Hi, my name is Bob Roth, and I’d like to welcome you to this short introduction to what Transcendental Meditation is and is not, a little bit how it works, some of the benefits, and how you would learn the technique. So we’re all on the same page, I want to start off with a very simple, working definition of Transcendental Meditation. Number one, TM is a very simple technique. It’s simple not because it’s simplistic or a beginner’s meditation, but because there is elegant simplicity to the practice, a very profound, elegant simplicity to the practice.
Number two, it’s natural. There’s no manipulation, there’s no suggestion. Every human being can practice Transcendental Meditation as well as every other human being. Very simple to learn, and very enjoyable to practice. Number three, it’s effortless…effortless in contrast to many other meditation techniques, which involve concentration, or control of the mind, trying to clear the mind of thoughts. This is completely effortless, as we’ll see in a few moments. It’s practiced twenty minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably in a chair, with your eyes closed. It can be done, you know, on a train, it can be done on an airplane, it can be done in a car, if someone else is driving.
But it can be just done…it’s just done sitting comfortably, it’s a silent technique, with your eyes closed. And this is what it’s not…It’s not a philosophy. I have no philosophy for you when you learn Transcendental Meditation. No one’s gonna give you a TM philosophy of life. There’s no philosophy whatsoever. It doesn’t involve any change in lifestyle, you don’t change your diet or anything. And the third thing is: there’s nothing to believe in. I want to emphasize that, because sometimes people think, “Oh when learn to meditate, I have to believe in it for it to work.” You can be 100% skeptical and the technique works just as well, the benefits are just as profound, as if you, uh, went into this thing thinking, “Oh I believe in meditation, it’s gonna work.” So there’s no belief whatsoever. So to understand what Transcendental Meditation is, and to understand how it compares to other forms of meditation, or self-development, I like to use the metaphor, or the analogy of an ocean.
You’re on a small boat, you’re in the middle of the ocean, out in the middle of the ocean, and all of a sudden you get these huge swells, these huge 40, 60 foot high waves, and you could think, “Oh my god, the whole ocean is in upheaval.” Well, not really. Because if you do a cross-section of the ocean, you see these little 40 foot high waves, and the ocean is like in reality a mile deep, and the ocean is active on the surface, but at the depth of the ocean it is naturally silent, and it doesn’t matter if those waves are 200 foot high waves, at the depth of the ocean, untouched, is naturally silent. That’s the nature of the ocean…active on the surface, silent at it’s depth. And the analogy is our mind. The surface of our mind is the active thinking mind…all the things that we’re thinking about all during the day…it’s like the waves on the surface of the ocean.
And I like to call it the gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta mind…I gotta do this, and I gotta do that, and I gotta call him, and I gotta call her, and then I gotta make a list, and then I gotta find the list, then I gotta make a new list, and I gotta get going, and I gotta slow down, and I gotta get to sleep, and I gotta wake up…I’m sure everybody’s had a gotta, gotta, gotta mind at some point. And there’s a natural inclination, a natural desire to have some inner calm, some inner clarity, some inner focus, some inner inspiration, some inner peace, some inner happiness…Natural.
And the operative word there is inner. And the question is, where is that inner? And how do we get it? How do we get there? Deep within every human being, the mind of every human being, deep within all of us, is a level of the mind that is already calm, already settled, already wide awake. The ancient meditation texts used very big words…they say it’s a source of our unbounded creativity, unbounded intelligence, happiness, focus, clarity.
It’s there…it was there–if it’s there–it was there yesterday, it’s there right now, it’ll be there tomorrow…we’ve just lost access to it. We’re stuck up here, we’re stuck up on the surface gotta gotta gotta level. And Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless technique that allows the active thinking mind to just, all of it to just settle down, and experience quieter levels of thought, and quieter levels of thought, and then experience what has been called ‘the source of thought,’ or the ‘unified field of consciousness,’ or ‘transcendent level of the mind,’ ‘pure consciousness,’ within every human being. Now here’s a question…How do we know during Transcendental Meditation, that that’s actually happening. How do we know something substantive is taking place? That we’re not just imagining this? And we know from science…and why do we know from science? Because we know from science, mind and body are not just interconnected, in many regards mind and body are basically one. And if it’s true that during Transcendental Meditation your mind is just effortlessly, comfortably settling down, experiencing quieter and quieter levels of the mind, and then experiencing that source of thought, it must show up in a very profound and dramatic way during the meditation, and it must show up in the body.
And I’m not gonna go into all the details here, this is just a quick survey, but you can go to TM.org, you can, on this site, you can go to all the research that’s been done… But basically, what the research shows is that during Transcendental Meditation your body gains a state of rest and relaxation in many regards deeper than the deepest part of deep sleep.
And what that deep rest does…it allows the build up of stress, fatigue, tension, anxiety to be dissolved, to be eliminated. When we get a state of deep rest, which I said, that allows the body to repair itself, there’s a hormone probably some of you have heard of called cortisol…cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands, which sit on the kidneys, when we’re anxious. So when we’re anxious the body secretes cortisol, and then we secrete cortisol and we feel more anxious…it becomes this vicious cycle…and then we feel more anxious, more cortisol, more anxious, more cortisol. We get a good night’s sleep, cortisol levels drop a bit…that’s why we wake up feeling fresher in the morning. Research shows that twenty minutes of Transcendental Meditation cortisol levels drop 30%. That’s a significant reduction in this production of this anxiety hormone.
Serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter, which are so called the ‘happiness neurotransmitter.’ There’s an increase in serotonin, there’s an increase in another hormone called prolactin, which is present when there’s a feeling of wellbeing. Other research shows the results of this, the benefits of this, is a significant reduction in high blood pressure, in cholesterol, in reduction in risk of heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis…a reduction in all sorts of range of disorders like bipolar disorder, trait anxiety… In the last 40 years, there have been over 340 scientific studies published in independent, peer reviewed journals, including the American Medical Association’s journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine,’ the American Heart Association’s journal ‘Stroke and Hypertension.” …Wide range of some of the most respected journals in the world have published research on Transcendental Meditation.
The National Institutes of Health have provided $26 million dollars to study the effects of Transcendental Meditation on stress and heart health. The Department of Defense just provided $2.4 million dollar grant to study the effects of Transcendental Meditation on post-traumatic stress on soldiers who are coming back from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…who have come back from those war torn areas. I think one of the really interesting areas of research is the effects of Transcendental Meditation on the brain. This is interesting because every experience we have impacts the brain in some way… And so research on Transcendental Meditation shows very clearly the effect that it has on different parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is at the center of the brain and that’s your fear center, the frontal lobes, which is the executive functioning, and on both hemispheres of the brain, which is the so called analytical and intuitive aspects of the brain. And what they find is…what the research shows, is that during Transcendental Meditation there’s a strengthening of the connections between the frontal lobe and the back of the brain. This is important because the frontal lobes govern decision making, planning, judgement, problem solving, sense of self, ethical reasoning…everything good about the brain depends upon the connections between the front of the brain and the back of the brain…between all aspects of the brain.
And stress rips apart…you could say, as if takes the frontal lobes offline. That’s why…does a stressed person have good judgement? Does a stressed person, um, solve problems, plan well? No! Because the frontal lobe goes offline. During Transcendental Meditation those connections are strengthened. During Transcendental Meditation the connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain are strengthened…all parts of the brain connect together during TM. And because of something called neuroplasticity, those connections that we have in meditation last in daily life. And that’s why people report that they think more clearly, that they make better decisions, they solve problems better, why students find that their grades go up and their test scores go up.
It’s not magic, it’s now the brain is optimized. The whole brain is functioning in a coherent, integrated way…in fact there is a spreading of coherent alpha brain waves from the back of the brain to the front of the brain, and alpha brain waves are indicative of a state of restful alertness, and that’s what Transcendental Meditation produces, a state of restful alertness. Now the big question is: how do you get there? How do you go from the active, thinking, gotta gotta gotta level of the mind to these quieter and quieter and quieter levels, to that source of thought? And how do you get there effortlessly? I’m just gonna touch on it now, the fundamental principles, and answer some questions about how we get from that excited, active, thinking level of the mind to that quieter level, to that level of our mind which is there right now…I want to emphasize that…In theory, it’s there right now.
We don’t have to muscle it, we don’t have to believe in it, be don’t have to clear our mind of thoughts…that’s trying to stop the waves on the surface. We’re accessing the level of our mind that’s already calm. It’s a wonderful experience…it’s a blissful experience…it’s a satisfying experience. And how do we get there? The key thing I just said is, ‘It’s a satisfying experience.’ I’m going to give you three examples of daily life of why that’s important, and then tie it in with Transcendental Meditation.
You’re sitting in a room and you’re listening to some music, and it’s dreadful music, let’s face it, it’s really bad music. And in the other room some really, really elegant, excellent music comes on that you just love…Where does your attention go? You turn that off, I want to listen to that, right? You don’t have to think it through, your attention is drawn to that just beautiful music, wonderful music.
Or you’re at a dinner party, and you’re stuck in a corner somewhere, and you’re in a really boring conversation…and just a few feet a way you can overhear a really interesting conversation…Where does your attention go? You’re trying to pay attention, but you keep being drawn to that more fascinating conversation. Or, third example, you go on vacation and you have two books. The first book is boring, you can’t read it. The second book is great, you’re absorbed in it, hours fly by. Those three examples are examples of what we call ‘the natural tendency of the human mind to be drawn towards some field…something more satisfying…absolutely, spontaneously, more satisfying. Inside is a field of great satisfaction…the source of thought…great, very charming field.
In Transcendental Meditation we learn how to give the attention of the mind an inward direction. Instead of outward through our senses towards that nice music, that interesting conversation, that…you know, is it hard to watch a great movie? No, your attention is drawn to it. So, but that all goes out through the senses. Now, like that cross section of the ocean, we learn how to give the attention of the mind an inward direction, and automatically the attention is drawn…settled quieter and quieter and quieter levels…because quieter levels of the mind are increasingly more satisfying…more satisfying. It’s like you teach a child how to dive…you say, “Honey, just stand like this, stand here, now get those initial conditions, bend over like that…” the rest is automatic. Gravity, nature takes over. In the same way, with Transcendental Meditation we learn to give the attention of the mind an inward direction, and automatically the attention is drawn inward.
And as the mind settles down, we notice our body gaining a profound state of rest and relaxation…that rest and relaxation releases stress, dissolves stress, rejuvenates the body, and then we’re ready to go for the next 6, 8, 10 hours of our day or evening. So for the attention of the mind to settle down effortlessly in Transcendental Meditation, we use a mantra. A mantra is a word or a sound that’s used silently, that, number one, has no meaning. If it had a meaning, then we’re stuck on the surface…what does that mean, what does that mean…the intellect kicks in. It’s also a word or a sound, used silently, that’s positive…it’s known to be positive, life supporting…it’s a good sound for the mind to settle down. It’s a sound…a mantra that’s been used for thousand and thousands of years for just this purpose. Transcendental Meditation is always taught one to one, by a trained, certified teacher of TM. I need to emphasize that. This isn’t…never…Transcendental Meditation is not a mass meditation…it’s not something you learn out of a book, not something you get from a tape…
The technique is taught over 4 consecutive days, of about an hour to and hour and a half a day…4 consecutive days. And the first day always one to one with a trained teacher of Transcendental Meditation, a certified teacher. And at that time what you learn from your teacher is you’re given a sound, the proper mantra, proper vehicle for you to settle down, and you’re taught how to use it properly. Both things are absolutely essential. This meditation dates back thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of years…it predates all the ‘isms,’ it’s not a religion, it’s not a philosophy, it’s a universal ‘human being’ practice. And from that tradition of Transcendental Meditation, called the Vedic tradition of teachers, it has been passed on from teacher to student, teacher to student, teacher to student…always in an oral tradition, over thousands of years, and the most recent great meditation teacher was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
And Maharishi proceeded to teach, and oversee the teaching of thousand and thousands of teachers of Transcendental Meditation, who know how to select the proper mantra, the proper sound for an individual, and how to teach them to use it properly. Without both you basically are stuck. With both then we know how to effortlessly settle down and experience quieter levels of thought, completely rejuvenate mind and body for a much healthier, more satisfying life. How does this differ from other forms of meditation? And for this we look back to scientific research, because, as I said, research shows that every experience changes the brain, and basically we know from science that there are three different, major types of meditation.
The first type of meditation is called ‘Focused Attention,’ and Focused Attention is something like Zazen meditation, or Vipassana meditation…any meditation that involves some concentration that involves some concentration or control of the mind…trying to clear your mind of thought, trying to concentrate on your breathe…it’s like trying to stop the waves from moving, it’s trying to stop the wave on the surface. So it’s a focus, it’s a concentration. The second type of meditation is called ‘Open Monitoring,’ and that’s a mindfulness form of meditation, and that’s really how to emotionally disengage, and just observe and be present and mindful of your environment, mindful of your thoughts, and that would just be observing the rise and fall of the waves on the surface of your mind.
Transcendental Meditation does not involve any concentration, and it’s not just an observational tool. It’s an actual technique called ‘automatic self-transcending,’ which allows that active mind to experience quieter and quieter levels of thought, and then transcend thought and experience the Self, experience our own unbounded nature. Many people ask if you have to sit in a particular posture when you practice Transcendental Meditation – do you have to sit up straight with you back erect with no back support? Do you have to sit with your legs crossed? The beautiful thing about Transcendental Meditation is we just sit comfortably…in a chair, we can sit up in bed, sit however we want, sitting up comfortably with the eyes closed. No particular posture is needed. And it looks just like this…from the outside. So when you practice TM, you just sit comfortably. I’m a very skeptical person by nature, and when I heard about Transcendental Meditation, when I attended an introductory lecture 45 years ago, at the end of the talk I asked the teacher, ‘How much of this do I have to believe in for it to work?’ Because I didn’t want to have to believe in anything.
And the teacher told me that I could be 100% skeptical and the technique would work just fine. Now she didn’t have a cell phone, but she did have a pen, and she said, ‘You don’t have to believe in gravity, as a matter of fact, you can think Newton’s laws of gravity is a complete joke, but if you drop,’ in this case cell phone, the phone falls. In the same way, we don’t have to believe in anything to practice Transcendental Meditation and to gain the benefits, because we are hardwired for the experience…it is a mechanism, it’s who we are.
Transcendental Meditation is just a simple, natural, effortless technique to give access to that calm, silent level of the mind that is always there, but is overshadowed because of the constant noise, noise, crazy, crazy of the day. So, there is no change in lifestyle, there is nothing to believe in, there is no philosophy…it’s just a simple, natural, effortless technique that once learned, you carry with you for the rest of your life..