How We Present
The science behind why TM meditators are biologically younger than their age
by Jack Forem
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12 February 2017
THE FASCINATING STORY OF HOW TM REVERSES THE AGING PROCESS:
This excerpt from the revised and expanded edition of Jack Forem's best-selling classic, Transcendental Meditation, describes the science and experience of the anti-aging effects of TM.
''Transcendental Meditation makes me look younger,'' Australian journalist Sarah Wilson wrote in her blog. ''I know this is vain . . . but honest to God, part of the appeal of TM is its anti-aging properties. My skin has changed over the past two years. The muscles on my face have released, relaxed, and opened up. Honest to God!''
It's not just about how we look, though. TM's ''anti-aging properties,'' as Wilson aptly phrased it, have been investigated by serious scientific research, and they are real. The evidence is compelling that the practice of TM slows down the aging process. The biological age of TM meditators—how well their bodies function—is well below their chronological age. This is what Keith Wallace, Michael Dillbeck, and their colleagues reported in a paper on the effect of TM on aging, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience.1
Research on the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique and Aging
We all age differently. Part of the reason, according to Wallace, is genetic, ''but most of it is how we live life.'' Biological aging is generally gauged by psychological and physiological tests of factors such as memory, blood pressure, hearing ability, vision, and reaction time.
Wallace and Dillbeck used a standard test that measured three factors: systolic blood pressure (which generally gets higher); near-point vision (which generally decreases, leading to reading glasses); and auditory discrimination of higher pitches, which also usually diminishes. The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), said Wallace, ''has gathered extensive data on aging using these measures.''
Wallace's study found that, compared to the norm of millions of people in the Health Service database, long-term TM meditators (meditating five years or longer) had biological ages an average of 12 years younger than their chronological age: their bodies functioned as if they were 42 versus an ''actual'' average age of 54.
One study participant's biological age was 27 years younger than the number of years he had lived. Even short-term meditators were five years younger biologically than their numerical age. No wonder Sarah Wilson is happy with her skin!
These results are not surprising, considering that many of the factors that usually increase (blood pressure, difficulty sleeping) or decrease (hearing, vision, vital capacity) as we age have been found—in more than 30 studies as of this writing—to move in the opposite direction in meditators.
Reversing the Effects of Aging
''I was a fairly happy person, but I did have my anxieties,'' a 42-year-old guidance counselor told me. ''I liked my career, but it was often full of counseling disturbed teenagers. I have always had great empathy for my counselees, but unfortunately, I absorbed their problems. By the end of the day, I was tired and often under great tension.
''My physical examination the June before my instruction in TM found me in a rather unbalanced condition. My cholesterol count was up, my thyroid was sluggish, and I needed hormones. After five months of meditation, I had my yearly physical. Everything was normal and my 'femininity index' was up. My doctor said, 'I don't know what you've been doing, but you're 15 years younger biologically than you were a year ago!' ''
A 2005 paper in the American Journal of Cardiology tracked 202 older women and men with mildly elevated blood pressure.2 Subjects in the study participated either in the TM technique, mindfulness meditation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or health education. This study, which began at an average age of 71 and followed the subjects for up to 18 years, found that the TM technique reduced death rates by 23 percent compared with all the control groups.
Extending Our Lifespan
The final study I'd like to share with you was conducted by a group of Harvard researchers at nursing homes in the Boston-Cambridge area.3 In a carefully controlled prospective study, 73 elderly residents in eight retirement and nursing homes (60 women and 13 men, with a mean age of 81) were randomly assigned to one of four groups: no treatment, the TM technique, mindfulness training, and Relaxation Response training.
The researchers took great care to set up all three of the trainings to be equivalent in structure, and in the expectation of positive results. Three factors were to be measured: longevity, health, and cognitive facility.
By the conclusion of the three-year study, those in the TM group improved significantly more in all of the factors measured, including systolic blood pressure, learning ability, and cognitive flexibility.
The survival rate varied greatly: 87.5 percent of those who took mindfulness training, 77.3 percent of the no-treatment controls, 65 percent of the Relaxation Response group, and 62.6 percent of the 478 elders who were not involved in any way in the study were still living. The TM group had a survival rate of 100 percent—they were all very much alive. Similar results have been found by other scientists.
''To a Meditator, the Aging Process Is Different''
One conclusion that seems to be emerging from the TM research on aging is that the longer one meditates, the healthier one becomes. This seems to be true not just of physical health, but of psychological and spiritual health as well.
Typically, as they continue with TM, meditators report an increased sense of inner stability, happiness, and peace. This research, and the confidence it engenders—that as time goes by things will continue to improve—has profound implications for the huge and growing cohort of seniors throughout the world who are not yet enjoying the benefits of TM.
''To a meditator, the aging process is different,'' Anne, a woman in her mid-50s told me. ''As we get older, we feel younger. There is a reversal of the concept of age. Those of us who meditate look forward to reaching advanced states of unfoldment.
''If we've been meditating one or two years, we eagerly anticipate the time when we will have been meditating five or ten years, never once stopping to bemoan the fact that we will be that much older. We're not too much concerned with our numerical age because we're too occupied with enjoying life and finding new areas to explore.''
1. Wallace, R.K., Dillbeck, M., Jacobe, E., and Harrington, B. ''The Effects of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program on the Aging Process.'' International Journal of Neuroscience, 1982, 16 (1): 53-58.
2. Schneider, R.H., Alexander, C.N., et al. ''Long-Term Effects of Stress Reduction on Mortality in Persons >55 Years of Age of Systemic Hypertension.'' American Journal of Cardiology, 2005, 95(9): 1060-1064.
3. Alexander, C.N., Langer, E., Newman, R.I., et al. ''Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness, and Longevity: An Experimental Study with the Elderly.'' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (1989): 950-964.
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Jack Forem met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and learned Transcendental Meditation in 1966. After studying with Maharishi in India in 1970, Forem taught TM in the United States and internationally, led conferences and seminars on creativity and higher states of consciousness, and wrote this best-selling book on Maharishi and TM.
SOURCE: Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Revised and Updated for the 21st Century, by Jack Forem. This excerpt is featured in Enjoy TM News.
Copyright © 2017 Jack Forem and Maharishi Foundation USA
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