I used to be someone who struggled with anxiety throughout my life. During most of my younger years, I was a chubby girl, which led to a lot of insecurities about myself. To a point, It became normal for me to experience constant anxiety for no apparent reason.
When it comes to quieting anxious thoughts that continuously race through your mind, my therapist encouraged me to try the Transcendental Meditation technique. While this technique may not be as popular as other forms of meditation, it is highly effective, especially for managing constant anxiety. So today, I want to create a post to help answer the question of What is the transcendental meditation technique?
I hope that after reading this post, you will gain a better understanding of this technique and decide if it’s worth a try.
What is the transcendental meditation technique?
A Technique That Dates Back Thousands of Years…
The Transcendental Meditation technique has been passed down throughout our history. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is considered to have developed and started popularizing it in the 1950s.
According to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, there are three states of consciousness: waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
Transcendental Meditation helps us get access to the meditative state, which he considered to be the fourth state of consciousness.
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, and many other credible research journals about the benefits of transcendental meditation technique.
The proven benefits – backed by science, have made it more popular than ever, with many celebrities practicing it, including the Beatles, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres,…which has further contributed to its popularity.
In 2012, The Department of Defense also provided $2.4 million to study the effects of Transcendental Meditation on post-traumatic stress in soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In my opinion, this is definitely something that works, and yes, it has always been working for me.
An analogy of the ocean:
According to Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, and the Director of the Center for Leadership Performance, the human mind is like an ocean.
On the surface of the ocean, you can see the waves going wild; they could be nasty and reach as high as 100 feet. But always, deep down underneath these big waves, there is a stillness, a calm part of the ocean.
Our everyday thoughts are like those waves on the ocean. You can easily fall into anxiety or overthinking, and you might get angry or upset with life, which makes those thoughts run like crazy.
However, deep down, in every one of us, a tranquil sanctuary exists, even during the most challenging moments just like that quiet part of the ocean. This inner calm remains accessible, though we may temporarily lose touch with it. Transcendental Meditation helps us navigate through the waves and access that inner place.
How to practice the transcendental meditation technique
TM typically involves 15-20 minutes of meditation twice a day, preferably in the morning and late afternoon or evening.
Technique for TM:
- Sit with your eyes closed.
- Silently repeat your mantra in your mind.
- If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your mantra.
- Continue this process for 15-20 minutes.
The mantra used in transcendental meditation usually are meaningless phases which has been passed down from teachers to students for thousands of years.
The mantras should be meaningless phases so that our mind won’t get stuck with the meaning of these phase during our practice, which allows we easily to get into the deep relax state more easily.
However, these are not just random phases or words, the mantra used in transcendental mediation ususally bring positive vibes, or encourgage positive, peaceful feelings inside us when we hear the sound of them.
What made transcendental meditation technique different from other kinds of meditation?
There are three primary types of meditation: the focused approach, which involves controlling your thoughts, the open monitoring technique, which includes mindfulness practices, and the effortless method, such as Transcendental Meditation.
A unique thing in In Transcendental Meditation is that there is no need to control your mind and that’s why it’s effortless.
This technique is so simple and effortless that you can practice it anywhere, whether you’re sitting on a train, on an airplane, in a waiting room, or even in a car when someone else is driving.
This sets it apart from other meditation practices that require focused concentration and are more suitable for quiet, undisturbed environments.
No belief required
The thing I love about transcendetal meditation is that it doesn’t attach with any kind of religion, beleifs or philosophy.
Many people often think that you have to beleive in mediation or some kind of philosophy for it to work but in fact, with transcendental meditation if you are a skeptic just like I was at the beginning, it still works 100% for you.
In fact, many study research have been conducted and proven again and again, that the benefits transcendental meditation bring regardless of whether patients believe in the method or not.
What are the benefits of transcendental meditation technique?
It wouldn’t be enough spaces to list out every single benefits of this meditation technique in just one single post. I will list out most of the popular ones and suggesting more related study in each part so that you can read and get to know about the benefits it brings.
Stress and anxiety
There is a hormone called cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands located on top of our kidney. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone.”
When you encounter a stressful situation, your body’s “fight or flight” response is triggered, and the adrenal glands release cortisol into the bloodstream, contributing to increased feelings of anxiety. After a good night’s sleep, our cortisol levels drop a bit, which is why you often feel better after a restful sleep.
So, what does this have to do with the Transcendental Meditation technique?
Research shows that you may not need hours of good sleep or medication to reduce cortisol levels.
In a mere 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation, cortisol levels can decrease by as much as 30%. The exact mechanisms by which TM reduces cortisol levels are believed to be related to the deep state of rest and relaxation that TM practitioners experience during meditation.
Here are some related studies on this topic, if you want to read more about this:
- Barnes VA, Bauza LB, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2003 1(1):10
- Barnes VA, Treiber FA, Davis H. Impact of Transcendental Meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2001 51(4):597-605
- Barnes VA, Treiber FA, Johnson MH. Impact of stress reduction on ambulatory blood pressure in African American adolescents. American Journal of Hypertension 2004 17(4):366-369
- Broome JR, Orme-Johnson D, Schmidt-Wilk J. Worksite stress reduction through the Transcendental Meditation program. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005 17(1):235-276
- Castillo-Richmond A, Schneider RH, Alexander CN, Cook R, Myers H, Nidich S, Haney C, Rainforth M, Salerno J. Effects of stress reduction on carotid atherosclerosis in hypertensive African Americans. Stroke 2000 31(3):568-573
- Chhatre S, Metzger DS, Frank I, Boyer J, Thompson E, Nidich S, Montaner LJ, Jayadevappa R. Effects of behavioral stress reduction Transcendental Meditation intervention in persons with HIV. AIDS Care: Psychological and Socio-medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV 2013 25(10):1291-1297.
- Elder C, Nidich S, Colbert R, Hagelin J, Grayshield L, Oviedo-Lim D, Nidich R, Rainforth M, Jones C, Gerace D. Reduced psychological distress in racial and ethnic minority students practicing the Transcendental Meditation Program. Journal of Instructional Psychology 2011 38(2):109-116
- Elder C, Nidich S, Moriarty F, Nidich R. Effect of Transcendental Meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study. The Permanente Journal 2014 18(1):19-23.
- Goldstein L, Nidich SI, Goodman R, Goodman D. The effect of transcendental meditation on self-efficacy, perceived stress, and quality of life in mothers in Uganda. Health Care for Women International 2018 39(7):734-754. doi.org/10.1080/07399332.2018.1445254
- Grosswald SJ, Stixrud WR, Travis F, Bateh MA. Use of the Transcendental Meditation technique to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by reducing stress and anxiety: an exploratory study. Current Issues in Education [On-line] 2008 10(2).
- Kondwani KA, Lollis CM. Is there a role for stress management in reducing hypertension in African Americans? Ethnicity and Disease 2001 11:788-792
Several studies have indicated that regular practice of TM can lead to significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which are key factors in cardiovascular health.
Lowering high blood pressure can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Improved Endothelial Function:
Some research has suggested that TM may improve the function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels.
Healthy endothelial function is crucial for proper blood vessel dilation and constriction, and it plays a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood flow.
In a research research study Impact of Transcendental Meditation on Psychotropic Medication Use Among Active Duty Military Service Members With Anxiety and PTSD by Vernon A. Barnes, PhD, Andrea Monto, LMSW, Jennifer J. Williams, LCSW, John L. Rigg, MD, they tested the effects of Transcendeta meditation on a group of 74 military Service Members with PTSD or ADNOS diagnoses.
The results shows that the group that practiced transcendental meditation was less likely to increase medication dosages and more likely to show medication stabilization, decreases, or cessations.
At 1 month, 83.7% of the TM group stabilized, decreased, or ceased medications and only 10.8% increased medication dosage. While in the other group, only 59.4% showed stabilizations, decreases, or cessations and 40.5% of that group had to increased medications
In the chart, we can observe that the TM group consistently has a higher percentage of patients with PTSD who stabilize, decrease, or even cease medications compared to the control group, which did not practice Transcendental Meditation.
Here is a list of many more research studies on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation for PTSD patients:
- Herron R, Rees B. The Transcendental Meditation Program’s impact on the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder of veterans: an uncontrolled pilot study. Military Medicine 2018 183(1-2):e144-e150. doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usx059
- Kang SS, Erbes CR, Lamberty GJ, Thuras P, Sponheim SR, Polusny MA, Moran AC, Van Voorhis AC, Lim KO. Transcendental Meditation for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 2018 10(6):675-680. http://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000346
- Nidich S, Mills PJ, Rainforth M, Heppner P, Schneider RH, Rosenthal NE, Salerno J, Gaylord-King C, Rutledge T. Non-trauma-focused meditation versus exposure therapy in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Psychiatry 2018 5(12):975-986. doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30384-5
- Nidich S, O’Connor T, Rutledge T, Duncan J, Compton B, Seng A, Nidich R. Reduced trauma symptoms and perceived stress in male prison inmates through the Transcendental Meditation Program: a randomized controlled trial. The Permanente Journal 2016 20(4):16-007. doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-007
- Nidich S, Seng A, Compton B, O’Connor T, Salerno J W, Nidich R. Transcendental Meditation and reduced trauma symptoms in female inmates: a randomized controlled study. The Permanente Journal 2017 21(1):16-008. doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-008 Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study.
- Rees B, Travis F, Shapiro D, Chant R. Reduction in posttraumatic stress symptoms in Congolese refugees practicing Transcendental Meditation. Journal of Traumatic Stress 2013 26(2):295-298
- Rees B, Travis F, Shapiro D, Chant R. Significant reductions in posttraumatic stress symptoms in Congolese refugees within 10 days of Transcendental Meditation practice. Journal of Traumatic Stress 2014 27(1):112-115
- Rosenthal JZ, Grosswald S, Ross R, Rosenthal N. Effects of Transcendental Meditation in veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom with posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study. Military Medicine 2011 176(6):626?630
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, Transcendental Meditation has also been shown to offer benefits such as improved mental health, enhanced focus and clarity, better sleep, increased creativity, enhanced immune function, and many more.
You can learn more about the related research studies at TM.org.
Can you learn transcendental meditation technique by yourself?
In addition to the question, “What is the Transcendental Meditation technique?” this is a common question among people who are new to this practice.
I have researched and read many opinions on this topic. Many people claim that you can self-study this technique through videos, tapes, or books. But according to Bob Roth, a certified teacher in Transcendental Meditation, it’s always best to learn it from certified instructors. This technique should be learned one-on-one through a proper structured program.
This is because the technique is personalized to the each person, and the specific mantra selection is an important aspect of the practice. Proper instruction ensures that you are using the technique correctly and effectively.
So, to answer this question, I would say it’s not recommended to self-study this technique, at least according to experts’ opinions.
It’s highly recommended to seek out a certified TM teacher for proper instruction. These instructors have undergone training and certification to teach TM and even they are also required to participate in ongoing training to maintain their certification.
I hope I helped you answer the question, “What is the Transcendental Meditation technique?” It’s clear that this practice offers a variety of potential benefits, and it tremendously helped me overcome my anxiety. If you decide to explore TM, I encourage you to seek out a qualified TM teacher for proper guidance and instruction.
Feel free to share your experiences with this meditation technique in the comments.