(NEXSTAR) — “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” is one of the King of Country’s biggest and best known hits, having been covered or referenced by everyone from Blake Shelton to rapper Drake. But aside from its misplaced apostrophe (grammatically, the title should be “All My Exes Live in Texas”) the song contains another oddity: Why is Strait talking about a controversial meditation technique in the middle of it?
Released April 10, 1987, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” was the second single from Strait’s seventh album. The song details the narrator’s various former relationships, all of which took place in the Lone Star State — the reason why he now lives in Tennessee.
But there’s one element that may seem out of place in such a salt-of-the-Earth song, and it comes in the second verse:
“By transcendental meditation,
I go there each night
But I always come back to myself”
So what exactly is Strait saying here?
Firstly, you may be wondering: What is Transcendental Meditation?
Known widely as simply “TM,” Transcendental Meditation is a branded form of meditation that was taught in India by a Hindu monk and brought to fame in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, according to Britannica.
TM differs from many other forms of meditation in that, most notably, practitioners are assigned individual secret Sanskrit phrases (known as mantras) by a teacher based on a variety of factors. These mantras — which practitioners are not supposed to tell anyone — are meant to be mentally repeated and focused on during meditation.
Unlike with other forms of meditation, however, TM must be taught by certified teachers and much of its techniques are still relatively kept under wraps (including the list of mantras).
While legitimate studies exist touting the practice’s benefits, the method is not without its detractors. Due to the perceived secrecy, ceremony and fees related with TM, the movement has been labeled a “cult” by some, though TM itself says it is “not a religion, philosophy or lifestyle” and that “no belief or expectation is needed for it to be effective.”
Currently, TM’s course fees can be broken down in payments over four months or paid all at once and depend upon a person’s annual household income. TM notes that some partial grant support is available for those receiving federal assistance, in addition to full-time student pricing. Otherwise, depending on income levels (which users are not asked to prove), the four-session TM course can cost between $540 and $980.
TM, which is a designated nonprofit, explains its course fees go toward charity and other organizations, in addition to scholarships for others to participate in TM.
TM has been embraced by many celebrities, most famously by The Beatles throughout the 1960s. Other advocates include Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman, Katy Perry and director David Lynch, who even has his own TM-centered foundation.
OK, so now how does George Strait factor back into this?
In “All My Ex’s,” the lyrics appear to point to TM’s aim to “transcend” regular mental activity and allow an experience of “being unbounded in space and time,” as phrased by authors in a 1987 research review. The song’s lyrics imply the only way its narrator will revisit Texas is via his consciousness traveling across time and space. While out-of-body experiences (or even astral projection, which is a concept that the mind can leave the body and travel elsewhere) have been reported by practitioners of TM, TM itself does not promote these ideas.
Despite its inclusion in the song, there seems to be no evidence either Strait or the song’s writers — then-married couple Sanger D. Shafer and Lyndia Shafer — were proponents of TM.
Upon release, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” reached number 1 on Billboard’s U.S. Hot Country chart, in addition to taking the top spot on Canada’s country chart. Over the years, the song has remained a fixture of Strait’s live shows and has earned itself a place in many a Texan’s heart — broken or not.