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The next step to learning Transcendental Meditation

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Can the TM technique be learned from a book or CD?

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.

Can you get the same results simply by relaxing?

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.

Is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation program alone can lower high blood pressure?

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 practicing the TM technique should follow up regularly with their physician to monitor this positive effect on blood pressure and the need for continued medication.

Is it possible that the benefits of Transcendental Meditation come from suggestion or expectation?

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 skeptics 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 reduction of cigarette smoking, have found that the TM technique is far more effective than placebos.

But will other forms of meditation give you the same results as TM?

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 center – 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.

What if I can’t sit still long enough to meditate?

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 practiced 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.

My child has ADHD. Can she learn to meditate?

People with ADHD have attentional variability. In some situations they have trouble focusing and in others they have the ability to hyperfocus. Even with notable ADHD, the Transcendental Meditation technique is not only easy but highly advisable. Although I cannot predict that Transcendental Meditation will eliminate this disorder, I have seen it lessen the symptoms notably.

Does TM have any harmful or unpleasant side effects?

Absolutely not. More than 350 scientific research studies have been published on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program. 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 program, scientists have researched virtually every area of human life that can be scientifically measured. Controlled research on the effects of TM practice 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.

My teenage daughter wants to learn TM, but how do I know she isn’t getting into to some mystical philosophy or exotic belief system?

Millions of people practice the TM technique, and they do it to improve the quality of their life. They don’t have to believe anything to enjoy the benefits. They don’t have to subscribe to any new kind of philosophy or lifestyle. They just sit and enjoy this simple, natural technique 20 minutes twice a day—or in the case of kids, a shorter time.

I’ve known adults who have meditated for thirty years and have no knowledge of any philosophy associated with the Transcendental Meditation program and would have no interest in that at all. People who learn the TM technique practice it twice a day because it benefits them. In my own case, when I learned to meditate, someone had the objection that it may be some kind of disguised Eastern mysticism. I’ve been enjoying the benefits for 33 years and I still don’t know the first thing about Eastern religion.

Has anyone profited financially from the worldwide success of the TM program or is the organization really non-profit—where does the money go?

The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught solely by a non-profit educational organization. Here in the United States, that organization—The Maharishi Foundation, USA—is designated 501c(3) by the IRS. In its 50-year history the TM organization’s non-profit status has never been legally challenged.

There are no shareholders, board members or individuals who profit financially from the organization’s programs, only modest salaries for employees. All this is a matter of public record.

All of the revenues from course fees go entirely to support the organization’s educational and peace-creating activities around the world. Course fees from the U.S. and other wealthy nations support the offering of TM courses in places such as Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where there are minimal or no course fees.

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 practicing the technique they are better equipped to understand and relate to the basic precepts of their religion. People also find that when they practice the TM technique, they are less stressed and have more energy. As a result, they are better able to live according to the behavioral 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.

It sounds like it could be difficult to meditate properly—does it take a long time to get ‘good’ at TM?

Not at all. Even a ten-year-old child can practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Transcendental Meditation practice is based on an intrinsic tendency of the human nervous system that everyone possesses and automatically knows how to use: the tendency to settle down to the state of restful alertness.

The TM technique is completely effortless to practice and to learn, and it doesn’t take years to master. Typically, results are there right from the start. Studies on EEG show that someone who has been practicing TM for only two weeks has about the same level of increased brainwave coherence during meditation as someone who has been practicing the technique for 20 years—although the long-term meditator will be enjoying more benefits OUTSIDE of meditation as the result of so many years of meditating twice a day. The benefits are cumulative, like a tree that grows more and more flowers and fruit over time.

My husband says reading good books is what develops his untapped potential, not sitting around with his eyes closed.

Perhaps reading a good book will enliven some degree of mental potential. But reading, like all mental activities, is another way of using the mind, and it keeps the mind engaged and focused.

The TM technique, on the other hand, is not just another way of using the mind. It gently settles the mind from activity and allows the mind to consciously rest within itself, turning attention inward to the source of creativity and intelligence at the innermost foundation of the mind, thereby enlivening those quiet reserves of mental energy.

Research in neuroscience shows that during TM practice there’s an increase in blood flow to the brain, there’s widespread brainwave coherence and a mobilization of the brain’s hidden reserves. Reading a good book can be a profound joy, but it doesn’t have this effect on your brain, nor does it impact your overall state of health the way the TM program does.

What about people who say, “A run in the woods is my TM,” or, “A good fishing trip will do the same thing for you”?

A hike or run through the forest, sitting on the banks of a pastoral stream, relaxing with a good book at the beach—these are pleasant, restorative activities because they allow the mind to step out of the constraints of its habitual, narrow boundaries of focused attention. Shifting the attention from its habitual focus is refreshing, healing, restorative, especially when the shift is in a direction of greater freedom or beauty. So these are all necessary and enjoyable activities.

But activity must be balanced with rest. We’ve all had the experience of finishing up a harried month at work and escaping on a dream vacation—in the nick of time!—only to return 10 days later more tired than when we left.

It’s rest that most powerfully rejuvenates—not more activity. For increased dynamism, for consistently richer and more inspiring perception, for more generous and nourishing relationships, rest must become deeper. If we want to do more and enjoy more, to be more and give more, we must rest more deeply, more efficiently, more completely. If we want a life of growth and expansion, expressing more of our inherent potential, then our daily activity must be balanced with deeper and more efficient rest.

The TM technique is an effortless, natural process that allows the mind to move inward from the conscious, active, surface level of ordinary experience, through incremental steps, to the more refined, refreshing, nourishing levels of mind to the very source of thought. Having that experience everyday does much more for our health and well-being than a walk in the woods or another great fishing trip. And as filmmaker David Lynch says, diving within to the source of creativity is how you catch the big fish.

Were these studies done only by scientists who meditate?

No, the research was not done only by scientists who practice the TM technique. Over 360 scientists around the world have conducted research on the TM program during the past 40 years. The research has been conducted in 33 countries and at more than 250 independent universities and institutions. A majority of these studies were done by scientists who have no affiliation with the TM organization.

Does TM produce a state of hypnosis or trance?

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.

Where were these TM research studies conducted?

Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique has been conducted at over 250 independent institutions world wide, 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 the 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 deeper rest than other practices, and studies show the technique to be more effective at reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-actualization.

How does the Transcendental Meditation technique work?

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 specialty 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.

How does sitting quietly and doing nothing bring the extraordinary results you’re describing?

Unless you are unconscious or deceased, it’s normal for your mind to be active. Fortunately, an active mind is not a problem when practicing 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.

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