Transcendental Meditation, TM
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Basic overview of this page: The sections below dip into (1) Guru Dev's life and teachings. Guru Dev is another term for Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati, who taught TM to his follower Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (2) Maharishi, who taught TM to "the world". Afterwards comes (3) a section on TM, followed by (4) another section, on research findings as to effects of TM. (5) The page is rounded off by a few pertinent quotes and some literature references. - TK
For the last twelve years of his life Brahmananda Saraswati (1871-1953) was the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, which is traced back to Shankara. Some moments before he passed away, he told his disciple Mahesh, "What I have taught you also contains the knowledge of the technique for the householder."
Mahesh, later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, emerged to spread the TM technique and said about his guru's core teachings, "His spiritual teachings are simple and clear and go straight home to the heart."
A rosary of Guru Dev quotations are found on the previous page: [Link]
The TM technique is practiced for at least twenty minutes twice daily while sitting with one's eyes closed. It is easy to learn, enjoyable to practice, and enriches the lives of many. It helps clearer thinking, better health, and rewarding relationships. The technique is taught to new practitioners in a standardized, seven-step procedure. Over six million people worldwide have been initiated into the technique. There has been very much research on TM and its effects too, over 600 studies at more than 200 independent research institutions in 35 countries.
Official Transcendental Meditation websites state that the technique is fit for getting deep rest and does not require faith, belief, or a change in lifestyle to be effective as a relaxation technique. The TM technique can also be used for deeper purposes, and can be excellent for development, as the technique increases self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-actualization, among other things. The benefits are said to be cumulative - life may get better and better, and you may experience the benefits in your own life.
A TM practitioner uses one of a variety of Sanskrit mantras. However, the sound that is suggested by 'Om' is not one of them. A mantra is a syllable or set of syllables in the form of sounds, words, or phrases that, repeated in the mind, helps the user still the activity of thought and find a subtler (deeper, higher) level of consciousness with enhanced inner joy, vitality, and creativity.
Tested meditation techniques compared
Dr. Vernon Barnes considers that different forms of meditation do not produce the same effects because each kind of meditation practice engages the mind somewhat differently. There have been studies comparing the effects of the TM technique, Zen, Mindfulness, Tibetan Buddhist and Vipassana meditations - examining such as brainwave patterns and benefits for mind and body. Some other forms of meditation have been found to produce good effects in specific areas, but not the broad range of benefits that result from TM.
Barnes goes on to tell that neural imaging and EEG studies indicate that TM practice creates a brain pattern of widespread brainwave coherence. The TM technique also produces deep rest and is effective at reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-actualization. [◦Research]
The standardised way of teaching TM
To practice TM, a person must be initiated by a teacher. This involves sessions of formal instruction, followed by a short ceremony performed by the teacher. Then the student learns the technique and begins practicing his mantra (the training). The mantra is selected by the teacher on the basis of the meditator's temperament and occupation. TM is taught to new practitioners in a standardized, seven-step procedure, comprised of two introductory lectures, a personal interview, and a two-hour instruction session.
The first teachings and practice of this form of deep meditation were mainly in the context of Hinduism. With time the propagation of TM was adapted to needs and methods of the West, and TM was recommended as a method to combat stress. Under the new heading "Science of Creative Intelligence" TM still has its foundations in the Vedas (ancient Indian literature).
TM is spread through co-ordinated organisations. Local centres organise public lectures on the principles and effects of TM. The organization that teaches the TM technique recommends that it be learned from an authorized teacher only, and not from books etc.
The possibility: A lot of good
By TM there is typically a switching between rest and activity, and one's potential may shine forth to some degree, depending on how well the practice is done and other factors too. It makes sense to discern between daily effects, longer-term effects, and long-time effects, at least for theoretical purposes.
The sound(s) or syllables to meditate on, and person, should fit. Those who are not of brahmin quality, would to well to refrain from using the OM mantra, explains Guru Dev, Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati. He does not recommend repetition of OM at all for all in the householder stage of life. For them, meditation on OM "does not give good effects, it will be responsible for decline and misfortune," he says. Instead, householders can benefit greatly from other mantras to meditate on; that is one big clue to the sounds (mantras) taught in the TM programme as fit for Transcendental Meditation. And there are more clues too. If you think Guru Dev's stand is revolutionary, think twice. Guru Dev was the venerated Shankaracharya of Northern India, just as the pope is a formal head of most Christians. [Mason 2009, p. 323-24].
It should be well known that long periods of improperly performed meditation may have negative psychological or physical side effects, whereas gentle yoga postures, "a little breathing" and "a gentle dip" of meditation could do you a lot of good. Yet, there is no theoretical explanation of health effects from meditation common to all meditation techniques. Here is an official statement from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:
Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Research on meditation"]
There may be very positive results of doing TM gracefully: stress reduction, improvement in health, great work enjoyment, understanding, confidence, creativity, and deep appreciation of the surrounding world.
As time goes by, meditation could also serve more as a retreat of recuperation and recharging the organism. That may work well too. There seems to be ample room for these two complementary focuses or balances. The crux of the matter is a promotion of deep happiness, and living in accordance with one's "deep mind" somehow.
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," is an old proverb. The problem is that the same food may not suit everybody, much depends on how much you eat, how often, and what you eat. Similar considerations apply to various methods of meditation. Just as there are many unresolved issues in the field of nutrition, there are many such issies in the field of meditation too. Let us have a look:
Summary. Over six hundred studies have been done on TM so far, and many physiologists and psychologists and medical doctors have recognized Transcendental Meditation's relaxing and vitalizing effects on the body and mind.
Studies have reported finding a positive correlation between the Transcendental Meditation technique and various health-related conditions, including reduction of high blood pressure, younger biological age, decreased insomnia, reduction of high cholesterol, reduced illness and medical expenditures, decreased cigarette smoking, decreased alcohol use, and decreased anxiety.
On the site "Truth about TM" by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, there is among other downloadable surveys a survey of 524 studies and research reviews on the TM technique and summaries of the findings of each study: [◦Link].
One may search the summary to find studies on TM and self-actualization, health, learning, personal development, productivity, quality of life, and other topics. The summaries are dividided into these groups:
Another gate into TM studies: A Wikipedia article named "Transcendental Meditation research". The article sums up some studies on TM, and is furnished with references, but is far less inclusive that David Orme-Johnson's survey with annotations.
In the Wikipedia article, the following subdivisions are used to get to grips with the content:
Good for the heart and circulation. The Transcendental Meditation technique can help relaxation and health education.
In 2005, the American Journal of Cardiology published a review of two studies that looked at stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation technique and mortality among patients receiving treatment for high blood pressure. This study was a long-term, randomized trial. The study tracked subjects for up to 18 years and found that the group practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had death rates that were reduced by 23%. Also in 2005, the American Journal of Hypertension published the results of a study that found the Transcendental Meditation technique may be useful as an adjunct in the long-term treatment of hypertension among African-Americans.
In 2006, a study published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine found that coronary heart disease patients who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique for 16 weeks showed improvements in blood pressure, insulin resistance, and autonomic nervous system tone, compared with a control group of patients who received health education.
The American Heart Association has published two studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique. In 2000, the association's journal Stroke published a study that found that, on average, the hypertensive, adult subjects who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique daily experienced reduced thickening of coronary arteries, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. After six to nine months, carotid intima-media thickness decreased in the group that was practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique as compared with matched control subjects.
The association's journal Hypertension published the results of a randomized, controlled trial in which a group of older African-Americans practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had reduced blood pressure.
A meta-analysis, conducted at the University of Kentucky, found Transcendental Meditation was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm Hg systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure. The study was published in the March, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.
A 2007 systematic review and meta-analysis funded by the NIH Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found effects of TM regarding blood pressure, body weight, heart rate, stress, anger, self-efficacy, cholesterol, dietary intake, or level of physical activity.
Improved cholesterol levels and verbal creativity.
Less drug use.
Cardiac autonomic-nervous-system tone in subjects with cardiovascular disease.
A 2000 study published in Stroke found that Transcendental Meditation, compared to health education, reduces atherosclerosis.
TM may be effective in reducing psychosocial stress ... The findings include reduced sleep dysfunction and increased health locus of control.
Reduced mortality in African Americans.
Several meta-analyses indicate that TM reduces anxiety, smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and improves psychological health.
A 2009 independent systematic review and a 2010 narrative review reported on several randomized controlled trials on students that found an improvement in blood pressure and cardiovascular function in the TM group. The TM group also had decreased absentee periods, rule infractions, and suspension days.
The 2010 review concluded that "Studies of TMís effect in youth on cardiovascular risk, cognition, affect, and behavior are promising.
Mind improvements. A 1985 study in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, and a 1989 study in Education showed improved academic performance.
A paper published in 2001 in the journal, Intelligence, reported the effects on 362 Taiwanese students of three randomized, controlled trials that used seven standardized tests. The trials measured the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique, a contemplative meditative technique from the Chinese tradition, and napping, on a wide range of cognitive, emotional and perceptual functions. The three studies ranged in time from six months to one year. Results indicated that taken together the Transcendental Meditation group had significant improvement on all seven measurements compared to the non-treatment and napping control groups. Contemplative meditation showed a significant result in two categories, and napping had no effect. The results included an increase in IQ, creativity, fluid intelligence, field independence, and practical intelligence.
A study in the American Journal of Managed Care indicates that there are no known side effects associated with the Transcendental Meditation technique.
More details. A 1989 meta-analysis conducted by a Stanford University physicist and longtime TM practitioner and two past members of the MUM faculty found that relaxation techniques reduce trait anxiety and that Transcendental Meditation had a larger effect size than other relaxation techniques. A 2006 review by the Cochrane collaboration found insufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of meditation for anxiety disorders, but also found that TM is equivalent to relaxation in reducing anxiety.
Three studies published in 2001 in the scholarly journal Intelligence found that TM reduced anxiety compared to simple rest, contemplative meditation, and no treatment.
The randomized controlled trial involving 154 high school students in China found that TM reduced anxiety compared to a control group that simply lay down to rest or sleep. This study was replicated by the same researchers in two subsequent randomized controlled trials. The three studies, characterized by Shauna Shapiro and Roger Walsh in a 2003 research review as being "well-designed studies", also found that TM improves cognitive performance, including increased practical intelligence, creativity, and speed of information processing.
The research review by Shauna Shapiro and Roger Walsh in a 2003 study involving 120 female subjects, which found that long-term TM practice may increase positive personality growth, with the subjects in the TM group being more confident, relaxed, introverted, satisfied, and conscientious, as well as being less anxious, compared to the control group.
Transcendental Meditation research has shown a reduction in negative psychological states and recidivism that is, returning to criminal behavior after being released from prison. According to a 2010 research review, studies involving hundreds of prisoners at San Quentin and Folsom State Prisons in California and Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts found that recidivism rates were reduced by as much as 47%. Overall, the TM prisoners at Folsom were 43% less likely to return to prison compared to control groups. The study at Folsom also looked at anxiety measures and found a sharp reduction compared to controls.
A 2009 review looked at the effect of TM on addiction and noted that while many studies exist, they were conducted by researchers affiliated with Transcendental Meditation and were not randomized controlled trials. Thus the evidence for treating addictive disorders is speculative. It said the simplicity of the technique, the physiological changes it induces, and the apparent effectiveness in nonpsychiatric settings merit further study and that "the theoretical basis for meditationís role in addressing substance use disorders is compelling."
Three randomized controlled trials on TM have shown reduced substance abuse. According to the Cambridge Textbook of Effective Treatments in Psychiatry, a randomized controlled trial that included the use of Transcendental Meditation in treating alcoholism found that TM and biofeedback increased abstinence in alcoholics. The textbook concluded that meditation can help alcoholic patients in a variety of ways.
Transcendental Meditation has been found to produce specific types of brain waves as measured by electroencephalography (EEG). Studies have found that, compared to a baseline, during meditation there is an increase in alpha amplitude followed by a slowing of the alpha frequency and the spread of this to the frontal cortex. Alpha brain waves are classically viewed as reflecting a relaxed brain.
Transcendental Meditation also produces alpha coherence, that is, large-scale integration of frequencies in different parts of the brain. Cambridge Textbook of Effective Treatments in Psychiatry holds that a global increase of alpha power and alpha coherence might not reflect a more 'ordered' or 'integrated' experience, as frequently claimed in TM literature, but rather a relaxed, inactive mental state."
Research suggests that the practice of TM results in states not ordinarily observed and that are associated with enhanced awareness. A state referred to by Maharishi: a "deeply restful yet fully alert state of inner wakefulness with no object of thought or perception." Research has found that specific physiological measures correlate with the experience of transcendental consciousness, including lower respiratory rates, greater heart rate variability, higher amplitude alpha brain waves, and greater alpha coherence.
In addition, a state that Maharishi called "cosmic consciousness", may be characterized by the experience of transcendental consciousness outside of meditation. Research on individuals experiencing this state during sleep as a result of practice of TM has found EEG profiles, muscle tone measurements, and REM indicators that suggest there is physiological evidence of this state. Further, Fred Travis of Maharishi University and Joe Tecce of Boston College have done research on individuals experiencing transcendental consciousness during activity, finding that they also exhibited brain wave signatures that were different from control groups. The research further suggested more efficient functioning in the frontal cortex of the brain.
EEG studies have shown an increase in theta waves and a dominant pattern of alpha waves in the frontal and occipital lobes. With long-term practice these changes seen in meditation carry over into activity. These changes may enhance brain integration and reduce emotional reactivity. And clinical studies have found meditation to be a possible antiepileptic therapy.
A brain imaging study on practitioners of Transcendental Meditation conducted by researchers affiliated with Maharishi University and the University of California at Irvine showed that, while it does not reduce pain, TM does reduce the emotional distress associated with the experience of pain, resulting in greater tolerance.
TM has been found to produce a set of characteristic responses such as reduced respiration, decreased breath volume, decreased lactate and cortisol (hormones associated with stress), increased basal skin resistance, and slowed heartbeat.
Meditation is usually considered safe, but Transcendental Meditation may be contraindicated for those with psychiatric illnesses. . Individuals with moderate symptoms have been observed to benefit from the practice.
Canter and Ernst's 2004 review found that all randomized clinical trials on blood pressure had important methodological weaknesses and were potentially biased by the affiliation of authors to the TM organization. It concluded that to date, there was "insufficient good-quality evidence to conclude whether or not TM has a cumulative positive effect on blood pressure". In response, TM researchers said that most of the studies in the review were funded by various institutes of the National Institutes of Health and that, as such, the methodologies were peer-reviewed by experts.
A 2007 systematic review of research on meditation, including Transcendental Meditation, said that firm conclusions on health effects cannot be drawn. With a particular focus on research pertaining to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse, the review used the Jadad scale to assess quality of the studies using control groups and Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for the others. The quality assessment portion of the 2007 review was published in 2008. The article stated that of 400 clinical studies, 10% were found to be good quality.
However, TM researchers said that the 2007 review suffered from various limitations related to data collection, analysis, and reporting procedures. Researchers affiliated with Maharishi University of Management and the University of Kentucky said that the use of double blinding, which is required by the Jadad scale, is not appropriate to meditation research and that the review failed to assess more relevant determinants of research quality. Canter and Ernst say that blinding of participants isn't feasible.
Research on Transcendental Meditation has been published by the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, as well as other medical journals such as the American Journal of Hypertension, the American Journal of Cardiology, and the International Journal of Psychophysiology. Research reviews have identified some studies as being "well-designed," "rigorous," or "high quality."
Most of the 700 studies on TM have been produced by researchers directly associated with the TM movement. However, David Orme-Johnson, citing the number of institutions worldwide where the research has been conducted, says that a meta-analyses of studies on TM and anxiety found that those studies done by researchers with no connection to TM showed a slightly larger effect than those studies by researchers who had a connection. What is more, the American University professor David Haaga, who has collaborated with TM researchers on five studies in 2009 and 2010 and who is "not committed to a favorable or unfavorable view of its effects," says that such collaboration helps to "ensure that procedures to minimize bias are always given highest priority in the conduct of the research."
TM has benefitted from much public funding in the U.S.A.
Philip Goldberg, in his 2010 book, American Veda, said some of the experts he spoke with accused TM advocates of using research findings to proselytize. David Orme-Johnson, who directed the TM research program for many years, responded that "enthusiasm for your data does not make your data wrong."
Against research findings, unsound parroting is not ideal.
Official Transcendental Meditation websites state that the Transcendental Meditation technique is a mental technique for deep rest that is associated with specific effects on mind and body. These sites state that the Transcendental Meditation technique does not require faith, belief, or a change in lifestyle to be effective as a relaxation technique.
The Transcendental Meditation technique, yoga, and other forms of meditation have been described as "spiritual" but not religious, and as coping strategies for life.
David Orme-Johnson, former faculty member at Maharishi University of Management, cites studies by Schecter, Alexander, and Pelletier showing greater autonomy, innovative thought, and increases in creativity, general intelligence and moral reasoning in those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. These studies indicate the ability of those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to make mature, independent, principle-based judgments.
Head and Heart
Needed today is a technique to harmonise the qualities of the head with those of the heart. [Maharishi]
Uniting "head and heart" is one goal of TM (Transcendental Meditation). In this context 'head' can represent both mind, thinking and assessing, that is, using the head. And 'heart' may signify deep state of mind. ideally, though, it refers to an inwardly perceived effect of doing TM. You are to get aware of it and focus on it in order to access it deeply. In daily living, better hands may to be added to the formula too, meaning that improved neural functioning "spills over into" and has beneficial effects on daily activities, roughly said.
"Dive deep within . . . profited by undisturbed, regular, and deep meditations." [Maharishi]
"Transcendental Meditation makes the active mind fully silent, . . . that silence remains when one comes out of meditation." [Maharishi]
The master sits cross-legged. "Offer to me bagfuls of your vices," he says. [About Shankaracharya Brahmananda, Guru Dev]
"Maharishi . . . Mahesh Yogi owed much, if not all of his spiritual understanding, to his teacher Shankaracharya Brahmanand Saraswati." [Paul Mason]
The Science of Being and Art of Living . . . addressed a multitude of subjects and pointed to meditation as a practical means to their fulfilment. [Paul Mason]
There are many fine books - some based on lectures by Maharishi - that go into main sides to the Transcendental Meditation movement. Dr. Sands' book serves as an introduction to the over-all picture after Maharishi's basic Transcendental Meditation with Questions and Answers. Below is a selection. - Tormod Kinnes
Ellis, George A. A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2012.
Forem, Jack. Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Rev. ed. London: Hay House, 2012.
Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi. Transcendental Meditation with Questions and Answers. 3rd ed (a reprint of the 1st ed. of 1967, with new appendices). India: Spiritual Regeneration Movement, Maharishi Foundation International, Maharishi Vedic University, 2011.
Rosenthal, Norman E. Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation. London: Hay House, 2011.
Sands, William F. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and His Gift to the World. Fairfield, IA: Maharishi University of Management Press, 2012.
The Transcendental Meditation Program. Official website. [◦Link]
Additional, or Background Takes
Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi. The Science of Being and Art of Living. New York: Plume/Penguin, 2001.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation and Commentary. Chapters 1-6. London: Penguin 1969.
Mason, Paul. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Rev. ed. Lyndhurst, Hampshire: Evolution, 2005.
Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
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