Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation
There are hundreds of different meditation techniques in the world, encompassing practices from many different traditions, religions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and philosophies. Each practice has its own style, purpose, and effect.
If you’re interested in finding out more about transcendental meditation versus mindfulness meditation, below I lay out the main differences and how each meditation technique works.
The first and most obvious point is that transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation each have their origins in two different traditions and are practiced in two very different ways. They also vary widely in the way they affect the brain and in the way that they are taught and learned.
Mindfulness practices are rooted in the Buddhist tradition of meditation, over the years these techniques have been brought into the mainstream in the west by famed writers and meditation masters such as Thich Nhat-Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Pema Chodron among others.
Transcendental Meditation on the other hand originates in the Vedic tradition (an ancient Hindu tradition from India ) and was introduced to the Western world by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It’s also been popularized by famous names such as David Lynch, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, and Hugh Jackman. The initial popularity of TM practice started in the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of psychedelic culture and the Beatles who also expressed interest in these practices. It seems to be making a big of a comeback now with these modern celebrities who praise the many benefits of the practice.
The most glaring difference between the two meditation techniques is that TM is more of a passive, relaxing meditation whereas mindfulness meditation requires a more active awareness of where your mind wanders, and can also be applied informally in different scenarios throughout your daily life. You don’t have to sit in silence to practice mindfulness meditation, you can make mindful eating, mindful walking, or mindful talking part of your regular practice.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to engage in all activities with the intention of bringing your attention to the present moment experience. That means slowing down, and engaging with your bodily sensations, paying attention to your breath, your thoughts and overall creating a certain quality of mind through this open awareness.
When you practice mindfulness you cultivate an active awareness of where your mind goes, and when it wanders you bring it back to the present moment. That mental process, known sometimes as open monitoring, is far more active than transcendental meditation, which in contrast allows for more freedom of mind.
In mindfulness, you are concentrating on clearing your mind, whereas, with tm practice, you are transcending that kind of effort and going beyond thought instead. It is more of an effortless meditation technique. You are encouraged to transcend thought through the silent, mental repetition of a mantra. You don’t have to concentrate or contemplate anything specific, instead, you use the mantra as a way to allow your mind to become calm and settle itself naturally.
The mantra is a monosyllabic sound, a non-specific word that has no meaning, but rather a vibrational sound that helps you to relax. Apparently these mantras are given personally to each practitioner of the tm technique during training.
In tm you experience a state of pure awareness, where you are aware but not thinking specifically about anything.
What are the benefits of each meditation technique?
All forms of meditation practice have extensive benefits for your well-being, mental health, and physical functioning. If you want to cultivate a quieter mind and tap into a sense of inner peace, as well as sleep better, perform better at work, lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety, I believe any meditation technique can help you.
That said, of course, it’s up to you to explore which practice best suits you as an individual.
Benefits of tm and benefits of mindfulness meditation compared:
Let’s look at the ways in which each type of meditation activates EEG signatures or brain wave activity.
The brain waves associated with transcendental meditation are alpha brain waves whereas with Mindfulness they are theta brain waves. Alpha waves are linked to a deep state of rest and relaxation and theta brainwaves are linked to a more alert state, a readiness of mind to process new things.
Transcendental meditation has been shown to improve mental health, creativity, focus, and reduce stress. It’s also been associated with reducing high blood pressure and heart health overall. This evidence of this is compelling enough for the American Heart Association to recommend that TM be used in clinical practice in 2013.
Followers and teachers of the tm technique say that it is the most effective form of meditation for reducing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with scientific studies backing that up. This 2018 study published in Military Medicine highlights how veterans who suffered from (PTSD) feeling significantly better after practicing the relaxation techniques associated with Transcendental Meditation.
There is also plenty of scientific research to show that Mindfulness meditation has effective results in reducing anxiety, stress, and improving overall health and well-being. The MBSR: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, is used in hospitals with positive results.
Differences in Learning and Applying the two Forms of Meditation
Transcendental Meditation Technique
You can only learn TM from a certified teacher, someone who has been trained extensively and is associated with the trademarked global organization. There is a very precise and specific way of learning the method which has been standardized.
You can do this through a local center near you. The training only takes 4 days (consecutive) for about an hour or so a day. You are then considered capable of training and practicing on your own. You get follow up from the organization and can attend group sessions if you wish.
This is also how you receive your very own personal mantra from your tm teacher to use as you progress through the tm practice.
Theoretically, you could learn this technique alone online or through reading about it, but the TM certified teachers would contest the validity or success of that endeavor.
After training, you practice tm for 20 minutes or more twice a day in silence.
Mindfulness techniques on the other hand are something you can learn alone, or you can take the 8-week course developed by Kabat-Zinn, on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It doesn’t necessarily require a financial investment to learn, and you can read up on the details and start practicing right away, wherever you are. It’s also easy to find meditator groups and find a community of people interested in learning the practice.
What are the results of each technique?
Practicing Transcendental meditation over time can result in reaching a state of cosmic consciousness and an experience of transcendence that changes your reality and sense of self. Through this automatic self-transcending meditation technique, you come to experience yourself as a universal, omnipresent being and connect to a sense of things greater than yourself as an individual. In this way, it can be a truly intense and spiritual practice to include in your daily life.
The mantra meditation allows you to dive deeper than other meditations, even going beyond the awareness of the meditation process itself, and you experience a form of physical, mental, and spiritual transcendence or pure consciousness. Practitioners talk of feeling weightless and of experiencing a profound physiological relaxation of the mind and body.
With mindfulness, the intention is always to be present in the moment with a focus and clarity of where your mind wanders and the ability to bring it back. It’s much more about learning to control your wandering, negative thoughts to ground you in the current experience.
Both forms of meditation are suitable for beginners looking to enter the world of meditation for life-changing benefits. The practices are different enough for you to study both and incorporate them into your daily life in varied ways.
I feel that both types of meditation can significantly increase your quality of life, bring you untold health benefits, and connect you to a feeling of higher consciousness.
The kind of mindfulness techniques you learn with mindfulness practice can be so helpful in managing day to day activities and bringing a sense of calm to your life overall. The relaxation techniques and deeper cosmic connection that tm practice inspires are invaluable and possibly life-changing tools to have in your emotional well-being arsenal.
Why not try them both out and see how you feel? You can’t go wrong when you are dedicated to improving your health and well-being, no matter which approach you go for.