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Awaken Your Brain for Peak Performance
by Rolf Erickson
Enlightenment - The Transcendental Meditation Magazine Translate This Article
14 January 2015
What makes world-class athletes, outstanding musicians, and top-level CEOs stand out from the crowd? Is it their education, work experience, age, or motivation to excel? Not really. Research indicates that these factors may produce only a three percent increase in performance.
How about the popular concept that you need to put in 10,000 hours at a specific task before you can gain mastery? Researchers now tell us that the ''10,000-hour rule'' may create a 20 to 30 percent improvement at most. So what's the real key to peak performance?
Dr. Harald Harung has studied high-performing individuals for over 30 years, and Dr. Fred Travis has been studying the effects of Transcendental Meditation on brain functioning since 1990. Their combined research reveals that peak performance is actually based on our level of brain integration. Studies on world-class performers have shown a significant correlation between brain integration and high levels of performance, moral development, and higher states of consciousness. Peak performers also tend to be happy, enthusiastic, creative, and playful. Sounds good. So what is brain integration, and how can we develop more of it?
View photos of Dr. Travis, Dr. Harung and his video on peak performance, here
Two ways to change the brain
The term ''brain integration'' refers to the degree of connectedness between different areas of the brain. Our brain can function either as an integrated whole, or more as isolated parts. Harung and Travis have found that peak performance is associated with higher levels of orderliness or coherence in the brain.
Scientists used to think that the brain finished its development by the age of 20 or so. But today we know that the brain can continue to develop throughout life. The word ''neuroplasticity'' is used to describe this ability of the brain to make new neural connections, at any age.
There are two main ways that we can increase integration and develop our brain—through activity and through silence. Activity involves challenging the brain to engage in new tasks. For example, both exercise and music can help develop new connections in the brain. Silence, on the other hand, refers to allowing our mind to settle down to quieter levels, to transcend.
As our mind settles down during the practice of the TM technique, all areas of the brain begin to get in step with each other, as if pulsing as one. Scientists refer to this brainwave synchrony or brain integration as ''global EEG coherence.''
TM researcher Dr. David Orme-Johnson explains: ''EEG coherence is thought to coordinate the timing of activities of different brain areas, like an orchestra conductor whose baton integrates all the separate instruments into a harmonious symphony.''
Creating a more coherent brain
When the mind experiences the state of deep, inner silence or transcendental consciousness during TM, the brain achieves its maximum level of coherence or brain integration. These coherent brainwaves are in the Alpha1 region, which indicates a unique combination of relaxation and alertness.
During the experience of Transcending, all areas of the brain begin to get in step with each other, like an orchestra conductor whose baton integrates all the separate instruments into a harmonious symphony.
According to Dr. Travis, ''The transcendent is what we experience when the activity of feeling, thinking, and perception settle down and the mind experiences its most expanded state of awareness. It's the experience of pure, unbounded consciousness, available to anyone.''
And it doesn't take long for new meditators to begin experiencing this brainwave coherence. Dr. Travis found that even a few weeks of regular practice after learning TM is sufficient for their brain to achieve the same EEG coherence during meditation as an eight-year meditator's.
Here's how one peak performer, actor Hugh Jackman, describes his experience of transcending: ''In meditation, I can let go of everything. I'm not Hugh Jackman. I'm not a dad. I'm not a husband. I'm just dipping into that powerful source that creates everything. I take a little bath in it.''
Benefits of brain integration in our daily life
Research has found that the TM technique has many positive effects on the brain. It increases creativity, intelligence, concept learning, and academic performance. For the elderly, it improves cognitive functioning, quality of life, and longevity. It can also help decrease the experience of chronic pain.
TM reduces symptoms of ADHD in students and PTSD symptoms in combat veterans and war refugees. Regular practice can bring relief from anxiety and depression and support greater emotional stability. TM also provides the experience of pure consciousness and develops higher states of consciousness.
All of these benefits are closely correlated with increased brainwave coherence. In fact, Dr. Harung found that after a meditator has practiced TM for seven years, their brain integration can match levels found in world-class athletes and other peak performers.
What peak performers say
How do peak performers who practice TM describe the benefits they receive? Ray Dalio runs the world's largest hedge fund. ''Meditation helped my creativity,'' he says. ''I find that creative ideas don't come from working hard at them in one's conscious state. Instead, they come when I'm very relaxed. They pass through my brain, and I grab them.''
Singer/songwriter Katy Perry says, ''It's the best thing I have ever done to help bring more creativity, positive energy, and peace to my life. When I'm tired, stressed, anxious or depressed, I meditate, and it clears my mind, and makes me feel relaxed and happier.''
CNN anchor Candy Crowley adds, ''I think that it has made my thought process more ordered. When your stress level is lower, you make better decisions, and you have a better thought process.''
Dr. Harung found that when a meditator has practiced TM for seven years, their brain integration can match levels found in world-class athletes.
Keelan Dimick was a 13-year-old TM meditator when he won first place in the junior division of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. At age 15, he won first place in the senior division. ''It's easier to get into the zone when you do your meditation regularly,'' says Keelan. ''It also balances the whole system, calms you down so it's easier to let go. That's the main thing when playing jazz—to let go. Then the music will play itself.''
Long-term effects of TM on the brain
Through the regular experience of transcending, our brain develops the ability to maintain inner silence along with outer activity. This means that the coherent brain functioning we experience during meditation can continue afterwards, even when our attention is directed outward.
Brain researcher Alarik Arenander notes, ''The increase in brainwave coherence during TM practice extends into waking activity—that is, after meditation—indicating that with regular practice, this form of meditation leads to profound, enduring changes in brain orderliness.''
World-famous musician Paul Horn described it this way: ''You transcend and get to another state of consciousness, pure consciousness, and then live that for a while. The mind automatically absorbs this daily dipping and becomes infused with pure consciousness, which is then lived side by side with everyday waking, dreaming, and sleeping states in higher states of consciousness.''
The formula for peak performance
The founder of the global organization teaching Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, often spoke of a simple formula to maximize personal growth: ''Meditation and activity.'' By taking time to meditate every day and then engaging in activity, we stabilize the brain integration experienced during meditation.
Meditate and act: Your brain will thank you for it. Every time you transcend, you're one step closer to achieving peak performance.
Copyright © 2015 Enlightenment - The Transcendental Meditation Magazine
See related article: Transcendental Meditation: Setting the tone of our health care system
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