guy who reminded me of Clark Kent.
The TM teacher seemed to know what he was talking about — not just on the level of thinking or belief, but from direct experience. I was impressed by his gentle confidence and clarity.
To transcend, he said, means to go beyond thinking, to experience the source of thought deep within — a reservoir of creativity and intelligence.
It was explained that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced this ancient technique after it had been long lost to society, even in India. Maharishi restored its original effectiveness and systematized the practice so that teachers could be trained to teach it in every language and the technique would give consistent, all-positive results for people everywhere.
The teacher presented an article from a recent issue of Scientific American, on the physiology of TM practice. He waved the article proudly and pronounced that science had begun to demystify and verify meditation’s practical effects. The research showed that the TM technique produced a distinct, rejuvenating state of “restful alertness” — a proposed fourth state of consciousness unlike waking, dreaming or sleep. Scientific American called it a "hypo-metabolic state."
Describing the experience of transcendence, he used a word that thoroughly captivated my sixteen-year-old brain: “unboundedness.”
I surmised that this unboundedness, whatever it was, had something to do with the softness, the free and at-ease quality that this man emanated.
Next came the big surprise: “TM will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done.” He made much of the technique’s ease and simplicity. The reason it works so well, he said, is because it is effortless.
A Different Kind of Meditation
I had tried practices that required arduous concentration, and others that urged me to just sit and be without judgment, aiming to achieve a state of “non-doing” or awareness of “what is.” There were also the contemplative meditations: exploring lofty ideas, trying to visualize the sublime. All these practices, even the passive striving for non-doing, gave me something to do or accomplish in meditation — and they all required some effort. I found them rather difficult and often unsatisfying in results. Now I was being told that effective meditation was utterly simple and completely effortless.
He explained that TM practice is not mind control, not contemplating or thinking about anything in particular, not just watching your thoughts or your breathing. Rather, it’s a technique for transcending mental activity, for going beyond the mind’s boundaries to experience “pure Being.” The process is easy and natural because it’s based entirely on the mind’s natural tendency to seek fields of greater happiness.
That principle took some explaining. If you’re reading a magazine and lose interest in an article, you’ll thumb the pages for something better. If a lecture gets tedious and you overhear a favorite song in the distance, your attention naturally tends toward the music. Our minds are busy not because they’re wandering aimlessly and need to be controlled, but because we’re looking for more knowledge and enjoyment. The TM technique utilizes this innate tendency. “We don’t control the mind,” the teacher said. “We satisfy the mind."
The technique allows the mind’s natural tendency to lead you toward greater happiness within, until you arrive at the state of maximum well-being — your true, inmost Self.
The First Dive
In my first TM session, I felt myself diving into a settled, expansive state where I felt completely safe and content — and like the man said, it happened effortlessly. My awareness opened to another world inside me, a place that had always been there but had somehow been hidden (that's why they call that field "transcendental"). It was a new experience, yet immediate, intimate and strangely familiar.
I noticed during that first meditation that my breathing slowed almost to a standstill. There were moments of peaceful silence when I wasn’t thinking anything. I felt lit up, awake inside, more present and aware than I had ever been. It was like coming back home after being away for a long, long time.
When I opened my eyes, everything around me appeared fresher, more crisp and clear — as if the world had been washed clean.
I had glimpsed that field of unboundedness and already it had changed my life.
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