Comparing Meditations




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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
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Permanent Peace

Comparing Meditations

And the Winner is .....

Meta-Analysis summary of 600 studies in relaxation research: Transcendental Meditation program more effective than Progressive Relaxation, Mindfulness Meditation, the Benson Technique, Biofeedback, Zen Meditation, Self-Hypnosis and Other Forms of Meditation and Relaxation Programs.

A report published in the May/June 1998 issue the American Journal of Health Promotion showed the Transcendental Meditation technique to be far superior to all other forms of meditation and relaxation in the areas of anxiety reduction, blood pressure reduction, physiological relaxation, self-actualization, improved psychological outcomes, and decreased use of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

This report based on previous meta-analysis studies presented an overview of a total of 597 studies involving an estimated 20,000 subjects.

Meta-analysis allows one to compare a wide variety of research designs and measurement scales by creating a standardized measure that can be applied to all the studies. It's like creating a "common denominator" for the research results from many different universities and research institutions. Then all the research on different techniques can be directly compared and grand conclusions can be drawn.

Clearly meditation is not meditation is not meditation.

Steele Belok, M.D., a specialist in internal medicine and Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School reiterates this point, "Some people may think that all techniques are the same--that if you practice one procedure for reducing stress or developing your inner potential you get the same results as any other, but this has not held up under the scrutiny of research."

In evaluating any health program remember the three eurekas: 1. Personal experience--listen to someone you trust, 2. Scientific validation--best if the research is published in reputable journals,  and 3. Historical perspective--Has it withstood the test of time?  The more that a program meets these criteria the more you can be sure that the program will live up to its claims.

My advice? When evaluating meditation programs it is much better to spend a little more money and learn a proven, time tested, scientifically validated program from a trained professional, than it is to save a few dollars and learn something that is cheap and not as effective or enjoyable to practice as the Transcendental Meditation program.


1. Orme-Johnson DW, Walton KG. (1998).  All Approaches to Preventing and Reversing the Effects of Stress Are Not the Same. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12(5):297-299.

2. Alexander, C.N., Robinson P., Orme-Johnson D.W., Schneider, R.H., & Walton K.G. (1993). The effects of Transcendental Meditation compared to other methods of relaxation and meditation in reducing risk factors, morbidity, and mortality.  Homeostasis., 35(4-5): 243-264. (19 studies)

3. Ferguson, P.C. (1981).  An integrative meta-analysis of psychological studies investigating the treatment outcomes of meditation studies. (Doctoral dissertation  University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.) Dissertation Abstracts International, 42(4-A), 1547. (51 studies)

4. Dillbeck, M., & Orme-Johnson, D. (1987).  Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42, 879-881. (31 studies)

5. Eppley, K.R., Abrams, A.I., & Shear, J. (1989).  Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: meta-analysis.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45(6), 957-974. (146 studies)

6. Eisenberg, D.M., Delbanco, T.L., Berkey, C.S., et al. (1993).  Cognitive behavioral techniques for hypertension: Are they effective?  Annual of Internal Medicine, 118(12), 1213-1220. (26 studies)

7. Alexander, C.N., Rainforth M., & Gelderloos, P. (1991).  Transcendental Meditation, self-actualization, and psychological health: A conceptual overview and statistical meta-analysis.  Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6(5), 189-247. (34 studies)

8. Alexander, C.N., Robinson, P., & Rainforth, M. (1994).  Treating and preventing alcohol nicotine, and drug abuse through Transcendental Meditation: A review and statistical meta-analysis, Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, II, #112, 13-97. (198 studies)

9. Edwards, D. L. (1990).  A meta-analysis of the effects of meditation and hypnosis on measures of anxiety.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University, Texas Station, TX. (76 studies)

10. Hyman, R.B., Feldman H.R., Harris, R.B., Levin R.F., & Malloy, G.B. (1989).  The effects of relaxation training on clinical symptoms: A meta-analysis.  Nursing Research, 38(4), 216-220. (48 studies)

11. Kuchera, M. (1986).  The effectiveness of meditation techniques to reduce blood pressure levels: A meta-analysis.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation Loyola University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

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May 15, 2006


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Dr. Travis Presents Paper Comparing
Forms of Meditation

Faculty researcher Fred Travis recently presented a paper showing that different forms of meditation have much different neurophysiological characteristics and that the Transcendental Meditation® technique is distinguished by being effortless. A complete transcript of the presentation can be found at .

Speaking at the annual conference on The Science of Consciousness in Tucson, Dr. Travis spoke on the topic "Are all Meditations the Same?" He compared Tibetan Buddhist meditation, mindfulness meditation, and the Transcendental Meditation technique using neural imaging and EEG data.

He showed that Tibetan meditation is strenuous, with EEG readings in the 40 Hz range, or otherwise known as gamma waves. In addition, neural imaging shows that the brain is very active.

In mindfulness meditation, the brain appears to be imbalanced, with considerable activity in the left front cortex - the part of the brain associated with evaluating.

In contrast, EEG patterns during the Transcendental Meditation technique characteristically show global coherent alpha waves, which are correlated with the simplest form of awareness or pure consciousness. This EEG pattern isn't seen in other practices of meditation.

Neural imaging of the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique shows that the front and back of the brain, the attentional system, are more awake and active than when one is just sitting with one's eyes closed, while the thalamus, which is the gateway of experience, is less active.

In other words, this indicates an experience of restful alertness. The attentional system is alert, while the mental experience is inward rather than outward.

"The response of the audience was very positive," Dr. Travis said. "They saw the necessity to differentiate the various forms of meditation."

He said the most difficult concept for them to understand was that the Transcendental Meditation technique is effortless. They had assumed it entailed concentration, but the EEG and neural imaging made clear that the mind was in a restfully alert state, especially as compared to the other forms of meditation.

Dr. Travis explained that the practice can be effortless because it is based on the natural tendency of the mind to go in a direction of greater charm. And because it is natural and effortless, the characteristic EEG patterns are seen within two months of an individual's first beginning the practice.

"We need to continue to clarify this critical point that the Transcendental Meditation technique is effortless and uses the natural tendency of the mind," Dr. Travis said.

Also, faculty member David Scharf gave a poster presentation at the conference titled "A New Angle on the Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Insights from Maharishi Vedic Science." He said that the foundational importance of Maharishi's programs and knowledge are increasingly being recognized.

® Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi University of Management are registered or common law trademarks licensed to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation and used under sublicense or with permission.




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