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Meditation on the Cheap

As I've written many times, one of the ways I stay centered and grounded is through meditation. I do Transcendental Meditation and other kinds, as well, and recently I've been getting requests for good meditation resources that don't cost $2,500 for a mantra (like TM).

There are countless CDs and downloads and books, but MyYogaOnline is not only convenient (as in, you don't have to leave the house), but it is also very inexpensive to join (and you can view sample videos free of charge), and the videos are beautifully produced.

You can learn yoga, Pilates and meditation, and after having meditated for nearly two decades I can say that, for instance, the "Meditation on Emotions" is a perfect introduction to meditation and is actually very much like what I do at least a couple of times a week.

We vegans have a lot of feelings associated with why we do what we do and I, for one, find it necessary to do a lot of work around my emotions. I sometimes experience despair thinking about all of the suffering. I sometimes get very angry that so few people seem to care. And I often am overcome with sadness. And in order to deal with all of that and remain productive and even . . . happy for sustained periods of time, I remind myself of why I am who I am, I exercise intensely as an outlet, I connect with like-minded people, and I nourish my mind and body.

Whenever someone jokes about a person who meditates and yet is profoundly dysfunctional, the comeback is: Imagine what they'd be like if they didn't meditate. Meditation isn't instant enlightenment or equanimity. It is, however, a tool that has demonstrated, positive effects on the human brain. And with everything our brains are processing and attempting to cope with, we need all the help we can get.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. hi. just wanted to say that TM doesn't cost $2500, it's from $350 to $1500, depending on a person's financial situation. also, you're not paying for a mantra, and you're not paying for the meditation technique, you're paying for the cost of getting the practice to you in it's effective, authentic form, so you'll get maximum benefit. you also get a lifetime of followup and one-on-one support from the teachers, at no further charge. the TM course includes about 15 hours of training, at least, which comes to no more than $100 per hour, which is what we're all used to paying for professional services (but no lawyer, doctor or therapist would throw in the lifetime followup). what many people are not used to is this: meditation being taught professionally by certified, rigorously trained teachers. yes, there are cheaper forms of meditation, but TM is specifically for 'transcending,' which is much different from watching your breath, contemplating, concentrating, visualizing, etc., and leads to different results.

    May 13, 2009
  2. In some ways it's too bad that the Transcendental Meditation program has the word "meditation" in it's name, because it is so fundamentally different from everything else listed in this post that it would be nice if it had a completly distinct name.

    While I appreciate that kind and sincere intentions of this poster, I wouldn't go about mixing up TM with other "meditations" or equate them in the way that she has. It's not even a matter of apples and oranges. It's more like a rocket ship versus a paper airplane. The former has years (centuries–an ancient tradition, actually–in the case of the TM program) of technology and research behind it, it while the latter, after all, may have been put together by your kid brother.

    The "cost" of the TM program is a stumbling block for some, but that is just another symptom of our materialistic culture. We seem to think that it is worth while to pay for Harley's and cool vacations, but things like the TM program should be free. And why? Because on some level we don't really believe that it does anything real (those of us who haven't tried it). We think that the effects of the TM program are probably insubstantial and therefore simply some kind of a mood, and who could/should charge for a mood?

    But it's not like that with the TM program, since the effects are real, permanent and more transformative that ANYTHING ELSE YOU WILL EVER DO. More than college. More than getting married. More than Spring Break. The TM program is about changing your life from a long slow process of gradual decay into an inexorable march toward enlightenment. Moving from a decay paradigm to a delightful and amazing growth paradigm.

    You can't, really, pay enough for that.

    You can't, really, pay for what the TM program will bring to you.

    But you can pay so that the people who work tirelessly to bring you this gift can, maybe give up their day jobs in other fields and do this full time. Or at least pay their expenses while they buy ads, rent halls, and hope that you will hear this timeless and amazing message in all of the clutter provided by the noise of a complex society, including, yes, other "meditations"

    Check out the real thing at



    May 13, 2009
  3. Dina #

    As a fellow animal-lover I appreciate your thoughtfulness and sensitivity. I also follow your suggestions for supporting emotional and physical well-being with exercise and positive activities.

    I do TM too, and I wanted to comment that "$2500 for a mantra" isn't quite accurate. The course fee also provides a lifetime of follow-up by certified TM instructors, continuing education for life to ensure you get the best results – what a deal!

    I teach fitness classes and see lots of cheap/free meditation classes offered in yoga studios and health clubs. They're usually taught by someone who has attended a workshop, read a book, or made up their own form of meditation. They don't have the depth of training that TM teachers do, not to mention that they don't offer free follow up whenever you need it. There are some great meditation traditions, and different techniques have different purposes. But some cause headaches and lack of integration in daily life because they're unnatural. When I mention TM to someone, they often assume all meditation is alike and say "I tried to meditate but couldn't do it."

    What I like about TM is that it's easy, natural, feels good, is effective and simple. No straining and no philosophy required! It does not involve participating in a social/religious group. Many free meditation classes I've seen advertised are an outreach to attract people to their group. That's fine if it's what you want.

    I'm not a TM teacher but have meditated for a long time. Someone recently asked me to teach them, figuring I knew enough "how-to" after all these years. But a TM teacher is trained to provide information for any need someone may have.

    As for learning from a book… I have bookshelves full of books I hope to read one day. The information stays in the books! To someone interested in lasting benefits, I'd recommend you look for scientific research on the specific method of meditation you are considering, understand what the purpose of that technique is, and find out about the teacher's qualifications. If you want to play golf well, you want Tiger Woods to teach you…

    May 13, 2009
  4. Hoofenhoffer #

    I have been meditating for almost 20 years. And I DID learn from books. I've also learned through experimentation and exploration. I've tried many different forms of meditation on my own.

    Why the fuck should anyone go spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on something they could learn directly from the masters who wrote about it years ago?

    It's just a scam by self-deluded new age assholes trying to make a buck. After teaching class (and collecting their checks) they hop into their SUV to drive to their big home in the 'burbs so they can shed their beads and crystals and go out to eat dinner at some fancy steakhouse with their fifth spouse. So much for enlightenment. I have personally known these types, unfortunately. You can recognize them by their turquoise and loose flowing garments. And the people who attend their classes are the only people who can afford them, usually shallow but discombobulated CEOs and executive types who feel they need to "slow down" their busy life constantly ordering the proles around and figuring out how to make more money at the expense of the underprivileged and/or the environment. It's such a rough life having to multi-task all day long.

    If you want to try meditation, borrow some books at the library (books by Zen masters, like Shunryu Suzuki), watch some free videos from the library or online, and just experiment until you find what works for you (or what is fun for you!).

    And if you're interested in something more than daily meditation (like becoming a Shaolin Monk – heh), then these people who charge $$$$ are most likely not the ones who possess the knowledge you are seeking. If you want authentic direct knowledge, your best bet is to head east…far east.

    These days you've got people who want a quick fix. Like the American housewives who now practice trendy "awareness meditation," which is a severely watered down superficial version of true Zen meditation. Which is fine for them I guess (they can practicing breathing right after they chow down on the KFC meal they just bought courtesy of Oprah). But it's just sad that people are not learning the history or philosophy or foundation behind what they practice, which enriches the experience. At times, I have found the philosophy more eye opening than the actual meditation.

    May 13, 2009
  5. Mary Martin #

    Easy there with the language Hoofenhoffer!

    Wow. Writing about TM is like writing about mushing or hunting. It certainly causes a ruckus.

    Though I was being a bit snarky, I do believe my course/mantra was $2500. It is true that you get plenty of instruction, but it is not true that TM is the only kind of meditation that is beneficial. The Mind and Life Institute has demonstrated the benefits of Buddhist meditation and other, non-TM techniques.

    I have friends who teach/have taught TM, and have lived in Fairfield, Iowa, where the residents meditate at the "Dome" together and have sat with the Maharishi and lived in India or the Netherlands for years, and I have more inside knowledge of the movement than the average person.

    I am not misinformed or mixed up. I have kept up with what's going on and what the plans are post-Maharishi. I choose to use the technology, sometimes, and I'm sure I benefit from it. My main point that I will not stray from, is that it is not the only technique that can help our minds and moods and thoughts and transform our lives. That is what I believe.

    May 13, 2009
  6. Hoofenhoffer #

    Incidentally, despite having meditated for so many years, I still find the very best way to calm my mind and reach a peaceful state is by hiking in the mountains with my dog (i.e., a direct connection with nature). If I could be doing that 24/7, quite honestly, I think I would.

    May 13, 2009
  7. Hoofenhoffer #

    Not sure if your entire post is directed at me, Mary, but mine was not directed at you. It was directed at comments like this: "But you can pay so that the people who work tirelessly to bring you this gift can, maybe give up their day jobs in other fields and do this full time."

    I lived in the motherland of new age BS for over twenty years. I encountered more new agey types than you can shake a rain stick at (including several zero and one degrees of separation to "gurus" throughout the years). I know the types who teach these classes and I know the types who attend them. Those who charge for receiving their "special" knowledge are greedy and/or self-delusional frauds. I have nothing against people who are new agey; most of them are well-meaning (though perhaps misguided). I do have a problem with those charlatans who ask people to support their affluent lifestyle in return for something a student could and should learn for free (if in fact the knowledge is even of any worth to begin with, and often it isn't). These self-styled "teachers" should go back to their day jobs and regain some integrity. The best and most valuable lessons in life are free. The only important thing someone is going to learn from these shams is not to be attached to their money!

    In emptying your bank account to swell their own, their actions are antithetical and counterproductive to the ancient principles they purport. In a way, they are the welfarists of the spiritual world.

    Mantra Shmantra. The TM organization should hook up with the Scientology folks. They have a lot in common – they could merge forces. The Beatles meet Tom Cruise. Imagine the size of the coffers. They could take over the Bilderbergers and rule the world. Then we would all be brainwashed to maniacally jump on couches while thinking of nothing.

    May 14, 2009
  8. Mary Martin #

    Just the language part was directed at you Hoofenoffer. It's a pet peeve of mine in comments and I moderate and would like to keep discussions civil.

    But there's plenty of incivility in non-swearing comments, too.

    May 14, 2009
  9. Hoofenhoffer obviously has lots of hostility toward TM, but only because he doesn't understand how different TM is from what one can learn in a book or going hiking with your dog. If TM were really no different, as he emphatically assumes, then obviously he'd be right–why take a class and go through all that training in TM if you could get the same benefits from walking around in the woods with a dog?

    But, with all due respect, such a conceit sounds preposterous to me and shows only the most superficial comprehension of meditation, the mind, and human consciousness–not to mention scientific research on meditation.

    Everyone who has much experience with meditation in any of the great traditions knows that not all meditation practices are the same. They engage the mind in different ways, have different aims, and naturally have different effects. There is now a growing body of independent, peer-reviewed research showing how different meditation practices affect the brain, engage different parts of the brain, and have different long-term effects on brain development. It's cutting-edge research in neural imaging and EEG. You can do a Google Scholar search for the studies.

    There are also many published peer-reviewed studies showing that the various approaches to relaxation and stress reduction do not have the same effects. For example, a University of Kentucky study last year looked at all available data on meditation and relaxation practices, and found that only one meditation technique significantly lowers high blood pressure amongst thousands of controls.

    To claim that all meditation practices have the same effects is tantamount to claiming that all medicines have the same effects. To cite research done on one specific meditation technique and assert that all meditation practices will produce the same results is scientifically and logically unsound.

    Maharishi revived the delicate practice of 'effortless transcending' from the Vedic Tradition, after it had been lost to society, East and West, for thousands of years.

    Yes, there are many meditation practices and great traditions, and they all have their value. In many of these traditions, studying closely with an expert teacher and undergoing proper training is seen as the key to success. Maharishi structured this traditional training process into a seven-step course (w/a lifetime of free followup) and created a self-sustaining, non-profit organization to ensure that the technique remains available in its pure, most effective form, for this and future generations.

    The non-profit TM organization is not about money. Is it about making the benefits of this practice available to as many people as possible, but at the same time not sacrificing the purity and effectiveness of the practice. No one, including Maharishi, ever got rich off TM because all the money has always gone into supporting the teaching centers and making the practice available to more people, especially those who can't afford it. It is offered basically for free in developing nations, inner city schools, and Native American reservations.

    TM has proven itself to be highly effective. The NIH has granted $24 million over the past 18 years for scientists to further study its effects on cardiolvascular health and brain development. The AMA has widely touted TM's effects on diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The American Heart Association has heralded it as a valuable tool for preventing heart attack and stroke. TM's effects on lowering high blood pressure are highly significant and can be life-saving—-as effective as adding a second hypertensive agent to one's routine, according to doctors. (TM the same as Scientology? Right…) The research shows beyond any reasonable doubt that the results you get from TM are far beyond any ordinary walk in the woods.

    TM allows you to effortlessly transcend thought and go beyond all mental activity (such as the mental activity that happens while walking in the woods and thinking, fishing, reading a book, watching your breath, etc.). When you transcend, you experience the 4th state of consciousness—-the field of pure unbounded awareness. Experiencing this state of restful alertness twice a day is what brings the benefits. I've been enjoying the practice for over 35 years. This is my personal experience. I've also tried many other practices.

    If you have the same experience twice a day through any other method or walking in the woods, by all means, please keep it up!

    Thanks for listening. Now I think I'll take a hike with my dog.

    P.S.: The current TM course fees are posted at
    The scientific research is there too.

    May 14, 2009
  10. Hoofenhoffer #

    There's nothing to say to people like you. I know, I know – you're a peddler of special magical powers that no one can attain except through you and your cronies. It's nothing new. There have been groups of people throughout the ages who claim to have the answers to all your needs as long as you have the right amount of cash in your pocket.

    Hey Jack, what did you have for lunch today?

    May 14, 2009
  11. Mary Martin #

    I promise you this isn't going anywhere. And I think we all know that. Some of us swear by TM, others do not, and there is a wealth of information from both sides if anyone is interested (Google it). My final comment is that for me, there is a distinction between the actual meditation technique and the "movement" and the organization. You can appreciate the technique without getting involved in all the rest, just like you can be a vegan and not be a devotee of any one philosopher or group in the AR movement, such as it is. The TM people might not agree (I don't get "checked" regularly or upgrade my mantra, and if you ask me that hasn't adversely affected me but if you ask them it probably has), but that's okay with me.

    May 14, 2009
  12. Hoofenhoffer doesn't seem to like it if someone doesn't agree with him. Now, I'm not saying that this in any way reflects on any possible insecurity as a human being on his part, or to any self-perceived male insufficiency he may have. But now, some less generous people might say that.

    "There's nothing to say to people like you." Try civil, non-denigrating, open-minded communication. And oh, you know me quite well, I suppose? (When you say 'people like you,' do you mean, rational people with actual critical thinking skills and at least a modicum of knowledge of what they're talking about?)

    "I know, I know – you're a peddler of special magical powers that no one can attain except through you and your cronies." Did I say that? Wow, I have cronies? Please, where are they? I need someone to pick up a milkshake for me at the Chocolate Lounge.

    "people throughout the ages who claim to have the answers to all your needs as long as you have the right amount of cash in your pocket." And how, again, does this relate to TM or anything I said above, or do you always just talk in non sequiturs?

    "Hey Jack, what did you have for lunch today?" Now THAT'S a snappy, insightful, really clever comeback! Genius, dude! I'm gonna need another PhD in philosophy of science to respond to that one.

    May 15, 2009
  13. Hoofenhoffer #

    Thank you – you answered my question without meaning to…


    It explains to me what you are doing here (among a whole host of other transparent things I won't get into).

    That is all (from me).

    – an educated DIY girl who learned how to attain various states of consciousness and also how to become vegan for FREE (so much for critical thinking skills, huh?)

    "That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest." – some "dude" named Thoreau

    May 16, 2009
  14. sorry hoofgirl. that aggressive negative energy in those comments (with the cussin like a sailor) came off as masculine to me; but, my mistake. girls can be negative too and also cuss like sailors.

    "That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest." …that's exactly why I practice TM, because w/TM, everyday, for absolutely free, I can access pure unbounded awareness. but only because I learned a simple, effortless technique for experiencing it…otherwise, as history has shown, it'd be quite tricky.

    May 17, 2009

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