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The first time I heard about Transcendental Meditation was in the early 1980s. The sister of a manager in the company where I worked contacted me. I did not have friends at the time and welcomed a potential friendship.
Mona was a member of a walking club; people who loved walking on tracks off the beaten path. I joined her club that was called Le Groupe du Vieux Sentier. We gathered on Sundays early in the morning and climbed a part of the Mount Lebanon range of mountains. We walked in the cold and under the rain. I loved this activity even though I found it physically exhausting.
She told me about a group called the Transcendental Meditation movement or TM for short. She encouraged me to learn the TM technique to help improve my work performance. I did not think at the time that there was anything wanting with my work performance.
She gave me a phone number to call. The man who answered sounded pleasant and gave me an appointment for my first session.
On February 14, 1983, I learned the practice of Transcendental Meditation with Robert in Achrafieh, a neighbourhood in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon. The session happened during my lunch break. I left the office around noon to get to my appointment and came back right after the session ended.
I found the initiation ceremony a little strange and watched it with curiosity. When the initiation and the coaching were over and I was about to leave, Robert gave me a red rose as it was Valentine’s Day.
The first two sessions were one-on-one and gave me my first practice of the TM technique. The next three gave me additional instructions. These were supposed to happen in a group setting. As I was the only student that week, all five sessions were individual ones.
After a week of practice, I was invited to attend a follow-up to make sure that the way I meditated went smoothly.
I was told to meditate twice a day, morning and evening, for 20 minutes each time. I was encouraged to join weekly group meditation sessions held at a TM center. According to the TM movement, meditating in a group makes one’s meditation more powerful and encourages meditators to persevere.
I enjoyed meditating in the first few weeks. I felt a calm and deep concentration.
I was less pleased when I felt pressured to join a group of people who were about to start the TM-Siddhi course. The request to join an advanced course came too soon after my first lesson. I did not feel prepared as it was a big commitment for me in terms of time and money. Still I complied and joined the advanced course.
How Is TM Done?
- You sit in a comfortable chair with your hands in your lap. You uncross your legs and arms and keep your feet on the ground.
- You close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax your body.
- You then open your eyes, close them again, and keep your eyes closed during your 20-minute meditation.
- You mentally repeat the mantra that the TM-teacher or instructor gave you.
- When you realize that you have thoughts, you just go back to silently reciting the mantra.
- When your meditation ends after 20 minutes, you slowly open your eyes and resume your daily activities.
A mantra is a word or sound that you are instructed to silently repeat. You are told that the mantra is a Sanskrit sound that only a TM teacher is fit to bestow on you.
Your mantra is selected according to the age bracket you belong to at the time of your initiation. It is intended to help you concentrate in meditation. You are asked to keep it to yourself because they believe that the psychic power you gain might be lost if you share it with others.
The TM-Siddhi program and its component of yogic flying are supposed to improve one’s ability to think and act from a level of pure consciousness experienced during meditation.
The whole meditation period consisted of 20 minutes of meditation, followed by the practice of the TM-Siddhi program. This took about an hour in one sitting done once in the morning and once again in the evening.
As far as I know, no one practising the TM-Siddhi program was ever able to perform the Siddhi yogic flying.
The TM yogic flying is said to cause the body to lift in the air and move forward in joyful hops while sitting either crossed legged or in the lotus pose. From what I know, the people practising the TM-Siddhi program, or Siddhas as they are called, pushed themselves up and forward. Their bodies did not lift in the air and move forward in what they say joyful jumps. The ‘Siddhas’ made a physical effort to hop.
Trip to India to Attend a WPA
In 1986, two TM-teachers encouraged me to travel to India and join a large group of meditators. I was living and working in Cyprus at the time. On July 19th of that year, I took a plane from Nicosia to New Delhi.
That large group included meditators, siddhas, TM teachers, and the two groups of mother divine and purushas, who were getting together for a Word Peace Assembly (WPA) under the watchful eye of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I was told that being part of a WPA, especially a large one, would enhance my meditation and push me closer toward enlightenment.
I joined the group every day for two weeks at the Maharishi Ashram. The group of women I was with traveled every morning from New Delhi to the ashram and traveled back every evening.
My memories of those two weeks are of uncomfortable heat, too big a crowd for my taste, and feeling lost. In retrospect, I did not belong to that gathering or that movement.
I left India for Cyprus, then to Lebanon on August 2nd feeling sick on more than one level. I never traveled again to India.
Teacher Training Course
In May 1987, I travelled from Cyprus to Brunate in Como in Italy for a six-month intensive teacher training course to become a TM teacher. I was part of a group of 12 individuals, mostly Lebanese. The others were a Cypriot, an Iranian, and a Turk.
The in-house training took place at a hotel that was turned into a learning academy in the charming town of Brunate. Brunate is in the province of Como in northern Italy, northeast of the city of Milan.
A man and a woman from a Scandinavian country were the course leaders and supervised the training. The training consisted mostly of watching hours and hours of videos showing the founder giving lectures and talks.
Once the training course was over, I went back to Lebanon to teach TM for a couple of years before moving to Cyprus and then emigrating to Canada.
In Lebanon, I taught the TM-technique, in one-on-one sessions, to more than 150 individuals from all levels of society. I enjoyed interacting with meditators.
What TM Promises
The TM technique and its advanced programs are presented as the means to ‘usher in’ a new age of enlightenment. They are portrayed as the solution to human problems, individual and collective, and to environmental issues.
I was part of the TM movement, in Lebanon and in Cyprus, for about ten years —two of them as a TM teacher. Even though I had a good relationship with the people I met, I had my share of dealing with a bully or two.
I stopped practising the TM meditation and left the TM movement more than two decades ago.
In hindsight, being part of the TM movement was not the best use of my time and attention and was not what I needed. It was more of a learning lesson.
'Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay'
A couple of years ago, I read Judith Bourque’s book “Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay: The True Story of a Love Affair With Beatles Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”. Mahesh Yogi (MMY) was the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement.
I fully understand why J. Bourque authored this book and I admire her courage in writing about the affair she had with MMY.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Liliane Najm