How is Transcending different to Mindfulness?
“Stay in the moment”, “Be mentally present”, “Live in the now”.
Sound Familiar? As our lives get busier and we are overloaded with social media, electronic entertainment and the ever present beeping of mobile phone messages, it is harder to be mindful of where we are and what we are doing. So often our minds are racing ahead to what we have to do next instead of really listening to our child telling us what happened at school or our partner telling us about their day.
Trying to stay mindful amidst the distractions of mental chatter is a great resolution but just how easy is it particularly when you feel stressed?
Mindfulness is about bringing the awareness to the present situation in a non-judgemental way, with the intention to be mentally present rather than lost in thoughts or anxieties about what has been or what may happen. While Transcendental Meditation offers a similar outcome, to enjoy life free from worries and to find a sense of inner peace, the paths to their realisation are completely opposite.
Mindfulness meditation uses techniques to focus on the breath, notice bodily sensations and experience the present state of the emotions. It requires some effort to purposely focus your attention and to stay present. The higher the level of stress the harder it is to remain in the now. The mind wanders off into worrying about the future or going over and over situations from the past.
In comparison, in Transcendental Meditation there is no attempt to control the mind. The mind effortlessly transcends, or goes beyond the experience of the surroundings, bodily sensations, awareness of time and space and even the process of thinking. Instead of trying to stay with your thoughts or monitor them you can completely let go of them.
As we come out of this experience, we are aware that we have been ‘away’ and have a deep sense of relaxation. When we are in a deep state of transcendence, there is no experience of “I am” anything because we have gone beyond the experience of the individual “I”.
The expansion of awareness that occurs during Transcendental Meditation allows us to access latent areas of the brain. It is like opening up extra storage on a computer. If we continue to overload our computer with more and more information eventually it will slow down. If we never take the time out to clear out our mental junk and access more of the mind we experience feelings of overwhelm and the inability to make decisions. Memory declines and concentration becomes more difficult.
Some of the benefits of Transcendental Meditation include improved memory and creativity, faster reaction time and better concentration. There is a marked reduction in anxiety and people report feeling more confidant and happier. In day to day life there is no attempt to remember to be mindful, in fact TM meditators report that they flow through the day with a greater sense of ease, they experience being more present in the moment but without any intention to do so. They find that they are less self-conscious while experiencing a sense of expanded awareness.
Being mindful in daily life develops spontaneously through Transcendental Meditation by giving the mind a chance to rest deeply and dissolve the stress that keeps the mind too busy to be in the present.
Wendy Rosenfeldt is a teacher of Transcendental Meditation