Every experience we have will leave some impression that is stored somewhere physically in the nervous system. If the impression is deep we can feel this clearly. For example, we might experience a “knot around the heart” when we have had a fight with somebody.
If the body can relax, it will literally relax stored tensions.
We can compare this with a blackboard. When we wake up in the morning the “board” is empty, but every experience that we go through throughout the day is like an additional little drawing on the blackboard. At some point the board is full: like our nervous system being cluttered with stress and tensions. The “board” has to be wiped clean again. Fortunately the body has a completely natural, automatic process to renew itself, when the body is at rest during sleep. So relaxation literally means that tensions are relaxed and impressions are removed. The problem, however, is that there are too many impressions in our busy lives. The rest during the sleep is not sufficient to remove them all.
Also the rest during sleep often does not seem to go deep enough to eliminate deeper impressions. For example, that knot around the heart after we had a fight with someone is still there. The next morning, we might feel that the tensions are a bit less but they have not disappeared completely. The sleep was not sufficient enough to remove the deep-rooted tension, or stress.
The rest during sleep does not go deep enough to eliminate all the tensions
Those tensions, which cannot be neutralised through the rest provided during sleep, will accumulate over time. Eventually, they disturb the natural functioning of the body which, in turn, results in all sorts of mental and physical problems. These disturbances can manifest, usually through our genetic “weakest link” – some people will get heart problems while others will sink into a depression. But the genetic condition is not the cause, rather it will define where the true cause, the inability of the body to clear itself of elements that disturb it’s natural functioning, will manifest itself. These disturbances are regarded today as a key cause, direct or indirect, of many physical or mental health problems.
During the experience of transcending the mind experiences a state of complete inner silence (see being yourself). Mind and body always go together. Where one goes, the other must follow. By allowing the mind to be effortlessly drawn to this experience of complete inner peace, the body also experiences a very deep state of rest in a very short timeframe compared to sleep. This can easily be measured objectively.
The deep rest during TM is experienced more quickly than during sleep.
This graph shows a study from Harvard Medical School in which the resting state is measured on the basis of oxygen consumption. We see that, during TM practice, the body experiences a state of rest much faster than the rest that is usually achieved during sleep. This remarkable study was published in 1971 in two of the best known scientific magazines in the world, Science Ref.Science 27 Vol. 167 no. 3926 pp. 1751-1754 1970 and Scientific American. Ref.Scientific American 226:84-90 1972. It was repeated many times around the world with similar results. A later publication of a larger analysis of 31 TM studies confirmed the exceptionally deep state of relaxation attained by practising TM—a state a lot deeper than that gained in normal, eyes-closed rest, whether measured through breath rate, heart rate or plasma lactate. Ref. American Psychologist 42: 879–881, 1987.
As a result, the body can also start to heal itself from the much deeper stresses, even our deepest traumatic stresses, that years of sleep (or therapy) can’t touch. If the body can eliminate the tensions that disturb its normal functioning, then the ground is set for the problems related to those disturbances to spontaneously improve. This positively affects almost every area of life.
Some of the most impressive effects, however, were found with people who also had the deepest problems – war veterans and refugees who were suffering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The deep-rooted, traumatic stresses implicated in PTSD are generally considered incurable and, in the best cases only, the symptoms can be suppressed with therapy or heavy medication.
Yet several published scientific studies have suggested a highly significant decrease or even complete disappearance of PTSD symptoms, in some cases after only 4 to 12 weeks of TM practice. Ref. Journal of Counseling and Development 64: 212–215, 1985; Ref.Military Medicine 176 (6): 626-630, 2011; Ref. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2013:1-14. For more info. see PTSD. The subjects of these studies have been exposed to the most intense stress and traumas. These studies indicate the true power of our bodies to heal themselves if only we can activate that power. It’s reasonable to assume that if, through TM practice, such deep traumas can be relieved, those suffering from lesser degrees of stress and trauma can also find relief.
Less stress = more stress resistant
Stress creates a vicious cycle: more stress creates more stress. But just 2 x 20 minutes TM per day can help turn this circle around.
Stress is a vicious cycle. The more stressed we are, the easier we will gain more stress. Under stress, we more easily lose our balance, get into arguments or fights, and become even more stressed. Stress also blocks creativity, making it more difficult to find solutions for problems. Being faced with a problem that we can’t solve is just one more stress to add to the pile!
Transcending can help to turn this cycle around. If the body starts to remove stress, it can start to function more normally. More normal functioning means that we spontaneously remain more calm, more ourselves. Rest neutralizes stress so, if we can naturally remain calm continuously, stress will simply make less of an impression on us. The body will become more and more efficient in removing stress, not only during meditation but even during normally stressful activity. It is like drawing a line on water – while we draw it, it automatically disappears.
We can measure this objectively. Studies show that Transcendental Meditation practitioners will, after an average of 3 months of regular practice of the technique, remain a lot calmer outside of their meditation practice, as measured by 4 different variables:
- Heart rate,
- Oxygen consumption,
- Galvanic skin resistance, and
- The stress hormone, plasma lactate.
(This study shows the average values of the effect of 31 different TM studies.) Ref. American Psychologist 42: 879–881, 1987.
If TM practitioners are exposed to a stressful stimulus, studies show that they also return to balance a lot faster. One can objectively measure how big a person’s resistance to stress is and studies suggest that transcending has a strongly positive effect. Ref.Psychosomatic Medicine 35: 341–349, 1973.
Reduction of stress, in itself, is actually a side effect of what really happens – we get back in contact with our true inner nature and everything that is unnatural just starts to melt away – see transcending = the highest human experience.
For more scientific research on the effects of Transcendent Meditation on stress reduction click on the scientific research tab on top of this page.