Debunking the Mystery


Bizarro is brought to you today by A Table With Your TM Mantra On It.

Early this morning I had already gotten a few questions about this cartoon. Apparently, “TM” is not a common enough phrase anymore so it mystified many readers.

It stands for “Transcendental Meditation,” a particular brand of meditating that touts a celebrity guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as its founder. I actually took the TM course a few years ago and learned to meditate. What I found out is that it is extremely subjective. I do believe that meditation is a good mental practice for achieving a calmer state of mind in general. It helped me relax, think more clearly, worry less, etc. What I don’t believe is that there is any magic in the process or the mantra, which is what TM clearly promotes. In my experience the practice of sitting quietly for 20 minutes and repeating any mental image or word inside my head will achieve the same results. I’ve experimented with this for myself so I know it to be true.

In my opinion, a book about meditation is going to benefit you as much as paying a buttload of money to learn it from a cult. I like meditation and am glad I learned it. But I learned as much from reading about it before hand (from sources other than the TM folks) as I did from the TM course I paid for. Mediation can powerfully change your life and there is some science to it, but then again, so can anything a person believes in, so who knows? The brain is a powerful and little understood three pounds of meat.

My opinions aside, there’s nothing more to this cartoon than the fact that if you remove one letter from “ATM,” you get “TM,” so the guy on the right is meditating instead of withdrawing money.

You could always go deeper if you want and say that the guy on the left is withdrawing money to pay for his bogus “mantra” assignation, but that would be more than I intended. By the way, the TM folks convince you that your mantra is special and should never be uttered to another human being. This is an attempt to convince you that your mantra has special powers, of course. In truth, as you can see from the first blue link in this post, there are very few mantras assigned and they are given out more-or-less based on your age when you learn it. I was about 50 when I took the course and the mantra I was assigned, “Kirim,” is on the chart (compiled by a researcher who interview former teachers.)

If you’ve had personal experience with meditation, please share in the comments section. I still believe mediation is a sound scientific process to treat yourself to for twenty minutes a day. So is a nap, in a different way, but there’s no one who offers to teach you to nap by giving you a super-secret “nap word” to repeat in your head until you fall asleep. “Zzzzzz,” perhaps?

As for yesterday’s cartoon, it’s a simple pun about theater lingo vs. Mafia lingo. I chose “Bivona” because it was my Sicilian grandmother’s maiden name.




42 thoughts on “Debunking the Mystery

  1. Pingback: Debunking the Mystery « Humor

  2. (Wow, two comments in a week from me.) I’ve found that knitting is my go-to relaxation method. When my kids were in high school band, I unwittingly volunteered to be the band’s uniforms mom. During my six-year stint, I knitted a lot of scarves. I guess it’s the repetitive motion that I find calming. There’s a bumper sticker somewhere that says, “I knit so I don’t kill anyone.” Sometimes that is/was so applicable. It is win-win; you relax and you get something in the end. (Knitting anything more complex than a scarf may not induce relaxation. I’ve ranted and raved over many incomprehensible instructions.)

  3. Well, you could’ve removed the “T” and made it an “AM” radio… no, that would be just as obscure, except for Rush Limbaugh fans and they’re not in your audience.

    An article I saw today,83368/ brought up Pat Harrington Jr.’s once-ubiquitous character “Guido Panzini”. I wonder if it sounded as much like a pasta dish in the ’50s as it does now.

  4. Love this post Dan, thanks so much. I had looked into TM about 5 years ago but became completely turned off with the $ you had to pay to be taught this special brand of meditation. Deepak Chopra, every year, runs a free 21 day guided meditation. It’s just finishing up now and was wonderful, free and can get anyone into a daily practice. Also, for anyone interested, the Australian Meditation Society offers free guided meditations and lessons. I’ve used it for several years…

  5. There was actually a Harvard study of TM which concluded that it worked via a physiological “relaxation response.” They used TM because it was popular at the time and practitioners gave permission, but suggested that it would apply to all sorts of meditation, as well as some forms of prayer.

    Since this was in 1975, the results were published in a paperback book with the title, The Relaxation Response, rendered in a poster font to make it blend in with all the other pop psychology books of the era, but there was actual scholarship involved.

  6. Pingback: Transcendental |

  7. I did TM 22 years ago, but was put off by their cultishness and stupid claims. I did continue with the meditation itself, but found at the time that it just made me withdraw into myself. I’ve tried a few other meditations since, the one I’ve had the most benefit from (and is also the simplest) I got from “Undoing Depression” by Richard O’Connor. Pretty much anything that lets your mind relax and slip away from the usual routines is helpful, though – it’s like a mini-vacation for your brain.

  8. All religions seem to practice different types of meditation. When people pray familiar prayers in church they get a similar benefit. The heart rate slows, you don’t have to search for the words and the congregation relaxes.

    I once went to this extra special invitation only ‘walking meditation’ class. It was four hours. I took an immediate dislike to the instructor/yogi. I spent the whole four hours forcing myself not to look at my watch. When it was over it was all I could do to not make an undignified dash for the door. I felt so bad because mt yoga instructor had singled me out to ask to go to ths thing. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

    I did learn something. I don’t ever want to go to any four hour class again!

    • I hear you Lynn. Many years ago I tried chanting under the auspices of the NSA (Nichiren Shōshū of America, as opposed to No Such Agency). In order to gain enlightenment and worldy attainment, you would continually repeat the phrase Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō while facing an ideogram covered parchment ensconced in a small shrine. I went to some rather uncomfortable group meetings, though I did meet the Man from Atlantis there, who was a member at the time. I finally quit when I realized I was only continuing because I was interested in the gal who got me started. The chanting actually was relaxing as a meditation, but its tie-in with a large organization pushing for new members was off-putting.

    • Jesus loves you- go to the church of your choice & wait. (While the Beatles were pimping for the Maharishi, he was humping their wives). Bwahahaha!

  9. Dan, meditation’s a useful tool. Doesn’t cost anything. The best instruction I’ve found is in the container of Theravada Buddhism. There are lots of fine teachers in Cali., find one! You might check out Gil Fronsdal. Be well and happy, cuz.

  10. Immediate understanding of the ATM cartoon resulted in a spit take on my screen-good thing husbando is still snoozing. He hates it when I get stuff on the monitor. Your cartoons crack me up and I have begun to “get” all the hidden pics too after a year of struggling thru each one looking looking looking… well you know by now.

    I love you and your wacky-ness—-stay the course, por favoro.

  11. RE: ATM MACHINE CARTOON: Hey man, I have a few true stories to tell involving ATM machines. Like the times I was stuck in the city waiting for a bus. No rest rooms to be found anywhere. So I pulled out an empty “Gator Aid” bottle, tactfully turned my back to the passing public, unzipped and quietly did my “duty” while pretending to be using the ATM machine. (It worked for ME !!! Could work for you too during emergencies. For the record, bank’s rest rooms are closed to the public. One more good reason to have “stand-alone” outdoor ATM machines !!!)

  12. Meditation helped me be less scatterbrained. There are many kinds of meditation. They all work if you do it regularly.

    Any activity can be meditation if you focus completely on it. Try it while brushing your teeth or something. Don’t get upset if your mind wanders. Just come back to what you were focusing on.

    PS: Nice to be old enough to know what TM is. ;-)

    • Yeah Keera, exactly what I was going to say. When I was in college I achieved the most mental relaxation from playing pinball in the student union. I was so focused on that one task of keeping the ball in play that the whole world and all stress just went away. Nowadays driving does it for me. Prayer too. Or even praying while driving, a necessity in SoCal as I’m sure Dan can now attest to :-)

  13. Hmm… This cartoon may (unintentionally) be funnier than you thought. One of the claims of TM is that it will allow you to levitate (for details, google TM levitation). So we assumed that the point here was that the TM-er, who is otherwise unable to reach the machine from his position on the floor, would shortly levitate and thus be able use the ATM (er, TM).

      • Haha. I thought something similar about the mountaintop “guru” meditating in the bouncy castle (“It’s my birthday”) … it reminded me of the TM “yogic flying” levitation claims. One time at a coffeeshop I found a book full of photos of “levitating” TMers … :)

  14. Pingback: Debunking the Mystery « What I see, what I feel, what I'd like to see…

  15. Stop apologizing! If they don’t get it, it’s their loss. Some folks are just humor impaired.

    BTW, I wet my pants on the thespian mafia muscle. The dog then wondered why I didn’t rub my own nose in it…

  16. OMG! My mom used to “host” weekly TM sessions at our house back in the 70’s. I grew up with that crazy stuff all around me!

  17. I’ve been keeping up with the Bizarro Blog for a few weeks, now, after being a fan of your comics for years, Dan. I’m enjoying it because there’s no pretense or posturing. You’re just a guy who’s really funny and good at drawing.

    I like hearing the stories around your comics, even if there isn’t much to it. I especially like it that you don’t try to make those stories epic for dramatic value (unless they are).

    This is the first time I’ve looked at the comments; I love it that there is discussion about other stuff than comics and I love it that the vibe “in here” is so mellow. It’s really nice to contribute to some commentary when there’s no need to worry about getting flamed by a nutcase without manners (I’m totally in support of nutcases with manners).

    Anywho, thanks a whole lot for the comics, man. A little dose of absurdity really makes my day.

    • Thanks for the terrific comment, Shawn. You’ve described exactly the kind of blog and atmosphere that I’ve been striving for so I guess I’m going my job. :o)

  18. I joined TM when I was 15 and took their Science of Creative Intelligence course (the youngest person to do so at the time). My cousin became a teacher and claimed he could levitate, though it seemed to me to be more like hopping in a seated position. I saw Maharishi during a trip to Chicago and gave him a flower. I grew more and more disillusioned with TM as I saw their greed and eventually came to believe the whole thing was a fraud.

    I don’t meditate anymore, but I do nap whenever possible.

    • Wow, great story. Thanks.
      Yes, whatever one thinks of the “spiritual” benefits of mediation, it’s a simple fact of reality that there is no such thing as levitating humans. :o)

      • Well, I believe if you had a strong enough magnet, you could levitate a body due the the iron in our blood. On the other hand, a magnet that strong would probably pull the iron atoms out of your blood cells and rupture all other cells as they make their way out of your body to the magnet, leaving a non-sentient soggy mess behind. So, never mind.

        Ah, but if you could suspend a large enough mass above you to counteract the mass of the earth …

  19. My father made me go through TM training when I was in Jr. High. I found much of it to be rather creepy, so did not really continue after my father stopped reminding me. I never liked my assigned mantra and according to the chart, I either misunderstood the instructor or he didn’t pronounce it properly. I always want to go back to meditation, but get hung up on finding something to focus on, even though I know it can be anything.

    • Good story, Carol, thanks for sharing.
      I found a book by John Kabat-Zinn to be helpful. He approaches it from a medical standpoint and has written some very successful books on the topic.

  20. Long history of meditation practice with a Buddhist group. Had wonderful experiences and much better concentration, nice connection with the group, useful, practical moral code to follow as well. Came to conclusion that there really is no attainment involved, nor non-attainment. Ergo, no need for continued strong meditation effort,or even religion, for that matter :-)

  21. I found a deck of Osho Zen Tarot cards in my parents attic…..worked for me.. kept me sane through the first two weeks of hell i went thru when i broke my kneecap….3 weeks after that break, i landed in Hos. for another 4 days… used the deck at the hospital..all of us who were patients were great pals… so we did some calming meditation, and at times we would laugh about some of the cards…. they can be loads of fun.. and frankly are a great source for helping my husband and I as we are having many troubles…doing those cards for two weeks… has given he and i both tools to deal with stress… I really should give myself a reading a day..

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