A specific form of meditation called Transcendental Meditation has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, and it’s probably because it’s a product well-tailored to a younger market and headspace.
In February of 2015, the American Psychological Association published a study that found millennials — defined as people between the ages of 18 and 35 — experience more stress than other generations. While the increased levels of stress in the millennial generation can be attributed to a slew of contributing factors like money and work — that also affect other groups — the study concluded that increased optionality is a specific detriment to millennials. Growing up, we espoused our parents’ encouragement that we could do anything, as opposed to our parents who were advised that working hard would lead to a secure job and happiness. In that way, millennials are more entitled than previous generations. We think we can have more, although we might not necessarily deserve it.
The increased ability to choose is one of the greatest privileges we experience as a generation, but it has also proven to be a major source of stress. So let’s make things easier for those of you who can’t choose — cut out the numerous other methods of meditation and try Transcendental Meditation, a simple and natural way to quiet the mind. The word transcend simply means “to go beyond,” which is exactly what TM teaches. Sarah Anderson, a certified TM specialist and long-time teacher, says the driving goal of TM is “to allow the mind to experience thought at quieter and quieter until we experience the source of thought: quietness or unboundedness.” That may sound like a state that could only be achieved through great effort, but Anderson explains that the benefits of TM manifest when someone learns to not try. “It’s like surfing, we don’t fight the wave, we ride the wave.”
During Transcendental Meditation, we attempt (or don’t attempt) to access the source of our thoughts, thereby transcending active thinking levels. TM isn’t so much concerned with what happens during the two 20-minute meditation sessions practiced daily but the effects that manifest in peoples’ lives outside of the meditation. “The practice of Transcendental Meditation has such a profound effect on increasing the organizing power of the mind,” Anderson says. “We learn more quickly, we get things done more quickly, we come up with brilliant ideas, it greases all of our wheels.” Not only does TM help our minds function more clearly and efficiently, but Anderson says studies have shown it has beneficial effects on physiology, such as decreasing blood pressure. TM strengthens the inextricable link between body and mind: Someone who may have learned Transcendental Meditation to bring down their blood pressure may also notice they’re spending more time on the weekends writing poetry.
TM is different from other types of meditation for two main reasons: in the mechanics of the technique and in the results. On a technical level, most meditation involves some form of mind control, concentration, or contemplation — which may lead to revelations but keep the mind at the forefront of the process. Transcendental Meditation, on the other hand, transcends the surface level of the mind so the brain can experience its own quiet nature. As far as results go, more traditional forms of meditation may seek to activate specific centers in the brain. A compassion meditation, for example, will activate the compassion center in the brain, but Transcendental Meditation allows the person practicing to experience more “global coherence.” The result is a total “holistic upgrade” of the mind, not the strengthening of one particular part. “We become more of who we were born to be,” Anderson says. “We’re getting rid of the stress, and stress blocks us from our full potential.”
So why is Transcendental Meditation so adaptable for the millennial? Simply because it can be done anywhere at any time (once you learn through personal training from a certified instructor). Some might say they don’t have time to sit in a chair for 20 minutes twice a day, but the results of Transcendental Meditation speak for themselves. Anderson says she has worked with individuals whose work places and houses are too busy, so they do their 20 minutes in their car in the driveway. You may have to get creative in carving out time, but millennials are adaptable and on-the-go people. When Anderson and her husband lived in Midtown Manhattan, they would meditate on the subway ride to the Bronx where they taught TM at a housing project. Once you’ve been practicing for long enough, you can practice just about anywhere you can sit down. “If there’s noise, it’s somebody else’s noise,” she says.
What do millennials love even more than being active? The media. The world of Transcendental Meditation is becoming increasingly media- and entertainment-oriented. An outspoken community of celebrities — including Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Hugh Jackman, and Howard Stern — firmly upholds the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. Celebrity advocacy for TM isn’t an exercise in brand strengthening or a ploy to make money, like inescapable Instagram posts about Fit Tea or Keds. Rather, these industry figures have experienced the tremendous sincerity of TM’s results and share their experiences due to an intrinsic motivation to help the people of the world be happier. Considering that millennials, in particular, pay copious amounts of attention to celebrities and their various affairs, celebrities may often times be talking directly to millennials when speaking publicly about TM.
The hardest part of teaching TM, Anderson notes, is that it can be difficult for people to accept that it’s easy. Everything we do all day requires effort, so training ourselves to not exert any can feel uncomfortable and counterintuitive. Especially for a generational group like millennials whose lives are generally shrouded by excesses from social media and technology, viewing something at face value —stripping away the complications to see it plain and simply — goes against our instincts in more than one way. Transcendental Meditation, then, is a formative practice in the art of surrender. As Anderson puts it, “The only thing you can do wrong in TM is try.”
Photos via Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic