Transcendental Deception
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Two steps are necessary to evoke the relaxation response. The first step is to repeat a word, sound, prayer, phrase or movement. The second step is to disregard other thoughts when they come. Dr. Herbert Benson walks you through his simple relaxation technique, which has an identical physiological profile to TM.

In 2004, 60 Minutes Australia did a segment on TM and its leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi appears irritated and defensive throughout the interview, underscoring the question of what ultimately results from years of prolonged mantra meditation. Diane Hindel powerfully recounts her nervous breakdown and the trauma she experienced after becoming involved in TM. Before Maharishi's death, when this segment was aired, Hindel said she believed the guru only wanted people's money, and that he was an evil man who didn't believe his rhetoric. This is only one woman's story. However, she echoes many who say they have been brainwashed by TM and, at one time, its leader.  

David Lynch, founder of the David Lynch Foundation, and the 'Raja of Germany' participating in a strange and unnerving ritual for the purpose of creating an invincible Germany. Though a departure from the healing message TM promotes to the public, religious practice permeates the organization and its product.

David Lynch and his fellow Rajas of TM, led by the Maharaja.

David Sieveking, a young filmmaker from Germany, travels to Fairfield, Iowa, to attend a workshop on the sources of creativity, conducted by his idol, David Lynch. The workshop takes place at the Maharishi University of Enlightenment and the focus, it turns out, is on Transcendental Meditation. Lynch, who has spearheaded and glorified TM in recent years, inspires Sieveking to start TM. Despite his initial intrigue, the filmmaker quickly becomes a TM skeptic. The substantial cost of the 'personal TM mantra,' necessary to begin practicing, is one of the first red flags. Sieveking turns his lifelong adoration for Lynch, and the dubious, dangerous history of TM into a documentary that anyone considering TM should watch. Sieveking was as earnest as they come; thankfully, he allowed his inquisitive nature to lead him to the truth about TM. Watch the film here

David Lynch, founder of the David Lynch Foundation, and the 'Raja of Germany' participating in a strange and unnerving ritual for the purpose of creating an invincible Germany. Though a departure from the healing message TM promotes to the public, religious practice permeates the organization and its product.

In a nutshell, nobody needs to be 'assigned' a mantra to begin or enhance a meditation practice. Nor is there any reason a person's mantra should be kept a secret, as is mandatory in TM. However, focusing on a word of one's choosing can be a helpful tool in certain relaxation techniques. Of one's choosing. A word that is meaningful to the individual. That's the key. Dr. Micheal Persinger at Laurentian University illuminates the science.

Gina Catena, raised within the TM movement, speaks with Steven Hassan, an American mental health counselor and Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, who has helped people exit destructive cults. Catena explains the potential adverse side effects of prolonged hours of mantra meditation, which, as she has witnessed, can include anxiety and disassociation. She also expresses concern about the teaching of TM to veterans suffering from PTSD, which she finds unethical. Catena's opinion on the reason behind TM's aggressive push to teach TM meditation to at-risk youth in inner cities is illuminating from a person who spent so many years on the inside. The bottom line? Meditation doesn't require involvement with a secretive organization and Catena is one of many who cites Henry Benson's relaxation response as a positive alternative.