Psalm 116


“The cords of death entangled me” (Psalm 116:3)

That phrase, “my sweet Lord” is the title of a song written by the late George Harrison of the Beatles to sing the praises of his Lord, Krishna, a mythical figure deified in Hinduism.

Growing up, I had been a Beatles fan and when I reached my early twenties being somewhat stressed out, I reacted positively to media advertisements for a relaxation technique called Transcendental Meditation. After all, it had been the Beatles who had embraced this Transcendental Meditation and commended it to my generation. And if the Beatles went for it, it must be OK!

TM (as it became known) was brought to the West from India by a friendly guru (teacher) named Maharishi and advertised persuasively as non-religious, even non-spiritual, certainly not Hindu and therefore no threat or contradiction to the Western mindset be that Christian or post-Christian.

It promised great things to all enquirers and at relatively little cost in time or financially. I came from a secular Jewish background and had been spiritually curious all my life. Still it wasn’t spirituality I was expecting from Transcendental Meditation so much as a way to lose weight and to stop smoking!

And those things it did deliver which proves that God is not alone in providing solutions. The trouble is that so-called solutions and healing not provided through Jesus Christ carry a price – a price I was only to discover much later.

After a few introductory talks I was invited to a TM teacher’s nice suburban house. TM students had been asked to bring along a white handkerchief and a piece of fruit as an expression of gratitude. To whom or for what this gratitude – actually this votive offering – was due, I had no idea.

That day, after the final introductory talk, I was invited to accompany the TM instructor into an adjoining living-room and to kneel next to him in front of a portrait of an Indian figure. The teacher then began to say something in a foreign language. Not that I would have minded if had I known he was praying in Sanskrit to the figure above me. All religions were much the same to me back in those days when I was wandering through the spiritual marketplace.

The teacher whispered a word into my ear, telling me that this word was the ‘mantra’, a sound without meaning that I should repeat silently in my mind. The sound would soon ‘disappear’ and this disappeared sound would then translate into a sublimely peaceful state of mind, namely transcendental meditation. The technique was so simple that a child could learn it, merely the repetition of a meaningless sound. There was no complex or esoteric technique to be acquired. Transcendental meditation was true meditation, we were told, removed from religious tradition and available to everyone.

As I went home I felt no different than before I had been instructed in TM but for the next fifteen years I meditated morning and evening. The routine was to find a quiet place, sit in an armchair (not cross-legged like a yogi), close one’s eyes and begin to repeat that meaningless sound, the mantra. The sound would then disappear from the mind, leaving just a pleasant state of relaxation; the only unusual aspect was that time seemed to speed by so that often it appeared that almost as soon as one had started meditating, twenty minutes had gone.

I never did regard TM as a spiritual exercise but accepted the organisation’s line that this technique, at least on the basic level which I had been taught, was designed to give busy people not spiritual enlightenment but relaxation and a new mental freedom from the stresses of everyday life. It sounded not only harmless but very attractive. And for a while, that’s how it would appear to be.

Since I wasn’t looking for anything spiritual from TM, I continued on my spiritual journey and five years later, I was “born again”. By this I mean that I accepted I was a sinner in need of the salvation only Jesus Christ could give and I gave my life to Him. I still had a lot of questions. I knew He was Jewish yet it was mostly non-Jewish people who worshipped him and yet I’d experienced anti-semitism from people who claimed to worship a Jew. Still I knew I needed Jesus even with most of my questions unanswered. A Christian work colleague prayed with me in the empty office one evening. It was not yet though that I was saved from the effects of transcendental meditation. That was to come later and in the Lord’s time. Incidentally, He would also in time answer my questions

“The anguish of the grave came upon me” (Psalm 116:3)

I don’t remember exactly when TM began to be a problem. It may have been through exposure to the Bible. It may have been because my experience of meditation began to change from positive to negative. Certainly these two factors began to express themselves slowly but insistently.

There was another factor in operation too and that was denial. Someone having learned TM was pretty much left alone, not solicited for money or to join the TM organisation. So it was possible to meditate and not feel part of or subscribe to anything related. I was aware that TM was derived from Hinduism. However, I believed because they told me – and because I wanted to believe – that it was possible to use meditation divorced from Hinduism, much as people imagine yoga (a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’) to be mere physical exercise.

The seemingly unobtrusive TM organisation was organised into local groups and occasionally I went to informal meetings which included a meal and listening to taped teaching from Maharishi. I would ignore or privately deride any attention the group gave to this. Similarly I had decided against learning advanced meditation techniques. Occasionally one heard talk of esoteric experiences available to the advanced meditator but the idea of learning these was repulsive to me. I just wanted the basic technique with nothing spiritual attached. Here of course I was in denial – denial that one could meditate on the basic level and be untouched by its Hindu roots.

Against this denial two new realities began to express themselves. First, Christians didn’t approve of TM, I was learning, and included it with other forbidden practices such as spiritualism and the occult and what I considered real, religious Hindu or Buddhist meditation. Second, TM was becoming less a choice I made every day than a necessity.

As these unpleasant realities refused to go away, my denial strengthened. TM wasn’t what Christians thought it was. I had never gone in for the Hindu element so it was just a physical and mental thing, not spiritual. I didn’t want to learn advanced techniques and soon the basic level I was OK, I told myself.

The trouble was though that I was not OK. TM was now becoming a necessity and if I didn’t meditate, I would experience unpleasant sensations and only recover if I meditated. The feelings were similar to feelings of stress – a feeling of tightness almost like a vice around my head accompanied by mental confusion but different in that they were relieved not by normal rest or exercise but only by going into the meditative state.

The other change was that the duration of the meditation was increasing as I would lose track of time for sometimes for over an hour.

The obvious answer was to just stop practising TM and I tried but couldn’t. Any time I would try to go without meditating, the m
ental discomfort was such that I had to give up and meditate. I asked the local TM group for an explanation of these feelings. Their explanation was that the unpleasant mental sensations I experienced, when I didn’t meditate at the given time, were simply symptoms of stress, symptoms that people who didn’t meditate, experienced routinely. They said that meditation relieved stress so these symptoms were only what I experienced before learning to meditate. So it followed that if I stopped TM, these unpleasant mental sensations would be with me all the time.

Certainly it did feel much like stress when I didn’t meditate – a constriction around the head, mental confusion. Perhaps it was after all as the TM instructors said, nothing more than stress. I remember visiting a friend who practised TM and I noticed she seemed also very stressed and confused. I wondered if there were more to this than mere stress. Perhaps we were actually under some sort of bondage. If we were, to what or to whom was this bondage due?

For several years I remained in this trap; I wanted to stop practising this increasingly intrusive and compulsive TM but couldn’t. I needed help but couldn’t ask for it because I knew that Christians would want me to stop meditating, and I couldn’t. Caught in this trap, I became more entrenched in denial, telling myself that after all, Christians were wrong and TM was OK. Yet I didn’t quite believe what I was telling myself. And so I remained until the appointed time when: “He told me everything I ever did.”

“He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29)

In the summer of 1992 I participated in a residential week-long evangelism course. Living for a week with other Christians, it felt particularly wretched being in bondage to meditation – a practise anathema to evangelical Christians and from which I was powerless to escape. One night as I fell asleep, I recalled the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”. (1)I understood that in meditating I was effectively serving another god. My last thought before sleep was to wonder if God would forgive me.

The next day we had a free afternoon and I went for a walk, during which I met Howard, another course student. He asked me if he could ask me a question. I said yes and he asked me: “do you really know that God loves you?” I answered in theological terms. Inside, I was hurt and furious. Of course I understood the Gospel! How dare this stranger ask me that? What did he mean? What did he know? I headed back to the College deciding to avoid him for the rest of the week.

By the next day my feelings had changed from not wanting to meet him, to wanting to speak to him. That day we would be occupied in classes with perhaps no opportunity to talk. Strangely though, it happened during the day that everyone else seemed to ‘disappear’, leaving me alone with the strange stranger! Curiosity got the better of pride and as we sat in the common-room area, I asked him about his question to me. He said that he had been praying for everyone on the course (at which point I had him pegged definitely as a religious nutcase!) When he had got to me, he heard the Lord say to him these words about me:

“She thinks there’s something I’ll never forgive her for. But I know all about her. And I love her. And one day, I’m going to heal her.”

Had this episode been portrayed on film, the screen may have shown the room spinning at this point! I also felt as though time had stood still. I remember thanking him and then it seemed there were people around and the day returned to normal. The difference now was that I had been left with a promise and I held on to that promise from God until the day He fulfilled it.

By the winter after the summer the Lord had promised to heal me, the oppressive symptoms I experienced through TM were worsening. I would try not to meditate, either in the morning or in the evening and would feel such mental stress and confusion, as though a cord was tightening around my head, that I had to give in and meditate. When I did meditate, it would be for increasingly long periods of time and I would seem to be blanking out or losing time, coming to after more than an hour but feeling like a few minutes had passed.

I was feeling increasingly desperate, desperate to be able to stop. I hung on to the promise the Lord had made me:

“She thinks there’s something I’ll never forgive her for. But I know all about her. And I love her. And one day, I’m going to heal her.”

I knew that day would come but wondered when and just how bad things would get before the day came. I visited the central London TM centre, went through their standard meditation check and then asked the instructor why I felt so bad when I tried to stop. He gave me the answer I’d had years ago, that these symptoms were merely stress, stress that people who don’t meditate feel all of the time. So it wouldn’t make sense to give up meditation, since I would then experience that stress all of the time.

The instructor assured me that many Christians practised TM and found it not to conflict at all with their faith since TM was unaligned to any religion! Leaving via their smart and friendly bookshop I saw various publications by professing Christians advocating TM as a beneficial and non-religious part of their lives! For a while I felt re-assured but soon the doubts and discomfort returned. It was about a year after the Lord had promised to heal me and I was feeling worse than ever!

“And we know that all things work together for good …” (Romans 8:28)

In this section you will be reminded of the intricacy, the care and even the humour of our wonderful Lord Jesus in dealing with us. He knows everything about us and He loves us and because He is Creator and Saviour He brings about big results by using quite small detail!

In 1993 I was working for a large Italian company. My role was bilingual and beside the Italian language I liked to import various Italian cultural features into my life. One such was a coffee-percolator. Instant coffee is fine for me but real, percolated coffee seemed really nice and sophisticated and ‘Italian’. I was given a coffee-percolator and so I enthusiastically went through the routine first thing every morning, of setting up the coffee-maker which meant putting a filter into place, spooning coffee in and letting the water percolate through it. For about twenty minutes the little machine percolated away in the kitchen, a most satisfying concept to someone who aspired to things Italian! I’ll return to the coffee-pot later …

Around this time I had bought a Christian book of testimonies of people delivered from the occult but still partially in denial, didn’t associate myself with them. Although the book included TM among occult practices, I just thought the author didn’t understand. It was wonderful of course, that the Lord Jesus had delivered these unfortunate people! At the back of the book was a list of helping organisations. One of them, the Reachout Trust, was based near me, in Richmond Surrey.

I phoned them. I said that I was desperate to stop TM but couldn’t. I also explained that I hadn’t learnt it with any interest in associating with Hinduism. Derek has a great sense of humour but he refrained from exercising it in that delicate moment. He told me that it is impossible to separate the roots of something from its practice. He also told me that I wouldn’t be able to just stop doing TM in my own strength. That could happen only through Jesus Christ.

We agreed that I should visit the office. But for the next month, I couldn’t get any time off work. I felt disappointed at having to wait but we agreed to make an appointment as soon as possible.

That night I felt very bad. It had been wonderful talking to someone who understood. But it would be so long – at least a month – before I could visit Reachout Trust. I prayed to Jesus for forgiveness and asked Him to help me.

When I woke up next morning I began the normal morning routine. Since I had got the coffee-pot, this routine had changed slightly. Meditation would previously have been my first action of the day. This was because until I had meditated, I would experience not just the normal fuzziness of waking-up, but such mental confusion and oppression that any normal activity would be very difficult. But now I would hold off meditating just long enough to set the coffee-percolator up.

So this morning, I went straight into the kitchen to set the coffee-maker up. It took a few minutes and in those few minutes I began to notice something rather odd. If I hadn’t spent those few minutes making the coffee, I wouldn’t have had the time or space to notice the change but would have launched directly on waking into meditation. But now in the kitchen I began to notice that something had changed. I didn’t actually feel that confused or oppressed any more. I was making the coffee quite easily. This was strange and actually quite scary. I went back to bed feeling rather strange. The compulsion to meditate still wasn’t there. I felt something like fear. What was going on? I was experiencing absolutely no need to meditate, for the first morning in over ten years. I wondered what was going on. This was a work-day and I would have to get up soon. I got ready for work and drank a cup of percolated coffee, still not quite believing what was happening.

As I went to work, I sang a song we’d sung in church many times and this time I’d experienced directly: “Jesus is Lord of all, Satan is under His feet …” I didn’t care who heard me. That day I phoned Derek and told him that Jesus had delivered me from TM. The compulsion to meditate had completely disappeared. There was no longer any mental oppression disappearing only when I meditated. Although I later visited the Reachout Trust office, I had no need now to make that appointment. Jesus Christ had freed me from TM.


“… you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16)

This is a personal testimony but in preparing it I wanted to find out something of TM’s recent history.

When I learnt TM there was no internet to check it out on. Now TM has its own website and an enquirer can access numerous testimonials both positive and negative. (That’s happened in a very few years, being one facet of the end-times’ information explosion prophesied in the book of Daniel. (2))

I read elsewhere that in the mid-seventies every month thirty thousand Americans were learning TM (3). TM had been brought into the school curriculum, into business training and the professions. It was practised and endorsed by clergy who have believed the lie that TM is unaligned with religion. Change came when the TM organisation was successfully sued in the American Federal court by concerned Christians who charged that it was in fact Hinduism in disguise.

As a result, the TM organisation was compelled to publish the English version of the prayer recited in Sanskrit (the “puja”). The Indian figure before which I had kneeled and my teacher had prayed years before is Maharishi’s dead teacher, Guru Dev, considered in Hinduism to be divinity manifested in human form. To quote a former TM instructor, now Christian author Vail Carruth:

“Thus the puja is intended to alter the consciousness of the … candidate in a way that opens the mind to the influence of the ‘great Masters’. Its function is understood to be the establishment of a spiritual … bond between the new meditator … and Maharishi and his Hindu tradition of Masters on the other …” (4)

The translation into English from Sanskrit reveals lengthy devotions and prostrations to Hindu so-called divinities. No wonder meditation had made me feel bad. Testimonies are now available of meditators who encountered demonic manifestations while meditating and suffered spiritual/mental breakdown. The mantra, far from being the “meaningless sound” that TM
says it is, is the name of a Hindu so-called deity – actually a demon
(5). According to former Hindu priest now Christian, Rabi R. Maharaj, “the mantra both invites the being to enter the one using it and also creates the passive state in the meditator to facilitate the fusion of beings” (6)

Vail Carruth reports that while meditating: “I began to become aware of the presence of spirit beings sitting on either side of me when I was meditating. Sometimes at night, uninvited, they would sit on my bed. I thought they were my guardian angels. Once I looked at one of them, and I saw a small dark creature with sharp teeth, who looked more like it wanted to devour me than to bless me. I did not consider the possibility of Satan or his demons at the time …” (7)

Such phenomena commonly experienced by meditators remain unexplained by the TM organisation. I discovered that I hadn’t been alone in experiencing lapses of consciousness while meditating of which I would have no later recall. The so-called “black-out phenomenon’ evidently is common in TM but remains unexplained. (8)

TM Today

Increasingly our secular Western society has become welcoming of Hinduism and Buddhism as incorporated into New Age spirituality accepted in business, education, and the Church. Indeed, TM no longer needs to hide its true spiritual colours. Today the Maharishi’s Indian base at Rishikesh welcomes young people from all over the world. A high proportion of these like me are Jewish – young Israelis including TM in their “gap year” after army service.

On the Internet I found testimonies by meditators who had experienced unpleasant symptoms similar to my own. However I found as many reporting pleasant and affirming experiences and even my own meditation started off pleasant becoming oppressive only after a few years. Meditators may be feeling good – for a while.

I feel then that it is inappropriate to argue against TM solely from the point of view of experience. I should emphasise that my literally overnight transition from being unable to stop meditating to being completely free of it was not explicable in terms of psychology, or positive-thinking technique or wish-fulfilment. I had repented of my involvement in TM, of believing a lie for many years and I had prayed to Jesus Christ. The next day I woke up unattached to TM.

I would suggest that anybody associated with meditation, yoga, martial arts or ‘alternative’ health treatment (reflexology, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc.) recognise that because the roots of the practice (however distant) are in Hinduism, Buddhism and the occult, then they may – like me – have unknowingly invited demonic intervention although the effects of this may not yet be apparent. (9) We are free only by turning to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. (10)

In conclusion, my testimony is expressed in Psalm 116.

Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD , for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD , save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD , have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
10 I believed; therefore I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”
11 And in my dismay I said, “All men are liars.”

12 How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD , truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD – in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD


(1) Exodus 3:20 … return to testimony

(2) Daniel: 12:4 … return to testimony

(3) David Haddon and Vail Hamilton: TM Wants You!(Baker Book House, Michigan 1976), p.19 … return to testimony

(4) Ibid., p.46 … return to testimony

(5) 1 Corinthians 10:20 … return to testimony

(6) Rabi. R. Maharaj: Death of A Guru: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978, p. 219 … return to testimony

(7) David Haddon and Vail Hamilton: TM Wants You! Baker Book House, Michigan 1976), p.67 … return to testimony

(8) Ibid., p.40 … return to testimony

(9) 1 Corinthians 10:20 … return to testimony

(10) 1 John 3:8 … return to testimony

Deborah Shah © 2005