Transcendental Meditation (TM) first made headlines in the 1960’s when the Indian Guru Maharishi Mahesh taught the Beatles the technique. Now half a century later, it’s back in the news and still sporting some celebrity appeal. This time the headliners are 60’s pop star Donovan and filmmaker David Lynch. The two are touring Europe promoting the use of TM in schools and planning to open TM universities across Europe. While the idea of school children using a meditation technique to reduce stress and improve learning sounds wonderful, the TM technique is probably not the best approach to achieve these goals.
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One of the biggest criticisms of Transcendental Meditation is the $2500 fee to learn the technique, for what culminates in roughly 6-8 hours of training time with a qualified teacher. While this fee may be less for the schools, it is still an exorbitant fee to pay annually per student. When compared to similar and other types of yoga and meditation programs, the TM training is outrageously expensive. And with our public schools already being underfunded, this is not the most skillful means to bring a meditation and/or stress reduction program into our schools.
Researching further into the TM technique and TM’s umbrella organization, the Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation, reveals even deeper problems and concerns. Overall there is a pattern of deception and secrecy that pervades this multi-billion dollar corporation, as reported from former students and teachers of TM, as well as from scientific journals. Andrew Skolnick in the Journal of the American Medical Association writes: “An investigation of the movement’s marketing practices reveals what appears to be a widespread pattern of misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and scientific news media.”
Of most concern with young children using TM mediation is the possible harmful side effects of this type of meditation. “The public views meditation as benign, which is often the case. However, when taught and practiced in a rigid, formulistic way within a totalistic group led by a grandiose leader, meditation can become a dangerous habit that could create severe psychological problems.” writes Steven Alan Hassan. Many ex-TM students and teachers have come out confirming the dangers of this technique. “A disturbing denial or avoidance syndrome, and even outright lies and deception, are used to cover-up or sanitize the dangerous reality on campus of very serious nervous breakdowns, episodes of dangerous and bizarre behavior, suicidal and homicidal ideation, threats and attempts, psychotic episodes, crime, depression and manic behavior that often accompanied roundings (intensive group meditations with brainwashing techniques)” writes ex-TMer Attorney Anthony D. DeNaro
The possibility that this meditation technique could cause harm or create “dangerous and bizarre behavior” make this an unwise choice to bring into our schools. There are other yoga based programs that have been used in schools that produce similar results as TM, but with none of the high costs, secrecy and dangerous side effects.