What Is Transcendental Meditation?

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a form of silent mantra meditation, developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This practice involves the use of a mantra and is practised for 15–20 minutes twice per day while sitting with one’s eyes closed. It’s one of the most widely practised and researched forms of meditation.

Understanding Transcendental Meditation

  1. Basic Principles: TM is based on the principle of effortless transcending. The practice involves silently repeating a personally assigned mantra, which is a word or sound without meaning. This repetition is meant to facilitate the settling of the mind into a state of profound rest.
  2. Distinctive Features: Unlike other forms of meditation that require concentration or contemplation, TM is characterized by its effortlessness. Practitioners are taught to allow thoughts to come and go without resistance, focusing gently on the mantra.

How TM Works in the Brain

  1. Neurological Activity: Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) has shown that TM can lead to a state of ‘restful alertness’. This means the brain exhibits patterns of reduced stress and arousal while maintaining a wakeful and alert state.
  2. Brainwave Changes: During TM, there is an increase in theta and alpha brainwaves, which are associated with deep relaxation and heightened awareness, respectively. These changes are more pronounced in the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas involved in executive functions and attention.
  3. Reduced Stress Response: TM seems to reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. This reduction is associated with decreased cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and reduced anxiety.
  4. Enhanced Brain Coherence: Studies have shown increased coherence in brainwave patterns during TM. This suggests that different parts of the brain communicate better with each other during meditation, potentially leading to improved cognitive functions.
  5. Impact on the Default Mode Network (DMN): TM practice has been linked to changes in the DMN, which is active when the mind is at rest and not focusing on the outside world. This could explain the increased sense of self-awareness and reduced feelings of self-centeredness reported by practitioners.

Potential Benefits Of Transcendental Meditation

  1. Mental Health: Regular practice of TM has been associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
  2. Cognitive Benefits: Improvements in memory, creativity, and problem-solving abilities have been reported.
  3. Physical Health: Studies suggest benefits such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and improved immune function.
  4. Well-being and Quality of Life: Practitioners often report higher levels of overall happiness and life satisfaction.

Transcendental Meditation represents a simple yet profound technique to promote mental and physical well-being. By inducing a unique state of restful alertness, TM may offer a range of neurological and health benefits, making it a valuable tool for anyone seeking to reduce stress and enhance their quality of life. As with any practice, individual experiences may vary, and it’s always recommended to learn TM from certified instructors.

Transcendental meditation and women

Transcendental meditation has known benefits, especially for women.  For a woman to land or hold a job and then perform well requires a juggling act of contrasting personal qualities. For example:

  • A woman in the workplace creates better relationships when she has a warm demeanour. At the same time cannot afford to be perceived as lightweight. She has to exhibit a sharp focus, determination, and perseverance.
  • A woman who ‘leans in’ might be criticized as too aggressive. Her speech, body language, and actions need to reflect energy and stamina. At the same time, she needs to be friendly, courteous and calm.
  • Women tend to be more susceptible to stress than men. However, they have to support an equally demanding schedule and workload without becoming stressed, tired, or ill.
  • Because of the increased role of women in previously male-dominated professions, a woman’s performance may be compared to that of her male predecessor’s or associate’s. So a lack of anxiety and good self-esteem are essential to her emotional daily balance.

Transcendental meditation program

The Transcendental Meditation (TM) program is an evidence-based approach to maintaining these juggling acts with ease and grace. A portable tool that helps you live your ideals and succeed without losing yourself, your cool, your health, and your mind. I learned the TM technique when I was a young woman. It enabled me to secure and sustain the chief position in a New York City non-profit organization for more than three decades. But it wasn’t until I began to compare notes with other women in leadership roles that I saw the unmistakable value this technique has for women who are striving to succeed.

One successful businesswoman wrote about her benefits from TM practice.  “It has given me a way to recharge my creativity, sharpen my focus, boost my energy, calm my nerves, and sustain me. Over the years, I’ve become less an aggressive, hard-edged businesswoman and more a balanced, thoughtful leader.”

Another woman in the C-Suite wrote, “What I needed was a way to come back into myself. Quiet my mind a little bit so that I could focus. TM practice settles me down and helps me be more organized.”

A statement by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, highlighted the potential of women in leadership: Countries with higher levels of gender equality have higher economic growth. Companies with more women on their boards have higher returns. Peace agreements that include women are more successful. Parliaments with more women take up a wider range of issues – including health, education, anti-discrimination, and child support.

Women at the top of their game

In the globally evolving environment in which women in so many countries are offered increasingly greater education and employment opportunities, they need to be playing at the top of their game. They need focus, energy, creativity, stamina, and emotional stability—and they’ll need a simple effective way to dissolve stress and fatigue. Peer-reviewed published research shows that the twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique can accomplish all of that.

Transcendental Meditation is a simple effortless, secular, non-philosophical mechanical technique that provides deep rest and decreases fatigue, stress, depression, and anxiety. It increases energy, intelligence, memory, creativity, and self-concept. It reduces high blood pressure and other serious risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. TM is endorsed by the American Heart Association in the US for its reduction of hypertension.

The benefits of TM

In the last few years, there have been many media reports on the topic, including:

    • Bloomberg Business: “I react to volatile markets much more calmly now”
    • CNN: Health: Meditation Benefits Patients with Heart Disease
    • Forbes: “To Become Wealthier, Do What You Do Best”
    • Financial Times: “Meditate to sharpen your assertive edge”
    • Business Insider: Executives Who Swear by Meditation

Published studies on the TM program showed benefits relevant to career including:

    • improved job performance,
    • improved work relationships
    • decreased tension on the job
    • decreased trait anxiety in executives
    • increased psychological calmness in executives
    • improved sleep quality and increased energy
    • increased contribution of managers to the organization
    • decreased stress and improved the vitality of managers
    • increased intelligence and creativity

All these results of practising the Transcendental Meditation technique help a woman to perform better and be competitive in the job marketplace. With increased competence, she can enjoy competition, and not be intimidated by it.

Confidence matters as much as competence

However, a woman’s confidence may matter as much as her competence, according to a study by Thomson Reuters. The research showed that most U.S. women executives think that men self-promote and network better. Self-doubt might be a reason. Fortunately, published research studies show that TM practice increases self-esteem and self-confidence—women experience an increase in strength of self-concept, enabling them to forge ahead to achieve educational and career goals.

And lastly, some of the most exciting recent research shows that during TM practice different parts of the brain responsible for different functions learn how to communicate with each other. There is also increased blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex, known for its role in the brain as the CEO.

The plague of stress in most professions can be antiquated: as a certified TM teacher in New York City, my experience is that the TM technique is a simple, elegant and enjoyable way to enable a woman to enjoy success without stress.

  • About the Author
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I grew up with a strong interest in science and human potential and my academic background reflects those interests. When I learned about the potential for development of consciousness through the published research on the Transcendental Meditation program, I was drawn to becoming a TM teacher. Being a director of our New York City offices for almost four decades, I witnessed the remarkable benefits of TM in the stressed NY population. Several years ago I was offered the opportunity to be on the U.S. national board of the TM Program for Women, where I serve as executive director of our program for women professionals. (800)635-7173