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The Science of Meditation. What is it? Why do it?
by Vanessa Vidal

BlogHer    Translate This Article
24 December 2015

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a U.S. government entity within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), states, ''Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being.'' 

The NIH has already funded over $26 million dollars of research on the benefits of one specific technique of meditation: Transcendental Meditation.

The Transcendental Meditation program involves spontaneous transcending—allowing your mind to effortlessly settle inward, going beyond thought, to a natural state of restful alertness.  The purpose of the TM technique is to attain inner peace, and improve health and well being, and ultimately to gain a state of Enlightenment.

The TM technique is also an effective effortless way for anyone to relieve stress, gain inner peace and promote mind-body health. TM is easy to learn and has been learned by more than 5 million people worldwide. To date there have been over 360 published scientific studies showing the many benefits of TM.

Scientific research on meditation began in earnest in the 1970's and 1980's. Transcendental Meditation has been shown to induce a host of healthy biochemical and physical changes in the body—including changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry—it affects the body because whatever we do with our mind affects our body. TM practice produces natural profound rest in the mind that spontaneously correlates with a drop in metabolism—deep physical relaxation. No other meditation programs produce the same physiological response or the same benefits.

Concentration and mindfulness meditations require some mental effort (i.e., holding attention on a thought or object or maintaining a stance of mindfulness). Methods of contemplation keep the mind engaged in active thought. Transcendental Meditation involves no concentration, mindfulness, or contemplation—it is an automatic self-transcending meditation technique that produces effortless transcending of the meditation process itself. It automatically leads to the experience of ''consciousness itself'', without any objects of awareness, called transcendental or pure consciousness. 

Published meta-analyses of studies of many meditation and relaxation techniques have found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces deeper rest than other practices and is more effective for reducing anxiety and depression, alleviating drug abuse, reducing high blood pressure, reducing health care utilization and costs, and increasing psychological health and self-actualization. In addition, neural imaging and EEG studies indicate that the Transcendental Meditation program is the only meditation known to create widespread brainwave coherence and an increase in brain integration.

∙ According to a statement by the American Heart Association, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to lower blood pressure and may be considered for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. The report also said that there was not enough scientific evidence to recommend other meditation or relaxation techniques at that time. The Transcendental Meditation technique can reduce heart attack and stroke by 48%.

∙ According to the Mayo Clinic website: ''Transcendental meditation is a simple, natural technique. . . . This form of meditation allows your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.''

∙ The Cleveland Clinic website says: ''Transcendental Meditation doesn't focus on breathing or chanting, like other forms of meditation. Instead, it encourages a restful state of mind beyond thinking. . . . A 2009 study found Transcendental Meditation helped alleviate stress in college students, while another found it helped reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression and anger.''

∙ According to an article in Forbes: ''Perhaps its greatest benefit is that it's relatively quick to learn and easy to master. No waiting weeks or months of practice before you see results: TM cuts right to the chase, taking only days—or for some, minutes—before one feels reprieve from their painful and overwhelming thoughts.''

The word ''meditation'' and the phrase ''meditative practice'' are commonly used generically. However, differing ''meditation practices'' are not the same in either their purpose, practice or their effects. So how do you choose which meditation to learn? Do your homework

Vanessa Vidal

Transcendental Meditation for Women

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See related article:
TM for Women

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