Posts Tagged ‘health benefits’

How #TranscendentalMeditation is helping lifestyle writer/editor @Tara_Gardner_ @glam

September 8, 2018

I was so impressed with this article I shared it via Twitter and my newsletter. It’s so good I decided to post it on my blog. Tara Gardner‘s experience and understanding of what makes TM unique among other meditations is impressive. She nails it! I like her style and highlighted two key sentences. Here it is without visuals or links, except mine. Click on Glam to see the original published August 27, 2018.

How Transcendental Meditation Gives Me Mental Clarity Like Nothing Else

It hit me, quite literally, after endless months of going to sleep wired, waking up tired, and spending my days drifting through a murky brain fog. I stepped out onto the Chicago streets one morning, absent-mindedly looking in the British direction, and got clipped by a car. Something had to give.

Living in a new city and forging a new career as a freelance editor with a bazillion deadlines, I didn’t really give my head time to acclimatize. I just jumped right in and expected my brain and body to follow behind. To alleviate the low energy, I dosed myself on coffee and copious amounts of Diet Coke, riding the caffeine highs until the crashes became too much. After the car accident, I realized that I needed to find a way to give my head a break from the cranial quicksand of daily life. So, like any editor, I hit the trends — from cleanses to self-care — hard. Then, I tried elimination diets. I felt better physically, but the mental cloud still hadn’t cleared. (And, no, it wasn’t jet-lag, as many suggested; I’d been in the U.S. for six months at that point.)

Back in London, I had done several mindfulness meditation courses. I always felt a little superficially smug about doing them, too — like you do after you’ve just finished a three-day juice cleanse and everyone in the office is asking you how amazing you feel, but secretly all it made you want to do is eat a bucket of fried chicken. Truth was, I never actually noticed a huge shift in anything. Perhaps I wasn’t doing it properly. Perhaps my brain was immune to it. Perhaps (and most likely) I was sleeping through it. Obviously, mindfulness works for a lot of people, and I’m not saying it isn’t a method worth trying — we’re all wired differently. In fact, it’s one of the most popular forms of meditation, really hitting the mainstream in recent years thanks to a multitude of apps and YouTube videos.

But the main sticking point for me was its rigidity. Clear your mind. Clear the thoughts of clearing your mind. Self-observe but don’t think about those observations as you meditate. Focus on your breathing, but don’t think thoughts about your breathing. It all felt too, well, mindful. That said, I did enjoy the fact that it helped me be more present in my daily life, to take a moment, breathe and notice the more mundane daily activities, rather than rushing through every moment thinking about dinner, my next Instagram post, or a fight on The Real Housewives.

However, this practice didn’t travel with me to Chicago. I readily gave myself excuses, which I mindfully accepted: “I’m too busy teaching my cat to sit to take 12 minutes for meditation,” I would tell myself. It wasn’t until I started getting dragged down the rabbit hole of Twin Peaks season three (episode 8 anyone?) that I found myself looking up David Lynch interviews for clues as to what the heck was actually going on. I stumbled upon a video of him talking about Transcendental Meditation, or TM as it’s commonly called.

Anything that could open up my brain to the levels of Lynch-imagination was worth investigating. Oh, and add that Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Kate Hudson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, not that surprising), and Oprah all reportedly practice it, my pack-mentality told me there’s got to be something to this. Also, having long been a Seinfeld fan, the fact that the uber cynical Jerry Seinfeld was also a major advocate of the practice, gave me the green light. “You know how your phone has a charger?” he said during an appearance on Good Morning America. “TM is like having a charger for your mind and body.” I was sold.

Hippy-dippy, cultish connotations aside, TM is actually one of the most scientifically studied, evidence-backed forms of meditation out there. Studies have reported that it can increase and improve actual grey matter (brain cells), along with supporting all manner of issues, including PTSD, depression, ADHD, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and more. “Transcendental Meditation doesn’t focus on breathing or chanting like other forms of meditation,” the official TM website reads. “Instead, it encourages a restful state of mind beyond thinking.” And, as I started researching it more, I found myself really drawn not just to the science but also the technique.

Unlike mindfulness or other meditations, it’s not about trying to empty the mind or monitor thoughts. In fact, concentration or trying to control thoughts couldn’t be further from the practice, making it ideal for a brain full of jumping beans like mine. What TM is at its core is getting to a place of deep relaxation, deeper than any other meditation practice, to the point where it doesn’t matter what you’re thinking about or if you’re having thoughts at all.

What TM is at its core is getting to a place of deep relaxation, deeper than any other meditation practice, to the point where it doesn’t matter what you’re thinking about or if you’re having thoughts at all.

With the thick soup of emotions, activities, actions, and lack of sleep that makes up modern life, many of us find ourselves in a constant state of stress — whether we realize it or not. Our fight or flight responses are jacked up, leaving us in a pickle of confused cortisols and befuddled coping mechanisms, which really just mask the inner noise. This is where TM practice can really help, putting the body into a deep, regular state of relaxation, in which to heal and restore.

Think of the brain like an ocean, the practice says. The surface of the ocean is the conscious or thinking mind, and the waves are like the thoughts. Mindfulness remains on or slightly below this surface, but no deeper. TM is about effortlessly sinking as low into consciousness as possible — to the bottom of that ocean. Now, that’s not to say you’ll start levitating or have some out of body experience; it’s more that you’ll experience the relaxing and precious feeling you get just before sleep when you’re still sort of awake. That’s the “transcendence,” or as some call it, the “bliss” state.

But what is it that brings you down to this level? No guided words of wisdom or philosophical outlooks on life. It’s actually super simple and has been practiced this way for 5,000 years, originating in India. To anchor down into this state, your TM teacher gives you a word, a Transcendental Meditation mantra that is unique to you, which you silently repeat until it just becomes an intuitive and effortless act. The word is deliberately meaningless and more of a sound.  Yes, I did try Googling it to no avail, and you can’t say it out loud or share it with anyone else out of respect for the practice.

Quite aside from stereotypical views of sitting cross-legged or lotus with a straight back and Om position, you’re encouraged to find a comfortable spot to sit and relax into the meditation. Sitting for 20 minutes while repeating the mantra, you’ll find that over time everything just slows down, breathing becomes deep but quiet, and the mantra starts to fade to the back of your mind, while thoughts that were whizzing around at the forefront kind of just drift away.

I can honestly say, it’s a feeling quite like no other. After my first round of Transcendental Meditation mantras, it felt like I woke up out of a trance. The more I started practicing — with the four-session TM course and then on my own twice a day — the deeper I was lulled by its resulting calmness. I’ll admit that I was at first daunted by the idea that I’d need to do this twice a day, for 20 minutes each, but once the practice started, it actually became like a treat I’d look forward to, totally the opposite of previous meditations. I mean who wouldn’t want to escape Twitter shouting matches, Facebook political fights, and the constant ping of work emails for a deep, serene journey into the mind cave? Also, all cat-training went out the window.

I’ll admit that I was at first daunted by the idea that I’d need to do this twice a day, for 20 minutes each, but once the practice started, it actually became like a treat I’d look forward to, totally the opposite of previous meditations.

Some people in my course claimed almost instant effects from their practice — good moods, clarity, increased productivity — but me being the cynical Brit, I had to really take a step back and think carefully before announcing I was a “new” person. The thing is that it can take days, weeks, months, even years to see or notice the effects, depending on what you’re dealing with. But, as I started to regularly do the practice, I did find the fog lifting, the clarity coming through, and my thoughts becoming more ordered. The daily juggling act began to feel smoother and more efficient.

Still, it’s not always easy. There are moments when it feels like a Grand Slam final between my thoughts and the Transcendental Meditation mantras, but as long as the mantra is there, effortless and anchoring, good stuff is happening in ways and on levels I might never even be aware of. And, even if it’s not, it’s still like taking a twice daily, luxury brain staycation, which can only be a good thing.

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To learn more about Tara Gardner visit her website.

Also see: How is Transcendental Meditation different from mindfulness?

Quora posted this question: What is the difference between Mindfulness meditation and Transcendental Meditation? Read a very clear and concise answer Jim Karpen gave explaining their differences in method, experience, and scientific research. 

Sharpen your mind with meditation, by David Hughes, in March 2012 issue of Choice Magazine

March 20, 2012

Thought you might like to see this article, Sharpen your mind with meditation, published in the March 2012 issue of Choice, a national magazine in the UK aimed at the over-50s, which may include most of us, these days! Here is the text taken from their Health section on pages 48-49. There is a slight typo on the bottom left of page 48 — they put Dr Rosenthal’s photo with a caption belonging to another doctor quoted in the article. But he was fine about it, and thought it was a good article. I agree; it is very well written. You can download a PDF of the article, which is nicely laid out with photos and quotes. Choice – March 2012. Since this is in print, I activated the links at the end and added some.

Sharpen your mind with meditation

Once dismissed as hippyish humbug, meditation is being increasingly recognised by medical science as a way to keep your mind sharp, reports David Hughes.

FORTY YEARS ago, most busy people in the West would probably have preferred to reveal an interest in bear-baiting than meditation.

Associated with otherworldly images of incense, chanting and flower-power, meditation was generally viewed as faintly eccentric. Taking it up aroused suspicion of imminent departure on the Kathmandu trail – if not to somewhere decidedly warmer, in the view of some religious fundamentalists. Not any more.

Maybe it’s the fast pace of life and the stresses that go with it, but nowadays everyone seems to be closing the eyes and seeking nirvana. No celebrity feature is complete without mention of the meditative flavour of the month, despite which – or maybe because of it – the whole subject has become not merely respectable, but downright fashionable.

Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn and many others champion Buddhist-related practices, while film-maker David Lynch has recruited a host of fellow Transcendental Meditators – including Sir Paul McCartney, who describes the technique as ‘a lifelong gift’ – to support his campaigns to teach TM to groups as diverse as youngsters in inner-city schools, the homeless, and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Everyone, it seems, can benefit from meditation. Yet while celebrity endorsement is one engine which has driven this trend, there’s another, less glamorous but more impressive: scientific research.

Since 1970, thousands of studies have been performed on all kinds of meditative practices – cautiously at first, as the field hardly seemed scientifically respectable, but with increasing enthusiasm as initial, promising findings led to a host of impressive long-term results. Meditation, it seems, can be a highly effective way of ‘de-stressing’ mind and body, enabling us to boost physical energy, stay mentally alert, improve memory, and live longer, happier and more successful lives.

Transcending thought
The best-researched practice, Transcendental Meditation – with more than 340 studies published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals – involves two 20-minute sessions per day sitting comfortably with eyes closed. Easy to learn and effortless to practice, the technique – which has no religious or philosophical links – has been discovered to offer a simple antidote to the ‘fight or flight’ response associated with stress.

During TM, the attention moves automatically to a silent state of restful alertness at the source of the thinking process, while the body responds by settling to a level of physical rest deeper than ordinary eyes-closed relaxation.

“The benefits of TM are considerable,” says Dr William Weir, a consultant in infectious diseases. “It has a beneficial effect on various areas of psychological functioning; it improves one’s stress levels, it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, it has been shown in one or two studies to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels; and more than 600 studies of various kinds have validated the general proposition that it is an extremely helpful and life-enhancing technique.

“It produces levels of psychological rest, as well as physical rest, which are really hitherto unobtainable by someone who doesn’t know how to practice a technique like this.”

Reduced heart attacks and stroke
Practical results in daily life could be of huge potential advantage to the NHS. A nine-year study on TM presented to the American Heart Association Conference in 2009 measured a 47 per cent reduction in heart attack, stroke and mortality rates among coronary patients who practised the technique.

“If this kind of result was observed for a new prescription drug, it would be a billion-dollar industry to make it available to everyone immediately,” says Dr Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist and scientist who first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So impressed was Dr Rosenthal with the research on Transcendental Meditation that he has written a best-selling book on the subject – Transcendence – the UK edition of which is published this month by Hay House.

Concentration and contemplation
While transcending thought appears to provide the most wide-ranging spectrum of benefits if engaged in regularly, other forms of meditation are also widely popular, particularly methods of ‘Mindfulness’, where practitioners learn to monitor thoughts or breath, and systems which involve concentration or focused attention. Much research is being carried out on such methods, with dozens of papers appearing every month.

For example, a recent study on a group in the USA who attended a meditation retreat with a Buddhist scholar found the concentration practices used enhanced attention spans in daily life, while a Mindfulness-based stress reduction technique helped breast cancer sufferers recover from the disease, according to research from the University of Missouri published at the end of last year.

With today’s blossoming of interest in meditation, a much clearer understanding of the variety of meditation types is emerging.

Preliminary work in cataloguing the various methods has been started by Dr Fred Travis, a neuroscientist and Director of Brain Research at the Center for Leadership Performance in New York, and Jonathan Shear of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Three main types
“All experience changes the brain,” says Dr Travis. However, he points out, different experiences can be expected to give rise to different changes, and so produce different outcomes. Meditations involving concentration and directed focus will produce a different effect on the brain from those requiring contemplative monitoring, and a different impact again from transcending thought altogether.

Examining published studies on meditation, Travis and Shear were able to identify three main categories of meditation based on brain patterns:
• Focused attention practices (including loving-kindness-compassion, Diamond Way Buddhism, Qigong and Zen-3rd Venticle) were characterised by Gamma brain patterns (30-50Hz) and Beta 2 (20-30Hz)
• Open Monitoring practices – non-evaluative awareness of experience (including Vipassana meditation, ZaZen meditation, Sahaja Yoga and Concentrative Qigong) – showed brain activity in the Theta waveband (5-8Hz)
• Studies on Automatic Self-Transcending (Transcendental Meditation) displayed brain patterns in the Alpha 1 waveband (8-10Hz).

The measuring of meditation is to be welcomed, as increased scientific understanding will help speed the integration of the most useful meditation practices into the health services and other areas where they may be of great help in combating the stress-related ailments of our time. And on that note, perhaps the last word should go to The Beatles.

For people of our generation, the first exposure to meditation was probably when the Fab Four trooped off to Bangor to learn Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. And exotic as it all seemed then, 45 years on – as in many other ways – The Beatles look ahead of their time. Says Sir Paul McCartney in Transcendence, summing up his lifetime’s TM practice: “In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity – and I would like to think that it would help provide young people with a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world.

“I think meditation offers a moment in your day to be at peace with yourself and therefore the universe – which once was thought of as a slightly silly hippie idea, but now it’s much more accepted and even fits with some of the most advanced scientific thinking.”

Find out more
• Transcendental Meditation, website: (www.t-m.org.uk)
• Network of Buddhist organisations: (www.nbo.org.uk)
• Mindfulness: (www.bemindful.co.uk).


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