This week we share a guest article from Mindvalley Academy, enjoy!
There is very little doubt that meditation has positive health benefits. Numerous and various scientific studies have proven that meditation improves both our psychological and physical health, and therefore it is recommended to practice meditation routinely, and in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise.
While it may seem obvious that meditation works wonders on the soul, it might be difficult to fathom that it helps heal the body too, but it’s true. Concentration Meditation and mindfulness improve many areas of our physical health, from curing sleeplessness and reducing stress, anxiety and depression, to improving our breath, blood flow and brain structure.
The benefits of these branches of meditation are observable, but what about Transcendental Meditation?
Because of its popularity among the rich and famous, it has taken the world by storm. Many famous faces swear by its healing properties, but can you take their word for it? Could it be that it is simply a fad with no proven benefits, or even worse, adverse effects? No. It is not a fad. It will not harm you, or make you sick. You can trust the advocates for it, and most importantly, yes - Transcendental Meditation has benefits that can be proven.
How is Transcendental Meditation Different?
It is easy to confuse Transcendental Meditation with Concentration Meditation because they are practiced in similar fashions. There are three types of meditation:
Concentration Meditation is, as the name implies, a method in which the participant voluntarily focuses on a single idea (or sound, object or motion) that they use to return to if their thoughts wander.
Mindfulness Meditation is a technique in which awareness is made the focus. The practitioner will focus on everything they are experiencing, and in doing so, experience it to the fullest.
Transcendental Meditation however, differs from the previous two in the sense that no effort is made in diverting your attention to a specific idea, object or experience, but rather to acknowledge it, and then transcend it (hence the name). Your thoughts are free to wander, so long as you understand where they are wandering to. It is said to be an effortless and self-fulfilling process.
How Transcendental Meditation Can Benefit You?
It Relieves and Reduces Stress
Official studies have proven that Transcendental Meditation, as with the other two schools of meditation, does two important things when it comes to relieving stress:
It reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and it boosts levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone). The powerful combination of these two effects results in a number of positive improvements including reduced anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, and healthier sleep. Most importantly, it relaxes our nervous systems. Transcendental Meditation is often used to rehabilitate those who suffer from PTSD, or soldiers, prisoners and those who have suffered severe emotional traumas.
It Improves and Increases Productivity
The effects of Transcendental Meditation have been studied in companies both large and small, and in schools too. Results show that consistent meditation boosts confidence, and therefore increases effectiveness, leadership abilities, cognitive performance, and intellectual capabilities. It also improves our professional relationships, moods (and therefore job satisfaction) and behavior. Students went on to yield better test scores too.
It Encourages Heart Health
As mentioned above, Transcendental Meditation lowers blood pressure… but did you know that it is so effective that it has been approved by the American Heart Association as a practice in the prevention and treatment of hypertension? Transcendental Meditation takes it a step further by improving cardiovascular health in many areas including atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, myocardial ischemia, and left ventricular hypertrophy. Furthermore, a recent study revealed that those who meditate are 48% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who don’t.
It Combats Addictions and Cravings
Smokers are more likely to kick the habit once they start practicing Transcendental Meditation. According to one study, more than 50% of smokers quit 2 years into their meditation routines. Transcendental Meditation also helps fight alcoholism; scientific studies show that those who practice Transcendental Meditation are 8 times more likely to cut down on their alcohol consumption. It was proven to be the most effective rehabilitation technique when compared to relaxation programs, interventions and other prevention programs.
It Promotes Healthy Relationships
When observed both in their professional and intimate relationships, Transcendental Meditation practitioners were happier and more satisfied after they started practicing the technique. Transcendental Meditation makes us more patient and understanding and encourages better communication between parties.
It Makes You Smarter
Continuous research has found that Transcendental Meditation improves our reasoning, information processing, cognitive and social functioning, comprehension, analytical abilities and curiosity.
It Makes You Happier
And so it goes without saying that if you are relaxed, productive, healthy, emotionally satisfied and smarter than you were before, your mood will certainly improve! In addition, Transcendental Meditation decreases anxiety and depression. As stated above, it increases our production of melatonin and through this function of resting and relaxing, we are better able to produce our happy hormones like dopamine.
Even more so, because we are less stressed, we become even happier, and Transcendental Meditation has the testimonies of many that it not only improved the practitioner’s health, but their happiness, vitality and quality of life too.
Try It For Yourself
The best way to practice Transcendental Meditation is to work with an instructor or mentor as they will be able to properly guide you through your meditations, and they will also be qualified to assign a mantra that is just for you.
Of course, if you are testing the waters, there is no harm in trying it out for yourself!
You can use a mantra of your choosing (a list can be found here) or ask someone you trust to choose one for you and then keep it a secret. Transcendental Meditation is a very personal practice, and it’s important that you don’t advertise your mantra to everyone.
Once you have settled on a mantra you can give the following technique a try:
- Close your eyes and think of your mantra. It is only to be repeated at the beginning of the exercise.
- After a few minutes (or whenever it happens naturally), let your mantra go and allow your thoughts to wander and change as they please. Go with your thoughts. You may return to your mantra, but don’t force any thoughts. Acknowledge thoughts alongside your mantra.
- Do not focus on any single thought, or even your mantra. Allow your mind to ease back into your mantra as it will. Remember, it is not an exercise in concentration, but rather in awareness and automation.
- When you are ready to stop, let your mantra go (don’t think about it) and keep your eyes closed for at least 2 minutes before you come to.
Even if you are not after the physical benefits of Transcendental Meditation, it is certainly worth the spiritual improvements. Ask anyone who practices it - it’s worth it.
Founded in 2003 by Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley Academy is an online school for all the things regular schooling forgets to teach you. Mindvalley brings you world-class courses from the world's top personal growth authors to allow you to create remarkable transformations in all areas of your life. To learn more, click here.