By Mona El Hussieni

Many believe that the age of spiritual enlightenment is upon us, and, in recent years, spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation have spread substantially in Egypt.  We take a look at one of the most prominent and commonly practiced meditation techniques – Transcendental Meditation.  

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Transcendental Meditation is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle.  It’s the most widely practiced, most researched, and most effective method of self-development,” reads the official website of Transcendental Meditation.

So what is this mantra meditation and how is it different from other techniques out there?

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a program and movement that originated with the Indian teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s.  It spread globally through his world tours, where he taught the technique to thousands of people, including many celebrities.  By the 1960s, the movement had reached the west, coinciding with the time that the Beatles started practicing meditation. Maharishi is an honorable title meaning “the Great Seer,” and according to the revered yoga teacher, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar – known better as B.K.S. Iyengar – one becomes a Yogi when the practice of yoga is highly refined and when the practitioner’s mind, intelligence, and sense of self, or ‘I-ness,’ are sublimated.

While TM has been largely popularized with the advent of the New Age spirituality movement, its origins date back to the Vedas  The Vedas are said to be the most ancient of Hindu scriptures and possibly the oldest religious scriptures known to humankind, dating back almost 5000 years.  The Maharishi was able to bring the ageless Vedic science and integrate it into modern science.  On the official site of Maharishi University of Management, the Maharishi explains: “Veda means pure knowledge and the infinite organizing power that is inherent in the structure of pure knowledge.  Pure knowledge is the state of awareness in which consciousness knows itself alone, when awareness is completely self-referent, when awareness has nothing other than itself in its structure.”  In other words, Veda means ultimate reality, the ground of all being, from which all of creation – thought and form – arises.

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The TM practice is made up of two 20-minute closed-eye meditation sessions done on a daily basis.  Unlike other meditation techniques that engage the mind on a certain level of focus and concentration, TM transcends the act of thinking altogether.  It goes beyond the thought to the source of thought.  It allows the mind to settle in an inner level of calm and make way for pure awareness and transcendental consciousness – a state where the inner-most Self rests.

Practicing TM is easy and doesn’t take years to master, however, an interactive teaching method is essential in order to learn the technique.  TM’s effects are cumulative; the more one meditates, the more the mind becomes established in the state of pure awareness, the more stress in all its forms – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – is released, and the more our inherent joy and clarity of mind are unveiled and shine through.

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Transcendental Meditation in Egypt

Dr. Aziza Hussein, who the Maharishi dubbed “the Mother of Egypt,” was the first to bring Transcendental Meditation to Egypt in the 1970s.  Shortly after being introduced to it, Hussein felt a duty to spread the benefits of TM in her motherland, so she founded a local NGO and began inviting teachers from abroad to instruct participants on TM.  One of those early practitioners was the Lebanese Nada Haidar, who has been the resident teacher of TM in Egypt for over 15 years.

Others continue Hussein’s legacy too, including Miral Shaaban, who completed her TM training course in 2010, becoming the first Egyptian TM teacher in Egypt; Karim Tobgy followed in 2014.

Shaaban completed her teaching course in Switzerland, which she describes as one of the most profound events in her life.  She started teaching TM in 2011, just in time for the January 25 revolution.  After the revolution, Shaaban, who comes from a corporate background, decided to broaden the scale of her specialty from assisting and guiding employees in the workplace to assisting the masses through TM.  She aimed to help people release stress and increase their positivity and energy levels so they can perform to their highest potential.

Although Transcendental Meditation originates from the prolific Vedic traditions, the Maharishi created a practice that is accessible to the modern-day person.  The TM course is considered the basis of the teaching, which Shaaban describes as graduating from Kindergarten and then going into primary school; the participant is better prepared and more open to learning advanced techniques and gaining extended knowledge through specialized courses.

The different courses integrate areas of the Vedas such as: Ayurveda, which is a system of traditional natural medicine; Sthapataya Veda, which is a architectural system for the design and construction of buildings; Gandharva Veda, which is a form of classical Indian music; Jyotish, also known as Maharishi Vedic Astrology; and Vedic Agriculture, which is a trademarked process for producing fresh, organic food.

The TM course is taught in seven steps over the duration of five days; after the course’s completion, the practitioner can practice meditating on their own and is also invited to attend group meditation gatherings every week.  Group meditation accelerates the stress release process and compounds the positive effects of the technique; it helps radiate positive energy and creativity in the surrounding environment, producing what is referred to as the Maharishi Effect.  This Maharishi Effect hypothesizes that if one percent of a population were to practice the TM technique, it would produce measurable improvements to the quality of life of the whole population.

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What is the Goal of Transcendental Meditation?

It’s interesting to note that TM is the most widely researched meditation technique in the world.  The results of various scientific experiments conducted over many years are published on the official TM website and reveal some of the benefits that result from practicing the technique.  These include: decreased stress levels and increased energy levels; balanced and regulated heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism; deeper rest and restfulness; a decrease in susceptibility to disease, and an overall feeling of wellbeing.

Experiments were carried out on broader, societal levels as well, and according to the website, when a larger number of people practiced the technique within a given community, it was found that crime rates plummeted while work and family life improved.  According to Shaaban, the purpose of the TM technique is to calm the active mind down to its quietest level.

The goal of TM differs for each individual, though.  Shaaban explains that she gets some participants who turn to meditation for a sense of calmness and stillness, while others are referred to meditation by their doctors in order to treat or relieve physical ailments; others seek spiritual growth through meditation.  Despite the differing motives, Shaaban states that TM is a global and scientific technique that serves everyone unreservedly.

According to the Maharishi, the purpose of life is to expand happiness, and TM is one of the oldest and most effective ways of helping to achieve that purpose.

Transcendental Meditation in Egypt

Instructors Miral Shaaban, Karim Tobgy and Nada Haidar teach in various locations across Cairo, including: the NGO office in Maadi, Nun Center in Zamalek, Yalla Yoga, Shanti Yoga and Flow Wellness in Heliopolis, Tamkeen Center in Rehab and 6th of October, and soon in Beit Mariam on the Cairo-Alex road.  

For more information, contact: miralshaaban@gmail.com

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