You have been coaching Transcendental Meditation for decades. Can you explain to our readers what this type of meditation is specifically and the science behind it?
According to research, there are three basic types of meditation: 1. Focused attention, where you try to clear your mind of thoughts. 2. Open monitoring, where you try to dispassionately observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations in your body, the environment. (Many “mindfulness” techniques are like this.) Both of these approaches require some degree of effort and can be difficult for many people. 3. Self-transcending, which is Transcendental Meditation. This meditation is 100 percent effortless and allows anyone to experience a natural state of stillness that lies deep within the mind of everyone. This experience of stillness provides the body with a profound state of rest and relaxation, which reduces stress, anxiety, and fatigue and increases energy, creativity and focus.
You state you were formerly a sceptic of meditation. What changed? Were there any specific influencers or a profound moment that ignited this transition?
I am a sceptic, but I am not a cynic. In other words, I don’t believe things at face value, I need to experience things for myself. My scepticism disappeared after my first few experiences of TM, during which my body felt incredibly relaxed and yet my mind was deeply settled and wide awake. It felt completely natural and yet unique. But what was most impactful was how energized and awake I felt afterwards—and how much better I slept at night. All within the first week or so… And it has lasted now decades later.
Transcendental meditation is particularly useful for coping with stress, which is a growing concern in the modern, fast-paced digitised world. How does it help people suffering from stress?
Any doctor will tell you that the best antidote to stress is deep rest. Yes, we need to exercise and eat well, but ultimately the most effective way to help people who are suffering stress is to give them a state of rest that, in many regards, is deeper than sleep. And it is so easy to do!
What are some of the other notable benefits of transcendental meditation? How does it help sleep, creativity, memory, focus and more?
The brain is our most important organ. It regulates how we respond to stressful situations, how healthy we are, how energized and creative and focused we are. TM wakes up the creative and executive centres of the brain and increases communication between these different areas of the brain. Like everything else in life, everything good about the brain depends up communication. So that is why people who practice TM are naturally more creative, have a better memory and can stay focused for longer periods of time. It is not magic; it is the brain.
You have worked with many celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, Oprah and Naomi Watts. Why do celebrities come to you and how has transcendental meditation helped them?
Hugh, Oprah, Naomi, and others are like the rest of us in that they also can feel incredibly stressed and anxious; they also can have trouble sleeping at night. They also need to be more creative and more focused in their lives. So they start meditating for the exact same reasons the rest of us do: to feel happier and healthier and more connected to themselves and the people they love.
You have just released a new book, Strength In Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation. What was your goal in writing this book?
There is so much misunderstanding about the whole field of meditation, in general, and about Transcendental Meditation, in particular. I wrote the book to clear up these misunderstandings so that people can make an informed, science-based decision about whether they want to incorporate TM into their lives.
You are currently touring Australia visiting veteran’s hospitals, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, prisons and schools to discuss transcendental meditation. How do you approach this topic across such a range of people and what are the responses?
We are living in an epidemic of trauma and toxic stress—and it is hitting our vulnerable, at-risk populations the hardest, including the veteran who suffers from the nightmare of PTSD or the student who lives in a violent neighbourhood or the woman who is escaping an abusive relationship. In every case, research shows that TM is an excellent, essential tool in the toolbox to help these adults and children overcome stress and transform their lives. In years past, one could dismiss the notion of TM in schools or companies or on military bases as either absurd or a luxury. But no longer. The problem of stress is everywhere in the world—just look at the high suicide rates among teenagers. TM is now being recognized as an essential tool to help everyone—rich or poor or those of modest means—handle stress and live a happier, healthier life.
Strength in Stillness by Bob Roth, published by Simon & Schuster, AU$ 19.99, NZ$ 22.99.