The TM technique is unique among forms of meditation. It is natural and effortless, but requires personal instruction to learn. Imagine trying to learn a natural golf stroke from a book. Or if you have ever learned to play a musical instrument, you know how helpful it is to have a good teacher. The teacher is needed to show you proper technique, so you can grow in confidence that you’re proceeding along correctly. Learning the TM technique is a lot easier than mastering the piano or getting a good, natural golf swing, but involves the same kind of personalized guidance.
Not according to the science. A wide range of beneficial physiological changes commonly occur during the Transcendental Meditation technique, changes that distinguish the practice from mere relaxation and other forms of meditation. Studies indicate that TM practice produces a state of rest much deeper than sitting with eyes-closed, and also much deeper than other meditation practices. Research consistently shows a natural decrease in breath rate during the TM technique, 25% greater than controls, and an increase in basal skin resistance (a standard measure of relaxation) up to 70% higher.
Physiological indicators of deep rest also include marked changes in respiratory volume, minute ventilation, tidal volume, blood lactate and heart rate. Studies suggest that this unique state of physiology helps regulate cortisol and other hormones associated with chronic stress—and also healthier regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood.
Even more significant, EEG measurements show high levels of alpha coherence over the entire brain—increased integration and orderliness of brain functioning—further differentiating the Transcendental Meditation technique from ordinary relaxation and other meditation practices.
Several studies (American Journal of Hypertension, 2008; American Journal of Hypertension, 2004; Hypertension, 1999) have demonstrated that high blood pressure is reduced even after a few months of twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The need for antihypertensive medication is reduced and sometimes eliminated. Anyone on medication who starts practising the TM technique should follow up regularly with their doctor to monitor this positive effect on blood pressure and the need for continued medication.
Fifty years of teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique around the world and nearly forty years of scientific research have proven that the benefits of the program are genuine and not dependent upon one’s belief in the program. Even sceptics who learn the TM technique typically report the same results as people who are “sold out” to the practice, which would not be the case if the benefits were based on expectation.
It was natural for scientists to wonder if the placebo effect—or mere expectation and belief—played a significant role in the TM program. Thus many of the major studies on the TM technique ‘controlled’ for the placebo effect. Researchers have concluded that the benefits of the practice are far too wide-ranging and consistent to result merely from placebo. Moreover, studies on specific areas, such as the reduction of cigarette smoking, have found that the TM technique is far more effective than placebos.
Just as there are many kinds of medication, there are also many approaches that are termed “meditation.” Research has found that different meditation techniques affect brain functioning in different ways. Studies have found that Transcendental Meditation uniquely develops global alpha coherence, a pattern associated with increased alertness. The development of this coherence is especially marked in the prefrontal cortex – the brain’s executive planning centre – and demonstrates the growth in executive functions that occurs through TM practice. In addition, published studies in major medical journals have found that TM uniquely produces a profound level of rest and significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers have also noted that, unlike other techniques, the TM technique is natural and effortless, easily learned by anyone regardless of their I.Q. or learning ability.
The experience of restful alertness is pleasant and comfortable, and this allows you to continue to sit quietly for twenty minutes twice a day. When practised regularly, this program dissolves stress cumulatively, and with time, you experience less and less stress and nervousness. As a natural result of this lessening of stress, the mind settles down when you’re meditating and you don’t feel the need to get up and move around. The direct experience of stillness and peace takes care of those feelings of restlessness.
With continued practice, anxiety plays less and less a role in a person’s life; the individual starts making better decisions about daily activities because he or she is better able to cope with stress. So, with time, one gains the possibility of becoming stress-free. This means being motivated by the needs of the situation rather than one’s own stressful response to the situation. Instead of reacting to challenges as a threat, one sees challenges as an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Absolutely not. More than 350 scientific research studies have been published on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique. No legitimate, peer-reviewed studies have ever found TM practice to be unpleasant or psychologically harmful in any way—all such studies show only beneficial results.
To determine the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique, scientists have researched virtually every area of human life that can be scientifically measured. Controlled research on the effects of TM practise has been conducted under many different settings and conditions: on general populations, people in the workplace, athletes, groups of students at all grade levels, patients at high-risk for heart disease, students with learning disorders, factory workers, members of the military, groups of corporate executives, long-term TM practitioners on advanced courses, and people with pre-existing mental health problems. All these studies show significant improvements in mental and physical health, with no negative side effects whatsoever.
I’m interested in TM’s health benefits, but will the Transcendental Meditation technique conflict with my spiritual faith?
People of all religions enjoy the Transcendental Meditation technique, including ministers, priests, monks, rabbis, and other religious leaders. Because the TM technique gives the deep inner experience of peace, expanded awareness, and greater happiness, most people find that by practising the technique they are better equipped to understand and relate to the basic precepts of their religion. People also find that when they practise the TM technique, they are less stressed and have more energy. As a result, they are better able to live according to the behavioural guidelines prescribed by their religious leaders and texts. In summary, the TM practice deepens spiritual understanding because it refreshes the mind and awakens subtler values of awareness.
If this experience of inner wakefulness is so natural and easy, how come everybody doesn’t know about it?
Throughout time the world’s most cherished poets, artists, philosophers and scientists have glimpsed this state, even if they weren’t able to maintain it.
Inner wakefulness, or pure awareness, is the subtlest of all possible experiences. In the face of the relentless demands and distractions of daily life, its presence deep at the root of the mind simply goes unnoticed.
The Transcendental Meditation technique allows people to effortlessly and gracefully experience this state of inner silence and deep rest, which in turn allows the body to release stress. All of the documented benefits for the mind, body, and personal relationships are the result of this experience.
The neurophysiology of meditation is very different from the neurology of hypnosis or of the trance state. The Transcendental Meditation technique produces not only deep relaxation, but heightened activation, organization and integration of brain functioning. There is no trance, where you’re disconnected from your body or your surroundings. You’re actually more aware—the TM technique creates a state of heightened awareness.
Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique has been conducted at over 250 independent institutions worldwide, including Harvard Medical School, Yale Medical School, UCLA Medical School, Stanford Medical School, University of Virginia Medical School, and many others.
Have the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation program really been validated by hundreds of scientific studies?
They certainly have—and all the major findings have been replicated. After nearly 40 years of scientific investigation, the Transcendental Meditation program’s scientific validation is solidly established. More than 600 published research studies comprise the body of scientific literature on the Transcendental Meditation technique, along with scores of theoretical papers, PhD dissertations and critical reviews. Over 350 of these research studies have appeared in peer-reviewed scientific and academic journals, verifying benefits for mind, body, relationships and environment.
What’s the difference between TM and other forms of meditation—can the same benefits be obtained by any other methods?
Unfortunately, no. Comparative research has shown that various forms of meditation do not produce the same effects. Because each kind of meditation practice engages the mind in it’s own way, there’s no reason to expect the same results from the various methods or that scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program will apply to other practices.
There have been studies comparing the effects of the TM technique, Zen, Mindfulness, Tibetan Buddhist and Vipassana meditations, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Benson’s Relaxation Response—examining such factors as brainwave patterns, levels of rest, and benefits for mind and body. While some other forms of meditation have been found to produce good effects in specific areas, these various practices have their own aims and are not necessarily intended to produce the broad range of benefits that result from the Transcendental Meditation technique.
Neural imaging and EEG studies indicate that TM practice creates a unique brain pattern: it is the only meditation technique known to create widespread brainwave coherence. The TM technique also produces a deeper rest than other practices, and studies show the technique to be more effective at reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-actualisation.
The TM technique allows the mind to settle inward by special use of the normal, natural thinking process. Effortlessness is key to the Transcendental Meditation technique. There’s no control or expectation, just simple innocence. That’s why anyone can learn it.
The speciality of the TM technique is that it allows the mind to transcend—to go beyond thinking. And what’s beyond thinking? The source of thought. Through the TM technique, you experience the source of thought at the deepest, innermost core of your own self—the silent reservoir of limitless intelligence and creativity that resides within everybody. With the TM technique, this process happens almost automatically.
Unless you are unconscious or deceased, it’s normal for your mind to be active. Fortunately, an active mind is not a problem when practising the Transcendental Meditation technique, because the technique actually uses this active tendency of the mind to dive within. Even if your mind starts out in an active state, it will spontaneously experience more quiet, refined, settled levels of activity during the practice. As the mind becomes more settled and alert, it leads the physiology to a state of very deep rest.