“Yay, got the promotion!” “Terrific, passed my boards!” “My weight is back to normal.”
There are plenty of markers that highlight growth in different aspects of our lives. We’ve all experienced the joy of a goal being attained. We all know the satisfaction of progress in our lives. But what of spiritual progress—inner growth? It’s often the case that people who “have it all” are nonetheless depressed and strangely unfulfilled, wondering what is missing in their lives.
The answer is that it is inner growth that makes our external achievements not just more attainable but also more enjoyable and sustains us as human beings. As women, so often we are consciously looking for this kind of inner happiness, this inner experience. Outer achievements and the emotional highs that accompany them are subject to the whims of the world, whereas inner fulfillment is self-sustaining.
When a woman sits comfortably in a chair and effortlessly engages her mind with the Transcendental Meditation technique, something unusual is taking place behind her closed eyes. While she meditates with TM, what happens in her mind forges a nourishing internal environment so real that her anxiety, depression, physical discomfort, relationship concerns, unhealthy cravings, and exhaustion start to diminish.
Although we consistently talk about the TM program’s scientifically verified benefits—ranging from reduced heart disease to increased focus—the purpose of the Transcendental Meditation program is simply the growth of consciousness. All the other benefits derived from the TM practice are the side-effects of that growth.
Before we discuss consciousness
As a basis for a definition and explanation of consciousness, it’s necessary for me to first consider what governs the activity of the universe: Everywhere we look, we see intelligence, energy, creativity and organizing power entwined. We see them in the way that the electrons are structured around the nucleus of an atom and the way that the planets remain in uncomplaining orbit around the sun. Gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak forces of the atom—everywhere we look we see intelligent functioning. Our own human body is a close-up example of this natural intelligence within everything. It’s nature that runs our body—for example, we did not know how to grow our own body from an embryo to an infant to a child to an adult—nature did that. When we get something in our eye, we don’t need to tell our eye to wash it out because the eye will already be producing tears to do that. A cough, a sneeze, a yawn—the body spontaneously does what it needs to do based on its natural inherent intelligence. That same intelligence resides in the nature of our mind.
The foundation of our mind
From where do our thoughts arise? We constantly have thoughts, but nobody knows how thoughts actually arise—they just do. We have limitless thoughts—we never worry about running out of them—so there must be a bottomless resource of intelligence, infinite energy, and creativity at the source of our thoughts. It seems logical to assume that this basis of limitless organizing power of the mind is the same as the unbounded basis of the cosmic intelligence we perceive everywhere. Within the mind, we call this field of potentiality in its pure form “consciousness”.
Simply stated: to be conscious of a thought, we must be conscious. Consciousness is the prerequisite to being conscious of anything. Consciousness is a field of wakeful potential at the source of our thought that gives us all that we need to live our life in a fulfilled manner in accord with everything else in nature, from the macrocosm to the microcosm. It stands to reason that the more we tap into the reservoir of consciousness, the more our thoughts and actions will be harmonious and productive. Psychologists and neuroscientists are fond of saying that we probably use a limited amount of our mind’s potential. (Albert Einstein estimated that he used maybe 10 or 15%, and we considered him “an Einstein!”) So, a worthwhile, practical, fundamental goal in life would be to enliven the full capacity of our consciousness. This is the foremost purpose and accomplishment of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
Unfolding our full consciousness
During TM, the mind dives within its own consciousness, transcending our more habitual active levels of thought to experience more refined subtle levels of thinking, often characterized by a pleasurable state of awareness. Sometimes the thinking process is so softened and subtle during this inner dive that it slips from the mind altogether and we are left awake but silent within, resting in the stillness of consciousness itself.
Deep, intimate change—change that allows our mind’s true nature to shine forth—evolves during TM; this heightened experience becomes permanently established in our lives as the diving process of the TM technique is repeated daily over time. Also, during the TM practice, deep physical rest and reduction of exhaustion and stress make the nervous system strong—this strength both reflects and supports the evolution of consciousness.
Our inner awareness has a blissful character, so dipping into that, we find that the quality of bliss infuses into all our thoughts, perceptions, and actions after our periods of meditation. The cumulative benefit of the development of consciousness is deep inner joy and freedom, independent of the circumstances of life.
How do you know that you’re on the way? Here are ten attributes or symptoms of growth of consciousness:
1-Living is the present
Living in the present, or being present, means being more awake and aware in the moment—the mind does not dodge to the past and future. This mindfulness in an effortless spontaneous result of meditating properly. It isn’t a technique in and of itself, but a result of lively consciousness. It allows us to be more in tune with our environment, be more effective, and improve our relationships.
“TM clears my mind, helps me to be a kinder and more mindful person and it fills my cup spiritually.” – Courtney Lane (Virginia)
“I feel far more settled, and little things that used to bother me, don’t as much anymore. I’m more present, and more easily able to listen to and engage with others without my mind wandering.” – Kathleen Thomson (Canada)
Certainly we’ve had more-than-enough restless moments debating a choice of the best thing to do in a given situation at a given time. “Is it better if I give my child this?” “Will it work out if I don’t go?” It’s exhausting not to be sure. We could hurt somebody, hurt ourselves—regret what we did. After learning the TM technique, our mind begins to be saturated with the powerful intelligence that resides deep within everything, including within ourselves in pure consciousness. With that natural intelligence rising in our mind, we find that less angst comes up about right and wrong behavior. We effortlessly intuit the most productive and healthy course of action and our behavior springs spontaneously from that depth.
“The most important way that TM has affected my work as an artist is primarily that it taps into an abstract experience that is incredibly lively and incredibly creative…. It’s something all-encompassing that creates an experience that I later draw on in my work…. I let the work flow in an intuitive way (with) the ability to be flexible and draw on this creative experience that is very abstract—a creative space that I connect with on a regular basis. The more time I have for meditation, the more surprising, creative and fresh I find my work to be.” – Joey Fauerso (Texas)
3-Less cluttered mind
TM settles an overactive mind so that there are less extraneous and troublesome thoughts. Thoughts are more relevant to the present and in line with achieving our goals.
“My daily TM sessions continued to clear that stuff away so it wouldn’t build up. Like maybe I’d have a really stressful day at work and I’d finish the day thinking, “I’m the worst person ever, everybody hates me, why am I even alive, etc.” and I would do my meditation and those thoughts would be gone. And once they were gone, I could enjoy my evening, go to sleep, wake up the next morning and do my writing and not be thinking about that stuff.” – Amanda Truscott (Canada)
“When I close my eyes each morning and evening, the chatter of my mind fades away and I’m left with the light and warmth of my own essential being, the self with the big “S”, the part of me that is universal, timeless, boundless and serene. When I come out of meditation, some of that stays with me.”- Linda Egenes (Iowa)
4-Greater energy along with collectedness and calmness
How do you get the oomph of a good cup of coffee along with the calm of resting in your hammock in the sunshine? With the TM practice in our life, we find these two seemingly opposed experiences are concurrent. We are alert, energetic, and sharp yet calm and collected simultaneously. The hallmark of TM is that the mind and body are deeply rested while the mind is at maximum alertness.
“Each sitting of meditation leaves me feeling both incredibly relaxed and energized at the same time. I wish I’d discovered TM years ago.” – Constable Kathleen Thomson (Canada)
“I feel lighter in spirit, more energetic, and have a better focus throughout the day. I will continue to practice because it is something I feel is so beneficial and positive for my life.” – A. McClain (California)
Inner joy is not dependent upon changing circumstances. The direct experience of inner pure consciousness, a field of unlimited fullness and bliss, satisfies our ceaseless quest for happiness and infuses joy into all our perceptions. To experience it and unfold it in our lives, we need only to dive deep within ourselves as we do spontaneously during Transcendental Meditation.
“This is how heaven feels like. Transcendental Meditation is a gift for oneself…. It’s my way to contribute to world peace by having a little bit of heaven every day.“ – Junon Maceus, Canada
“If you’re constantly in airports and planes, it can be very stressy somehow…. Then you get to the hotel room and you meditate… when you’re in that moment of total peace with yourself, it’s like you’re in paradise no matter where you are.” Raquel Zimmermann (Brazil via New York)
6-Greater clarity of perception
As the active mind settles with the practice of TM, the mind naturally becomes more aware and capable of perceiving the environment without the interference of stress. The result is higher appreciation of finer values in the environment, leading to less boredom and more enjoyment.
Just after learning TM: “I immediately began noticing how the world seemed so much different to me than it had on my way to the TM center (to learn TM). The colors all around me were more vivid, the sounds of the birds felt like sweet music to my ears, I seemed to be connected to all of the trees I saw—and above all, I felt happy.” – Valerie Gangas (Illinois)
7-Greater sense of wholeness, self-worth and connectedness
Nobody wants to feel diminished or alone. Knowing our true inner worth decreases feelings of fear, lack and frustration. Establishing ourselves in the deep full nature of consciousness creates greater inner self-sufficiency—whereby we are invulnerable to feeling diminished by unkind comments or external circumstances.
“TM helps me take care of myself: it helps me feel centered and be in touch with myself and my feelings in a world that sometimes seems to insist that we feel otherwise. Ultimately the practice has helped me to feel at home even when I am far away from my home and that is a true gift” – Lola Kirke (New York)
“TM has helped me to get myself out of the cycle of self-blame and guilt. It’s like it rebooted my mind. Everything seems more ordered and logical now.” – Rebecca Hathaway (Canada)
8-More flexible, adaptable and creative
How can we be both stable in ourselves and adaptable? Broad steady awareness gives us the inner capacity to embrace change and a strong nervous system allow us to adapt in new situations without stress. Incorporating transcending into our daily routine by learning the TM technique makes us both strong and accommodating—the very definition of resilience.
“Since taking and starting the TM course, I have found myself to be more focused and less stressed about my personal and professional life. My days seem to be “calmer, rested and I don’t get flustered or react—when unexpected things occur every day.” – Holly Thomas (California)
“It gathers me up for the day and makes me feel organized and happy and capable of facing the challenges of the world, both internal and external…. TM gives me the space to dream and create” – Lena Dunham (New York)
9-Increased balance and integration in personality
One definition of a healthy individual is one in whom the various aspects of personality are working in a harmonious and effective manner. Intelligence, emotions and sentiments, impulses, volitions, and reactions are fully realized and in harmony.
“When I feel tired, tense, scared or depressed, I meditate. It clears my mind and makes me feel more relaxed and happier. I have shared these experiences with my friends and I recommend it to all of them.” – Katy Perry (California)
“It allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure, if you’re trying to balance life as a wife and mother and as a journalist. I think I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and clarity of mind.” – Soledad O’Brien (New York)
When the mind settles down during the TM practice, some trace of inner silence remains after we get up from our meditation. Over time, with regular meditation, this peacefulness grows and permeates our life in all circumstances: peace is inherent within ourselves.
“When I meditate I feel a sense of peace, a total absence of disturbance on the level of emotions, and that carries on throughout the day. It’s now a time of my life when very little can disturb my inner peace. It’s a great blessing.” – Susan Hamza (Lebanon)
“Something about TM—It is the only time I have that stillness…it gives me this peaceful, peaceful feeling.” – Ellen Degeneres (California)
The ten benefits described above are not found sequentially; rather, they can grow simultaneously in life once we’ve integrated TM into our daily routine. It’s important for me to mention that all of these experiences can be had by anyone—you may well have had some yourself. That is because consciousness is our nature—it’s at the basis of our thought and action—so we already have access to it. The difference once one learns TM is that we can access consciousness naturally and systematically at any time we sit to meditate, and the benefits flow unimpeded.
Janet Hoffman is the national director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA