I've always been into New Age thinking, which for me doesn't seem so alternative. I learned Transcendental Meditation in 1985 and it has been an influential part of my astrology, and life in general. What is TM? It's Yoga basically, the timeless mind-body system that surfaces again and again throughout time.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, TM's founder, was the favoured disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati ('Guru Dev'), the Shankaracharya of Northern India, one of the four custodians of the Hindu faith. Guru Dev was the most revered spiritual teacher in India of his day, addressed by Indian President Radhakrishnan in 1950 as 'Vendanta Incarnate'.
When Maharishi first came to the West in 1958, he decided that his system needed a new name, since Yoga had become associated almost solely with physical asanas or Hatha Yoga (see below).
Maharishi explained that over the centuries, the path of Yoga has become mistaken for the goal. Direct perception of the Self (samadhi) is in fact the first step of Ashtanga (8-limbed) Yoga, not the last. TM differs from many other forms of meditation in that it brings the experience of transcendence, an increasing awareness of more subtle levels of thought. The technique, which anyone can learn, is completely natural and effortless.
The popular misconception that yoga meditation is austere and difficult should be consigned to history. Maharishi was always adamant that one does not have to renounce a productive, practical life to practice yoga.
Extensive research shows TM to be the most effective means of produce alpha-waves, the frequency that indicates relaxed coherence in the brain. A programme of self-development is a useful thing to have alongside your studies: astrology is more than an academic head trip.
The full value of yoga is described in The Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. It begins with a beautiful definition: “Yoga”, it says, “is the cessation of fluctuations of the mind.”
That is to say, yoga teaches how to have a mind that is at peace and alert at the same time. Maharishi called this “a state of restful alertness” where the mind is completely silent while remaining fully awake.
Out of a total of 192 sutras or aphorisms in The Yoga Sutra, one is dedicated to physical posture. It says: “The seat is firm and comfortable” (II.46). The other 191 sutra analyse the cessation of mental activity.
The experience of a mind at peace is valuable in itself but it has immense importance on a practical level. When there is no activity in the mind, and yet the mind remains alert, there is infinite stability, infinite silence and peace. Repeated experience brings balance and eliminates imbalance, however it might express itself. Health improves; energy increases; life blossoms.
Maharishi's achievement was to revive a technique that makes this level of unbounded silence universally available. He called this technique Transcendental Meditation. He insisted that the bliss of the transcendent is a universal birthright. It cannot be beyond the reach of anyone, he argued.