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Transcendental Meditation: Were the hippies right all along?
by Laura Tennant
The Independent - UK Translate This Article
10 July 2011
On 10 July 2011 The Independent - UK reported:
'While the research on the health benefits of Transcendental Meditation is fascinating, there's another, more compelling, reason why meditation is in the air just now,' writes UK journalist Laura Tennant. 'Done consistently, it seems to offer some sort of corrective to modernity, a respite from anxiety and the ability to really, truly relax, without chemical assistance; a break from our constant, restless aspirations to be thinner, richer and more popular on Facebook; the welcome discovery that happiness is to be found not in retail therapy, but within.'
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'Those spiritual cravings explain why [Dr Norman] Rosenthal's book is now riding high at number 14 on America's Publishers Weekly non-fiction list,' the article in the Independent continues. 'And according to Transcendental Meditation - UK's official representative, David Hughes, there's a similar surge of interest on this side of the Atlantic.'
The author reports on a recent press conference she attended that featured Dr Rosenthal, the eminent psychiatrist and author of the new book, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation.* The book 'gathers all the available evidence for TM and urges healthcare professionals to offer it to patients suffering from mental illnesses ranging from mild depression to bipolar disorder.'
Dr Rosenthal, renowned for his pioneering work at the (US) National Institute of Mental Health in describing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and using light therapy to treat it, became interested in Transcendental Meditation 'when one of his bipolar patients described how practising TM alongside his regular medication had helped him move from ''keeping his head above water'' to feeling ''really happy 90 per cent of the time'' '.
His book draws on '340 peer-reviewed research articles' documenting effects of Transcendental Meditation in reducing cardiovascular disease, as well as treating 'addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and depression, not to mention helping high-functioning individuals achieve greater ''self-actualisation'' '.
The article notes research findings on Transcendental Meditation including 'striking reductions in heart attack, stroke and early mortality (as much as 47 per cent, according to one study)', and 'a pilot study just published in the US journal Military Medicine, [in which] veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars showed a 50 per cent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after eight weeks of TM.'
Ms Tennant describes successful outcomes of 'Quiet Time' programmes in schools such as Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, USA, that brought 'decreased fights and suspensions, increased attendance and improvements in exam results'; and in the UK, 'exceptional academic results' at Maharishi School in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
The article refers to a description of Transcendental Meditation on the official UK website for the programme, as a process in which 'the mind effortlessly transcends mental activity and experiences pure consciousness at the source of thought, while the body experiences a unique state of restfulness'.
Soon after learning Transcendental Meditation herself, the author noticed experiences of feeling 'calm and alert' during the practice, a state that was 'neither wakefulness, sleeping nor dreaming'—the fourth state of consciousness reported by researchers investigating the physiological effects of the technique.
The comprehensive article also outlines some of the history of the Transcendental Meditation Programme, starting from the early 1960s when its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, began to teach it widely in the West. She also considers various points of view on later developments such as coherence-creating groups of people in England and elsewhere practising the advanced Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Programme, including Yogic Flying; fees for learning the technique; its relation to other meditation practices; and its role in spiritual development.
Against any possible objections, the author writes, 'should be set the fact that people who start meditating tend to keep at it, often for the rest of their lives—a phenomenon suggesting that its benefits, while slow and cumulative, are palpable.' The approximately four million people who have learnt Transcendental Meditation around the world include celebrities such as 40-year meditator Clint Eastwood, who supports the David Lynch Foundation's initiatives to help veterans with PTSD through TM; as well as Paul McCartney, Russell Brand, Martin Scorsese, Ringo Starr, Mary Tyler Moore, Laura Dern, and Moby.
Organizations teaching Transcendental Meditation in the UK and other countries are engaged in widely promoting the benefits of the practice, the article notes.
'If its impact on public health is as great as Dr Rosenthal believes, one could argue it has a moral responsibility to spread its message,' Ms Tennant writes.
'As for me, I'm seriously considering introducing my children to a stress- and anxiety-busting daily ritual that seems to do no harm and may well do a great deal of good.'
For more information on the Transcendental Meditation Programme, visit t-m.org.uk
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* Tarcher Penguin, published June 2011.
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