Introducing Transcendental Meditation: Evidence-Based Holistic Effects from an Effortless Process
The Transcendental Meditation technique (or TM) as taught by the founder of the TM program, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is a simple, natural, scientifically validated practice with a broad body of holistic benefits to all diverse aspects of life—psychological, physiological, emotional, behavioral, and societal.
Simply defined, the transcendental meditation technique is an effortless practice done in the mind with immediate corresponding measurable effects on the brain, the nervous system, and generally throughout the whole physiology. TM is mechanical, like riding a bike is mechanical, so requires no intellectual understanding or belief, or philosophy to make it work. There is no directive to change lifestyle or diet.
In TM, there is no intent to be mindful, and it involves neither effort nor concentration, nor trying to control the mind. The technique is done sitting comfortably for 20 minutes twice daily with the eyes closed and it involves no recitation or breathing exercise so can be done anywhere, even publicly on a train or park bench and so on.
What happens during the TM technique
To understand what happens during the TM technique, we have to look at the nature of life itself. If we look around us, from the macrocosm to the microcosm, we see that intelligence is operating everywhere. We see it in the rotation of the planets and the structure of electrons around the nucleus of an atom. We see it in the growth of a fetus to an infant to an adult. We see it operating throughout the body, circulating or blood, building new cells, repairing damage, and allowing us to breathe or sneeze or cough or yawn as needed. That infinite organizing intelligence that’s in nature and that’s also fundamental to the function of our bodies, is also present within the mind, giving rise to a never-ending stream of thoughts throughout our life.
Every thought we have is constructed of energy and intelligence and creativity. During the Transcendental Meditation technique, our attention goes from a concrete level of thinking to subtler levels of thinking and even transcends thought itself to experience the inner field of pure consciousness, pure intelligence, which is not a correlate for—but is the same field of infinite intelligence that is at the source of all manifest creation.
That field of infinite potential which is the source of all manifest life is the source of thought within our minds. The reason that we aren’t using the full potential of our minds is that we haven’t been systematically and repeatedly tapping that source—until we learn the TM technique.
The innate power of the mind
We all know that there is more power available at the atomic level than there is on the molecular level. We create a more far-reaching powerful effect by manipulating an atom than a molecule. The grosser levels of the structure of matter have less power and are more differentiated than the subtler levels.
Max Planck, the father of quantum theory, stated, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.”
The reason the TM technique can produce profound effects that simultaneously permeate all aspects of life is that it enlivens that most profound powerful level of consciousness and pure intelligence within the mind. Unlike mindfulness techniques that monitor activity on a concrete level of perception, and unlike concentration or contemplation techniques that keep the mind involved in thought by their very processes, the TM technique allows the mind to settle down and transcend thinking while remaining restfully alert.
This restful alertness, this fully wakeful silent level of experience is a fourth major state of consciousness, unlike waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. And, like those, it has its value and its benefits to life.
A taste of published research
There have been over 435 published peer-reviewed research studies in over 200 journals around the world on the benefits of experiencing this fourth state—transcendental consciousness. I’ll mention just a couple of them in the categories of benefits I’ll be discussing.
Benefits to the brain
When the mind is transcending and experiencing this unique experience of inner silent wakefulness, there is an increased flow of blood to the prefrontal cortex, known as the CEO of the brain—the organizer of brain function.
Also, there is a significant increase in communication between distant different parts of the brain, associated with hard objective long-term measures including increased IQ, academic performance, grade point average, memory, cognition, field independence, and ability to focus on a task at hand even during immense distractions. This brain integration correlates with top performance mentally.
Deep rest and benefits to the body
As I mentioned, the results of TM are holistic. We all know that our mind and body are intimately connected—the TM technique’s benefits to the body come from what happens in the mind and from an enlivenment of intelligence in physiology.
During TM, when our mind settles down, our metabolic rate drops. The experience is of deep relaxation.
From the start of a period of meditation to just several minutes into it, the metabolism drops more points than it does from the beginning of sleep to the deepest point of sleep. We all know that deep rest allows the body’s self-referral healing mechanisms to do its job. Fatigue is dissolved. Stress is dramatically reduced.
TM and heart health
One significant result of the very tangible relaxation and reduction of stress is heart health. In 2013 the American Heart Association did its study on the TM technique, measuring various programs that can reduce blood pressure. They compared all categories and found that only TM among all meditations, using hard measures, significantly reduces hypertension. They released a statement saying that the TM program should be considered for use in clinical practice whereas they could not recommend any other practice, including mindfulness techniques.
Another study of 200 people who had previous cardiac events monitored their cardiac health over five years. Those who learned TM and practiced twice daily as prescribed had a 66% reduction in heart attack and stroke compared to the controls. Even those who were irregular had a 48% reduction.
Yet another study showed a unique reduction with TM of all three components of metabolic syndrome: insulin resistance, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Improved health across the board
We know that stress itself is blamed for 90% or more of diseases that are either caused by stress or complicated by it, from hypertension to some types of cancer. Many of the studies on TM have shown a significant reduction in stress and psychosomatic disease. Along with decreased stress, anxiety, and depression we see hard measures indicating a broad range of greater health in the body, from healthier pregnancy to greater longevity.
Blue cross blue shield Health insurance statistics studied for both a five-year and an 11-year period showed TM produced a 50% reduction in healthcare utilization and costs across many categories of disease, compared to controls.
Stress and anxiety reduction
There is a 30 to 40% reduction in all three of the major stress hormones as a result of TM practice. This chart shows that after four weeks of tm, there is a significant reduction of the major stress hormone cortisol.
Due to the decrease in stress, fatigue, and anxiety, and to the integration of brain activity and the reduction of stress-related hormones, a TM meditator starts to enjoy increasing levels of happiness and well-being. This published study indicated the big difference in effectiveness in anxiety relief compared to other meditations.
More harmonious relationships
Improved mental and physical health is the basis of friendly behavior– a wealth of studies have shown that relationships improve as a result of TM—every kind of relationship. Benefits to the mind and body are fundamental to improving receptivity and appreciation and behavior.
Research has shown these behavioral benefits in studies on-site in schools, hospitals, government offices, businesses, and even in prisons. With decreased stress, violent and impulsive behavior decreases and even recidivism significantly decreases.
Society and the unified field
So, we can see that it is possible to have one solution to all problems if the solution enlivens the intelligence of nature as a foundation for the evolution of all systems. This field effect of intelligence, because it pervades everything everywhere, is evident in the more than twenty studies published on the effects of TM meditators on the population in their environment.
The unified field theory is the cutting edge of modern physics, holding that all laws of nature—all streams of intelligence—are united at the transcendent level of all life, all matter, and our own minds in one unified field. We are all connected at that level.
Just as when you drop a pebble in a pond, and a wave is generated that spreads in all directions to the furthest edges of the pond, when a person transcends and experiences this restful alert state of pure consciousness within, ripples of intelligence rise throughout everything.
Repeated published studies show that when 1% of a population in a city practices the TM technique, all societal indicators of negativity (such as criminal behavior, suicide, and accidents) dramatically decrease while positive trends (such as economic upswings) increase.
In brief: the mind settles down, the body settles down—and all the results naturally occur in all aspects of life. This gives you a picture of the comprehensive benefit of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA