By Cynthia Johnson
Edited from a post on the TM for Women USA blog

Most of us have experienced a deep yearning for something more in life—a sense that there is more than the status quo of work, school, relationships and family. We wonder: What is this life about?

In 11th  grade, my public high school opened an alternative school (The Scarsdale Alternative School, still going strong). I took a course called Philosophy Through Literature, in which we studied texts from western and eastern traditions. Here, I finally encountered writers/sages who were addressing the questions I was asking: What is the nature of life? What are the possibilities of human development? Why is there suffering, and how do we alleviate it? Is there a possibility of living joyfully? How can we help others?

It was in this course that I began to hear more about a higher state of human development called enlightenment. As I sat with other students in a circle with our young teacher, discussing texts concerning the possibility of a higher state of consciousness, my awareness began to feel a breeze of… freedom. Relief. Some faint breath of joy.

Enlightenment was described as a state of consciousness—not just a temporary glimpse, but an all-time stabilized state of awareness—as different from waking state as waking was from dream or sleep state. A state of unshakeable inner peace, joy, clarity, creativity, and energy. A state of natural compassion that did not dissolve into misery in encountering the misery of others, but rather, could uplift others. Unbounded freedom, bliss, wise intelligence, even playfulness.

In the texts we read, we heard of Taoist sages who were anchored in silent joy, flowing calmly through whatever came their way. In this state, one was no longer a football to outer circumstances or dark inner moods. And we read of saints such as Buddha, who blossomed in enlightenment after a path of extremes, discovering the Middle Path, including meditation.

I wanted more of this state of awareness.

A teacher was invited to speak at our high school on Transcendental Meditation. Not much older than we were, she was a warm, authentic, lively and intelligent person who clearly enjoyed talking with us teenagers.

She also offered an academic course called Higher States of Consciousness, and we used a book edited by John White called The Highest State of Consciousness. This book was a compilation of historic and contemporary accounts of enlightenment and included some of the first research on meditation, which happened to be Transcendental Meditation.

Halfway through this course, our teacher invited us to learn TM. About two-thirds of us learned.

During the TM course, I noticed fatigue pouring out and began to feel more rested. My insomnia began to lighten. I felt fresher, more awake. As I walked to and from school, I felt the grandness of the trees, and the song of the birds stirred a faint sense of happiness. After a few weeks, I also began to experience something deeper—a very subtle, non-flashy sense of greater inner stability. I remember trying to describe the experience to family and friends: I felt more solid inside. Less vulnerable to negativity in the world, anxiety about school, family difficulties, and negative influences from peers.

In the follow-up sessions of our TM course, our teacher explained more about the state of Being, which we experience as a 4th  major state of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness. In Maharishi’s words:

Underneath the subtlest layer of all that exists in the
relative field is the abstract, absolute field of pure Being,
which is unmanifested and transcendental. It is neither
matter nor energy. It is pure Being, the state of pure
existence. This state of pure existence underlies all that
exists. Everything is the expression of this pure existence
or absolute Being which is the essential constituent of all
relative life.

Maharishi articulated what I had experienced in my own life, without the awareness of Being:

All relative life without the conscious basis of Being is like
a ship without a rudder, ever at the mercy of the tossing
sea. It is like a dry leaf on the ground left to the mercy of
the wind, drifting aimlessly in any direction in which the
wind takes it. The life of the individual without the
realization of Being is baseless, meaningless and
fruitless. Being is the basis of life, that which gives it
meaning and makes it fruitful.

We, students, perked up even more when we heard about a 5th state of consciousness. Through the regular alternation with activity, Transcendental Consciousness would become permanent in a 5th state of consciousness called Cosmic Consciousness. In Maharishi’s words:

Having come back home, the traveller finds peace. The
intensity of happiness is beyond the superlative. The bliss
of this state eliminates the possibility of any sorry, great
or small. Into the bright light of the sun, no darkness can
penetrate; no sorrow can enter Bliss consciousness, nor
can bliss-consciousness know any greater gain than
itself. This state of self-sufficiency leaves one steadfast in
oneself, fulfilled in eternal contentment.

In the years since I began TM, this has been my experience, unfolding gradually, naturally, innocently. And the growth of inner calm, joy and wisdom spontaneously overflows in compassion, along with a greater ability to help others.

This greater compassion is the result of not only an inner feeling of fullness but also the development of a rich outer life. With the regular practice of TM, I experience more energy, creativity, and clarity of mind, and I move through the day with less stress and more joy. The inner growth of TM affects all aspects of my life, inner and outer, and how I interact with my environment. As I look back on that wonderful course I took in 11th grade, and the introduction to Transcendental Meditation, I realize how fortunate I was to be able to learn, at such a young age, this simple effortless technique that has given me the means to unfold the potential that God has given to each one of us for a beautiful and fulfilling life.

About the Author

Cynthia Johnson is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program in Boston. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a contributor to the book A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision (1 st and 2 nd editions) by George Ellis.

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