More than 5 million people practice transcendental meditation (TM) worldwide; it's one of the most popular forms of meditation, and the most widely studied. When you read about scientific studies that look at meditation's benefits or effects on the brain, it's usually TM that's used as the benchmark.
This ancient practice has plenty of celebrity fans as well. Movie and television producer David Lynch long had anger issues before he started TM in 1973. He's been practicing ever since. He told the Seattle Times, ”I was filled with an anger and sorrows and doubts and melancholy. And I took it out on my first wife. I made her life pretty much a hell. So I start transcendental meditation, and two weeks later she comes to me and says, ‘What is going on? This anger, where did it go?'"
Lynch went on to found the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which furthers and educates at-risk populations like veterans, homeless men and women, prisoners and Native Americans, as well as school children.
But what is TM and how is it different from other forms of meditation? It's described on the official TM site as, "It is a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It’s not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle." The site goes on to elaborate on its history:
"The Transcendental Meditation technique is based on the ancient Vedic tradition of enlightenment in India. This knowledge has been handed down by Vedic masters from generation to generation for thousands of years. About 50 years ago, Maharishi — the representative in our age of the Vedic tradition — introduced Transcendental Meditation to the world."
Proponents of TM say it is the meditation practice with the strongest and most proven track record for results in terms of stress relief, reduced anxiety, enlightenment and inner peace. It works specifically by not just relaxing the body but via a method that produces "... a unique physiological state known as 'restful alertness'.” This means that while the body is gaining deep rest, the mind experiences quieter and quieter levels of thought, as explained in the short video below.
I've been meditating since I was 16, and I wrote about my own experiences with it, as well as tips for beginners, here. Though my practice is not TM, it is similar and might be a good way to get your feet wet with the practice.