You have probably heard of meditation, and a member of your care team may have recommended that you try it. You may have done research on how to meditate and you may have stumbled on a form of meditation called “Transcendental Meditation technique (TM).” What is TM? What makes TM different from other types of meditation? How can you benefit from this form of meditation?
What is transcendental meditation technique?
TM is method of meditation and self-improvement that focuses on awareness. Those who practice TM give themselves 15- 20 minutes twice a day in quiet, with their eyes closed and usually seated.1 The objective is to transcend worries and anxieties to a silent and calm place within your own mind. It is supposed to refresh and empower the person who is meditating, on a physical and mental level, by reducing cortisol (a hormone that is directly related to stress) levels.1 This is supposed to give your mind and body a restful state and help to decrease anxiety and depression, while allowing your mind and spirit to grow. Over 6 million people worldwide practice TM in settings such as businesses, military, schools, and even governments.2
How does transcendental mediation technique differ?
There are many forms of meditation available. If you have a smartphone and look up “meditation app” there are dozens of applications that are available, many at no cost. Most conventional forms of meditation follow four basic principles: a quiet space with minimal distraction; a specific position or posture (though in the case of some forms of yoga, this can also focus on movement); a focus of attention, usually breath; and an open attitude toward any distractions you come across.3 These forms of meditation usually help to make you aware of your distractions, but work to allow you to let them to come and go without being upset by your distractions. TM works to allow you to go beyond your distractions to a quiet place of rest inside of yourself. The purpose is not to clear your thoughts, but rather to go outside of them.2
While other forms of meditation can be inexpensive (usually the cost of an app and/or a subscription, or the cost of a yoga class) and are guided by a teacher, or in the case of some apps, even a celebrity voice, TM is taught by certified teachers in a class setting.2 There are no books, CDs or apps that can teach TM. TM has a larger up-front cost than most other forms of meditation. Currently, it costs just under $1000 for the TM course fee, though there are reductions in price for students (just under $500 for a college/graduate student, just under $400 for high-school and lower students). There are group rates, and grants for those with financial difficulty. It should be noted that the cost includes not only the cost of the classes but also lifetime follow-up.2
How can I benefit from transcendental meditation?
TM is supposed to benefit anyone who has stress and anxiety in their life, but it can be especially helpful for someone who is going through a serious, chronic illness. Beyond the mental and physical relaxation and calm, TM is supposed to help those who use it find clarity and strength.4 There are studies that suggest that TM can help with mental health and emotional well being in women who are being treated for breast cancer.4 Stress is known to have negative effects on all aspects of health, including cancer diagnoses. TM can help reduce stress, which can be beneficial for the body both physically and mentally.4 TM can also be beneficial for families and caregivers of cancer patients, who can also experience tremendous amounts of stress as they watch loved ones go through treatment.
TM has many pros and cons and you should weigh these as you try to decide if TM is a good fit for you. There are free information sessions available, and you are encouraged to attend them, as they are prerequisites to the TM course. As always, you should talk to your healthcare team and see if they have any hesitations about any limitations you may have to participating in TM.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?