I’d been vaguely interested in meditation for years, but recently I’ve become fascinated with transcendental meditation after I read Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. He sent 11 questions to 140 people at the very top of their game—right across the spectrum from sportsmen, entrepreneurs, and scientists.
His survey showed the vast majority of correspondents had a regular meditation practice. So, at the start of 2018 I decided to dive into Transcendental Meditation (TM), and met James Miles at an introductory talk.
While I’m a bit cynical, James is a hardened scientist and was able to persuade me of the physical, mental, and wider societal benefits of TM. James is leading the push to grow the TM practice in London so we can all benefit from this ancient, simple, and natural system. Here, he talks about how he became involved with TM and his dreams for the future.
“I actually turned down the Marie Curie scholarship in Stockholm and I thought that if I’m going to do any scientific research now—it’s going to be in TM.”
James had a long, winding road to traverse before coming about to Transcendental Meditation. In his youth, James didn’t feel quite like school was for him which led to a lot of what he calls “experimenting” in his late teens and twenties—even setting up his own decorating company.
He still didn’t feel like the person he wanted to be and it was suggested that his unfulfilled potential with education might bring him closer in line to that path. James went back and managed to get into Bristol University to study chemistry as a very mature, advanced student—no easy feat.
Still, he was feeling anxiety and stress despite succeeding academically. After having TM suggested by a friend, and looking into peer reviewed research on the practice, he took the plunge and began to see improvement and results immediately.
Transcendental Meditation differs from other forms of meditation you may have heard of, such as Mindfulness. The first three words a TM teacher will probably speak to you are that the process is simple, natural, and effortless. It’s done in the morning and evening for twenty minutes. You’re locating this state of restful alertness, this kind of consciousness that your mind is naturally trying to seek. Once you make a habit of experiencing this state it begins to seep into your other states of consciousness throughout the day—waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
TM takes a thought that has no meaning, called a ‘mantra’, and it keeps the mind lively—but undirected. This allows your mind to naturally go where it wants, to those more charming aspects of the mind that are seeking out greater happiness. The practice has taken off all over the world, especially in the United States—but the UK seems reticent to enter into TM in a big way.
This could be due to a number of misconceptions; for instance, TM has no religious base and doesn’t alter your lifestyle. Meditation can also be associated with a difficult, concentration heavy practice—which TM is most certainly not. James is trying to change that—trying to get TM on NHS and speaking to Parliament while also amassing all the scientific research being done.
Founding a TM center in London that can act as a beacon where people can come in and practice, even in groups, and help elevate consciousness not only for the individual, but for the whole of London—and the world at large.
If you’d like to learn more or set up a time to learn the practice of TM head to UK.TM.org – you can put in your post code and it will tell you where your local centers are. Introductory talks are free and usually last about an hour.