By Arshya Gurbani
Earlier this semester, I heard about Transcendental Meditation (TM) for the first time. It’s defined as a technique that trains one to turn “attention inwards towards the subtler levels of a thought until the mind transcends the experience of the subtlest state of the thought and arrives at the source of the thought” (Mahesh Yogi, 1969). A distinguishing characteristic of this form of meditation is the carefulness with which the pedagogy is preserved–requiring a training process to certify preservation of fidelity to the method. (Wallace, 1970).
An early and foundational study noted physiological changes attributed to practicing TM. These included decreased heart rate and oxygen uptake, and changes in EEG frequency (Wallace, 1970). Generally, as we’ve heard in class from various individuals who practice, these manifest themselves as lower stress levels, in creased focus, and increased clarity and decision-making power.
Other positive benefits have been described in a variety of populations. TM has been suggested to facilitate decreased drop-out rates from urban schools, improve quality of life in children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder , boost immunity levels , and generally improve mental health and well-being.
This New York Times article chronicles the experiences of schools implementing TM in classrooms around NY, largely featuring success stories, while still noting that research on the use of TM in an academic setting is not yet conclusive.
There is room to speculate whether TM is radically different form other forms of inward reflection. Surely, there are many ways to reduce stress and enhance productivity, of which TM is just one. With TM on my radar, I look forward to seeing if research can discern TM as a distinctively beneficial.
M. Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living (International SRM, – London, rev. ed., 1966), pp. 180-209.
Wallace, R. K. (1970). Physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Science, 167(3926), 1751-1754.
*credit for articles/reference guidance to EPID799c course resources made available to students