Transcendental Meditation vs Mindfulness: A Comprehensive Comparison 2023

Transcendental Meditation (TM) and mindfulness are two popular meditation practices that have gained wide recognition for their effectiveness in promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and enhancing mental clarity. Despite similarities in their objectives, these meditation techniques have some distinct characteristics that set them apart. Let’s breakdown the differences between Transcendental Meditation vs mindfulness.

transcendental meditation vs mindfulness

TM is a trademarked meditation technique that requires formal training provided by an official organization, often with courses costing around $1,000. This structured approach involves the practice of a specific mantra for 20 minutes twice a day, leading to a state of deep relaxation while remaining fully awake. TM has been associated with various physical benefits, such as lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and better pain management.

On the other hand, mindfulness is a more accessible form of meditation that emphasizes moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Rooted in Buddhist teachings, mindfulness practice can take various forms, such as mindful breathing, body scans, or loving-kindness meditation. The goal of mindfulness is to cultivate self-awareness, acceptance, and a balanced perspective on one’s experiences, allowing individuals to better manage stress and improve overall well-being.

Origins and Background

transcendental meditation vs mindfulness

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a form of meditation that was popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-20th century. Rooted in the Vedic tradition of Hinduism, TM aims to provide practitioners with a higher state of consciousness, complete bliss, and balanced personal development. The technique involves the use of a mantra, which is a specific word, phrase, or sound given to the practitioner by a certified TM instructor. Practitioners silently repeat their mantra while sitting comfortably with their eyes closed for 15-20 minutes, twice a day.

TM is a trademarked practice, and training is provided exclusively by an official organization. In order to practice Transcendental Meditation, individuals must typically pay for a course taught by a registered teacher, with costs usually around $1,000.


Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, can be traced back to both Hinduism and the Buddhist tradition. The foundations of mindfulness are found in a Buddhist practice called “sati,” which involves being fully aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present moment. Mindfulness is deeply intertwined with the practice of yoga, which, in its ancient roots, placed greater emphasis on stillness, focus on breathing, and being present with the body.

In its modern form, mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to observe and accept their thoughts and emotions without judgment. By focusing on the breath and bodily sensations, mindfulness helps individuals develop greater self-awareness, reduce stress, and improve mental well-being. Unlike TM, mindfulness meditation does not require payment for courses or instruction, making it more accessible to the general public.

Both TM and mindfulness have seen significant growth in recent years, with the percentage of U.S. adults who practiced some form of mantra-based meditation, mindfulness meditation, or spiritual meditation tripling from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017. Among children aged 4 to 17 years, the percentage increased from 0.6% in 2012 to 5.4% in 2017. This increase indicates a growing interest and acceptance of meditation practices for mental and emotional well-being.

Techniques and Principles

transcendental meditation vs mindfulness

Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a specific form of silent mantra meditation. Practitioners use a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase, to help the mind settle into a deep meditative state. This technique requires a course taught by a registered teacher, often costing around $1000.

In TM, the mantra acts as a tool for concentration and is meant to help the individual transcend their thoughts and achieve a state of complete bliss. The focus is not on the breath, but rather on the mantra. This approach encourages a more passive, self-transcending experience instead of actively engaging with the present moment.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, has a different set of objectives and techniques than TM. The primary goal of mindfulness is self-improvement and stress management. It encourages the practitioner to develop a focused attention on their breath, thoughts, and feelings, without judgment.

In mindfulness, the individual is guided to cultivate a present moment awareness by concentrating on the breath or an object. This practice allows one to observe thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment, fostering a deeper understanding of the self and promoting calmness.

Transcendental MeditationMindfulness Meditation
Present MomentNoYes
TechniqueTM TechniqueVarious Techniques
Non-JudgmentPassive ApproachActive Approach

In summary, while both Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation are forms of meditation, they have different techniques and goals. TM focuses on transcending thoughts through the use of a mantra, while mindfulness encourages present moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings through techniques such as focused attention on the breath.

Health Benefits

transcendental meditation vs mindfulness

Physical Health Benefits

Transcendental Meditation (TM) and mindfulness practices both offer potential physical health benefits. Recent studies have indicated that these techniques can have a positive impact on aspects such as blood pressure, sleep quality, and pain management.

  • Blood pressure: Practicing mindfulness or TM can contribute to lowering blood pressure, helping individuals maintain better overall cardiovascular health.
  • Sleep improvement: Both practices have been linked to improvements in sleep quality, with evidence suggesting that they may help people fall asleep faster and experience deeper sleep.
  • Pain management: Some studies have shown that mindfulness, in particular, can help people cope with chronic pain by promoting a greater awareness and acceptance of sensations, ultimately reducing the perception of pain.

Mental Health Benefits

Both mindfulness and TM provide mental health benefits by addressing stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, they can help individuals achieve inner peace and heightened awareness, potentially improving overall well-being and life satisfaction.

  • Stress reduction: Practicing mindfulness and TM may reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation and mental clarity, enabling individuals to better cope with the pressures of daily life.
  • Anxiety and depression: Both techniques have been shown to help manage anxiety and depression by fostering a greater sense of awareness and promoting a focus on the present moment, rather than dwelling on past or future concerns.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Some studies suggest that mindfulness, in particular, can be beneficial for individuals with PTSD, as it can help to regulate emotions and deal with traumatic memories.
  • Inner peace and awareness: Transcendental Meditation and mindfulness can contribute to a heightened sense of inner peace and a stronger connection to one’s own consciousness, offering a greater sense of balance in daily life.

In summary, both Transcendental Meditation and mindfulness practices offer a range of physical and mental health benefits, backed by scientific evidence. These techniques can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and depression while also promoting overall well-being through improved physical health and a greater sense of inner peace.

Popular Approaches and Programs

Transcendental Meditation Programs

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a form of mantra meditation that has been popularized by the Maharishi Foundation. The practice involves the repetition of a specific mantra, taught by a certified teacher, which allows the individual to experience a deep state of relaxation and increased mental clarity. The David Lynch Foundation is a notable organization that has been committed to promoting TM for stress reduction, personal development, and overall well-being.

One significant aspect of TM programs is that they are only taught by certified teachers who have undergone extensive training through the organization. This ensures the consistency and effectiveness of the instruction. However, the cost for TM training typically amounts to around $1000, which can be a barrier for some individuals who wish to learn the practice.

Mindfulness-Based Programs

In contrast to TM, mindfulness meditation practices focus on cultivating self-awareness, compassion, and non-judgmental acceptance of one’s present moment experience. One of the most well-known mindfulness-based programs is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The MBSR program, which spans over 8 weeks, is designed to guide participants through breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness techniques aimed at reducing stress and improving overall mental well-being.

MBSR and other mindfulness-based programs are generally more accessible than TM, as they do not require certification to teach or practice, allowing for greater availability of resources for learning and implementing these techniques. Some key aspects of mindfulness-based programs include:

  • Focus on self-improvement and stress management
  • Emphasis on non-judgmental acceptance and compassion
  • No requirement for certification or substantial financial investment

In conclusion, both Transcendental Meditation and mindfulness meditation offer a variety of approaches and programs for individuals to explore. The choice between the two ultimately depends on one’s personal goals and preferences.

Celebrity Endorsements and Success Stories

Transcendental Meditation (TM) and mindfulness meditation have both gathered a significant following in the celebrity world, with many high-profile figures attesting to the benefits and real changes they’ve experienced through regular practice.

In the realm of TM, famous practitioners include Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman, and Jerry Seinfeld. These celebrities have credited their success, in part, to their practice of twice-daily 20-minute meditations. Additionally, the Beatles’ iconic trip to India in 1967 to learn from the founder of TM placed the practice in the spotlight, solidifying its place among influential circles.

Notable celebrities who practice mindfulness meditation encompass Katy Perry, Paul McCartney, and Oprah Winfrey as well. Regular meditation has allowed these individuals to cultivate a greater sense of inner peace, clarity of mind, and even increased productivity.

In both forms of meditation, the following benefits have been commonly reported among celebrity success stories:

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Better sleep quality

It’s important to note that the choice between Transcendental Meditation and mindfulness meditation is largely personal, with each individual drawn to a different style based on their preferences and needs. Regardless of the chosen method, the consistent practice of meditation and the resulting benefits have played a significant role in the lives and careers of these prominent figures.

Choosing the Right Method for You

When deciding between Transcendental Meditation (TM) and mindfulness meditation, it’s important to consider your personal preferences, goals, and lifestyle. Both techniques offer various benefits and can improve mental health and overall well-being.

TM is a more passive form of meditation that requires the use of a mantra. It is said to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Choosing to practice TM involves accessing training from an official organization and usually requires payment for a course taught by a registered teacher, typically costing around $1000.

On the other hand, mindfulness is a more active form of meditation, focusing on present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings. This type of meditation can be practiced independently, without formal training, making it potentially more accessible and budget-friendly.

Some factors to consider when choosing between these methods include:

  • Personal preference: Do you prefer a more passive, mantra-based practice like TM, or an active, awareness-based practice like mindfulness?
  • Time commitment: Both practices require regular sessions for optimal benefits, but TM often suggests dedicating 20 minutes twice a day, while mindfulness can be practiced for shorter or longer periods, depending on your schedule and preferences.
  • Accessibility: Mindfulness techniques can be learned through various resources, including books, apps, and online courses. TM, however, requires training from a certified instructor, which may be a barrier for some individuals.
  • Cost: As mentioned earlier, TM courses usually have associated costs, while many mindfulness resources are available for free or at a lower cost.
  • Health considerations: Both meditation techniques can offer health benefits such as stress reduction, improved focus, and better emotional regulation. However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying conditions or concerns before beginning a meditation practice.

In summary, when choosing between Transcendental Meditation and mindfulness, consider your personal preferences, time commitments, accessibility, and health considerations. By evaluating these factors, you can make an informed decision about which meditation technique is the most suitable for you.

Critiques and Controversies

Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Mindfulness Meditation have each faced their share of critiques and controversies over the years.

One significant critique of TM is its cost and trademarked status. All training for TM must be provided by an official organization, and individuals seeking to practice it are required to pay for a course taught by a registered teacher, usually costing around $1000. Critics argue that this commercial aspect detracts from the accessibility and authenticity of the practice.

Another concern regarding TM is the potential for harmful effects in certain situations. According to research by Willoughby Britton, a Brown University Medical School professor, there are cases of traumatic meditation experiences that can worsen mental health conditions, anxiety or depression.

In comparison, Mindfulness Meditation has faced critique for its widespread popularity and subsequent commodification. With the surge in Mindfulness Meditation apps, workshops, and retreats, some argue that the practice’s original intention for self-improvement and stress management has been diluted.

Furthermore, the scientific research supporting the benefits of both TM and Mindfulness Meditation has been called into question, with some studies having small sample sizes or lacking control groups. This has led to concerns about the reliability of these practices’ purported benefits.

Overlapping issues between TM and Mindfulness Meditation are the potential misinterpretation and misappropriation of these practices from their original cultural and spiritual contexts. Critics argue that the appropriation of these ancient Eastern practices by Western culture leads to an erosion of their authenticity and intended purpose.

In summary, both Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation have faced criticism and controversy in regard to their cost, accessibility, potential harmful effects, commodification, and cultural misappropriation.