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Interview: Dr. Bech on medicine and meditation
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4 February 2015
Dr. Charlotte Bech is a Danish doctor who has worked in several areas of medicine, including the field of obstetrics (with a degree from the University of Copenhagen). She is an author of various popular books on health, a columnist in national magazines and a frequent panelist at public discussions and media events. Dr. Bech has also looked deeply into alternative ways of healing the human body, mastering the techniques of Maharishi Ayurveda and setting up her own clinic of natural treatment.
In addition to—or rather, in conjunction with—her successful medical career, Dr. Charlotte Bech is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Having taught meditation now for over 30 years and to more than 1,000 course participants, Dr. Bech is in a perfect position to shed light on why meditation is, arguably, the best medicine available.
Dr. Bech, Transcendental Meditation has so many effects on health and well-being. How would you describe these benefits in your own words?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Let's start from the beginning. From the ancient tradition of yoga and Ayurveda, we have the authentic classical texts. And they are describing how the practice of yoga, the practice of meditation can be seen, fundamentally, as a cure for all disease. The practice of yoga can solve all problems, take away suffering.
When we look at the research on Transcendental Meditation, and we look at the personal experiences of the practitioners, then we find this statement from the classical texts is confirmed. So this is a truth which is verified in three different ways—the ancient texts, modern scientific research of more than 600 studies, and the level of personal experience. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, has taught that if something is really true, it has to be verified on three different levels. He called it 'the three Eurekas'.
Do you recommend Transcendental Meditation to your patients, as a doctor?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: I recommend Transcendental Meditation to practically every single patient who comes to the clinic. Many of them learn to meditate, and it has a remarkable effect on their health. It works through stress relief—and most diseases are, in some way or other, related to stress.
For example, cardiovascular diseases—most of these are clearly linked to stress. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, pain around the heart, atherosclerosis, clogging of the arteries . . . all these various cardiovascular diseases are most often induced by stress. The same is true for asthma, migraines, multiple sclerosis . . . . Transcendental Meditation has a positive effect on these disorders.
Another example is chronic disease. Transcendental Meditation is useful for patients who are either chronically ill or have some very serious disease like cancer or kidney failure. Research has shown that TM cannot cure these serious diseases. Yet as a result of meditation practice, people tolerate their medical treatments better. They will have more energy and a more positive outlook, they will be happier—in short, studies have shown that such patients will achieve a higher quality of life.
I have had several cancer patients who come to me as a last resort, with a diagnosis of two to three weeks to live. They ask: ''What can you do for me?'' I tell them to learn Transcendental Meditation, because at that moment it is very limited what we can do at the level of physiological treatment. In some cases, we have to come to their homes as they are already too weak to walk or even to stand—so we teach them as they're sitting on their beds at home. And at the end of the day, these people say it is the best thing they ever did in their life, the best decision they have ever made. It can completely change their mindset—after learning to meditate, they started to feel the joy of life again and get a positive outlook on their whole life situation.
So meditation relieves the suffering caused by various diseases. But what about prevention—does regular practice of Transcendental Meditation help one to avoid falling ill in the first place?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Yes, definitely. For instance, people who practice Transcendental Meditation regularly have fewer infections—cold, flu, ear or throat infection, even pneumonia. We see significant improvements here. Again, it works through reducing stress levels—as you are less stressed, your immune system is stronger, and you therefore don't catch an infection so easily. So it is useful for all the doctors to know that they can recommend it to their patients. Transcendental Meditation is a highly effective addition to other treatments we are using.
This year, I have been teaching Transcendental Meditation at a large IT company in Copenhagen in a team with my colleague Henrik Klamer, who is a TM teacher and also an IT expert. Everyone who learned to meditate at that company said that it was a life transforming experience—in fact, it pulled many people in that group back from taking a long-term sick leave! The stress in their personal and professional life had been building up, they were exhausted and could not continue to work anymore. Yet practicing Transcendental Meditation turned the situation around. No sick leave was necessary. Six months into meditation practice, these people feel great and fully invigorated. A lot of money was saved for the company, and human suffering avoided.
These are very inspiring experiences for me, too. That is why I keep on teaching meditation—it really works every time.
You have written extensively on the topic of human health. In 2006, you participated together with 16 other Danish doctors in a compilation of articles called ''Healthy Skepticism and Healthy Reason'' (''Sund skepsis og sund fornunft'', Hovedland). What was your contribution about?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: I wrote about a paradigm shift. On one hand, there is the paradigm which has governed modern medicine so far—that medicine is, in essence, a pill with the active ingredient. A synthetically manufactured product expected to bring relief right away. On the other hand, however, there is a different paradigm of medicine. That perspective is more about natural treatment—like meditation helping to normalize one's blood pressure. I think that we are moving towards this second paradigm, a change in the collective consciousness.
Medicine in the form of pills has so many dangerous, harmful side effects. No synthetic pill can ever be broken down completely. This means that some waste products will always be accumulating in the body and bringing unwanted consequences.
In the new paradigm, the results of treatment may not be immediate. In some cases, it may take some time to normalize blood pressure, for instance—it will take anything from 3 months to 12 months with Transcendental Meditation before you get the blood pressure stabilized on a healthy level.
In other words, medicine is gradually moving from the treatment of symptoms to the treatment of causes.
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Yes. The old paradigm has a very limited understanding of the functioning of the human body as a whole. What are the root causes of an illness? How does a disease develop in relation to other parts of the body? Through understanding of deeper levels of natural law, we gain greater mastery of natural law and we can start to treat the causes instead of symptoms. We can identify and treat the imbalances already at their beginning stages, before they develop any further.
And Transcendental Meditation is the most important modality of treatment—because it goes to the root of life, allowing the mind and body to settle down to the state of least excitation. In this state, mind and body are connected to the unified field of pure consciousness from where everything is originating. Then the physiology spontaneously remains connected to this field of pure intelligence and repairs itself.
You have worked together with many well-known Indian doctors. Are they working from this new paradigm you're describing?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Absolutely—for them, there is nothing 'new' about this paradigm. It is—in fact—the most ancient perspective, where the body is known to be a concentrated mass of consciousness. There is a physical expression, a manifestation. Yet pure intelligence is everywhere, in every cell of the body, in every tissue, every organ and bloodstream. Intelligence is flowing in the lymphatic system and in the liquids of the intracellular fluid.
So the most important point—if we really want to improve our health—is to enhance the flow of intelligence throughout our body. When we get sick, it means the flow is blocked somewhere. Our goal is to remove these blocks and obstacles so that the flow can become free and unrestricted again, carrying happiness, energy, and lightness all throughout our physiology.
This is the definition of true health. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has mentioned that health is defined as someone who is established in the higher Self, also called Atma. In Ayurveda, the term used here is ''swasthya''—''swa'' meaning the highest Self, the unbounded non-changing eternal inner nature, and ''sthya'' meaning established. So to be healthy, according to the Ayurvedic tradition, is to be established in one's own higher Self. Transcendental Meditation is the procedure to connect to the higher Self and is therefore an essential procedure to gain good health.
Is there a connection between the two approaches to the human body—the Western mechanistic, technological perspective, and the holistic view of the Ayurvedic tradition—or are they irreconcilable?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Both approaches are useful. What I practice is an integrative approach—we combine, use and integrate the best from both worlds. There is no doubt that we need the modern Western medicine, too! When one is acutely ill—say, inches away from a heart attack—I will certainly call in the ambulance and let the ''pill'' do its work. However, when this patient will be back home again from the hospital, then I recommend to integrate meditation or some herbal treatment or some other adjustments in life style. As the patient then gradually becomes stronger and more balanced, we can gradually reduce the dosage of his medications in collaboration with his own doctor. We do the tests first, and when there are signs of improvement, the patient should discuss the possible reduction of medication with his other doctors. It's a harmonious co-operation.
The natural treatment also has its weaknesses—if practiced incorrectly, it too can lead to negative side effects. Each approach has its merits and demerits. So we have to be open and tolerant and have a respectful attitude to everyone working in different systems of medicine. After all, doctors and all other health care providers work to improve the health of mankind! The ultimate impulse and motivation is the same.
Similarly, many studies on healthcare utilization have shown that society can save substantial health care costs with these preventive methods like Transcendental Meditation and other natural treatments. The private sector is beginning to grasp this potential as well, with many companies in Denmark offering meditation courses to their employees. People are now meditating in city halls, in hospitals . . . everywhere. More and more people realize that Transcendental Meditation is the most effective path to improved health, more energy, happiness and higher states of consciousness.
Dr. Bech, thank you for this insightful interview!
*For more about the work of Dr. Charlotte Bech, visit her website (in Danish with Google translation).
Read the original article with links to: excerpts from ancient texts on well-being; Dr Bech giving an interview to Danish media; and an audio file of Dr Bech relating the story of the healing power of Transcendental Meditation and a heart-disease patient.
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