Pure Love: I Heart TM

Melissa Errico pens a love letter to Transcendental Meditation, on her first anniversary of practicing.
Photograph by Pepe Reyes

by Melissa Errico

Transcendental Meditation is a demanding companion. I started TM just a year ago because, outwardly, enough people told me I should; and inwardly, because I knew I needed something deep within to slow down the speed of my mind and the pace of my days, and even find some comfort and pleasure far inside myself. I did what we are told to do—going on what is like a dating app of its own (the Tinder or Bumble of people seeking inner companionship, I suppose) and that is merely to type in www.tm.org and immediately give my physical address and ZIP code (I suppose the one thing you don’t do on real dating apps) so I could be assigned a teacher. I met my teacher, Sarah, an understated, shy-mannered, blond woman who worked in a makeshift office in a neighboring town, and I promptly signed up and paid about $900 to fulfill a longing I knew very little about except that it existed.

The process was sweetly ritualistic. I had to offer a few things—the first being time, a mandatory few hours on four consecutive days. I had to offer flowers at one session, to an altar with an Indian man’s face in a frame. I had to offer a new white handkerchief (which I had to provide). I can’t remember the purpose of all this, but I recall the sense that I had made a commitment and that it was clean of intent, and kind of charming in comparison to my rushed, charged, high-tech, coffee-fueled parenting and career-juggling days.

I was given my mantra, which only my teacher knows, despite how many times my teenage daughter has begged me to divulge it. The practice of TM involves saying your mantra silently over and over again for 20 minutes, and living that period of time with a sense that you cannot fail. A reason for bliss, in itself. There is no right way to meditate. During my first experiences meditating, I felt released, expanded, quiet, full, calm. Tears followed the first few sessions because I realized I hadn’t been that physically quiet ever, except for the few times I had been in a hospital and was forced to be entirely still. (Yoga class is somehow a different kind of peace.)

TM is your time, and it is your companion and it is your access to yourself, much like the Persian poet Rumi teaches us about the nature of finding a lover: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” In a seeking age, it’s nice to find. I loved a video Sarah showed me once, of an Indian TM master who said that a mantra is like a mountain that comes to you, and if it does not come, you go to it. Always effortlessly.

Twenty minutes of TM can feel like a night’s sleep, where once a night’s sleep felt like a terrible 20 minutes. But you aren’t allowed to lie down and put your head on the pillow. You must be awake to be this asleep. You must not sleep with your TM. In fact, like with a good lover, you will be too alert and excitable in the aftermath to actually sleep. It is best done in the morning and again around 4PM. I mean, TM. You have to find time for it, and I admit, on this one-year anniversary, that there are periods that I felt I could not make the time. But TM is not about guilt. You begin again, go to the mountain, walk again. With, and toward, your companion, with whom you share a secret code, with whom you cannot sleep during the real darkness of night, and with whom you might very well come to understand yourself better.