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Is the Relaxation Response and Transcendental Meditation (TM) the same thing?

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Showing 1-16 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2009 8:59:11 PM PDT
P. Burke says:
I've looked into TM but I'm dubious about anything that costs $100s - $1000s of dollars to learn (even if you do get your own mantra) Did Dr. Benson just simplify or demystify the technique of TM or is it something completely different?

I'm doing Roy Master's observation/concentration exercise right now. (Actually free at He says in one of the discussions that it might feel like "your house is burning down' before you get better...
Two weeks into doing his technique 2-3 times per day and I couldn't agree more - I feel so SAD! I have struggled with depression for my whole life but this level of sadness and confusion is unbelievable. I'm spontaneously crying or weeping a few times per day...sulking around, no motivation.

Masters might describe this as the wrongs of the past coming up for review or the subconscious becoming conscious but I feel so sad right now, it's almost new territory despite years of persistent depression.

I'm so confused about what technique to used and my mind isn't right so my judgement might be impaired right now. I don't want a lifetime of meds, etc..I'm actually a very thoughtful and intellegent person - most people don't know I have depression and I'm looking for something permanent (i.e. TM) to help me for the rest of my life.

Anyone have knowledge of these 3 types of meditation or any advice that might be helpful?


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2009 2:02:15 PM PDT
I'm a 40 year TMer, and the practice has been immensely helpful in enjoying my life more and avoiding the blues. You're shopping around, and that's OK, but there is no substitute for TM -- the "transcendental" in the name means you go beyond the limitations that make one unhappy -- what's that worth?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2009 2:16:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2009 2:17:08 PM PDT
M. Hampton says:
I was taught TM by a person who shared the teaching for a donation. Later I read that there is a chart of sounds based on your birthday. Have you searched the internet for anything like that? I'm not sure that the sound itself is so important. If you meditated on OM twice a day for a year, you'd be just as far along as if you'd meditated on AIM (my mantra). The practice is the thing. The sound, not so relevant. Just my opinion. Good luck and peace to you.

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 2:34:13 PM PDT
K. Blair says:
I have been doing TM for years and have nothing but good effect from the twice-daily practice. It reduces stress, keeps me healthy and happy. And it is completely effortless to do, and so simple to learn. And what I also like about TM is that there are over 600 studies showing how good it is for my mind and body. Have a look at the web site for all scoop on the Transcendental Meditation program.

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 4:31:34 PM PDT
JD says:
No -- TM and the relaxation response are not the same thing, and here's why: TM is a specific type of mediation (of which there are many), which, if done correctly, will provide you with the relaxation response -- but so will most other types of meditation. Indeed, it's possible to get the relaxation response without doing ANY meditation as such. The relaxation response is a scientific term that has been coined in recent years, relating to measurable physiological indicators. In short, TM can give you the relaxation response, but the relaxation response need not come from TM, so no --they're not at all the same thing. They are often related but don't have to be.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2009 9:47:27 AM PDT
P. Burke says:
A question: What do you find TM does to your sex life? I have heard different things. Some say it enhances things, others have said their urge for sex has went down.

I know with the meditation I'm doing now, my sex drive seems to be down but also my urge to gamble is almost gone (which is good b/c I can be impulsive with this to fill up the 'void.')

Any thought? Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2009 4:53:50 PM PDT
Hello P. Burke,

I actually don't have a lot of time to respond to you right now, but I noticed your post and you sound really in need of some good information. I do not know very much about TM, and I am personally put off by it being so very expensive. I have meditated for years using some of the easiest methods available and I get the impression that TM is made to be overly complicated on purpose so that people can be convinced that enlightenment is something difficult to achieve, and that it can only be taught to you by a PROFESSIONAL. All meditation essentially acomplishes the same thing, and that is to quiet your mind and strenghen your awareness, which will connect you to your inner energy source. It is shameful in my opinion to charge someone thousands of dollars and convince them that that simple, natural process of meditation requires so much training and information. For God sakes read The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. It will change your life period. I know that I probably have offended many people and I am very sorry. TM is probably very effective, but that is because meditation itself is very effective with or without all the unnessary fluff that sometimes surrounds it. Wish I had more time, best of luck to you.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2009 5:14:38 PM PDT
I meditate, but never took a TM course. I've done it for over 10 years and have tried different methods.

I remember reading that some people break into tears, especially when beginning a meditation practice. Well, that didn't happen to me till I'd been meditating for about 7 years. The sadness you're experiencing isn't unusual. It passes. Depression is a different thing, but you're asking about TM vs relaxation response.

A guru will teach you transcendental meditation. A medical doctor will tell you to practice the relaxation response. IMO, the relaxation response is merely Western medicine's validation of meditation as a healthy practice, without acknowledging it as a centuries-old spiritual practice. I have also practiced relaxation response. I prefer meditation (just mindfulness or prayer), but have had good results with relaxation response. If you're finding meditation overwhelming, you can always practice relaxation response for awhile and return to meditation later.

I wish you luck.

Posted on Apr 18, 2009 7:43:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 18, 2009 7:52:53 PM PDT
Eric L. Dahl says:
I have been practicing the TM technique for more than 40 years, and I strongly encourage you to start the practice. I'd like to address the issues you raise in your posting.

== Cost ==
There are several reasons why TM costs as much as it does. First, the initial course includes personal instruction followed by three days of small group meetings to ensure that you learn the practice correctly and understand how to deal with the many different types of experiences that you can have during the practice. It also includes regular individual meetings with a teacher for at least a year after the initial course to ensure that you are continuing to practice the technique correctly. TM teachers are professionally trained through an extensive teacher training course, and reasonable course fees are necessary so they can support themselves with a decent standard of living. I also understand that a portion of the course fees in the U.S. and other developed countries are used to support teaching activities in less developed countries.

Whether it seems expensive or not depends on what you compare it to. How much does the typical American spend per year on automobile expenses, eating out, entertainment, or health care? I recently met with a real estate attorney who charges $350 per hour. A 15-minute procedure in a doctor's office can set you back $250. A dental crown can cost $700. The life-long value of the TM technique far exceeds the transient value of any of these services.

== Mantra and technique ==
You raised the issue of getting your own mantra. Instruction in the TM technique includes two fundamental components that are necessary to ensure maximum benefit: a suitable mantra, and instructions on how to use it properly. The importance of a suitable mantra cannot be overemphasized. The word "mantra" is defined as a "sound whose effects are known." The Vedic tradition from which the TM technique originates includes an extensive "science of sound" that was formulated by enlightened seers thousands of years ago based on their experience in deep meditation. One of the fundamental principles of this science is that different sounds have different effects on the mind, body, and environment. We all know this from our personal experience: just think of how differently you feel when hearing someone crying versus hearing someone laughing. Or the effect of the sound of wind rustling through a stand of pine trees versus the sound of rush hour traffic. These temporary, external sounds have very different effects on us. The mantra, or sound, that one receives during instruction in the TM technique is known to have a soothing, nourishing, and enlivening effect on the mind and a rejuvenating effect on the body. One uses one's mantra to experience subtler and more powerful levels of the mind twice a day, every day; over the course of a lifetime the cumulative differences of the effects of a suitable sound vs. an unsuitable sound could be substantial, to say the least.

It is also extremely important to learn how to use the mantra correctly. One of the distinctive characteristics of the TM technique is that it is completely natural -- completely effortless. One could therefore ask: if the technique is so natural, why does one need instruction? The brief answer is that one can have many different experiences during meditation, and it is important to learn how to respond to all of them -- not just theoretically, but in terms of one's own personal experience.

== Benson's "relaxation response" ==
Benson uses the term "relaxation response" to refer to the general physiological response pattern elicited by a variety of meditation techniques and other relaxation methods. He recommends a specific approach to relaxation that includes some of the principles of the TM technique but strips out what he thinks are unnecessary aspects. There is considerable research that indicates that, although Benson's technique may produce some benefits, the TM technique produces demonstrably greater benefits. I think it is significant that Benson does not regularly practice his own technique; if what he teaches is so great, why doesn't he practice it himself? Dr. James Krag, president of the Psychiatric Association of Virginia, says "Just as there are many kinds of medication, there are also many approaches that are termed `meditation.' The vast majority of the research on meditation has been on the Transcendental Meditation technique-and the findings clearly indicate that the TM technique works better than other researched mental techniques to promote health." For more information see and click on the link, "Are all meditations the same?" Also see

== Depression and meditatation ==
You wrote that you are doing Roy Master's exercise right now, and he says you might feel like "your house is burning down" before you feel better. You also wrote that you "have struggled with depression for my whole life but this level of sadness and confusion is unbelievable." I am concerned that Masters' technique may cause you to become aware of negative thoughts and feelings that had been repressed or suppressed without fully releasing you from them. For a person who has struggled with emotional challenges for a period of time, this kind of self-observation meditation can precipitate an emotional crisis. I am very concerned that this crisis is overwhelming to you, making it difficult for you to cope. If his technique is truly effectual, then presumably you will eventually process this negative material in a healthy way and achieve a higher level of psychospiritual integration. But you may feel a great deal of distress for some time if all you are doing to treat your depression is practice Master's technique on your own. Depression can be a serious and debilitating condition, and it should be taken seriously. Seek additional treatment if your overwhelming feelings persist for more than a few more days. Look for a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy who is experienced in treating depression. It is also tremendously helpful to get regular vigorous exercise, to get enough sleep, and to follow a regular daily routine. Over the longer term it is vital that you connect with other people in meaningful ways and engage in a cause, group, or organization that is larger than your own personal concerns and feelings and is embodies values that you believe in. You need to "step out of yourself" in order to experience a larger, more meaningful sense of self that gives your life genuine value and purpose.

For information on the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique for depression, see

== Experiencing reality ==
On his website, Masters contrasts his technique with what he calls "Eastern meditations that mask reality with mindless mantras." This demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of what "Eastern" meditation - at least the Transcendental Meditation technique - is all about. The purpose of TM is exactly the opposite of "masking reality": the purpose is to transcend the mental processes that normally mask our experience of reality - to experience quieter and quieter states of awareness until the mind transcends, or goes beyond, the realm of thought and experiences a state of pure consciousness, or restful alertness. In this sublimely peaceful state one has left the mantra behind, so to speak, and experiences a profound state of inner stillness and freedom; this is a fourth major state of awareness beyond the cycle of waking, dreaming, and sleeping that we normally experience. In Vedic literature, this state is called "turiya" (see and is considered the gateway to higher states of psychospiritual integration and the foundation for experiencing reality free of the distortions of normative human awareness.

== Additional Resources ==
I encourage you to learn more about the TM technique and to explore Maharishi's teachings in more detail. Here are some resources to explore:
A great collection of information about the technique, reasons to meditate, and how to learn.

Science of Being and Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation
A wonderful book written by Maharishi in 1963 in which he lays out the fundamentals of his teaching. I found this book extremely inspiring when I first read it.
The website of the David Lynch Foundation, which is dedicated to providing scholarships so one million children around the world can learn how to meditate.
A great site with lots of useful information about the technique compiled by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, one of the principle scientific researchers on TM in the world. For a comparison of TM and other techniques, click Research > Comparison of Techniques.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2009 7:54:45 PM PDT
Eric L. Dahl says:
"OM" is not a suitable sound for meditation by people who are interested in achieving success in the world. It is suitable for people who are interested in withdrawing from mundane concerns and living a renunciant way of life

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2009 1:38:58 PM PDT
Many of these techniques do temporarily allow people to feel better, but there is a difference between temporarily feeling better and getting better. The only way to really GET better, which means to reduce the overall frequency, intensity and duration of emotions like anxiety, etc. is to change the way you THINK. Thoughts cause feelings, not events. Actually the research shows that without the cognitive work, these techniques can actually only end up being "band aids" and someone might actually feel worse in the long run. Check out the book "It's just an event - It's your choice how you want to feel" by Ray Mathis if you want to really GET better. Do you really want to sit in a lotus position and meditate for hours a day?It's Just an Event-It's Your Choice How You Want to Feel: The ABC System of Cognitive, Emotional and Behavioral Self-Management and Self-Improvement

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012 6:26:46 AM PDT
mkirksmith says:
"There is considerable research that indicates that, although Benson's technique may produce some benefits, the TM technique produces demonstrably greater benefits."

I've done TM for many years. What you actually do is exactly the same as in the Benson technique, i.e., you sit quietly for 20 mins and repeat a sound or word to yourself, which in the case of TM is a standard mantra, in the case of the Benson Technique it's "one".

I can't see that this should make any difference. Any easily recited sound or word that doesn't elicit imagery or other associations would probably work. It acts to distract you from thinking worrying thoughts and that's calming - the body follows by relaxing in turn.

The only other difference is that Benson strips away the quasi-religious trappings and is free - both of which may reduce general expectational/placebo effects. This is a plausible cause of any difference in effects between the two (btw, I'm a social and experimental psychologist).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 6:03:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2012 6:44:57 PM PDT
There is a book written by Charles F Haanel called The Master Key System which which worked like magic for me not only as far as relaxation is concerned but also in completely removing anxiety and allowing me to achieve a lot of goals in my life, which to be honest without this book and its techniques I would never have achieved. It is also very good at getting to the bottom of the real CAUSES behind your problems and at removing them, rather than just trying to mask the effects. The book is quite tough to understand at first but there is a huge community of people who are working with it who will be more than happy to help you on various forums. As you may have deduced this is a book about achieving success in the real world and is the complete opposite from some eastern philosophies which are about withdrawing from the world. This is quite significant because in many cases anxiety is exacerbated by a hectic lifestyle, lack of personal liberty, lack of money and unsatisfactory material surroundings. The other good thing about this is that it will not cost you a cent, all that is required is an open mind, and the willingness to work hard for the results promised.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2012 5:55:49 AM PDT
Since "Retired Teacher" is the only one who has reviewed this book since 2009, and the review was more of a summary than a review, I suspect he is the author of that book.
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Posted on Feb 5, 2013 2:07:18 PM PST
John Bryan says:
John Bryan teaches how to develop your own internal Random Access Memory to use when confronted with a stressful situation. Following the principals outlined in this very readable book, a reader automatically searches their newly developed memory with the speed of a highly developed RAM and pulls up the "affirmations" loaded into your internal RAM, which provide instant guidance to resolve stressful decisions in a positive manner.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2013 12:43:12 AM PST
I'm glad you didn't have much time. How long would you have droned on for if you did?
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Discussion in:  Self-help forum
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Initial post:  Apr 15, 2009
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