Understanding the effects of practicing Transcendental Meditation (Part 2)

 

Thoughts subside

Thoughts subside

The experiences of transcendence during the practice of Transcendental Meditation permit a better insight into the latest research on higher states of consciousness, published in the January 2014 issue of the Annals of the Academy of Sciences in New York. Conducted by Dr. Fred Travis, the research indicates that Transcendental Meditation leads to non-dual experiences of transcendence marked by a sense of self-awareness without content. The analysis of the descriptions of this experience based on 52 meditators shows that the spirit effortlessly moves inward in order to go beyond thought. The individual is more anchored in the inner Self and therefore less likely to be overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of daily life.

On the level of the physiology this experience is characterized by breath suspension as well as suspension in the perception of time and space. We systematically find this experience in individuals practicing Transcendental Meditation for only a few months with a significant increase of Alpha 1 waves, indicative of attention turned inward with a high level of vigilance. Alpha 2 waves that cover the rest of the spectrum, that is to say 10 to 12 Hz, are not associated with this experience. After a few years of practice, the EEG coherence found in the prefrontal cortex extends progressively to other areas of the brain and also beta and gamma waves. In the long term, there is also significant growth in the amplitude of theta waves. With the Transcendental Meditation technique, the prevailing observation is that with this practice, the brain works in a more global and integrated manner.

EEG coherence during meditation

EEG coherence during meditation

The more comprehensive and coherent functioning of the brain explains the superior results of Transcendental Meditation in many areas, primarily those pertaining to health. More than 380 studies, meeting the most stringent scientific standards, have been published in over 160 scientific journals over the last 30 years. They were conducted in many American universities [1], international universities and several research centers. In a scientific statement [2], the American Heart Association announced in April 2013 that the Transcendental Meditation technique was the only meditation practice that could significantly lower blood pressure. It has ranked all other techniques, including Mindfulness, in a third Class III category of studies lacking scientific rigor and bringing no tangible evidence in terms of effects on hypertension. The scientific statement from the AHA also noted that the reduction in blood pressure through the practice of Transcendental Meditation was associated with a significantly lower death rate resulting from heart attack or stroke. A five year double-blind study on patients with coronary heart disease found a 48% reduction in death rate following a heart attack or a stroke in subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation compared to a control group.

Measurement of EEG during meditation

Measurement of EEG during meditation

The effects on health of Transcendental Meditation are not limited to cardiovascular disease. They have been observed on many other diseases. The most significant demonstration results from the analysis of data collected by insurance companies in the US and Canada. The first study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 1987, recorded the health spending of 2000 Americans who practiced Transcendental Meditation and compared them to those of a control group matched for age, education, occupation and other variables. The result was very clear: the group of meditators went to the hospital 56% less often and saw a doctor 50% less often compared to the control group. An in depth Canadian study showed that this effect was not the result of better health of the group of meditators prior to learning the technique. Published by the American Journal of Health Promotion in 1996, the Canadian study in question compared the cost of health care for 677 persons enrolled in health insurance in the state of Quebec for three years before and after they learned Transcendental Meditation. It shows that before learning Transcendental Meditation health care expenses were comparable to those of people not practicing the technique. However, after learning Transcendental Meditation, spending on health care began to steadily decrease by 5 to 7% on average each year. The decrease was greater for those who had previously spent more on their health. For those intensive users of medical care, Transcendental Meditation resulted in an 18% annual reduction in spending, with a total reduction of expenses by 54% at the end of the three year study.

Self-actualization

Self-actualization

The effects of meditation on mental well-being are equally well documented, regarding  elimination of stress, and on personality development. Positive effects, including a substantial reduction in the rate of recurrence, have been observed in many prisons. This technique is suitable for all social environments. For example: a new study published in early 2014 in Permanente Journal [3] showed a substantial decrease in stress and ‘burn out’ among teachers; two common problems in educational settings. We know that ‘burn out’ – the syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and job dissatisfaction – reduces the performance of teachers and increases absenteeism and ‘turnover’. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the turnover rate in the United States has risen in recent years to establish itself at an average of 16.8%. In schools located in urban areas, it exceeds 20%.

Decrease in 'Burn Out' in teachers

Decrease in ‘Burn Out’ in teachers

The turnover problem is particularly acute for young teachers starting out in their careers. Indeed, 46% of them leave the profession within five years. Led by Dr. Charles Elder, MD, MPH, the study took place at the Bennington School [4], a boarding school for children with behavioral problems. The study involved 40 teachers and administrative staff, some of which learned Transcendental Meditation. After four months of meditation, the results, as measured by the standard test of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, showed a significant decrease of factors such as perceived stress, emotional exhaustion and depressive symptoms. The most significant effects were seen on perceived stress. These results demonstrate the advantage of introducing Transcendental Meditation into educational settings as well as into public or private enterprises. Other recent studies further demonstrate the positive effect of Transcendental Meditation on the academic performance of students as well as on their stress level, a finding that explains the adoption of this technique in numerous high schools in the United States and in the  world thanks to the field work of the David Lynch Foundation.

David Lynch with the ex-Beatle Ringo Starr

David Lynch with the ex-Beatle Ringo Starr

What about the effects on personality? A meta-analysis compared the effects of various meditation techniques in terms of « self-realization », of psychological maturity and development, factors that describe, according to the famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow, an advanced state of personal development. This meta-analysis shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique is twice as effective as other techniques in improving results on self-realization tests after only a few months of practice. Another meta-analysis, published in October 2013 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that compared to other meditation and relaxation techniques, Transcendental Meditation obtained the best results in reducing anxiety. The development of creativity is another significant benefit. The experience of transcendence creatively solves problems because it allows for thinking « outside the common framework ». Without this experience, the mind remains a prisoner of words and concepts within the common framework. During transcendence, the attention goes beyond time and space. Upon returning to normal activity after this experience, the world is perceived completely different. In a study published in Creativity Research Journal, Dr. Fred Travis and Yvonne Lagrosen (Sweden) show that greater creativity is coupled with a « more comprehensive and more integrated brain functionning. »

The effects of Transcendental Meditation on anxiety

The effects of Transcendental Meditation on anxiety

In terms of experience, it is totally natural and effortless that the attention of the meditator moves towards this state of deep rest and inner silence. Bob Roth, transcendental meditation teacher at the David Lynch Foundation explains: “the mind is like the ocean, agitated on the surface, silent and calm in the depth.” Transcendental Meditation is the technique that allows one to naturally access these deeper levels. Note that neither the meditations with « focused attention » nor meditations with « open attention » will develop the subject, nor do they develop coherence and integration of the brain. They put an end to mental wandering by diverting attention from self-representation in favor of the object, which is shown in the dramatic increase in gamma waves. Meditation techniques with automatic transcendence, including Transcendental Meditation, first develop the prefrontal cortex and therefore the personality of the subject.

Better and faster results on post-traumatic stress

Better and faster results on post-traumatic stress

Originating from the Vedic tradition, Transcendental Meditation has sacrificed neither ceremony nor the link to its roots, both of which are deemed necessary in advancing on the path of evolution. Practiced by people of all religious beliefs and social environments, it has retained its spiritual dimension while providing invaluable benefits in terms of well-being and health. Regarding spiritual development, a subject often misunderstood in our societies, the Indian sage Maharishi Mahesh Yogi recalls that the state of enlightenment is characterized by maintaining the experience of transcendence and its corresponding state of lesser excitement during normal activity. In this state, the brain functions in an efficient and coherent manner. The regular practice of Transcendental Meditation allows one to achieve this state through the dissolution of stress, even intense stress as in the case of post-traumatic stress. Among war veterans or victims of attacks, their attention is continuously captured by traumatic memories, the amygdala having taken control of the prefrontal cortex of their brain. That is why these people are struggling to live a « normal life » with employment and satisfying relationships. Several studies on PTSD show the positive effects of Transcendental Meditation. Ugandan refugees suffering from severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress, showed a reduction in symptoms after only ten days of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and an absence of symptoms after only one month of practice. A meta-analysis of eight studies on the reduction of post-traumatic stress symptoms showed that Transcendental Meditation gave much better and much faster results than Mindfulness. [5]

More global brain functionning

More global brain functionning

Conclusion: The practice of Transcendental Meditation is easy and effortless. It allows each person to feel happier in their everyday life, thereby allowing for better social integration. Studies show that this technique is the most effective in eliminating stress and promoting efficient and integrated brain functioning, thereby reducing anxiety and developing health. The experience of transcendence develops the personality and leadership of the subject, which other meditation families do not. The practice transforms the stressful perception of current life situations into challenges that the individual can overcome more and more easily, making life richer and more satisfying. The individual can take more responsibility without feeling overwhelmed because the prefrontal cortex keeps control of all situations thanks to the coherence developed day after day on the level of the functioning brain.

 

Jo Cohen, HR consultant

 

Translation : Laurence Folz

 

 

[1] Some of these studies were conducted at Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, Yale Medical School and the Medical School of UCLA.

[2] Brook RD et al, Beyond Medications and Diet. Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure. A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension, 61:00, 2013.

[3] Elder, Charles; Nidich, Sanford; Moriarty, Francis; Nidich, Randi. « Effect of Transcendental Meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: A randomized controlled study. » The Permanente Journal, Winter 2014, Vol 18 (1), pages 19-23.

[4] This school is located in Vermont, USA.

[5] Study conducted by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, a former professor of psychology at the Maharishi University of Management and author of a hundred studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique.

 

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *