I have taught many thousands of people to meditate. My students are the leaders of Fortune 100 companies and are cashiers in small family shops. They go to private colleges and urban schools. They are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus, or they practice no religion whatsoever. They run the gamut from professional athletes to people living in homeless shelters. Whomever I am sitting across from—whether it’s a CEO of one of the world’s largest financial institutions or a single working mom with two young children at home or a veteran who hasn’t slept more than two hours a night for months—they have the same look in their eyes when they come to me to talk about meditation. They are ready for something better, they are ready for a change.
I was in their shoes once, and I was perhaps more skeptical than any of them. In 1969 I was a university student with a nagging sense that there had to be something more I could be doing to be happier, healthier, more productive. I saw far too many people who had acquired the things that are supposed to make you that way, and yet they were often too stressed with too much worry, and, too often, unhappy. A friend whom I trusted, who had observed my own spiking stress levels from too much school pressure, suggested I might like Transcendental Meditation. I balked. I wasn’t interested. Meditation wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I was (and am) a very practical, down-to-earth, active kind of guy. My trajectory was to go to law school so that I could run for public office and ultimately become a US senator. I wanted to help change the world. (Yes, we thought those things then.) Sitting around “meditating” didn’t fit into my life view.
But I wasn’t sleeping well, and my memory was flagging, and I did respect my friend’s opinion, so I decided to at least give TM a try. Despite my initial reticence and skepticism, I found the experience to be marked, significant, real. It was astonishingly easy to do, deeply relaxing, and yet incredibly energizing, like nothing I had experienced before. From the very start, I knew that, somehow, I wanted to teach this to people; and, in particular, I wanted to teach it to inner-city school kids. A few years later, in January 1972, I took a semester off from my studies and enrolled in a graduate-level five-month TM teacher training course led by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, himself a university-trained physicist and the foremost meditation teacher of this generation. During the course, Maharishi and a team of brain scientists, physicians, and psychologists explored ancient and modern insights into the science of consciousness, as well as the impact of stress and trauma on the brain and nervous system. We learned the unique mechanics of the TM practice and the role of this meditation for unfolding the seemingly limitless creativity and intelligence within the human mind, as well as its ability to address effectively many of society’s intractable ills. Most importantly, Maharishi taught us the simple yet precise technique of how to personally teach any individual to transcend—to effortlessly access the deep stillness that likes within every human being—in a way that was tailored specifically for that person.
From his earliest days of teaching TM in the world in 1958, Maharishi focused on researching and understanding the science of Transcendental Meditation. He challenged doctors at Harvard, UCLA, and other medical schools to study the neurophysiological changes both during and after the technique. The results are abundantly clear today. Since then, more than four hundred scientific studies have shown the wide-ranging benefits of the TM technique for improving brain and cognitive functioning, cardiovascular health, and emotional well-being. These studies have been published in top peer-reviewed science journals, including the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine, and the American Heart Association’s journals Stroke and Hypertension. (To be clear, it matters greatly that this research is peer-reviewed. Medical peer review means that experts are evaluating the credibility of the study, and also ensuring that the clinicians involved meet established standards of care.) The US National Institutes of Health has provided tens of millions of dollars to study TM’s effects on stress and heart health, while the US Department of Defense has awarded several million dollars to study its impact on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The change has taken time, but the Transcendental Meditation technique is now recognized as a powerful treatment and preventative modality for so many of the stress-based disorders of our time—as well as an immensely practical tool to markedly improve health and performance. In the same way that we now recognize the importance of exercise and eating healthy, the world has come a long way with regards to understanding the critical importance of meditation in general and Transcendental Meditation in particular.
Reprinted from Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation by Bob Roth with permission from Simon & Schuster. © 2018 by David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace and published by Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.