by Global Good News staff writer
20 June 2011
A friend of mine recently asked me to explain how the Transcendental Meditation Technique is different from simple relaxation. After all, she pointed out, we all have some idea of how to relax, whether it be taking a nap, watching TV, or having a drink. Is the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique something more? And is it different from other types of meditation?
The answer to both of these questions is a big YES!
What makes Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation Technique unique
The key to the uniqueness of this particular practice is spelled out in its name: Transcendental Meditation. It allows you to transcend, to go beyond the limitations and boundaries of thought or objects of sensory perception.
During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique, your mind naturally, effortlessly, and systematically settles down from its active surface level to more and more settled states of thought. (What a relief!)
But the inward process doesn’t stop at even the most refined state of thought. It goes beyond the finest value of the thinking process. Your mind transcends thought and experiences a silent, and yet wakeful, state of restful alertness. While your body enjoys a deep state of rest, scientifically shown to be more than twice as deep as that of deep sleep, your mind is fully awake and alert, basking in its own pure, inner nature and poised for dynamic, successful activity following the practice.
The benefits of transcending
This experience of transcending—which is physiologically distinct from being awake, dreaming, or sleeping and which is known as a fourth state of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness—distinguishes the Transcendental Meditation Technique from other forms of meditation or relaxation and allows it to offer an extraordinary array of results.
Extensive scientific research (over 600 studies performed at 250 independent universities and medical schools in 33 countries over the last 40 years) demonstrates that the experience of Transcendental Consciousness gives profound rest and rejuvenation to mind and body.
The research strongly supports the principle that it is this fourth state of consciousness that produces the wide range of benefits—mental, physiological, behavioural, and environmental/sociological—spontaneously resulting from the Transcendental Meditation Technique. Simply by experiencing the infinite energy, creativity, and intelligence at the source of thought, your awareness becomes infused with these qualities.
A brief comparison
While the Transcendental Meditation Technique is all about effortless transcending, other techniques engage the mind and keep it active or busy in various ways, usually on the more surface thinking levels.
Mindfulness meditation, for example, generally involves watching one’s thoughts, the breath, or bodily sensations while sitting quietly. Typically the student does not judge or hold onto thoughts or perceptions, but merely observes them. This form of meditation is often described as the process of being attentive to one’s experiences.
Mindfulness takes place in the waking state of consciousness with the heightened focus of attention resulting in increased gamma waves in the back of the brain. Another type of brain wave activity, alpha activity, which is indicative of a relaxed yet wakeful state, does not significantly change during mindfulness meditation.
In contrast, research on the Transcendental Meditation Technique, has repeatedly demonstrated highly synchronous slow alpha frequency activity in the frontal cortex, the CEO of the brain, a reflection of the experience of restful alertness characteristic of Transcendental Consciousness.
Studies also show that practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation Technique experience global EEG coherence, holistic brain functioning whereby the left and right hemispheres and the front and back of the brain work in harmony with each other.
This orderliness indicates improved brain functioning overall and has been correlated with improved learning ability and memory, greater problem-solving and decision-making abilities, higher IQ, better moral reasoning, and increased neurological efficiency.
The significance of this state of brain wave coherence in those who practise the Transcendental Meditation Technique, which is not found in ordinary relaxation or other forms of meditation, is emphasized by neurologist Dr Gary Kaplan who says ‘Everything good about the brain depends on its orderly functioning.’
It is also noteworthy that while the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique involves no focused attention, the mind becomes very still and relaxed resulting in increased ability to focus outside of meditation.
Meditators’ comments reveal how life gets better
A few comments of practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation Technique offer a more personal perspective of how it enhances life.
A gentleman remarks: ‘I don’t like to miss my Transcendental Meditation sessions: they’re deeply pleasurable, and give me more time in the day. I get more done, my work is of a higher quality and there’s no strain. Then I have plenty of energy left for other things, and the freedom in my head to go for them.’
A woman reports on profound health benefits: ‘A month after regular Transcendental Meditation sessions, I’d given up my 30-a–day smoking habit, without any withdrawal symptoms. Five months later, my blood pressure had decreased significantly without any medicine or extra exercise. I was also sleeping better, had fewer asthma attacks, and found my IBS had eased.’
Another woman tells of how life is getting better: ‘The greatest benefit Transcendental Meditation has blessed me with is clearer and sharper thinking. It seems to open new doors and opportunity into my life. Regular meditation helps me seize the day, spy the opportunity and grab hold of my own destiny with both hands. Everything used to feel like a constant struggle. Now I seem to be doing better and better and my life seems to be getting easier.’
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