New Research Validates Hallmark of Transcendental Meditation — Effortlessness
A new study on MUM students by Fred Travis shows EEG patterns of the
Transcendental Meditation® technique that distinguish it from other approaches
to meditation and that validate the assertion that it's an effortless practice.
"Transcendental Meditation uses a mantra, and for this reason some researchers
maintain that it involves focused attention and controlling the mind," Dr.
Travis said. "This study supports the experience of people who practice
Transcendental Meditation that it's easy to learn and effortless to practice."
There were two key findings that suggest the technique is effortless and
natural. First, the students who had been meditating for a month reported the
same frequency of experiences of Transcendental Consciousness as those who had
been meditating for five years.
"This supports the understanding that Transcendental Meditation uses the
natural tendency of the mind to transcend — to move from active thinking to
deep, inner silence," Dr. Travis said. "Extensive practice doesn't make a
natural process go any better."
The second finding deals with activity in the "default mode network" (DMN),
which is a large-scale brain network involving areas in the front and back of
the brain that are active when one's eyes are closed and one is following
internal thoughts. DMN activity is high when a person just sits with his or her
eyes closed, and low when one opens one's eyes and interacts with the world.
The study reports that activity in the DMN remained high during Transcendental
Meditation practice. In contrast, it decreases in all other types of meditation
— since they involve focus and control of the mind. Indeed, the study found
that the default mode network was as high during Transcendental Meditation
practice as during eyes-closed rest, which is used as the benchmark for default
mode network activity.
However, Dr. Travis found two important differences between Transcendental
Meditation and eyes-closed rest. Eyes-closed rest had more beta brain waves in
areas of the brain associated with memory and motor aspects of speech
production, perhaps reflecting the mental chatter that goes on when one's eyes
are closed, Dr. Travis said.
Transcendental Meditation had more theta brain waves in orbitofrontal areas
associated with reward anticipation.
"This could indicate the movement of the mind to more charming levels of
thought during transcending," Dr. Travis said. "The meditators' attention was
absorbed in the inner march of the mind, attracted by the increasing charm of
finer levels of mental functioning."
The Review, Vol 32, #6