Transcending – The Means

Regular readers know I frequently mention effortless meditation. This is because of the key role it plays in culturing the ground for enlightenment. Over time, I’ve come to see its value more and more deeply.

Yet there’s a key point about practices to make. Enlightenment isn’t caused by anything we do. It arises from the grace of the Divine. The purpose of spiritual practices is not to get enlightened but to prepare the ground. Then when grace arises, the shift is more likely to be smooth and supported. If the ground is not ready, grace will come as a profound but passing experience. Practices will also improve our quality of life and cleanse our old karma through purification.

bubble diagram

Bubble Diagram

Devotional recitation, contemplation, body awareness, and other techniques are each distinct with different benefits. But is there transcendence? This is the key for awakening.

Transcendence is going beyond the mind and into our source, our nature under all the noise of the mind and emotions. This is the Samadhi of Yoga and the Turiya of the Upanishad.

Why do we want transcendence? It does several things:
– the experience of source, our true nature
– culturing letting go for healing and awakening
– the settling of the mind settles the body leading to deep rest and healing
– the experience of going within makes the layers between the surface and pure consciousness gradually more conscious, refining perception, and culturing sattva
– transcendence triggers soma, a fine substance that increases refinement, purification, and the support of nature

An ideal practice for transcendence has 3 aspects:
1: a suitable vehicle for transcending into samadhi
2: the correct technique to create the conditions for transcending
3: the correct experience of correct technique

To explain:
1: a suitable vehicle for transcending into samadhi. Samadhi brings us to source and the experience of Yoga or union plus soma for refinement.

There are many ways of transcending. But the most common vehicle for going within is a mantra or sound. Sound is the most subtle sense and can bring us closest to source. Then we let go of the vehicle and transcend the practice into samadhi.

Such a mantra should be of known good effect and suitable for the lifestyle of the student. The classic Om, for example, is a renunciate mantra. This is unsuitable for most people and tends to cause relationships and possessions to fall away. Picking a random or generic mantra may not be beneficial for you. Don’t underestimate how potent mantras become at a deep level.

Mantras usually come from Sanskrit and an ancient science of mantra. For effortless transcending, we practice the mantra without meaning. Otherwise meaning engages the mind and we don’t go beyond it.

Some suggest using an Eastern mantra is praying to Hindu gods. Everything in Sanskrit is associated with a god, including your house, chair, and food. But in a simple, effortless meditation, the meaning or associations are not contemplated. That’s a different practice. (Devotional practices may diverge from this, but again that’s a different approach.)

2: the correct technique. As noted I recommend an effortless practice that leads to regular samadhi. Innocent attention on the mantra and allowing the mind to go where it goes. When it’s not preoccupied by its daily concerns, the mind naturally settles deep within as it is drawn by the greater power and happiness present on subtler levels.

That deep settling brings the body deep rest, allowing it to heal. This was well-established in the 1970s by scientific research.

3: the correct experience of correct technique. Because this is experiential, it is best taught by personal instruction with a trained, certified teacher. They guide you through the process to give you the direct experience of effortlessness. Then they verify that experience multiple times. This is partly why such practices are taught over several days. More experience allows more understanding and grounds it.

There are books and web sites that offer basic instruction. But the people I’ve seen try this route rarely gained an effortless experience. Western minds are so used to effort that we habitually fall back to trying and control. With a teacher, we get a guided experience of effortlessness. Refreshing that experience as required leads to an established practice and results. A teacher also brings other benefits I mention below.

One of the curious gotchas of such a practice is its ease. It’s so easy, the mind can mistake simplicity with insufficient. It’s the same with waking up. We’re looking for something we can do when the secret is non-doing. Effortlessness leads to non-doing as samadhi.

Effort drifting into the practice leads to a loss of transcending and benefits. That is the #1 reason people stop an effortless practice. The mind gets bored and looks for excuses to stop. Or the quiet strain gives us a headache. A simple experience of effortless is all it takes to get back on track.

This simplicity is also why the correct understanding of transcending gets lost over and over through the ages. Something is added, the benefits falter, and we lose the teaching.

It may seem on the surface that all meditations are equivalent but small differences practiced regularly at deep levels can have very different results. Just a subtle difference in how the mantra is used changes the outcome. This has also been shown with scientific research.

For example, a guided meditation, even with a suitable mantra, leads to a hypnotic trance rather than transcending. Focusing on a candle leads to increased concentration but not usually transcending. Watching the content of the mind can bring us insights but this is mind, not transcending. Body awareness can lead to relaxation and release but not transcending. And so on. Each of them has benefits but without transcending, how are we connecting to source? How are we gaining deep purification and soma?

Best of all are instructors that use something like a guru puja. While it may seem quaint or strange to a Westerner, the puja raises the consciousness of the teacher as high as possible and allows “planting the seed” most deeply. This better establishes the practice and gets it reverberating at a deep level making for faster progress.

The puja also offers the student an optional connection to the Vedic tradition of Masters. Even if these are unknown, they can be of great benefit later in our practice. For example, they drew me back to the path and have been supporting the unfolding. That was not clear until further along.

Regular readers know I practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) and have been for some 45 years. It’s the most widely available and well-researched effortless meditation. It meets all of these points. And it continues to bring benefits. Again, don’t underestimate its simplicity.

I have been low key about it as the fixed course fee was steep for many people and I don’t want to steer anyone away from their path. Yet in time I’ve seen the difference it makes for awakening in so many lives. Lorn Hoff has had a similar experience and now requires it for his advanced programs. If refinement isn’t being cultured, the programs have little value.

Recently, the US has reduced its course fee. Both it and the UK have also introduced an income-based rate. If you click “one-time payment” under the income table on this page, you’ll see the rates for the income categories in the US. This is similar, adjusted for inflation, to the fees and structure back in the 1970s when I learned. If you live in another country, you can choose your country here (fees are typically found in the ‘how to learn’ section).

And yes, like any world-wide organization, there are things to grouse about. But what I’m recommending is the practice itself, taught in a standard way everywhere. The rest is optional.

Some feel that they should teach meditation for free as in the East. This is an ideal. Yet in those cultures, the community supports their teachers and practitioners. Plus, donations based on means are typical. In the West, we pay for trained practitioners. Donations tend to much more moderate so living on them is often not possible unless you have other income sources or support.

I learned to teach TM and taught it briefly back in the ’70’s and I can assure you that few make a living teaching it. Mostly the fees cover the expenses of teaching and the local center.

I would add from experience that Westerners rarely value something they get for free.

Note that I’m not suggesting you become a Hindu. The Vedic tradition is a science of spiritual development that long predates Hinduism. The religious aspects were added later. Those enlightened Masters remain available to us.

Someone on almost any path can adopt the TM practice. There are Roman Catholic priests who practice. One has arranged for thousands of street kids to learn as part of a program to help them into a better life. Thousands of Buddhist monks have learned in SE Asia. And so on. Over 10 million have learned TM worldwide.

Over the years, I’ve seen the value of TM in establishing presence, clearing stress and karma, refining perception, developing soma, learning to let go, and improving quality of life. Science has demonstrated that it’s very effective for treating anything stress-related like insomnia, depression, heart health, ADHD and PTSD. And I’ve seen the benefits for those moving into higher stages. The value runs deep. It’s one of the few things still in my life after all these years. This is why I recommend it.

The millions of people who have learned have also contributed to the present rising consciousness.

TM instruction also includes an understanding of purification and the release of stress so we support the healing benefits of samadhi. This is profound and rare among spiritual techniques, but needed because it’s so effective.

I am aware of others who teach effortless meditation but they’re usually only available in a limited area. And I can’t speak to the quality of instruction.

If you’re getting results like I describe from your practice, excellent. But if you’re not, you may want to consider this. The introduction is free.

For followers of Yoga, TM is half of the 8 limbs (ashtanga) of Yoga (Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi). This can be supported by 2 other limbs as well:

Yoga Asana – Correct asana (posture) is effortless. Many yoga studios teach a form of exercise, not asana. You’re taught to push into a stretch and go farther. That has nothing to do with actual yoga. To quote Yoga Sutra 2:46: “Asana is steady pleasantness.” Done right, it can be bliss-producing.

Sukh Pranayama – effortless alternate-nostril breathing. This balances the left and right sides, the masculine and feminine, as a preparation for meditation. Again, no force, holding, or effort.

You can also learn the above through a TM teacher.

The other two limbs are the Yama and the Niyama I’ve explored in various articles. We can also see both as results from the other limbs.

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38 Responses to Transcending – The Means

  1. Jose says:

    Thank you David. Learning TM has been the best decision that I’ve ever made. I’m so happy to learn about the new pay scale and reduction in price! I hope this leads to more and more people learning it!

  2. Jim says:

    Thank you David for this elucidation. I also am a big fan of TM for the reasons you mention. Everything else involves some sort of me-based comparison and effort. TM is purely mechanical and dredges up the toxic elements for dissolution better than lifetimes of these other practices. It does so impersonally and without any recourse to dogma (though if we try hard enough at anything…).
    Although an effortless practice I recognized awhile ago that many are not ready for this fundamental and inexorable repositioning of ourselves in this world, and stop the practice of TM or alter it for this reason.
    There is endless development available, but only one of regular transcendence, ever more fully until rather than feeling sad about what we have released, we gain everything, and more.
    Thank you!

    • Davidya says:

      Right, Jim. It’s true of many things – jobs, marriage, etc. If it pushes up against something we don’t want to see or asks us to let go of something we hold dearly, we can run the other way.
      There is also simple life distraction, what Maharishi called the “busy businessman”. Or the baby with the bathwater issue where some objection to philosophy leads to dropping the practice. Not to mention simple karma and a blindness to what is supporting us.
      I’m grateful there was the sense to keep it up.

  3. Anne says:

    You play the piano and write so beautifully. Thank you David

  4. Jeff says:

    Regularity of practice is also important. Why? Because the mind then becomes habituated to transcending. Now after 40 plus years of regular practice, I start to transcend with just the intent to start meditating. I start transcending while moving to the spot I want to meditate. The rare times I don’t start at my regular time, I feel the mind is craving the experience.

    • Davidya says:

      Agreed Jeff. Culturing a habit of transcending. It becomes so innate, we just close the eyes and in we go.
      Research has shown that integration is measurable after about 8 months of regular practice. Samadhi begins to shown in the EEG of activity.

  5. Kerri Heffernan says:

    Thank you David. I saw you on Budda at the Gas Pump and have been following your blog.

    I had an awakening two years ago and experienced all sorts of beautiful and unusual things – some of which you describe. I had a period of no thought and oneness. At one point I had a white light shining down from above illuminating me and I thought I was God. After a while I seemed to return to more of the normal self. Well, Kerri 2.0 I like to call it. I think it was too much to fast for me. I am at the stage of watching my thoughts. The first step now and working through a lot of crap. Right now I am covered in a really bad facial rash and trying to figure out how to fix the situation. I get a feeling I am supposed to change the way I eat as I am not the healthiest eater. I think this might be from a gut issue as I have autoimmune issues. I feel the Devine wants me to eat cleaner. I was wondering if you’ve ever had this experience around food or any thoughts in this regard. Thank you.

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Kerri
      There can be a few reasons for such things but it may be excess heat or Pitta. If by autoimmune you mean inflammation issues, that has the same source. Adjusting the diet to reduce heat-increasing foods can make a lot of difference.
      I’ve not had the specific issue but have had heat issues. Spiritual transformation is driven by fire that can spill into our mundane life. Cooling foods help. Also, a more regular daily routine.
      Consulting an Ayurvedic doc is very useful but some basic understanding and changes meantime is good. You can take a quiz to get a general sense of your dosha or tendency to imbalance. Then what foods are good for balancing that.
      But yeah, your body is your vehicle for enlightenment. It’s good to give it basic care, both for this and your quality of life. 🙂

      • Kerri Heffernan says:

        Thank you David for your time to respond. I will look into the information you provided.

        Your writings are appreciated and your voice to me is extremely soothing.

        • Davidya says:

          Thanks, Kerri
          Still have to tweak the recording process for best results. The new mic has much reduced background noise but picks up mouth noises instead. Some sentences can be a third or fourth take, so I try not to sound exasperated. (laughs)

  6. Deborah says:

    Can you recommend a teacher in victoria david? I am curious, and motivated. I have found deep benefits, and a natural side effect of bliss and calm, with insight meditation. However, i trust both you and lorn, and feel called to try TM.

  7. Lorey says:

    While I have been meditating for quite some time mostly by the grace of the Divine guidance. I recently was instructed in TM. It’s so perfect, smooth, and effortless. Wonderful waves from the puja and such sweetness. Very direct access.

    Agree that it’s a bit expensive even at the low scale. So many people are having trouble here even affording rent. Such a great benefit to all.

    • Davidya says:

      Thanks, Lorey. Yes, but more than worth it.
      Affording rent is a whole other issue of economic imbalance. That tends to be very hard on civilizations. Here’s hoping we can raise consciousness enough to find a smooth transition to balance and equality.

  8. Lorey says:

    Also, here is a question: I did not tell my teacher about my past experience and refined levels of consciousness. Should I? What about advanced programs, etc. Should I just be silent about it and keep going to the monthly check-ins?

    Thanks in advance for any advise here. 🙂

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Lorey
      I wouldn’t worry about talking about it unless they ask. In that instance, some are more qualified by experience to address such things than others.
      I went to lots of the followup meetings myself. Was really inspired to become a teacher. It wasn’t easy but it’s a lot more involved now.

  9. Pete Van Zyverden says:

    Hi David,

    Isn’t it possible for one to get a “feel” for transcending, kinda get a knack for it? I can see that TM is something that has been important for you and for many. That it is systematic and straightforward and therefore is worth recommending. As someone who doesn’t practice TM it calls into question whether I know what transcendence is… I think I do, I have the experience of settling out of the mind and into open awareness, there is no effort used to get to this state. It is the natural state without effort… what is the necessity to use a mantra, why would TM be seen as a necessity?

    Thankyou 🙂

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Pete
      Ah no, not a necessity. As I mention in the article, if you’re getting such results, perfect. I know people who “remembered” how to meditate when young or who fell into effortless meditation after decades of a more difficult practice.
      And yes, it is natural. As I also mention, the mind goes within automatically if given the opportunity. It is only that for many Western minds, there is automatic effort and control.
      The mantra serves as a vehicle for the attention to settle within. It’s qualities also help with purification and refinement, something missing from some techniques.
      The point of the article is that for people on a spiritual path who are not transcending, they’re missing a key detail – spirit itself. The way I recommend to add that is TM. But if you’ve found something that work for you, great. There are many paths home.

  10. Lewis Oakwood says:

    Hi David,

    Thank you for this post. Clears up a lot of stuff I didn’t understand.

  11. Scott says:

    Hi Davidya, I’ve enjoyed your posts on samadhi. (…btw nice to see you back :-)) …Could you help me understand something..?
    I’ve finally began entering into the ” doorway” of a deeper, quieter, richer, more stable samadhi. The challenge for me doesn’t seem to be quieting the mind or settling the body , but gathering the “energy of speech ” if you will. It’s as if the “speech center” is out of synch with the other centers ( body, mind) . The recent samadhi experience came after a phone conversation I had …and weird as it may seem, I feel that factor caused my mind and speech to temporarily become more unified causing a more profound meditative experience. Does this mean anything to you.. …any suggestions..?

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Scott
      Through the lens of subjective interpretation, it’s hard to say. But it is worth noting the chakras can be out of alignment. Some kinds of resistance can be great enough to shove things around a bit. For example, if the heart is contracted and pulled over, the throat chakra (speech center) may compensate by shifting the other way. Then it can subjectively feel out of sync or alignment.
      I would not try to read too much into the experience. There can be many factors that create a clear samadhi – even that the hard nuts are rigid so not kicking up dust for a short time. Chasing variables to encourage the “right experience” is moving away from innocent allowing things to be as they are.
      I can also note what I call resonance. If the person you were talking to has some resonance with you, conscious or not, that in itself can trigger a letting go, leading to a deeper experience. But again, don’t try to figure it out with the mind. Thats looking for ways to control.
      Clarity will always come and go. One of the most important things can be simple regularity of the practice.
      Some meditations encourage all sorts of secondary things like perfect posture, certain clothing or beads, mudras, etc. But a lot of that similarly encourages attempts to control. Just sitting comfortably and being simple is much more effective.
      The main suggestion, keep it simple. Its nice if the deeper samadhis are arising but don’t expect them to stay. But they’ll be back if they wander.
      PS – don’t judge your meditation by its subjective experience. Research has shown that the benefits accrue even if seems like a “lousy” meditation. 🙂

  12. Scott says:

    Thank – you Davidya .

  13. Daniel says:

    Hi David!

    What is transcendence really? What I experience is that the borders between outside and inside disappear and there is only awareness. The realization is, that awareness is not an object, thus cannot be found, it does not matter if thoughts are present or not, the formless awareness is always there. But thoughts and sensations are still there.
    In transcendence are there still objects present?


    • Davidya says:

      Hi Daniel
      Right – it is literally going beyond all forms and phenomena in our experience including boundaries. Then we’re in pure awareness without content. Aware but not of anything except being aware. I used Sanskrit terms but there are many ways of describing the experience.
      At first, with the slightest thought, we’re bumped out of pure awareness. But in time and infusion, pure awareness is sustained even when there is thoughts and sensations. We may also notice the breath stopping naturally as the body doesn’t need it.
      Ultimately, pure awareness is there all the time, throughout daily activity and sleep. This can happen before or after the Self Realization (CC) shift, when we shift from being a me to being that pure awareness. But pure awareness is the ground for the initial stages of enlightenment.
      That’s why I recommend an effortless meditation that cultures pure awareness. Not to mention the quality of life advantages. 🙂

  14. Carolyn says:

    Hi David, can you say more about the “breath stopping naturally as the body doesn’t need it” that you mentioned in the previous comment? I understand that prana is settling more in the sushumna than being dispersed through other nadis..does this change the body’s metabolic needs so that we are functioning more on prana than on oxygen? I’m wondering about the refinement of the tissues to allow this to happen. I hope this makes’s another way my mind is preoccupied and marveled when I am mediating haha. I want to know what it happening.

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Carolyn
      I’ve written on the topic before but it’s inside another article and have not been able to find it… 🙂
      Essentially, as we settle the mind, the body also settles. Oxygen consumption and other metabolic indicators drop. In a typical meditation, this can be 30-60%.
      When we first start to have clear periods of pure awareness/ being/ presence, as soon as we notice, the mind kicks back on and the metabolism bumps up again.
      But with experience, the presence can be maintained even while thoughts arise. They no longer disturb the silence.
      Then we can notice that, when we settle into a deep transcendence, the breath pauses. The metabolic rate has gotten so quiet, breath isn’t needed. And then some purification takes place which creates activity in the physiology or mind and the breath resumes.
      When we’re on a long retreat, we may be clear and settled enough that we can have quite long periods of transcendence. The breath will pause for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more. But when it does that, the lungs shift into a new mode and there is just a fine vibration. Not breath.
      I think that fine vibration is prana. We’re drawing in prana more directly rather than mechanically with the breath.
      I’ve read stuff about the prana concentrating in the sushumna to break through the caps and knots. And it may well come to center then but I’ve not noticed this myself.
      But yes, more on prana than oxygen. Physical activity requires oxygen to burn fuel but if the body is in a pause, it’s not needed.
      I’ve found that different people are good at some things and not others. So one will notice certain mechanics. Someone else will notice other things.
      I’ll note this is more common than most people realize. Once a transcending practice is established, brief periods of transcending and breath stoppage are common but we may only notice them as moments where I wasn’t thinking.
      Particularly after awakening, it spills over into other areas. I mentioned recently on the Surrender post getting a sleep test. The sleep was full of breath pausing even though the sleep was disturbed by wearing the gear. Also at a certain point, long transcending becomes common, clear or not.

  15. Carolyn says:

    I notice it concentrating in the central channel.. I have a pretty strong asana background and I also practice craniosacral therapy so maybe that’s why. Doesn’t matter so much probably 🙂 I do know that it’s a nice feeling of homecoming when I’m there though. Thanks so much for your posts..they also feel like a homecoming of sorts. 🙂

    • Davidya says:

      Techniques make a difference, but also our natural proclivities and prior life development.
      You’re welcome. It is home speaking through this form. 🙂

  16. Lewis Oakwood says:

    Hi David,

    These experiences of the body being in a settled state I liken to all the cells vibrating at the same frequency, powered, if you will, by prana.

    Together —and in sync— all the cells have changed vibratory frequency and therefore are as a whole become a single —vibe— vibratory field.

    Before the occurrence of the settled bodily state, all the cells were vibrating at different frequencies —so, the cells that combine to form the heart would be vibrating at one frequency while the cells that combine to form the other organs would vibrate at different frequencies, this applies for the skin, blood, bone, muscle, everything that together combined is the human body, both physical and subtle.

    While the body is in its natural-settled state it vibrates at one overall frequency,-that of harmony.

    Different cells come together to form the various parts of the heart. Each of those parts —chambers, valves, vessels, wall, etc— is composed of different devata. Those parts composed of different cells imbued with their own devata when coming together form the heart as a whole— that heart as a whole is, in turn, a different devata.

    Different cells, different devata. A heart devata, a liver devata, an eye devata, etc.

    When the body is in its natural-settled state all these different devata(s) vibrate at a single frequency- Harmony. The presence of the Devata— Harmony.

    The body vibration in its natural-settled state functions with far less stress than when its vibrational frequency is a combination of different frequencies operating as if opposed to each other.

    As for prana. As a form of energy, which is preferential— oil, gas, electricity, nuclear, or, water, wind, solar. Likewise for the body, functioning on the frequency of prana or a combination of disparate frequencies out of sync with each other.

    I have tried to keep it as simple as possible, and of course, there is a lot more to it than what has been written here.

    Each sound, syllable, word, sentence, paragraph, is a different devata and these combined form an entirely different devata as a whole. So, everything written here as a whole is a devata and to know-feel (or some sense of it, depending on the makeup of the one reading/interpreting it) that devata is in the interpretation of these words as a whole.

    • Davidya says:

      Beautiful, Lewis.
      Yes, it is complex. There is the subjective settling experience where we become aware of these dynamics and the shifting dynamics themselves that you describe.
      Each of the parts you describe – the cells, sections, organs, organ systems, body as a whole – are nested. This directly relates to the nested spaces I describe. When the parts are synced the whole, there is much greater harmony and smooth functioning. When they fall out of harmony, a variety of symptoms arise.
      Systems can be likened to a business and how well the staff are working to the organizational chart. However, in this case, it has less to do with the staff member and more to do with the CEO and the environment they’re giving to work in. 🙂

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