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TranceNet: "Sam's" Story

Right off I want to say I can't relate to a lot of the stories here at TranceNet.

A reference to Star Wars seems appropriate given the recent marketing hype: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" I was a TM teacher. I was really dedicated for a few years. I worked my butt off postering, checking, setting up lectures in libraries, and all the fun things we used to do because we loved Maharishi and wanted to give him the Age of Enlightenment.

It was great fun, no two ways about it.

After a few years I met a woman, I got involved with my family, I began to have an adult life. I still respected Maharishi and his teachings and looked back on my time in the Movement with fond memories. I went to an occasional course. I dropped in on the TM center once in awhile. That's about the extent of my involvement.

Maybe there was an Age of Enlightenment coming, maybe not. Either way I figured Maharishi had immensely added to the spirituality of the planet.

Well, nearly two years ago I stumbled on the alt.meditation.transcendental newsgroup at work.

At first, I thought it was hilariously funny.

I mean on one side you had a group of fanatics screaming at the top of their lungs defending Maharishi's spiritual teachings with profanities that would make a sailor blush. On the other you had a bunch of extremists claiming that they only meditated because "the Devil made them do it," and they claimed all sorts of bizarre mental-illness side effects from TM.

What lost souls! I didn't recognize either side as having anything to do with my experience in the Movement. And I was pretty certain these were some mighty unhappy people on both sides who didn't represent either position well.

I couldn't figure out why both sides didn't just get over it. We were young, it was fun, no harm done.

Later I tuned in TranceNet just for grins. Nice layout, wacky sense of humor, but in the end too bizarre for my taste.

The Personal Stories seemed pretty extreme. I certainly didn't recognize myself or any of my friends anywhere. There had always been "freak outs" on the rounding courses. Usually it was the guy who decided to sneak in a few extra meditations without telling anybody, or some gal who looked a little flaky to begin with (and probably shouldn't have been admitted to the course).

We also have an Internet connection at home. My wife peaked over my shoulder a few times. (She's a meditator, but not a TM teacher, BTW.) She was pretty upset by some of what she read. I assured her that this stuff was about as objective as Nazi propaganda. She didn't look satisfied, but she let it drop.

So anyway, I read the site a bit more and then forgot about it. So some people are cheesed at Maharishi. So what. No biggie.

A couple nights later, I come home and my wife is waiting for me at the door with a stack of paper. She had the entire puja and mantra list printed out from TranceNet. She was really upset and angry. She wanted to know why I had lied to her about TM.

I got angry too. At TranceNet. How dare they put up the delicate "Holy Tradition" for all to see? Now, I turned into an anti-TranceNet fanatic. I read every article I could get my hands on for weeks. (BTW, you guys have an awful lot of broken links. Why don't you fix them?)

I'm going to shorten up this part a bit. What followed were not fun times. Long story short, we ended up in couples counseling. I never realized how much my wife resented how our life revolved around my TM program, my TM dietary needs, my early-to-bed regime, and so forth. With the nonmeditating counselor I began to get a picture of just how much of my life was ruled by TM. Me who had gone "beyond" the TM Movement.

I had one other nasty surprise. A few months into couples counseling, our therapist recommended I get a psych evaluation. I remember thinking, "Doesn't she know I'm enlightened?" But I thought I'd humor her. What harm could it do? The doctor would find out I was "normal," or even better than normal, and I wouldn't hear anymore about it.

Ha. We started talking about my life, and I've always thought of myself as working in spurts. You know get a new job, get really excited about it, work all kinds of crazy hours for a few months, and then settle back into a routine. Until I got bored. Can't-get-out-of-the-bed-in-the-morning kind of bored. Then after awhile I'd switch jobs and get excited again.

Overall, I'd always done pretty well financially. And I always gave great job interviews. I can be dazzling when I need to be. But my wife didn't really understand. She thought I lacked stability or something. I just thought that "straight" society wasn't really ready for an "enlightened soul." Of course, I got bored!

The doctor, too, seemed concerned about this. I was actually in one of my "bored" times, and he told me he thought perhaps I was depressed. We talked about it for a few weeks. He suggested Prozac.

If you reading this know anything about the TM movement, you know that good TMers rarely go to marriage counselors, they never go to shrinks, and they would rather roast in a Hindu hell than take medicine that "might affect the delicate balance of their nervous systems."

It took a lot of pressure from both my wife and my doctor, but eventually I started Prozac. Just as I suspected, I responded to the smallest dose of Prozac. That just seems to be the case with TMers and medications. And initially I'll admit, it cured my "boredom." But then all hell broke loose.

One day I was up and filled with ideas. The next I couldn't get out of bed. The doctor recommended I add lithium because he believed the Prozac had "uncovered" a bipolar ("manic-depressive") condition in me.

This of course was my worst nightmare. I knew about Western medicine. Everybody in the Movement did. Soon I'd be on a pill to wake up, a pill to go to sleep, a pill to speed me up, another to slow me down. And all the time the pills would only be covering up the true cause of my illness, by masking my symptoms. And besides, would a Western psychiatrist recognize an "enlightened" nervous system" if he met one? Maharishi had always warned us about going to Western psychologists and psychiatrists.

I suggested that I go to a homeopath. (I didn't consider an Ayur-Vedic doctor. I basically left the Movement before they became popular and never trusted them.) My psych, a little exasperated, said, "Sure, give it a try."

You may not be surprised to hear that the homeopath diagnosed me with a "sulfur disorder." But his little pills didn't make the "rapid cycling" of my moods go away.

Eventually I tried the lithium.

Five days later: Whammo.

My moods got on an even keel. My sleep improved drastically. I felt clear as a bell for the first time since TTC. Girl friend, this was enlightenment.

(BTW, for the medical types reading this, I also had strong tendency to space or trance out, which I didn't really realize until it began to go away. I thought I was in "bliss." Over the months, my psych tinkered with my meds, Prozac and lithium. Strangely enough as lithium went up, my "dissociation" suddenly went away. This isn't documented anywhere, but I've since talked with one ex-TMer who had the same experience.)

I don't know what to add, other than our marriage has improved and I haven't had an "excited" or "bored" period for some time.

Did TM make me bipolar? Probably not. I seem to remember always being somewhat up and down. But in a funny way TM kept me from being diagnosed and treated for an awful lot of years. I was afraid I'd screw up my meditations if I took "strong" medicine. I didn't think Western doctors knew what they were doing. And above all, I would never want anyone in the Movement to know I had a psychiatric condition. I'd never get on another course. Ha.

I know this isn't much like your other stories, John. Let me know if you think anyone would be interested in reading this at TranceNet. And BTW, I'm sorry for that sarcastic note I sent you a long time back.

Needless to say, today I'm your biggest fan. And while I'm at it, I apologize to all meditators and nonmeditators I felt superior to over the years.

I was the guy who didn't "get it," not you.

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