Economic uncertainty, political divisiveness—it seems that our nation and many of us individually are now under more stress than we’re designed to handle.
It’s no surprise that increasing numbers of people are turning to meditation for refuge. And why shouldn’t we? It’s just the natural use of our own minds.
An effective meditation technique allows you to dive deep within and contact reserves of peace, energy and clarity to help you more gracefully accomplish what you wish to achieve in life. It dissolves deep-rooted, accumulated stresses that obstruct your health.
But it’s more than that: meditation can show you who you really are. Not just on the surface but deep within—where reside greater possibilities of creativity and intelligence, untapped potentialities of heart and mind.
“If Transcendental Meditation were a new drug, conferring this many benefits, it would be the biggest, multi-billion dollar blockbuster drug on the market.”—former senior NIH researcher Norman Rosenthal, M.D.
In the 1970s, Transcendental Meditation (“TM”) became a widespread cultural phenomenon. Now there’s a rising new wave of interest in TM, but for different reasons: because there’s so much scientific research verifying its effects.
Doctors and therapists are recommending it in growing numbers.
Business owners offer it as a human resource for employees—such as Oprah Winfrey and her company, Harpo Productions.
Prison systems in the U.S. and abroad are implementing programs for inmates. Hundreds of schools around the world are offering TM-Quiet Time programs for students. But mostly, people are learning it because they notice positive change in someone they know who’s learned.
From a health point of view, meditation can save your life: the deep, restorative rest rejuvenates body and mind and facilitates healing.
Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health has shown that the TM technique reduces heart attack and stroke by nearly 50%. Clinical trails showed that it reduces cholesterol by 30 milliliters. "If you're on medication for cholesterol,” says Dr. Mehmet Oz, “we hope you can get 30 milliliters lower. But this happened through Transcendental Meditation alone."
Besides reducing the major risk factors for heart disease, meditation can also save lives by reducing depression and anxiety, as numerous studies on TM have shown.
“It Saved Me”
I’ve met many people who’ve told me that meditation saved their life. People struggling with high blood pressure who were eventually able to get off their meds after learning TM.
I encountered a Native American woman who said her insulin levels normalized for the first time in years, a few months after learning this meditation. A young woman on the verge of suicide learned the technique, pulled herself out of severe depression and found the wherewithal to return to college for a business degree.
Hopelessness can be turned into hope when you get to that place within yourself that’s strong enough, resourceful enough to overcome challenges.
Even a person fighting for their life can find solace in meditation: it’s something one can do to help oneself instead of surrendering entirely to the care of others.
Calming the Waters
Here’s the beauty of Transcendental Meditation: it’s a stress-reducing practice that transcends personal opinion, likes and dislikes, beliefs and ideologies. It works on the basis of something deeper and more universal—the mind’s natural tendency.
Our minds naturally seek greater freedom and happiness, greater knowledge. The TM technique allows you to use that natural attraction to happiness in a special way by turning attention inward and finding greater happiness and peace inside you, satisfying the mind’s quest.
But it’s not a selfish thing. Even though you do it for yourself, it’s one of the best things you can do for the people around you.
The flight attendant tells us, in case of emergency, secure your own oxygen mask first. If you don’t, you’ll be useless to help anyone. Meditation allows us to save ourselves from the undertow of stress so we can be sufficiently calm and fully functional to help others.
Bridging the Differences
The TM technique is a secular, non-religious form of meditation involving no beliefs. Many religious people practice it and find that it deepens their spirituality. A physicist friend tells me it refines his appreciation of nature. All the things that define us in the outer world lose their ability to divide us as we familiarize ourselves with that deeper, universal field of order at the basis of the mind—a transcendental level of life that belongs to all of us.
Transcendental Meditation is not a sect. It’s not foreign to our culture because it’s based on natural principles of mind and body that we all share. It’s an effortless technique that anyone can learn, a tool you can use all your life and it gets better with age—it helps you get better with age and stay younger in body, mind and spirit (and yes, there’s research on that).
Tom McKinley Ball is a writer for the David Lynch Foundation. He attended a Transcendental Meditation teacher training course in 1975-76, where he studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and has taught meditation for 38 years.