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August 19, 2007



Skepticism is good. The cult concerns relate to losing oneself in a normative community of white-wearing, beard-growing, fruit-carrying ommm-chanting wackos. As Artie says, these are pretty friendly wackos.
The naturalistic community recognize that science has found benefits in mindfulness, calming, contemplation, and other common practices of meditation. The ritual and supernatural woo is interesting but not strictly necessary to the process.
What is concerning here is that the standard to accept the practice is different than the standard of evidence to reject the practice. Artie is headlining the piece with the healing properties of TM based on his subjective experience. Yet when John, licensed counselor, provides several references of dangerous TM communities, there is a sort of hand-waiving that that is a special case, and, again, that Artie's subjective experience of having seen no problems should take precedence.
Better to say that meditation has benefits, and TM might provide those, but be careful not to fall into the cult-like TM communities that are out there. The benefit is the mindfulness, not detaching from reality into a cult.

Jim Coe

Ann Marie- YES!

The same as the directions to Carnegie Hall..."practice, practice, practice."

I know it's irksome to try to meditate and find yourself distracted ("Did I mail in the cable bill?"). But in short time you will get to the next level, a surprisingly short time.

In meditation only a couple weeks I found myself a bud on the arm of a giant cactus growing in the dessert. And I B-U-R-S-T into bloom, a cactus flower. I was so elated I snapped out of my "state" but the experience elicited the best giggle I've ever had!

Ann Marie Mecera

I would love to try meditation. However, the thought of sitting still for more than five minutes makes me squirm. Any pointers for those of us who sorely need meditation because we think we need to be doing several things at one time?

[Artie replies:] Jim Coe's correct: the only next step is to experiment. If five minutes is your limit, meditate for five minutes. If you can stay easy for six minutes, go to six. I'll add what the Transcendental Meditation people taught me: we don't assess the quality of our meditation on whether it is good or well done, but rather whether it is easy. We seek only to sit peacefully, not to express some grand talent.

While I've enjoyed TM, perhaps you seek a less expensive toe in the water. Here are some possibilities:
1. read Shunryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"
2. read anything by Thich Nhat Hanh
3. simply sit quietly, with eyes closed, inhaling while thinking a word (try "recognition") and exhaling with a related word (such as "acceptance"). I also like "understanding"/"compassion" and "curiosity"/"creativity."

John M. Knapp, LMSW

Many critics consider Transcendental Meditation a cult led by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. For an alternative view of the TM Movement, readers may be interested in checking out http://TMFree.blogspot.com/ , http://TranceNet.net/ , or my counseling site, http://KnappFamilyCounseling.com/ , where individuals recovering from Transcendental Meditation and similar groups will find helpful information.

John M. Knapp, LMSW

[Artie replies: I respect Mr. Knapp's caution and believe his words to be sincere. I believe that any guided way of looking at the world -- from religion to therapy to mood-altering drugs -- can overwhelm the individual with guidance upon which he or she becomes dependent. I also believe that many individuals need some guidance, so they don't feel lonely and adrift. Transcendental Meditation, in my experience, has done nothing more than teach me to rest in a very effective way. (In 30 years, the TM people have never come to me with pyramid schemes or requests for money or proselytizing.) There are surely some practitioners of TM (or other guided therapies, studies and drugs) who lose their balance and independence. I think that anyone who falls too deeply for TM would probably have fallen overboard for something else anyway. And TM is certainly healthier than drug or alcohol addiction. Anyway, if you seem susceptible to addictive behaviors, you might consider starting with counseling at a resource such as Mr. Knapp’s. Perhaps TM is for people who don’t easily fall overboard?]

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