A celebrated method of self-development, transcendental meditation has been embraced by more than five million people around the world. Prominent American researcher Dr. Robert Schneider speaks to MiNDFOOD about the wide-reaching health benefits of the practice
What is transcendental meditation and how did it come about?
Transcendental Meditation is a simple, effortless, mental technique practised for 15-20 minutes twice a day. It’s not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle; it’s the most widely practiced, most researched, and most effective method of self-development. Worldwide, more than five million people, including about 45,000 New Zealanders, have learned this simple, natural technique — people of all ages, cultures, and religions.
The TM technique allows your mind to settle inward, beyond thought, to experience the silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence found within everyone—a natural state of restful alertness. During the practice, your brain functions with significantly greater coherence and your body gains deep rest. This unique state of restful alertness produced during TM practice dissolves stress and fatigue, promoting balanced functioning of mind and body and more harmonious behaviour.
The Transcendental Meditation technique comes from a timeless tradition of knowledge — the Vedic tradition of ancient India — that has withstood the test of time as an advanced science and technology of consciousness, handed down by Vedic teachers from generation to generation for thousands of years. Restored to its original effectiveness, the Transcendental Meditation technique was introduced to the world in 1957 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
What health benefits does it pose for practicers?
Scientific research has shown that the practise of Transcendental Meditation leads to a wide array of health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, decreased stress and anxiety, reduced Atherosclerosos, reduced thickening of coronary arteries, reduced constriction of blood vessels, reduced Myocardial Eschemia, reduced need for doctor visits, slowing of ageing.
According to a recent report from the American Heart Association published on 22 April 2013, the Transcendental Meditation technique is the only meditation practice that has been shown to lower blood pressure. The AHA also reported the finding that lower blood pressure through Transcendental Meditation practice is associated with substantially reduced rates of death, heart attack and stroke.
As well, the practise of Transcendental Meditation leads to increased creativity, improved learning ability, higher IQ, better moral reasoning, and more efficient brain functioning.
How did you come to be involved and practice transcendental meditation?
While at the University of Michigan Medical School in the early 1980’s, I trained in the specialty of hypertension. There I learned about the brain-heart connection. My thought at the time was, if the stress can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease, then an effective stress reduction technique might help to treat and prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. From there, I began to scientifically study the role of meditation in heart health.
Could you please list the medical conditions and/or illnesses it could assist with?
ADHD, anxiety, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, depression, diabetes, insomnia, memory, obesity, substance abuse – eg, smoking, stress, stroke prevention
What are the first steps for those who wish to practise it?
The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught through a seven-step course of instruction by a trained TM teacher. The course is followed by weekly, and then monthly, checking sessions to ensure correct practice of the technique. The course also includes an optional, lifetime follow-up of checking and knowledge to ensure maximum benefit. Anyone 10 years of age or older can learn the practice. (There’s a special technique for children under 10.)
Transcendental Meditation is taught in New Zealand through the Maharishi Foundation, a non-profit educational registered charity. To learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, or to schedule a free introductory lecture by a certified teacher, please visit (www.tm.org.nz) or phone 0800-2-12345.
Do you have any healing success stories you can share with us?
A number of patients in our studies have related how they were able to reduce or in some cases, eliminate their blood pressure medications. Almost everyone reports improved quality of life – less stress, greater well-being and vitality. Of course many people lived longer and healthier than otherwise expected.
Is it for everyone?
Yes – transcendental Meditation is for everyone. It isn’t a religion, lifestyle or philosophy, nor does it involve any set of beliefs. If you can think a thought, you can learn TM and there is even a special children’s technique for 5 – 9 year olds. So whether you’re 9 or 99 you can learn TM and gain all the benefits.
What do you say to the skeptics who are wary of ‘new-age’ healing techniques?
Transcendental Meditation isn’t new-age – it comes from the timeless Vedic tradition of India and was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. One of Maharishi’s important contributions has been to subject the Transcendental Meditation programme to scientific scrutiny by inviting scientists to conduct extensive research on the practice, thereby establishing the TM technique’s practical benefits on the objective ground of modern science.
Even if someone is sceptical Transcendental Meditation works, this is because you don’t have to believe in anything for it to work. It is simply a technique that anyone can do and has profound benefits for our mind, body and relationships with others.