My dad, who learned in the 60s and became a teacher a few years later, taught me the Transcendental Meditation technique when I was five.
I was a rebellious kid, though.
Sometimes, I thought about my cat instead of my mantra. (Before I learned, I desperately hoped my mantra would actually be “cat.” Alas!)
Since I learned at such a young age, I don’t have a before and after experience; I don’t have the extreme contrast that had been described to me by others.
What I do have is this: occasionally, I fall out of my habit of daily TM practice—don’t tell my dad!
I get caught up in life, work, activities, friends, or I have an unproductive workday. Come 5 o’clock, part of me feels I need to do something—and meditating for 20 minutes is not that thing. Because sitting still, doing nothing, with my eyes closed, is not conventionally synonymous with productivity.
But, you know what else was unconventional in the last century? Women’s suffrage, renewable energy, the internet…you know, things that are obviously awesome.
Even so, sometimes my conventional instincts overshadow what I know from experience to be true. I always come back to my regular Transcendental Meditation practice, though, because (not to give anything away here) without it, I start feeling less awesome.
Here are the nine things I notice when I stop meditating:
1. I have less and less energy. I meditate to relax and reset, but after those 20 minutes, I feel energized. I feel like with each mediation I miss, my body protests a little bit louder, until finally I can’t ignore my inner voice saying, “Excuse me! Can we take a minute to revitalize? Or 20?”
2. I have less patience. That’s really just a nice way of saying that I get more irritable. Small things that shouldn’t matter at all start to bother me.
3. I have a harder time making decisions. It’s like my options, and the pros and cons of each, get blurry, or the details of a conflict are more unfathomable, and I can’t put my finger on the best thing to do or say. Transcendental Meditation is to decision-making as my glasses are to seeing.
4. I start feeling insecure. When I’m inwardly fulfilled and happy, I don’t crave reinforcement from others; I’m more content to do my own thing, more able to laugh by myself and more confident in new situations. And I don’t mean that I turn into a helpless, needy mess when I miss a week of meditation, but I might start second-guessing my clothing choices, or hold back a comment in a work meeting.
5. I find less joy in the little things. You know those days when you can’t help but smile because your coffee tastes so good? When I’m doing my TM practice regularly, I have a lot more of those days, and when I’m in a lull, I have a lot less. Simple as that.
6. I’m less motivated. My will to go for a run slips away, and suddenly, I’ve re-watched a season of Friends in under 24 hours.
7. I start eating worse. I heard someone say one time, “TM adds a moment in my mind to stop and think, rather than just react,” and when it comes to an additional piece of pizza (which will undoubtedly leave me groaning, “Whhyyyyyyy?” on the floor) I know exactly what that person meant. That extra second to think is all it takes for me to happily say, “No, thanks,” and finish a meal in that perfect place where I’m not hungry, but not so stuffed I want to die.
8. I start feeling worse. About almost everything, even my past. I wonder if I went to the wrong school, if my job is moving me in the right direction, what the right direction even is! The thing that keeps me doing TM, more than anything else, is the optimism and inner peace that it cultivates in me.
9. I feel less fulfilled. Which leaves me wanting “more.” Which more often than not lands me on the couch watching TV for that instant gratification. Which puts me in bed two hours later. So, I get up later the next morning and don’t have time to do TM before I start work.
Which takes me back to the beginning of this post.
Bonus round! Here’s the kid that so badly wanted to meditate on the word “cat.” (My mom obviously foiled my true intentions by dressing me in a snail shirt.)
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Rose Hoffmann
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own