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Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is the trademarked name of a meditation technique introduced in 1958 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917-2008). The technique, practiced for twenty minutes twice a day while sitting with one's eyes closed, does not involve concentration or contemplation.

Teaching procedure

The technique is taught to new practitioners in a standardized, seven-step procedure, consisting of two introductory lectures, a personal interview, and a two-hour instruction session given on each of four consecutive days. Instruction begins with a short ceremony performed by the teacher, after which the student learns the technique and begins practicing. Subsequent sessions provide further clarification of correct practice, as well as more information about the technique.

Origin

In 1955, the Indian ascetic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (born Mahesh Prasad Varma) began teaching a meditation technique he said was derived from the Vedic tradition; he gave this method the name Transcendental Meditation.

Prior to this, Maharishi had studied with Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, serving as his secretary from 1941 until Brahmananda Saraswati's death in 1953. In 1957, Maharishi began the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in Madras, India, on the concluding day of a festival held in remembrance of his deceased teacher. In 1958 he began the first of a number of worldwide tours promoting and disseminating his technique.

In the early 1970s, Maharishi undertook to establish one Transcendental Meditation teaching center for each million of the world's population, which at that time would have meant 3,600 Transcendental Meditation centers throughout the world. In 1990, Maharishi began the coordination of the teaching of the Transcendental Meditation technique from the town of Vlodrop, the Netherlands, through an organization he called the Global Country of World Peace. This group reports that more than 6 million people worldwide have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique since its introduction.

Research

Effect on the physiology

Research studies have described specific physiological effects that occur during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The first of these studies was published in the early 1970s, in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. This research found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produced a physiological state that the researchers called a "wakeful hypometabolic state." During the practice of the technique the researchers found significant reductions in respiration, minute ventilation, tidal volume, blood lactate, and significant increases in basal skin resistance, while EEG measurements showed increased coherence and integration of brain functioning,. In 1987 researchers at Maharishi University of Management, Dillbeck, M.C., and D.W. Orme-Johnson, concluded that the physiology was alert rather than asleep during TM practice.

Range of studies

Studies have suggested a positive correlation between the Transcendental Meditation technique and possible health-related physiological states, including improvement in lung function for patients with asthma, reduction of high blood pressure, an effect the researchers termed "younger biological age", decreased insomnia, reduction of high cholesterol, reduced illness and medical expenditures, decreased outpatient visits, decreased cigarette smoking, decreased alcohol use,. and decreased anxiety..

Medical research

In a 1975 study published in the journal Respiration, twenty one patients with bronchial asthma (who were excluded for significant emphysema by single breath diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide) were studied in a six month RCT designed study, (with the researchers but not the patients blind to the treatment modality) using the Transcendental Meditation technique and employing a crossover trial format using reading as a crossover control. The researchers concluded that based on the marked reduction in asthma symptom-severity duration, a statistically significant improvement of pulmonary function test abnormalities (in raw measured values of cm/H2O/liter/sec determined using spirometry and body plethysmography), and from subject and physician evaluations, that the practice of the TM is a useful adjunct in the treatment of asthma.

In 1976 a study published in The Lancet, seven hypertensive patients learned the Transcendental Meditation technique with six patients showing significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) during the first three months of meditation practice. During the second three months of the six month study, three of the patients continued to show reductions of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Another study published in the Lancet in 1977 which involved 20 hypertensive patients, found that the Transcendental Meditation technique was associated with a significant reduction of systolic blood pressure and pulse rate in the first 3 months of practice, but that this effect did not continue for most of the patients during the second three months of the six month study, which on average showed no significant change of BP from baseline values during that second three month time period.

In 2005, the American Journal of Cardiology published a review of two studies that looked at stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation technique and mortality among patients receiving treatment for high blood pressure. This study was a long-term, randomized trial. It evaluated the death rates of 202 men and women, average age 71, who had mildly elevated blood pressure. The study tracked subjects for up to 18 years and found that the group practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had death rates that were reduced by 23%. Also in 2005, the American Journal of Hypertension published the results of a study that found the Transcendental Meditation technique may be useful as an adjunct in the long-term treatment of hypertension among African-Americans.

In 2006, a study involving 103 subjects published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine found that coronary heart disease patients who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique for 16 weeks showed improvements in blood pressure, insulin resistance, and autonomic nervous system tone, compared with a control group of patients who received health education.

The American Heart Association has published two studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique. In 2000, the association's journal, Stroke, published a study involving 127 subjects that found that, on average, the hypertensive, adult subjects who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique daily experienced reduced thickening of coronary arteries, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. After six to nine months, carotid intima-media thickness decreased in the group that was practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique as compared with matched control subjects.The association's journal Hypertension published the results of a randomized, controlled trial in which a group of older African-Americans practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had reduced blood pressure.

Also in 2006, a functional MRI study of 24 patients conducted at and published in NeuroReport found that the long-term practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique may reduce the affective/motivational dimension of the brain's response to pain..

In 2008, researchers at the University of Kentucky conducted a meta-analysis of nine qualifying RCT published studies which used Transcendental Meditation to address patients with hypertension, and found that on average across all nine studies, the practice of TM was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm Hg systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure. The researchers concluded that "...Sustained blood pressure reductions of this magnitude are likely to significantly reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.". The study was published in the March, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

Research on cognitive function

A paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 1978 found no effect on school grades. A 1985 study in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, and a 1989 study in Education showed improved academic performance.

A paper published in 2001 in the journal, Intelligence, reported the effects on 362 Taiwanese students of three randomized, controlled trials that used seven standardized tests. The trials measured the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique, a contemplative meditative technique from the Chinese tradition, and napping, on a wide range of cognitive, emotional and perceptual functions. The three studies ranged in time from six months to one year. Results indicated that taken together the Transcendental Meditation group had significant improvement on all seven measurements compared to the non-treatment and napping control groups. Contemplative meditation showed a significant result in two categories, and napping had no effect. The results included an increase in IQ, creativity, fluid intelligence, field independence, and practical intelligence.

In 2003 a study in the journal, Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, reviewed ten randomized, controlled trials that looked at the effect of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognitive function. Four trials showed a significant effect on cognitive function, while the remaining trials showed mixed results. Study authors, Canter and Ernst, noted that the four positive trials used subjects who had already intended to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, and attributed the significant positive results to an expectation effect. A 1971 survey by Leon Otis found that a significant percentage of those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique also report feeling anxiety, confusion, and depression. A study in the American Journal of Managed Care indicates that there are no known side effects associated with the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Research funding from the NIH

As of 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had spent more than $20 million funding research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on heart disease In 1999, the NIH awarded a grant of nearly $8 million to Maharishi University of Management to establish the first research center specializing in natural preventive medicine for minorities in the U.S. The research institute, called the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, was inaugurated on October 11, 1999, at the University's Department of Physiology and Health in Fairfield, Iowa.

Controversies

Relationship to religion and spirituality

Official Transcendental Meditation websites state that the Transcendental Meditation technique is a mental technique for deep rest that is associated with specific effects on mind and body. These sites state that the Transcendental Meditation technique does not require faith, belief, or a change in lifestyle to be effective as a relaxation technique. Maharishi called the Transcendental Meditation technique "a path to God, and the TM technique has been described as "spiritual" but not religious, and as a coping strategy for life.

Clergy have varying views when assessing the compatibility of the Transcendental Meditation technique with their religions. For example, Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Catholic Archbishop of Manila, said that some concepts taught by Maharishi conflict with Christianity. Other clergy have found the Transcendental Meditation technique to be compatible with their religious teachings and beliefs.

In 1979 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a curriculum in the Science of Creative Intelligence, which included the Transcendental Meditation technique, could not be taught in New Jersey public schools because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court ruled that although Transcendental Meditation/Science of Creative Intelligence is not a theistic religion it deals with issues of ultimate concern, truth, and other ideas analogous to those in well-recognized religions. Because the ruling centered around a curriculum in the Science of Creative Intelligence, and because the Wallace v. Jaffree decision in 1986 allows for quiet time/meditation with a secular purpose, instruction in the Transcendental Meditation technique has continued in public charter schools, despite comments like those of sociologist Barry Markovsky, who felt that teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique in the schools is “stealth religion."

Cult issues

In 1987, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) held a press conference and demonstration in Washington, D.C., saying that the Transcendental Meditation technique “seeks to strip individuals of their ability to think and choose freely.” Steve Hassan, author of several books on cults, and at one time a CAN deprogrammer, said in the same press conference that those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique display cult-like behaviors. These cult-like tendencies were described in Michael A. Persinger's book, TM and Cult Mania, published in 1980.

David Orme-Johnson, former faculty member at Maharishi University of Management (at which all students and faculty practice the Transcendental Meditation technique daily) who has researched the Transcendental Meditation technique and the paranormal Maharishi Effect, cites studies by Schecter, Alexander , and Pelletier showing greater autonomy, innovative thought, and increases in creativity, general intelligence and moral reasoning in those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. According to Orme–Johnson cult followers are said to allegedly operate on blind faith and adherence to arbitrary rules and authority, while these studies would indicate the ability of those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to make mature, independent, principle-based judgments.

Lawsuits

Kropinski v. WPEC

In a civil suit against the World Plan Executive Council filed in 1985, Robert Kropinski claimed fraud, psychological, physical, and emotional harm as a result of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs. The district court dismissed Kropinski's claims concerning intentional tort and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and referred the claims of fraud and negligent infliction of physical and psychological injuries to a jury trial. The jury awarded Robert Kropinski $137,890 in the fraud and negligence claims. The appellate court overturned the award and dismissed Kropinski's claim alleging psychological damage. The claim of fraud and the claim of a physical injury related to his practice of the TM-Sidhi program were remanded to the lower court for retrial, and the parties then settled these remaining claims out of court.

Butler/Killian vs. MUM

Two lawsuits were filed as a result of a stabbing at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa on March 1, 2004 The families of the murdered student and a student who was assaulted earlier in the day have sued MUM and the Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation. Their separate suits, filed on February 24, 2006, allege that the twice-daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, which the university requires of all students, can be dangerous for people with psychiatric problems. They also charge the university with failing to call the police or take action to protect students from a mentally ill student.

Issue of cost

The fee for learning the Transcendental Meditation technique in the USA is $2,000 per person. The fee provides for the introductory course of seven lessons, and lifetime checking of the technique for correct practice.

In response to what they feel is a high course fee to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, some former teachers offer TM instruction independently. while other former teachers have published what they claim to be the mantras used in the practice and how these mantras are assigned.

According to the official web site, the Transcendental Meditation technique can only be learned from an authorized teacher.

References

Further reading

External links

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