Very interesting insights and results both for 1st and 2nd order!
Like you, I used to do TM, but my journey started when i was a sophomore at uni. Our professors wanted to send some of us to England to few unis that had TM-imbibed curricula. I was selected among those few and and because of that we had to pass a 3-day intensive course of TM.
Those three days taught me how to still my mind, how to accelerate it, how to slow it down. Meditation also opened my eyes to the fact that the most powerful ‘weapon’ in our human arsenal is… our thought. Each and every thought we have has the power to become a belief, which then might become a reality. This made me think that well everything in human history, at least in theory, started with a thought. Let me discount the serendipity, enthropy and autopoesis for the moment — these all caused new things, evolution and progress in various aspects of human lives!
As an immediate result, i used to meditate few days before my finals and i passed them all with flying colors. Till the end of my studies, as I was a lazy student skipping many of lectures, I woudl just “deploy” meditation few days ahead of exams, ‘boosting’ my brain and being able to assimilate the material of entire semester in few days — and some of the material being quantum physics level (i studied nuclear physics for bachelor degree).
Anyhow, eventually i restarted meditation once i was in Egypt, havign a super stressful job. I would sit in a cafe in downtown Cairo, surrounded by noise and smoke and meditate… but that time it was different. I realized mantra is just a tool. When one goes to gym, one needs equipment (tool) to train his/her body. Same for mantra. Once you perceive what the point of mantra is and what it gets you as a result, you no longer need it, so to speak. you can still use it but there is no need as anythign and everything can become your mantra.
Back to Egypt. So i stated meditating using shisha smoke as my mantra. I figured smoke is an easy and more visual and thus easier to use in meditation. It was and i used to meditate while smoking shisha in noisy downtown cafes of Cairo…
There are other meditation stories, but that’s for another post :)