Frequently Asked Questions
Can the TM technique be learned from a book or CD?
The TM technique is unique among forms of meditation. It is natural and effortless, but requires personal instruction to learn. Imagine trying to learn a natural golf stroke from a book. Or if you have ever learned to play a musical instrument, you know how helpful it is to have a good teacher. The teacher is needed to show you proper technique, so you can grow in confidence that you’re proceeding along correctly. Learning the TM technique is a lot easier than mastering the piano or getting a good, natural golf swing, but involves the same kind of personalized guidance.
Can you get the same results simply by relaxing?
Not according to the science. A wide range of beneficial physiological changes commonly occur during the Transcendental Meditation technique, changes that distinguish the practice from mere relaxation and other forms of meditation. Studies indicate that TM practice produces a state of rest much deeper than sitting with eyes-closed, and also much deeper than other meditation practices. Research consistently shows a natural decrease in breath rate during the TM technique, 25% greater than controls, and an increase in basal skin resistance (a standard measure of relaxation) up to 70% higher.
Physiological indicators of deep rest also include marked changes in respiratory volume, minute ventilation, tidal volume, blood lactate and heart rate. Studies suggest that this unique state of physiology helps regulate cortisol and other hormones associated with chronic stress—and also healthier regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood.
Even more significant, EEG measurements show high levels of alpha coherence over the entire brain—increased integration and orderliness of brain functioning—further differentiating the Transcendental Meditation technique from ordinary relaxation and other meditation practices.
Is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation program alone can lower high blood pressure?
Several studies (American Journal of Hypertension, 2008; American Journal of Hypertension, 2004; Hypertension, 1999) have demonstrated that high blood pressure is reduced even after a few months of twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The need for antihypertensive medication is reduced and sometimes eliminated. Anyone on medication who starts practicing the TM technique should follow up regularly with their physician to monitor this positive effect on blood pressure and the need for continued medication.
Is it possible that the benefits of Transcendental Meditation come from suggestion or expectation?
Fifty years of teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique around the world and nearly forty years of scientific research have proven that the benefits of the program are genuine and not dependent upon one’s belief in the program. Even skeptics who learn the TM technique typically report the same results as people who are “sold out” to the practice, which would not be the case if the benefits were based on expectation.
It was natural for scientists to wonder if the placebo effect—or mere expectation and belief—played a significant role in the TM program. Thus many of the major studies on the TM technique ‘controlled’ for the placebo effect. Researchers have concluded that the benefits of the practice are far too wide-ranging and consistent to result merely from placebo.
Moreover, studies on specific areas, such as reduction of cigarette smoking, have found that the TM technique is far more effective than placebos.
But will other forms of meditation give you the same results as TM?
Just as there are many kinds of medication, there are also many approaches that are termed “meditation.” Research has found that different meditation techniques affect brain functioning in different ways. Studies have found that Transcendental Meditation uniquely develops global alpha coherence, a pattern associated with increased alertness. The development of this coherence is especially marked in the prefrontal cortex – the brain’s executive planning center – and demonstrates the growth in executive functions that occurs through TM practice. In addition, published studies in major medical journals have found that TM uniquely produces a profound level of rest and significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers have also noted that, unlike other techniques, the TM technique is natural and effortless, easily learned by anyone regardless of their I.Q. or learning ability.
What if I can’t sit still long enough to meditate?
The experience of restful alertness is pleasant and comfortable, and this allows you to continue to sit quietly for twenty minutes twice a day. When practiced regularly, this program dissolves stress cumulatively, and with time, you experience less and less stress and nervousness. As a natural result of this lessening of stress, the mind settles down when you’re meditating and you don’t feel the need to get up and move around. The direct experience of stillness and peace takes care of those feelings of restlessness.
With continued practice, anxiety plays less and less a role in a person’s life; the individual starts making better decisions about daily activities because he or she is better able to cope with stress. So, with time, one gains the possibility of becoming stress free. This means being motivated by the needs of the situation rather than one’s own stressful response to the situation. Instead of reacting to challenges as a threat, one sees challenges as an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Can someone with ADHD learn to meditate?
People with ADHD have attentional variability. In some situations they have trouble focusing and in others they have the ability to hyperfocus. Even with notable ADHD, the Transcendental Meditation technique is not only easy but highly advisable. Although I cannot predict that Transcendental Meditation will eliminate this disorder, I have seen it lessen the symptoms notably.
Does TM have any harmful or unpleasant side effects?
Absolutely not. More than 350 scientific research studies have been published on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program. No legitimate, peer-reviewed studies have ever found TM practice to be unpleasant or psychologically harmful in any way—all such studies show only beneficial results.
To determine the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program, scientists have researched virtually every area of human life that can be scientifically measured. Controlled research on the effects of TM practice has been conducted under many different settings and conditions: on general populations, people in the workplace, athletes, groups of students at all grade levels, patients at high-risk for heart disease, students with learning disorders, factory workers, members of the military, groups of corporate executives, long-term TM practitioners on advanced courses, and people with pre-existing mental health problems. All these studies show significant improvements in mental and physical health, with no negative side effects whatsoever.
My teenage daughter wants to learn TM, but how do I know she isn’t getting into to some mystical philosophy or exotic belief system?
Millions of people practice the TM technique, and they do it to improve the quality of their life. They don’t have to believe anything to enjoy the benefits. They don’t have to subscribe to any new kind of philosophy or lifestyle. They just sit and enjoy this simple, natural technique 20 minutes twice a day—or in the case of kids, a shorter time.
I’ve known adults who have meditated for thirty years and have no knowledge of any philosophy associated with the Transcendental Meditation program and would have no interest in that at all. People who learn the TM technique practice it twice a day because it benefits them. In my own case, when I learned to meditate, someone had the objection that it may be some kind of disguised Eastern mysticism. I’ve been enjoying the benefits for 33 years and I still don’t know the first thing about Eastern religion.
Has anyone profited financially from the worldwide success of the TM program or is the organization really non-profit—where does the money go?
The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught solely by a non-profit educational organization. Here in the United States, that organization—The Maharishi Foundation, USA—is designated 501c(3) by the IRS. In its 50-year history the TM organization’s non-profit status has never been legally challenged.
There are no shareholders, board members or individuals who profit financially from the organization’s programs, only modest salaries for employees. All this is a matter of public record.
All of the revenues from course fees go entirely to support the organization’s educational and peace-creating activities around the world. Course fees from the U.S. and other wealthy nations support the offering of TM courses in places such as Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where there are minimal or no course fees.
“I just want to do what makes me happy, what brings me peace, and TM is a very important part of it”