Is it worth $2500 to learn Transcendental Meditation?
August 13, 2005 8:01 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in meditation. I've read several books by authors including Pema Chodron and Wayne Dyer who speak of the benefits of meditation. I am also the sort of person who multi-tasks and can't sit still for very long (like more than 5 or 10 minutes). Today I went to an introductory lecture at the Washington, DC center for Transcendental Meditation. There was no hard sell but it costs $2500 to learn to do TM. For $2500 you get 4 instructional sessions and access to a lifetime of follow up sessions for free if you want them. This strikes me as a lot of money. The TM folks claim the benefits are priceless. Still the high price makes me wary. What if I don't like it or if it's not for me? It'll cost me $2500 just to try it. Are there any TM practitioners -- current or former -- who can let me know if TM is for real or if I should look elsewhere? And of I should look elsewhere, where might I look to start? I just want to explore meditation. I don't want a guru or a sect or a cult.
posted by dclawyer to Religion & Philosophy (34 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I learned meditation in a course taught, for free, at my local Unitarian church. The practice of meditation requires little more than a comfy, quiet place to sit, and a willingness to learn how to be still for more than 5 to 10 minutes.
posted by SPrintF at 8:10 PM on August 13, 2005

Best answer: I assume you've read the pro and con websites about TM. Wikipedia has a few listed at the bottom of its TM article. Their criticism section is short but worth repeating
Critics of TM assert that transcendental meditation consists simply of standard meditation as practised by many religions, and that absolutely no basis exists for anyone to claim that they invented it or spread it. Many cult researchers consider TM a cult, according to them one of the largest of the present day.
My opinion, as someone who meditates for stress relief, is that while it may be a good idea to learn from someone who has experience -- especially if you learn well that way -- is that yes, $2500 is too much. Here is the Skeptic's Dictionary entry for TM with much more information on the "is it a cult" aspects of TM. They say yes.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 PM on August 13, 2005

I would pass on the TM, especially if they're looking to charge you thousands of dollars. No offense meant to any serious practitioners of TM, but that reeks of a scam.

Entering the Stream has a good section on meditation. Also, if you're interested in Buddhist meditation, particularly of the the Theravada school, check out the comprehensive Access to Insight site. Especially start with A Guided Medition, Buddho, and Starting Out Small: A Collection of Talks for Beginning Meditators.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:17 PM on August 13, 2005

Meditiation has been around for thousands of years while TM was started in the 1950's. There are just too many excellent places to learn how to meditate to pay that much. If you liked Pema Chodron, check out your local Shambhala Center.
posted by lasm at 8:29 PM on August 13, 2005

Best answer: No. It's not worth it. There's a huge gap between "being interested in meditation" and "dropping $2500 for a course from a strange business organization." Please, slow down a second. You can't buy what you're looking for that easily. If you've read and generally understood someone like Pema Chodron, why are you thinking you need to spend lots of money to start some simple meditation exercises? You may want to think about that for a little bit. Are you trying to buy a calm, centered consciousness? It's more common than you might think.

I'm a jittery monkey myself who's tried with varied success to incorporate regular meditation into my life, but I do know three things: 1) the jittery anxiousness is part of the process, 2) it's worth keeping at it, and 3) I damn sure don't need to spend thousands of dollars to sit quietly and breathe deeply as I watch my brain go through its ping-pong patterns. Don't get suckered in; trust yourself and the wisdom you can find from Pema Chodron and sources like the ones monju_bosatsu mentions.

Anyone who'd charge a newbie $2500 to start meditating is clearly up to no good.
posted by mediareport at 8:45 PM on August 13, 2005

The Vipassana Meditation Centers in North America have ten day retreats. They are funded on a donation only basis and they do not accept anything from you at all until after you've completed a retreat, as per the quoted text below.

I've not gone, although I've wanted to for some time. I have a friend that has and this group is definitely not cultish and will not put the hard sell on you. They don't seem to have a center near DC, but they do illustrate a great contrast with the TM folks charging $2500 up front.

"Course Finances
According to the tradition of pure Vipassana, courses are run solely on a donation basis. Donations are accepted only from those who have completed at least one ten-day course with S.N. Goenka or one of his assisting teachers. Someone taking the course for the first time may give a donation on the last day of the course or any time thereafter.

In this way course are supported by those who have realized for themselves the benefits of the practice. Wishing to share these benefits with others, one gives a donation according to one's means and volition. Such donations are the only source of funding for course in this tradition around the world. There is no wealthy foundation or individual sponsoring them. Neither the teachers nor the organizers receive any kind of payment for their service. Thus, the spread of Vipassana is carried out with purity of purpose, free from any commercialism.

Whether a donation is large or small, it should be given with the wish to help others: 'The course I have taken has been paid for through the generosity of past students; now let me give something towards the cost of a future course, so that others may also benefit by this technique.'"

posted by ursus_comiter at 8:56 PM on August 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Go for Shambhala, or, better, drop $20 on a couple of books with introductions to Buddhism, and do it yourself. Why take a long route to a goal when you can go direct? Too many people would rather throw money at goals than just doing them, I guess :)
posted by wackybrit at 9:42 PM on August 13, 2005

I am also the sort of person who multi-tasks and can't sit still for very long (like more than 5 or 10 minutes).
I suppose it's possible that there are folks for whom this sort of statement is a simple medical fact. Unfortunates with minor seizures that fire like Old Faithful, only even more regularly, perhaps. But otherwise, it tends to just sort of be the kind of myth-about-myself (less prettily: excuse) that dropping two and a half grand isn't likely to help.

Breath Sweeps Mind is a pretty nice read, in the light-introductory-survey fold of such things. Under twelve bucks, too, which yields over twenty four hundred dollars in savings! :)

But honestly, there really isn't a "trick" or "secret" to meditation. At the core, it really is just boring. Sit comfortably (incidentally, the reason sitting crosslegged, lotus or half-lotus depending on personal flexibility or lack thereof, gets mentioned a lot isn't any folderol about lining up chakras, it's simply because it's just a really stable way to sit while maintaining a straight spine, which is mostly about allowing your lungs to work the best), breathe naturally...and keep doing that. Try fifteen to twenty minutes, once or twice a day, every day. See how you feel after a couple weeks of it. Chances are, you'll feel a bit less prone to being stressed out overall, and probably a bit less prone to confidently stating that your essential nature makes it physically impossible to sit still.

Then again, maybe not. But this way, again, saves you twenty five hundred bucks. Which I'd call worth a little bit of boredom in finding it out.
posted by Drastic at 10:29 PM on August 13, 2005

Learning to meditate is hard to do from books, or by yourself. There are many many good places to learn that are free or close to free. Don't feed the TM piranhas, but do find a teacher. Books might help you find a teacher, but are not a substitute, imo.
posted by anadem at 11:01 PM on August 13, 2005

The books I've read and classes I've taken in Vipassana have been the ones that clicked best with my modern, impatient, skeptical lifestyle. It's very practical and realistic about human nature and won't give you any nonsense. Unfortunately, I dropped out of it due to my general lame-assness, but if I do meditation again, it'll be that kind.
posted by matildaben at 12:09 AM on August 14, 2005

Yeah, don't waste your money. Try some other sources first, cheaper/free classes, a mentor, and books.

I highly highly highly recommend this book, which came highly recommended by someone else, and someone else before that. Mindfullness in Plain English, by Bhante H. Gunaratana.
posted by Espoo2 at 12:46 AM on August 14, 2005

The actual meditation is good, but you shouldn't join. TM is guilty of overcharging, a measure of dishonesty, and worst of all superstitious beliefs, such as that enough people doing TM causes peace in a given area, or that their Siddhi programs can theoretically give supernatural powers (though that's not the goal, they now claim). Maharishi is just getting weird, with the Global Country of Peace and all.

I don't know where else to get taught a similar type of practice (and Hindu-style mantra meditation is best taught rather than read), but TM, the organization, doesn't deserve your money.

Basically, there's three major types of meditation - to focus on one thing, such as your breath (Samatha - the most common Zen meditation in the west); to experience all sensations and thoughts without attachment (Vipassana); or to experience and think nothing at all (Hindu meditation). The last is the most strong deviation from normal waking experience and seems to have the strongest effects in terms of mental ("spiritual") and physical benefits, but it's not as popular because it tends to require a teacher and TM is the only major established discipline in the West, unfortunately.
posted by abcde at 1:06 AM on August 14, 2005 [2 favorites]

Assuming that the "dc" in your handle is a hint as to your location, you might want to try one of these places for help, if exploring Buddhist meditation isn't too sectarian for you. Any Buddhist center with any integrity at all isn't going to charge you (let alone charge you thousands of dollars) just for showing up to a practice once to try meditation out. Most centers in the area around me in fact have free introductory sessions that meet once a month specifically for the benefit of those who might be interested in trying meditation out. Personally, I've found Zen to be useful and not overly religious or "culty".
posted by Chris Freiberg at 1:18 AM on August 14, 2005

Yes, TM is for real. The technique itself is very effective, and you don't have to buy into any belief system to learn it or benefit from it. If you do begin it, though, you will undoubtedly become aware of a fair amount of pressure to buy into the whole superstructure of pseudoscientific rationalization and "Vedic science." IOW, yes, it's a cult, but the meditation technique can be separated from the cult aspects. You can just do the meditation and politely but firmly ignore the rest of it.

TM's strong point for most Westerners is that it is very easy to learn and to do. For most of the people most of the time, the practice is more pleasant than boring, but long stretches of boredom are a definite possibility.

You should know that almost as soon as you've finished the four days of instruction, you'll start hearing about "advanced techniques" and the siddhis and such—further instruction, the price of which is most definitely not included in the $2500. The last I heard, the siddhis were priced at about $10000.

But if money is the issue—that is, if TM really sounds right for you in spite of the aura of mercenary hucksterism that surrounds it—go back and tell them you can't afford it. At least back in the day, the policy was that no one would be refused on account of money. Say, "I really want to learn to meditate, but I can only pay $X." Unless things have changed, that should work. And, FWIW, I have to say that, while I no longer practice TM, I did it regularly for 20 years and, yes, I got at least $2500 worth of benefit out of it.

And if the money bothers you, just look at it as a contribution to India's economy.
posted by bricoleur at 4:44 AM on August 14, 2005

Mindfulness in Plain English is on the web for free. I recommend it also.
posted by lunkfish at 6:25 AM on August 14, 2005

About five years ago, I dropped out of a ten day Vipassana retreat course after two days. The literature available to me before I started warned that terrible harm would come to me if I did that, and that doing so was a sign of a weak mind, so I'm pretty sure it was the right thing to do :)

The technique itself is incredibly simple and really very useful, but I was unhappy with the ten day retreat because (a) my lower back just killed after sitting still on a cushion on the floor for hours at a time (b) I had grasped the meditation technique well enough after two days to allow me to render that pain irrelevant (c) I was unconvinced that rendering severe pain irrelevant was a smart thing to do for another eight days (d) all the instructional material was on audiotape, and I had been expecting to be taught by a real person (e) I found the "dharma discourse" section of the day, consisting of S. N. Goenka expounding deep philosophical principles on video tape while his wife sat respectfully silent, quite offputting.

The basic technique is as follows: find somewhere quiet and as distraction-free as you can manage. Get yourself seated reasonably comfortably on a floor cushion (not in a recliner rocker, because you'll likely fall asleep). Focus your attention on the area from the inside of your nose to your top lip, and feel your breath coming in and going out through your nose. Do that, and no more than that, for as long as you possibly can. Don't try to control your breath in any way: just pay attention to it coming in and going out.

When (not if) your mind wanders: as soon as you notice yourself thinking about anything other than the fact that your breath is doing what it's doing, start again - return your attention to the feel of your breath going in and coming out.

After about an hour of this, you'll probably find it takes significantly longer for your mind to wander than it did when you started.

After doing it for days on end, you'll find you've given yourself the ability to turn the incessant monkey-chatter WAY down - and you'll likely feel calmer overall, relaxed more often, and generally better able to deal with stress.

By all means do the ten day retreat - but if you're serious about it, and you intend to stay the distance, train up for it first. If you can't sit on the floor for more than a couple of hours without hurting like hell, you're not ready yet.

And don't pay two and a half grand to the TM crowd. If you've got that kind of money to throw around, use it to go on a solo hiking trip into the mountains (and take your sitting cushion with you).
posted by flabdablet at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2005 [5 favorites]

Piggyback question: I am interested in meditation for similar reasons to dclawyer (I too am a restless multitasker). But I am an atheist who has absolutely no time for "spirituality" -- even weak, vague spirituality. Does anyone know a resource on how to meditate that doesn't talk about "energy" or "spirit" or "one-ness with the universe."

I realize that I could just ignore this stuff and focus on the techniques, but "spirituality" turns me off so much that it's hard for me to do that. (Sorry spiritual people, I mean no offense -- just a personal issue.)
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 AM on August 14, 2005

If there is a local Zen Center in your city, they almost invariably offer introductory meditation lessons. It may be free, or they may ask for a nominal (like $10) donation.

Lest you fear being sucked into to a Zen cult, Zen is all about the meditation. They are not interested in recruiting anybody. Books can be helpful (particularly Mindfulness in Plain English), but I think learning Zen meditation with others will get you off on the right foot, in a way that purely academic learning cannot.
posted by curtm at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2005

grumblebee: lunkfish's link is pretty much what you're looking for, I think. There's a refreshing lack of extraneous material there; just straightforward procedural explanations, and a rationale in quite practical terms.
posted by flabdablet at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2005

grumblebee: All the major types of meditation are basically secular techniques. If you can find a source that's secular for it, then great, but even if you can't the practice itself will be fairly clean of that. I'm an atheist myself.

The TM type comes the closest to being "spiritual," because the idea is to clear your mind of everything - what's left is consciousness itself. This is compatible with whatever empirical idea you have of consciousness, though.
posted by abcde at 9:54 AM on August 14, 2005

grumblebee, at this point in time in the West, it's pretty easy to find secular meditation instruction; just browse the self-help, health or (yeah) spirituality sections of any good bookstore. But in my experience, the best, most clear and dogma-free instruction tends to come from folks who work in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, particularly those who work at making that tradition accessible to Westerners.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2005

Also, Zen is a sect of Buddhism that seems to be void of theology - it's very much a philosophy and a practice, nothing is taken on faith.
posted by abcde at 11:13 AM on August 14, 2005

Been doing TM twice a day as directed with virtually NO exceptions for over 35 years, as has my wife. We prefer to meditate together when possible; it feels slightly better than meditating alone.

My experiences:
In terms of practical, immediately-felt impact on the minute-by-minute quality of my life, I’d put TM in the top 2 or 3 on my list of useful things I’ve been taught how to do since being of school age. In terms of how much I miss it if I don’t do it, I’d place it right below eating and sleeping and just above teeth brushing and face-washing. It delivers to me exactly what it claims to: a unique, reliable, and pleasant form of rest and refreshment, both physically and emotionally, whose equivalent I’ve never exactly experienced in any other way. Neither discipline, commitment, uncomfortable postures, nor acceptance of any new beliefs have ever been required.

In terms of its “spiritual” impact on my life, I’d rate it pretty low, but that’s much harder to determine. Physical and emotional refreshment are spiritual necessities, I’d argue, but as a vehicle for peak experiences or increased “enlightenment,” I’d have to say it’s been pretty unimpressive. This is definitely in contrast to the claimed experiences of many folks I’ve met over the years, but it’s true for me. But compared to any of the many other techniques and practices I’ve ever tried that promised these things, it’s the only one I’ve stuck with, and the only one that didn’t eventually (or quickly) feel like a chore.

As for the results I’ve observed in others that I’ve convinced to give it a try, I’d rate it quite low for repeatable results. Out of my family of seven, for example, all of whom were impressed enough to take the course by my own transformation after starting TM, none have stuck with it as I have. My father was put off by what he called “Oriental mumbo-jumbo.” Several siblings have since become born-again, and as far as I know are still praying for my release. Two others still do it occasionally, as they would take a nap.

As for the organization, it’s filled with people, so it’s entirely predictable. I’ve meet astoundingly impressive and interesting folks therein, and have suffered through innumerable encounters with arrogant, narrow-minded and officious true-believers. I can only assume these folks would be the same in any organization they hooked up with, precisely because that was what they were apparently looking for: an organization to be an a..hole in. I wasn’t, and it’s been many years since I’ve had anything to do with TM as an organization, with zero impact on my TM practice. Anyone who’d call it a “cult” immediately gets categorized by me as a probably-paranoid and definitely non-objective zealot whose opinions are not to be taken seriously. Can you get involved to the extent that your uninvolved associates think you’ve gone off the deep end? Sure, just like you can with ballroom dancing or being a Republican, or a skateboarder. Do you have to keep giving them money? Only if you want to. Is the TM culture increasingly filled with odd, bizarre, unlikely and paranoid superstitious nonsense? IMO, yes. Does that bother me? No...I think it’s kinda fascinating, actually, when I notice.

Why do I think it “worked” for me? Possibly because I was looking for it, or something like it. I wanted a way to add to my daily experience, and a way to escape from my daily missteps, such as a tendency toward depressive, cynical thinking, and toxic over-indulgence; it was the very early 70s, and I was a confused teenaged pot-head. Also, the immediate contrast I noticed, with my first sessions, between what I was used to and what I was now experiencing was so striking that I was instantly gratified. It was instantly clear that the technique was revealing something my body/mind could do that I’d never previously stumbled on by myself, something delightful, easy, natural, head-clearing, and energizing; no equipment or ideologies required. What was not to like? And it’s still working; the “contrast” is not so noticeable, of course, but the refreshment is still striking and invaluable, every day. Could I have discovered this apparent potential of my nervous system in some other way? Quite probably, but I didn’t, despite quite a lot of searching. Does TM offer any unique access to this potential, whatever it is? I’d say yes, since I believe that the potential itself is quite vast, generally unexplored by most westerners, and almost completely neglected/unobserved by western culture. If you practice the guitar, you wind up being a guitar player, not a cello player. But you’re a lot more like a cello player than somebody who has never practiced any instrument.

This book purports to offer the TM technique without the oriental/spiritual “mumbo-jumbo.” To my mind, it’s a typical example of western/modern rationalist arrogance: “Hmm, something interesting going on here; can’t possibly be what the folks who have been doing it for a few thousand years THINK it is, better study it for a few minutes to find out the TRUTH, without, of course, being contaminated by actually trying it.”
It’s been a popular read.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:17 AM on August 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

abcde said:
Basically, there's three major types of meditation - to focus on one thing, such as your breath (Samatha - the most common Zen meditation in the west); to experience all sensations and thoughts without attachment (Vipassana); or to experience and think nothing at all (Hindu meditation). The last is the most strong deviation from normal waking experience and seems to have the strongest effects in terms of mental ("spiritual") and physical benefits, but it's not as popular because it tends to require a teacher and TM is the only major established discipline in the West, unfortunately.

Interesting distinctions well worth considering; thanks!

One more observation: For those who take to TM, it’s NOT boring or restless-making, as a rule, right from the start; it really is effortless and even interesting. Another important distinction, I think, esp. for those with no ideological predisposition to value meditation for its own sake (or, equally, for those with none against meditation, or paying for learning it, which can obviously be serious obstacles). Every other similar practice I’ve tried WAS both boring and uncomfortable, and insisted that it’d be a LONG time before I’d notice any benefits. Granted, I hadn’t paid $2500 to learn it, but I’ve never begrudged the money I did pay for a second, simply because of how easy and effective the practice was from the start.
posted by dpcoffin at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2005

Does TM offer any unique access to this potential, whatever it is? I’d say yes, since I believe that the potential itself is quite vast, generally unexplored by most westerners, and almost completely neglected/unobserved by western culture.

I don't get that. If the potential access is vast, why would a Westerner who *is* interested in exploring it need to pay $2500 to start? The relevant question here, dpcoffin, is what is it about TM that makes its expensive instruction so much better than the instruction others offer for free?

The demand for large sums of money upfront is one of the surest red flags for cultdom.
posted by mediareport at 5:13 PM on August 14, 2005

bricoleur: And if the money bothers you, just look at it as a contribution to India's economy.

Would that it was so...the money's going to enrich the coffers of TM.

As Van Morrison said: 'No guru/no method/no teacher.'
posted by Sassenach at 6:40 PM on August 14, 2005


Meditation to a state of no-mind is easy and free. Here are the instructions. If I am wrong, I am sure someone will correct me:

1. Find an environment that has good air temperature, is reasonably quiet, is not overly bright, and has a comfortable place to sit. You may sit pretty much any which way you like,so long as it will not be distracting over the next twenty minutes or so.

2. Close your eyes and relax. Concentrate on relaxing your feet and hands, work your way up your limbs, then relax your trunk, neck, and head.

3. Now that you are relaxed, empty your mind of thoughts. A thought comes, you acknowledge it and dismiss it. With practice, fewer thoughts will come to you.

4. Rinse and repeat for twenty minutes or so. With practice, you will attain a state of thoughtlessness: no mind.

That's about all it takes. There's no magic or mystery to it. It's simply a matter of being comfortable enough that no intrusive "I'm uncomfortable" thoughts come to mind and diligently dismissing those thoughts that do come.

I hope I've just saved you $2500.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on August 14, 2005

But I am an atheist who has absolutely no time for "spirituality"

funny... i turned to spiritual pursuits precisely because i'm an atheist.

religion tends to yank your attention away from your very human body and its particular currents and connections with the planet that it depends on for life. "one-ness with the universe" talk puts me off too... but that's not spirituality, that's new-age flakiness.

being spiritual doesn't mean abandoning reason, it means expanding reason.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:04 PM on August 14, 2005

mediareport says:

I don't get that. If the potential access is vast, why would a Westerner who *is* interested in exploring it need to pay $2500 to start? The relevant question here, dpcoffin, is what is it about TM that makes its expensive instruction so much better than the instruction others offer for free?

I’ve no good answerto the first question; I’m certainly not an apologist for TM’s policies or Maharishi. I’ve always regarded myself as something of a thief in the night as far as the techniques of TM are concerned: grab ‘em and run. What I meant by potential, tho, was the untapped potential of the human nervous system. I DO believe that the technologies developed over millennia in the east for exploring ourselves are WAY in advance of anything our rational pokings and proddings in the west have uncovered. As to the second question, I completely agree about what’s relevant here, but I’m certainly not going to go to Wikipedia or to any self-satisfied, self-professed “Skeptic” to try to find out. Mind you, I’m NOT declaring it to be better nor making any attempt to explain what distinguishes it, just reporting that FOR ME, it works as reported, where all others did not: easy, profound, completely worth the price, from a strictly rational, practical perspective. I wanted easy but lasting results; I got ‘em; end of story... but not of all the possible interesting questions the results bring up. Despite all the weirdness of the man who made this happen, I can’t help grudgingly admiring how clearly he saw what was needed in the west, and proceeded to bring it to us.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:28 PM on August 14, 2005

Best answer: I learned TM ages ago when I was in college and only paid 50 bucks and did some volunteering at the center in my college town but still, almost 20 years later, if I knew what I was getting I'd pay the moeny if I had it. I do think that's a very high price, and I'm the last person with the new age twinly stuff - but having studied all kinds of meditation, it's teh techniques I learned in TM courses that have brought me the most. I've strayed - gone through periods of meditating and not meditating and the eras in my life where I practice TM are far and away appreciably more calm, organized and my actions are more full of action and less reaction. None of this is tied to any of the TM "philosophy" - there really isn't one, and I understand the trepidation and skepticism, if I hadn't gotten into at a time in my life when I was more open to things I would have laughed at it. I have a very "I can do it myself!" attitude and the guidance I got in learning the technique was not something books or directions would have ever given me, and I have taken advantage of returning to centers around the ocuntry for check ins just to reconnect and it's been well worth it. However, as an intro to meditation, maybe that's a lot of cash to put out there - what you might want to do is try meditating some other ways and if you find yourself liking the process but find the results disappointing - then consider TM. It does leave you feeling both mentally and physically refreshed in a way that no other form of meditating has ever given me. I don't feel it ever pushed any values on me or asked more of me than to be serious about learning the process.
posted by leslie at 2:29 AM on August 15, 2005

Would that it was so...the money's going to enrich the coffers of TM.

Sassenach, if you mean it's being plowed back into the organization to enable more people to be initiated, then I can't see anything too awful about that. If you mean that certain individuals are being enriched, then I think you're just mistaken—unless the individuals you're referring to are Vedic pundits from India; hence my comment. The TM movement has been around a long time, and many accusations have been leveled at its principal players, but I don't recall (financial) fraud or embezzlement being among them. If you have hard information to the contrary, please be specific.

As Van Morrison said: 'No guru/no method/no teacher.'

That seems to work all right for a minority. Most of us need a little guidance. I recall reading an interview with Van Morrison, in which he admitted to having learned TM. He said, IIRC, that what happened to him during meditation was nothing new, just the same-old same-old. More power to him. I've been around a lot of first-time TMers, and I can tell you that none of them ever reported a similar experience. If you're one of those people who doesn't need to meditate, then you probably won't feel any inclination to meditate. But if you do feel such an inclination, TM is not a bad choice. For many, many people, for the reasons dpcoffin has given, it's even the best choice.
posted by bricoleur at 4:29 PM on August 15, 2005

i turned to spiritual pursuits precisely because i'm an atheist.

I don't want to derail this thread too much, but I suspect you are defining "spirituality" to mean one thing and I am defining it to mean something else. Many dictionaries define lean heavily on the SPIRIT part of spirituality, defining the word as a belief in some kind of supernatural force. As an atheist and a skeptic, I don't believe in supernatural forces.

So I often describe myself as a non-spiritual person. At which point people look at me funny. I suspect they think I mean I'm only interested in material objects in the coarsest sense of "material objects." I.E. I'm interested in making money but not in people's feelings. This is not true.

Emotion is the most important aspect of my life. And my favorite feeling is that one you get when you're alone at the ocean and you feel like a tiny dot in a great cosmos. If this is what you mean by spiritual, then I'm spiritual. But I wouldn't use that word to describe that feeling. Nor would I use it to describe depth of character.

If spiritual has something to do with "life's meaning," then I'm definitely not spiritual. I believe only things created by an intelligence can have meaning (poems can have meaning; rocks can't.) Since I'm an atheist, I don't believe that there's an intelligence created the universe or the process of life. So it can't have any meaning.
posted by grumblebee at 7:26 PM on August 15, 2005

In the Baltimore area is the Divine Life Church of Absolute Oneness. Swamiji Shankarananda is the MAN! Attend a mass just to meet this man. He is of the lineage of Swami Yukteswar, Yogananda, Premenanda...and he is an inspiration and great teacher. He willprivately meet with you for donations (if you are interested) and give you great guidance in your meditation. I hope you get this message.

Ohm. Shanti. Amen.
posted by mic stand at 7:59 PM on August 15, 2005

Most people are interested in meditation for the health benefits. Others, for the spiritual/religious aspects.

TM, while not claiming to be a religion or religious for that matter, still reeks of Hinduism. Nevertheless, you can practice TM and not be overtly involved in any religion.

But $2500??? You gotta be kidding.

If you want the health benefits of meditation without paying throught the nose, try this site Its got everything you need to get started.

After meditating for nearly 20 years and trying different types of meditation, here's my advice: stick with one you like.

One teacher told me years ago, "If you feel better after meditating, you're probably doing it right."

So, relax and enjoy!
posted by JackO23 at 5:17 AM on February 22, 2006

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