Transcendental Meditation

Summary of Scientific Research

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Summary of Scientific Research on the
Transcendental Meditaion and TM-Sidhi Programs

Compiled and Edited by
David Orme-Johnson, Ph.D.
Former Dean of Research, Maharishi University of Management

The scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the largest and strongest body of research in the world on any program to develop human potential. The more than 600 scientific studiesconducted at 200 independent universities and institutions in 33 countries and published in over 100 leading scientific journals have documented that this technology benefits every sphere of life: physiological, psychological, sociological, and ecological.

The findings in each area of study have been replicated many times, and meta-analyses, which are the most quantitatively rigorous means to review a body of research, have found a high degree of consistency of the results1. Studies using the most sophisticated, rigorous research methodologies that are designed to prove causality have strongly verified and extended preliminary findings. This demonstrates that the Maharishi Transcendental MeditationSM and TM-SidhiSM programs causes the wide range of benefits in mental potential, health, and social behavior.

Research conducted around the world documents that the program is effective for all cultural and ethnic groups. All age groups benefit, from increased alertness in infants of meditating parents to increased health, happiness, and longevity in meditating elderly. People spanning the full range of socioeconomic levels and intellectual abilities benefit, again indicating the universality of Maharishi's program.

This body of research is unique in the extent of its cross validation, which means that the findings are validated by many different types of physiological, psychological, and sociological measures. For example, the finding that the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs decreases stress is validated by physiological changes such as decreased cortisol (the major stress hormone), decreased muscle tension, normalization of blood pressure, increased autonomic stability, and increased EEG coherence. At the same time, a variety of psychological changes also indicates decreased stress, including decreased anxiety and depression, decreased post-traumatic stress syndrome, and increased self-actualization. Likewise, stress reduction is demonstrated by the sociological changes, such as decreased hostility, increased family harmony, and reduced criminal behavior in incarcerated felons.

Moreover, research extends the concept of stress reduction to the ecological level. Studies have found that the reduction of stress in meditating individuals creates an influence of harmony in the environment. Scientists have named this phenomenon the Maharishi Effect--the finding that even 1% of the population practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, or the square root of one percent practicing the more advanced Transcendental Meditation-SidhiSM program, improve the quality of life, as indicated by such changes as reduced crime and sickness in the larger society. The following briefly summarizes the overall research findings by category: physiological, psychological, sociological, and ecological.

Physiological Benefits

The original landmark research on the physiological correlates of the Transcendental Meditation technique was published in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American in 1970-1972 (papers 1, 3, 4). This research found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces a physiological state of restful alertness. During the technique the physiology becomes deeply rested, as indicated by significant reductions in respiration, minute ventilation, tidal volume, and blood lactate, and significant increases in basal skin resistance (an index of relaxation). At the same time the physiology is alert rather than asleep, as indicated by an increased abundance of alpha waves in the EEG. These findings led researcher Dr. Keith Wallace to conclude that restful alertness is a fourth major state of consciousness, termed transcendental consciousness, that is physiologically distinct from ordinary waking, dreaming, and deep sleep (paper 2).

Many other researchers have confirmed the reality of Transcendental Consciousness. Moreover, they have found that through regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the physiology becomes more relaxed outside of meditation as well. Baseline levels of respiration rate, heart rate, plasma lactate, and skin resistance are all lower. The autonomic nervous system, which regulates vital internal processes, becomes more stable, integrated, and adaptable, as indicated by its increased ability to recover rapidly from the effects of stress. Brain functioning becomes more orderly, as indicated by the growth of physiological correlates of creativity and intelligence, such as shorter latencies of cognitive evoked potentials, faster paired H-reflexes, increased EEG coherence, shorter inspection time, and faster choice reaction time.

Medical researchers have found a reduction of important cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and serum cholesterol. Large health insurance studies have found that people practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs, in all age groups combined, display a 50% reduction in both inpatient and outpatient medical care utilization compared to controls. Hospitalization is 87% lower for heart disease and 55% lower for cancer. And what is most remarkable, meditators over 40 years old have approximately 70% fewer medical problems than others in their age group. Other research has found that meditating individuals in their mid-50s have a biological age twelve years younger than their chronological age, and that people beginning the practice even at 80 years of age live longer and are healthier and happier than controls of the same age (see Part I: Physiology in Vols. 1-5, and in the recent research section).

Psychological Benefits

Numerous studies have found that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program increases broad comprehension and improves the ability to focus sharply (field independence). Through regular practice of this program, the physiology becomes habituated to sustain the experience of restful alertness at all times. Research shows that this is the best means of reducing anxiety, depression, and anger. Transcendental Consciousness, the experience of one's higher Self, becomes a stable internal frame of reference, providing an unshakable sense of self even during dynamic activity. Meditators become better able to see another person's perspective, yet they cannot easily be swayed by social pressure to do something which they judge to be wrong. They tend to perceive the world more positively and holistically.

Creativity increases, as measured by tests of both verbal and pictorial fluency, flexibility, and originality. Perception becomes more accurate and less driven by preconceptions and misconceptions. Basic memory processes improve. School children who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique significantly improve in their basic skills in mathematics, reading, language and study skills within a semester. Studies of elementary school students, high school students, college students, and adults have found significant increased IQ scores compared to non-meditating controls over the same period. A ten-year longitudinal study following meditating college students after they graduated found significant increases on holistic measures of self development (ego development) compared to data sets for graduates of three control universities matched for gender and age. The meditators reached higher levels of moral reasoning, autonomy and integration than has ever been seen before in any other group.

The conclusion of all the research on meditation and relaxation techniques in the field of self-actualization shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique is unparalleled in its ability to fully develop the unique potential of the individual. This technique makes a person more self-sufficient, more spontaneous, more productive, better able of meet challenges, and more capable of warm interpersonal relationships (see Part II: Psychology in Vols. 1-5, and in the recent research section).

Sociological Benefits

A quantitative review of 198 studies found that the Transcendental Meditation program is the most effective means of preventing and treating drug and alcohol abuse. In a study of transient, chronic alcoholics it was found that the technique produced a 65% abstinence rate and another study of high school and college drug users in a rehabilitation center found an 89% reduction in drug usage. A study of war veterans with post-traumatic adjustment problems found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produced significant decreases in emotional numbness, alcohol consumption, family problems, insomnia, unemployment, and overall post-traumatic stress disorder, in comparison to controls receiving psychotherapy.

The Japanese Ministry of Labor commissioned a five-month study of the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on 447 of their employees in a major heavy industry. The study found decreased physical complaints, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, decreased smoking, decreased insomnia, decreased digestive problems, and a decreased tendency towards neurosis and psychosomatic problems among those who learned this technique compared to non-meditating controls.

The Transcendental Meditation program has been widely used for effective prison rehabilitation. Studies indicate that it produces positive changes in health, personality development, behavior, and reduced recidivism (lower return to prison) among inmates. One study of recidivism found that 259 inmates of Folsom and San Quentin prisons and Deuel Vocational Institute in California who learned Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation technique had 35-40% fewer new prison terms compared to the matched controls, whereas it is known that traditional prison education, vocational training, and psychotherapy do not consistently reduce recidivism. A large scale study of 11,000 prisoners and 900 staff officers in Senegal, West Africa in 1987 found that the Transcendental Meditation program markedly decreased prison violence, health problems and that it reduced recidivism to a mere 8% (see Part III: Sociology in Vols. 1-5, and in the recent research section).

Ecological Changes

Maharishi has brought to light that the most important single ecological consideration is a pervasive field of collective consciousness-- the collective influence of the consciousness of individuals that comprise a society. Stressed individuals create an atmosphere of stress in collective consciousness that reciprocally affects the thinking and actions of every individual in that system. Maharishi maintains that crime, drug abuse, armed conflict, and other problems of society are more than just the problem of individual criminals, drug users, and conflicting factions in society. Such problems are more fundamentally symptoms of stress in collective consciousness.

Maharishi has introduced a new theoretical understanding of society, which concludes that the only practical way to handle large-scale problems is to approach them holistically by creating coherence in collective consciousness. Citing the general principle of science that the coherent elements of a system exert an influence proportional to their number squared, Maharishi has estimated that 1% of the population practicing his Transcendental Meditation technique and as few as the square root of 1% collectively practicing his Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs would be enough to create an influence of coherence in collective consciousness capable of neutralizing the stresses that are the root cause of social problems. Extensive scientific research on the city, state, national, and international levels has confirmed Maharishi's prediction. A study of 160 US cities found a significant reduction in crime trend from 1974 to 1978 in proportion to the number of people in the city who had learned the technique by 1973. The study controlled for demographic variables known to influence crime.

Research has further demonstrated that when groups practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program are introduced into a city, state, or country anywhere in the world that crime decreases, there are fewer traffic accidents, and the quality of life improves in that area.

Since 1979, Maharishi University of Management has had a group of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program participants that has varied in size from a few hundred to over 8,000. Published research has shown that increases in the size of the group have an influence in both the US and Canada, resulting in fewer violent deaths due to homicides, suicides, and traffic fatalities, a reduction in unemployment and inflation; and a general improvement in the quality of life.

Studies have shown that when this group, or a similar group located anywhere in the world, is sufficiently large, that is, approaching the square root of 1% of the world population (7,000), that international relations improve and regional conflicts decrease world-wide. The conclusion of this research is that the only viable means of reducing and eventually eliminating the age-old problems of society and creating world peace is the ecological and truly systemic approach of creating coherence in collective consciousness through the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program.

This remarkable body of research showing that the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program produces basic improvements on all levels of life — health, mental potential, social behavior, and world peace — confirms that this technology of consciousness operates on the most fundamental level of Nature's functioning, enlivening the unified field of Natural Law in the consciousness of the individual and in society, so that life may be lived in accord with Natural Law.


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