Showing posts with label mindfulness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mindfulness. Show all posts

Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness, and Vipassana

Mindfulness meditation, often associated with Vipassana ( a form of Buddhist meditation), is generally considered to be a practice of "open monitoring"—watching thoughts, perceptions or sensations come and go without judging or holding on, practiced to gain insight and equanimity.

However, there are various forms of mindfulness meditation and Vipassana—practiced in different ways. Some methods referred to as ‘mindfulness’ or 'Vipassana' may veer into controlled focus or contemplation.


How is the TM technique different?

The Transcendental Meditation technique is a very different process, and the scientific research shows that TM produces different results—especially on stress levels and brain function. The TM technique is not a religious or philosophical practice. It does not involve monitoring your thoughts, watching your breathing, or scanning the body; nor is it concentration or contemplation. One distinction between TM practice and mindfulness meditation (and Vipassana) is that the TM technique is very easy to learn and effortless to practice. In fact, effortlessness is the key to the TM technique's effectiveness.
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American Heart Association: After considering the latest scientific evidence on different forms of meditation, a recent American Heart Association study concluded that meditation techniques other than the TM technique cannot be recommended: "All other meditation techniques (including mindfulness) received a 'no benefit level of evidence’ ...[and] are not recommended at this time."
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The Main Distinction: TM is Designed for Transcending

"Transcending thought is infinitely more powerful than thinking." —Maharishi

 The TM technique is characterized in the scientific and scholarly literature as an "automatic self-transcending" type of meditation. It is a practice of systematically going beyond mental activity—transcending all thoughts to experience increasingly refined, more powerful stages of the thinking process, until one arrives at the state of pure awareness. Experienced as the deepest level of the mind or the source of thought, here there are no thoughts, perceptions or sensations, only consciousness—in its most pure and peaceful state, fully awake within itself. Most people who learn the TM technique report the experience of transcending within just a few days.

Studies have found this state of pure transcendence to be highly rejuvenating for mind and body. In this fourth state of consciousness—which is unlike waking, dreaming or sleep—mind and body become more balanced; in the words of neuroscience, it is a resetting of the brain's natural ground state. Deeply rooted stresses or imbalances in the system naturally, spontaneously dissolve during TM practice. As a result, after 20 minutes of the TM technique, the meditator feels refreshed and energized, the mind is clearer and more alert, awareness is expanded.

Twice daily practice of the TM technique is said to awaken the full potential of one's inner Being—activating the silent source of creativity and intelligence at the basis of the mind. While very different in practice, the TM technique fulfills the goals of mindfulness and Vipassana in a graceful, natural way. Increased "mindfulness" is just one of the many benefits found to result from TM practice.


See: American University Research Study: Does Transcendental Meditation Create Mindfulness?


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Although transcending is natural to the mind, most meditation techniques are not designed for transcending and tend to keep the mind active and engaged on the more gross, surface levels of experience. While any form of meditation can be beneficial, no other practice has been shown by scientific research to produce the levels of deep physiological rest, EEG coherence or holistic range of benefits gained from the process of transcending through TM practice.


Differences in Brain function:
Brain researchers have found that during mindfulness-type practices, the brain shows EEG patterns typical of monitoring inner processes or performing internal memory tasks—frontal theta waves (5-8 Hz) and possibly posterior gamma (30-40 Hz) (Cognitive Processing, 2010).

Practicing the TM technique creates a brain wave pattern distinct from mindfulness-type meditation and also different from ordinary focused attention: during TM practice, widespread or long-range alpha coherence
(8-12 Hz) is commonly seen, especially in the frontal regions of the brain, indicating more efficient, integrated brain functioning and increased inner wakefulness (Cognitive Processing 11:1, 2010).

Different Levels of Relaxation:
Research studies show that the unique style of physiological functioning typically gained during TM practice is a state of rest much deeper than ordinary, eyes-closed rest—a distinct mind-body state not reported from research on mindfulness or other meditation or relaxation methods. Meditation practices that keep the mind actively attentive in the waking state have not been found to produce this deep, rejuvenating state of relaxation.


Read more:

What Doctors and Scientists Say About Transcendental Meditation Research:


"If TM were a new drug conferring this many benefits, it would be the biggest, multi-billion-dollar block-buster drug on the market."

—Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, Bestselling author and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, 20-year Senior Researcher at the National Institutes of Health


"If you're on medication for cholesterol, we hope you can get 30 milliliters lower. But this happened through Transcendental Meditation alone... This stunning impact—unimaginable."

—Mehmet Oz, MD, Television Host and Professor of Surgery, Columbia University School of Medicine


“Over the past 10 years the editors and reviewers of the International Journal of Neuroscience (IJN) have accepted several papers on Transcendental Meditation because they have met the rigorous standards of scientific publication. IJN is honored to have two Nobel laureates on its editorial board, and has a distinguished group of scientists from leading universities on every continent who judge the scientific value of the papers submitted for consideration. Not once have these scientists ever questioned the integrity or scientific validity of the papers on Transcendental Meditation. The fact that the articles on Transcendental Meditation continue to appear in large numbers in reputable journals in addition to IJN demonstrates, at least to me, that this is an area of scientific research that’s here to stay. Any review of Transcendental Meditation literature which overlooks these publications smacks of scientific censorship. Perhaps such reviewers would find it instructive to read about the Galileo affair."

—Dr. Sidney Weinstein, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Neuroscience (IJN)


On the Sociological Effects of the TM program 
("The Maharishi Effect"):

“I have been following the research on peace-creating groups as it has developed over the last twenty years. There is now a strong and consistent body of evidence showing that this innovative approach provides a simple and cost-effective solution to many of the social problems we face today. In my view, this research is so strong that it demands action from those responsible for government policy.”

—Huw Dixon, Ph.D, Professor of Economics, York University, England


“I think the claim can be plausibly made that the potential impact of this research exceeds that of any other ongoing social or psychological research program. It has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field of conflict resolution.This work and the theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policy makers alike.”

—David Edwards, PhD, Professor of Government University of Texas (Austin)

“In the studies that I hae examined, I can find no methodological flaws, and the findings have been consistent across a large number of replications. As unlikely as the premise may sound, I think we have to take these studies seriously.”

—Ted Robert Gurr, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Government and Politics University of Maryland

“When you can statistically control for as many variables as these studies do, it makes the results much more convincing.”

—Raymond Russ, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Maine; Editor, Journal of Mind and Behavior

Myth #2: Meditation and relaxation practices are all the same and produce the same effects

The scientific literature on meditation shows that not all meditation practices produce the same effects. Different types of meditation practices engage the mind in different ways and employ a variety of methods for different results. 

For example, numerous independent scientific studies have found consistent distinctions between the Transcendental Meditation technique and other practices on measures of deep relaxation, anxiety reduction, growth of intelligence, normalization of high blood pressure, reduction of drug and alcohol abuse and self-actualization.* A recent study published by the American Heart Association found that TM practice reduces the chance of heart attack and stroke among those at-risk by 48% — an effect not found in research on other meditation practices. The TM technique is the only form of meditation recommended by the American Heart Association.

*Cognitive Processing, 11, 1, 2010; American Journal of Health Promotion, 12, 297-299; American Psychologist [42] 879-81, 1987; Intelligence 29: 419-440, 2001; Journal of Social Behavior and Personality (6) 189–247, 1991; International Journal of Neuroscience 100, 77-89, 2000; Journal of Clinical Psychology [45] 957-974, 1989; American Journal of Hypertension 21(3): 310-316, 2008

Three areas of research showing distinctions between meditation techniques:

1. Meditation and brain function: 

In recent decades, neuroscientists have researched the brain patterns of various meditative practices — studying Tibetan monks, Indian yogis, trained Western meditators and many other groups as subjects. Out of this research has emerged the understanding that different meditation techniques have very different effects on the brain.

For example, EEG research on mindfulness meditation (Cahn et al, Cognitive Processing, 2010) reports an increase in frontal theta brain waves (4-8 Hz) during mindfulness practice, as well as possible gamma waves (35-45 Hz) in the back of the brain, but no continuous or “state” effects were found for theta, alpha, or beta. Studies have found that during concentration meditation the brain shows increased frontal gamma, a frequency commonly associated with controlled focus (Lutz A, et al, 2004).
   
Research on the Transcendental Meditation technique reports patterns of highly coherent and synchronous alpha waves ("high amplitude" alpha, 10-12 Hz) throughout the entire brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s “CEO”). Heightened alpha activity is associated with relaxed wakefulness, and high amplitude alpha is associated with heightened awareness. 

This continuous state of increased widespread EEG coherence seen during TM practice also carries over into daily activity outside of meditation, indicating more efficient overall brain functioning. Coherence is associated with increased learning ability, higher IQ, better moral reasoning and improved neurological efficiency — all of which result from TM practice according to numerous studies. This heightened state of EEG coherence is not reported from ordinary relaxation or other meditation practices (Travis et al, 2010).

2. Deep Relaxation: Although the Transcendental Meditation technique is a mental process, it produces extensive physiological effects. The TM technique allows the mind to settle very deeply inward, beyond thinking, in an effortless, natural way. This is called transcending — going beyond all mental activity to experience the state of restful alertness or pure consciousness at the basis of the mind.

Due to the natural relationship between mind and body, when the mind becomes deeply settled during TM practice, the body also experiences deep relaxation. The TM technique is the only mind-body practice shown by scientific research to provide a state of rest more than twice as deep as ordinary, eyes-closed relaxation (American Psychologist [42] 879-81, 1987). Meditation practices that keep the mind engaged in thinking or mental activity (such as mindfulness or the "relaxation response" technique) have not been found to produce this degree of deep rest.

3. Reducing Anxiety: A meta-analysis (critical review of all available research data) conducted at Stanford University found the Transcendental Meditation technique significantly more effective in reducing trait anxiety than concentration and contemplation procedures or other techniques (Journal of Clinical Psychology [45] 957-974, 1989). The research project analyzed 146 independent study results, and found that the increased effectiveness of TM practice could not be attributed to subject expectation, experimenter bias or quality of research design. In fact, the studies with the most rigorous design showed the most significant results for the Transcendental Meditation technique.



Back to Myths

Three categories of meditation techniques


Scientific and scholarly literature has identified three major categories of meditation techniques, classified according to EEG signature (electroencephalograph) and the type of mental activity or cognitive processing involved.  

Controlled focus (concentration) techniques involve the most mental effort or cognitive control. Open monitoring (mindfulness-type practice) involves less cognitive control. Automatic self-transcending (TM technique) uses still less mental effort (no cognitive control). 

The term "automatic" is derived from the phrase "automatic processing," a phrase used in cognitive science to describe the type of cognitive processing or mental activity that is not consciously controlled, but is more natural and automatic, such as ordinary, spontaneous thinking or perception. "Controlled processing" refers to another type of mental activity identified by cognitive science, in which the subject is consciously directing attention or attempting to control the mind's focus, as in ordinary mental concentration.

Each of these three major categories of mental activity has its own distinct EEG pattern:

1. Focused attention techniques are characterized by concentration or controlled focus on an object of meditation. Brain waves recorded during these practices are typically in the gamma frequency, a pattern commonly seen during any highly focused or controlled mental activity. (Lutz A, et al, 2004)
    Focused attention: Gamma waves (20-50 Hz)


    2. Open monitoring (mindfulness) involves monitoring the content of mental experience non-reactively. These practices are characterized by frontal theta brain waves, an EEG pattern seen during memory tasks and internal focus, and also associated with drowsiness (Cahn, Delorme, & Polich, 2010).

     
    Open monitoring: Theta waves (4-8 Hz)

    3. Automatic self-transcending describes meditation practices designed to transcend or go beyond their own mental activity—not engaging the mind in sustained mental or sensory activity, as in controlled focus or open monitoring, but allowing mental activity to subside spontaneously. Whereas concentration and open monitoring techniques require some mental effort (holding attention onto its object or maintaining a mental attitude of "mindfulness"), automatic self-transcending allows the mind to effortlessly transcend the meditation process itself. The Transcendental Meditation technique is this type of practice. The category is called automatic because the meditator is not involved in any attempt to control or sustain the process. The EEG pattern associated with this approach is frontal alpha coherence, characteristic of a more restful mind (reduced mental activity) along with increased inner wakefulness. (Travis, Arenander, &  DuBois, 2004; Travis et al., 2010)
     
    Automatic self-transcending: Frontal alpha1 (8-10 Hz) coherence

    What is ‘transcending?’
    During the Transcendental Meditation technique, the meditator effortlessly, systematically transcends: the mind spontaneously settles inward, away from the surface, active levels of thinking, enjoying progressively more settled and refined levels of experience—going beyond mental activity entirely to arrive at the silent state of restful alertness or pure consciousness. In this low-stress state, the mind is said to access its inner reserves of intelligence, creativity and order.
    Neuroscientists have found that the meditative state experienced during TM practice corresponds to a distinct style of brain activity and range of physiological changes that has not been reported from controlled focus or open monitoring practices—a state characterized by significantly lowered breath rate, decreased cortisol, reduced basal skin conductance, reduced plasma lactate, decreased activation of the sympathetic nervous system and increased EEG coherence. Scientific research shows that the experience of twice-daily transcending through the TM technique reduces anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders, improves cardiovascular health and stimulates growth of creativity and intelligence in daily life.
    Because the TM technique is itself non-religious, it does not conflict with religious practices or other kinds of meditation. People involved in other meditation practices, whether religious or non-religious, commonly report that the TM technique helps fulfill the aims of their practice and can be enjoyed as a complementary way to gain deep relaxation, improve focus and clarity, alleviate stress and accelerate personal growth.
    Maharishi speaks on the mechanics of meditation:




    But it's so hard to clear my mind of thoughts!

    You don't have to clear your mind of thoughts to successfully practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. There's no mind control involved, no concentrating against thoughts or anything else. The TM technique is a different kind of practice all together. It's simple, effortless, and totally natural.

    It's not just sitting and watching your thoughts, either. Nor is it a process of contemplation or trying to gain insight. You simply practice the technique as instructed and it pretty much just goes along by itself, allowing the mind to automatically settle inward to quieter and quieter levels, until you transcend (or go beyond) even the faintest impulses of the thinking process and arrive at the deepest, innermost field of your own awareness — a peaceful, expansive state of restful alertness or pure consciousness. This natural state of profound rest dissolves deep-rooted stresses and rejuvenates mind and body.

    But it's during your daily activity that you really enjoy the benefits of TM practice. You become more aware in life and less affected by stress — everyday growing in comprehension, clarity and inner happiness — unfolding deeper values of your potential as a human being. 


    Aren’t all forms of meditation 'transcendental?'

    If by transcendental one means a practice that systematically takes attention beyond the surface, active levels of the mind to finer, deeper levels until the faintest impulse of thought is left behind and what remains is pure awareness—the state of restful alertnessthen no, all forms of meditation are not designed or intended for this specific process.
     
    The variety of meditation practices available engage the mind in different
    ways and often have diverse goals. For example, concentration or controlled focus practices are a form of mental activity quite distinct from open monitoring (mindfulness). Concentration has its own brain wave or EEG pattern, distinct from the EEG of mindfulness practices. (For more on this, please see "The Three Categories of Meditation Techniques.")

    Some methods urge you to control the mind, others to let it go. Some techniques aim to help you focus, others aim toward “unfocusing.” There are practices that involve continually repeating a mantra, watching your breath, or sitting without judgment and observing your experiences—just being aware of "what is." All of these various practices have their benefits. They are forms of sustained mental activity that keep the mind engaged and usually localized—which means they tend to keep one's attention within the realm of thinking, ideas, concepts, language, sensations, and emotions.

    Such practices may come from venerable traditions, but they are not necessarily designed for automatic, effortless transcending—for going beyond all mental activity and transcending even the process of meditation itself. 

    Even to “sit without purpose,” as some forms of meditation urge, is a purpose in itself and can give the mind a generally active orientation intended to be sustained during meditation.

    The Transcendental Meditation technique is a unique approach: the TM technique enables the mind to experience increasingly subtler, quieter states of thought—earlier, more refined stages of the thinking process—until even the faintest impulse of mental activity is transcended and the meditator experiences the silent, peaceful state of pure consciousness. This experience is described as unboundedness or the source of thought: a silent reservoir of creativity, happiness and intelligence that resides deep within everyone.

    In the scientific literature, the TM technique is called "automatic self-transcending" because it effortlessly (automatically) allows the mind to settle inward and go beyond even the activity of meditation itself, in contrast to practices such as open monitoring (mindfulness) or controlled focus (concentration) designed to sustain their specific type of cognitive or meditative process.

    Practices not designed for transcending have their range of positive effects. Yet none have been shown through scientific research to provide the same levels of deep relaxation, orderly brain function, or holistic benefits for mind and body found to consistently result from transcending through TM practice (please see "12 Research Findings on the TM technique").

    Of course, transcending is natural and universal. We’re all hardwired for it. It’s certainly
    possible for someone to transcend—to a degree or even completely—during practices other than the TM technique. However, when transcending happens it’s always due to the natural tendency of the mind and our innate ability to experience this least excited state of awareness. There’s nothing we can actively do to make ourselves transcend or get to the transcendental state, which is a state of pure Being or non-doing. This is why complete transcendence is not as readily achieved during meditation practices that involve effort or keep the mind active on the gross, surface levels.

    The Transcendental Meditation technique
    harnesses the mind's natural, innate tendency to transcend, allowing the process to happen automatically. It is not a practice that takes a long time to master, because it’s based on a natural ability of the nervous system that everyone already possesses. Just as we all experience waking, dreaming and sleep, our nervous systems are also designed to experience this fourth state of consciousness.

    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
    During TM practice, one experiences that it is the mind's 'nature' to settle inward and experience the state of pure awareness. Because transcending is a natural process, it's possible to transcend during any form of meditation if the right conditions are present. However, practices such as mindfulness, guided meditation, "Christian centering prayer" or common "mantra" meditation — which have their own valuable benefits — typically engage the mind within the realm of thought, sensation or emotion and are not designed for automatic self-transcending. Such practices tend to keep the mind active and do not spontaneously induce the deep, inward settling associated with transcendental consciousness.

    If you'd like to learn more about the process of transcending and how TM practice is different from other forms of meditation, you're welcome to attend a free Introductory Talk, where all of these principles are explained in more depth and detail.

    How is Transcendental Meditation different from mindfulness?

    Mindfulness meditation, often associated with Vipassana ( a form of Buddhist meditation), is generally considered to be a practice of "open monitoring"—watching thoughts, perceptions or sensations come and go without judging or holding on, practiced to gain insight and equanimity.

    However, there are various forms of mindfulness meditation and Vipassana—practiced in different ways. Some methods referred to as ‘mindfulness’ or 'Vipassana' may veer into controlled focus or contemplation.


    How is the TM technique different?

    The Transcendental Meditation technique is a very different process, and the scientific research shows that TM produces different results—especially on stress levels and brain function. The TM technique is not a religious or philosophical practice. It does not involve monitoring your thoughts, watching your breathing, or scanning the body; nor is it concentration or contemplation. One distinction between TM practice and mindfulness meditation (and Vipassana) is that the TM technique is very easy to learn and effortless to practice. In fact, effortlessness is the key to the TM technique's effectiveness.

    ___________________________________________________________ 

    American Heart Association: After considering the latest scientific evidence on different forms of meditation, a recent American Heart Association study concluded that meditation techniques other than the TM technique cannot be recommended: "All other meditation techniques (including mindfulness) received a 'no benefit level of evidence’ ...[and] are not recommended at this time."
    ___________________________________________________________

    The Main Distinction: TM is Designed for Transcending

    "Transcending thought is infinitely more powerful than thinking." —Maharishi

     The TM technique is characterized in the scientific and scholarly literature as an "automatic self-transcending" type of meditation. It is a practice of systematically going beyond mental activity—transcending all thoughts—to experience increasingly refined, more powerful stages of the thinking process, until one arrives at the state of pure awareness. Experienced as the deepest level of the mind or the source of thought, here there are no thoughts, perceptions or sensations, only consciousness in its most pure and peaceful state—the mind fully awake within itself. Most people who learn the TM technique report the experience of transcending within just a few days. 

    The value of transcending twice a day through TM practice is that it prepares you for more dynamic, fulfilling activity outside of meditation. It's like pulling the arrow of the mind back farther on the bow, so that when you open your eyes and plunge into action, you have greater focus, more clarity, expanded awareness. The TM technique's deeper physiological rest washes away accumulated stresses. Neuroscientists have found that TM practice leads to more coherent and harmonious brain functioning throughout the day—which improves comprehension, creativity and intelligence.

    Studies show this state of pure transcendence to be highly rejuvenating for mind and body. In this fourth state of consciousness—which is unlike waking, dreaming or sleep—the whole system becomes more balanced. In the words of brain researchers, it is a resetting of the brain's natural ground state. Through regular, twice daily TM practice, imbalances in the system naturally, spontaneously dissolve. The meditator feels increasingly refreshed and energized from deep within.

    The TM program's founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, proposed that twice daily practice of this technique awakens the full potential of human consciousness—activating the silent source of creativity and intelligence at the basis of the mind. Meditators find that the TM technique fulfills the goals of mindfulness and Vipassana in a graceful, natural way. Increased "mindfulness" is just one of the many benefits found to result from TM practice.


    See: American University Research Study: Does Transcendental Meditation Create Mindfulness?


    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
    Although transcending is natural to the mind, most meditation techniques are not designed for transcending and tend to keep the mind active and engaged on the more gross, surface levels of experience. While any form of meditation can be beneficial, no other practice has been shown by scientific research to produce the levels of deep physiological rest, EEG coherence or holistic range of benefits gained from the process of transcending through TM practice.


    Differences in Brain function:
    Brain researchers have found that during mindfulness-type practices, the brain shows EEG patterns typical of monitoring inner processes or performing internal memory tasks—frontal theta waves (5-8 Hz) and possibly posterior gamma (30-40 Hz) (Cognitive Processing, 2010).

    Practicing the TM technique creates a brain wave pattern distinct from mindfulness-type meditation and also different from ordinary focused attention: during TM practice, widespread or long-range alpha coherence
    (8-12 Hz) is commonly seen, especially in the frontal regions of the brain, indicating more efficient, integrated brain functioning and increased inner wakefulness (Cognitive Processing 11:1, 2010).

    Different Levels of Relaxation:
    Research studies show that the unique style of physiological functioning typically gained during TM practice is a state of rest much deeper than ordinary, eyes-closed rest—a distinct mind-body state not reported from research on mindfulness or other meditation or relaxation methods. Meditation practices that keep the mind actively attentive in the waking state have not been found to produce this deep, rejuvenating state of relaxation.


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