Review: The Skeptic's Dictionary on Transcendental Meditation




“The reader is forewarned that The Skeptic’s Dictionary does not try to present a balanced account…” —Skeptic's Dictionary author Robert Todd Carroll


by Tom McKinley Ball


The Skeptic's Dictionary offers a hardcore skeptic's usual denouncements of God, angels and other so-called “myths and dangerous delusions,” but also targets a surprising variety of more earthly subjects—from vitamins and organic food to psychology and chiropratic.

I doubt if very many readers find solace knowing that "professional skeptics" are on guard to protect us from the likes of Sigmund Freud, Big Foot or the Mothman (yes, the Skeptic's Dictionary addresses these very topics and throws Western Psychology right in there with UFOs). Nonetheless, such skeptical evaluations may prove useful for the slam-dunk debunking of certain ill-founded or outlandish beliefs.

However, readers seeking an honest assessment of the Transcendental Meditation technique may find The Skeptic’s Dictionary appraisal frustratingly biased. The author cites no empirical evidence to support his criticisms of the TM program, uses inaccurate, non-science sources as references and disregards the body of peer-reviewed scientific literature that supports the program. The fact that millions of people around the world have learned the TM technique and reported benefits in their daily life also seems to carry little weight in the Skeptic's Dictionary evaluation.

Is the TM program scientifically validated? Is it truly non-profit?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary: "The Transcendental Meditation program is a spiritual business whose proponents claim is scientifically validated."


Fact: After 40 years of independent research, the scientific validation of the Transcendental Meditation program is extensive, by any rational measure. More than 600 published research studies comprise the body of scientific literature on the TM technique, along with scores of theoretical papers and critical reviews. Over 350 of these research studies have appeared in peer-reviewed scientific and academic journals, verifying benefits for mind, body, relationships and environment. All the major findings have been replicated — and over 50 of these studies are randomized clinical trials. Scientific research on the TM program has been conducted at 250 independent institutions worldwide, including Harvard Medical School, Yale Medical School, UCLA Medical School, Stanford Medical School, University of Virginia Medical School and many others. More than 350 scientists around the world have conducted research on the TM technique, the majority of whom were unaffiliated with the TM organization.

Fact: The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the United States by Maharishi Foundation, a non-profit educational organization, designated 501(c)(3) by the IRS — it is not a for-profit business. In its 50-year history, the TM organization’s non-profit status has never been legally challenged. All of the revenues from course fees go entirely to support the organization’s educational and philanthropic activities around the world, such as teaching meditation to at-risk populations. There are no shareholders, board members or individuals who profit financially from the organization’s programs, beyond modest salaries paid to employees. All this is a matter of public record. Course fees from the U.S. and other wealthy nations support the organization’s teaching activities in places such as Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where there are minimal or no course fees to learn the TM technique.


An overview of scientifically validated benefits

Why is there a course fee for learning the TM technique?


The Skeptic’s Dictionary: “Trainees pay hundreds of dollars for their mantras.”

Fact: The Transcendental Meditation course fee covers a seven-step program of personal instruction and classes (12-15 hours) with a highly trained, certified TM teacher. Instruction in the TM technique does involve learning a mantra — a “vehicle for transcending” that allows the mind to settle inward — but the TM course involves much more. The student learns correct use of the mantra, gains a thorough understanding about the mechanics of the practice and receives comprehensive knowledge of higher stages of human development.

Everyone who has taken the TM course has free access to an ongoing but optional followup program of knowledge and instruction to insure correct practice and a lifetime of benefits.

In the context of the Transcendental Meditation program, the term “mantra” has a specific use (as described above), referring to a sound that has no association with meaning, not to be confused with other uses of the term referenced by “The Skeptic’s Dictionary.”

Are the TM program's mantras unique?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary: “Novices may be led to believe that their mantra is unique, though many practitioners will share the same mantra.”

Fact: At no point during the Transcendental Meditation course is it stated or implied that students will receive a mantra that is individually unique or "one of a kind." The mantras, derived from the Vedic tradition, are unique in the sense that they are special sounds whose effects are known to be powerfully harmonizing and beneficial for mind and body. The student receives the correct mantra according to the time-tested and scientifically proven knowledge in which TM instructors are trained.

Is there proof that the TM technique is effective in schools?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary: “It may be true that [TM instructors] really believe that TM can do all these things [improve student test scores, reduce violence and drug abuse, reduce student anxiety and depression, and diminish teacher burnout], but they do not have strong proof that TM in the schools will accomplish any of these noble goals.”

Fact: The Transcendental Meditation program’s effectiveness in education has been demonstrated by 40 years of scientific research and classroom experience. Researchers studying the application of the program in the classroom have published findings such as improved grades and academic skills, reduced anxiety and depression among students, increased intelligence and creativity, improved performance on standardized test scores, increased self-esteem, improved memory, reduced behavioral problems, and increased tolerance and appreciation of others.

Scientific research on the effects of the TM program in the classroom

A new standard of academic excellence: Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment

The Transcendental Meditation Technique Reduces ADHD Symptoms Among Students: New Study

"Millions of followers?"

The Skeptic’s Dictionary: The Transcendental Meditation program claims “millions of followers.”

Fact: While it is true that over 5 million people have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique over the past 50 years, the organization and Maharishi himself boast of no followers. Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique practiced for 20 minutes twice daily—it is not a belief system or lifestyle that one is asked to follow. As Maharishi has said, “I have no followers. Everyone follows their own progress.”

Is the TM technique the same as ordinary relaxation?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary: Some of the studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique merely show “the same physiological results you can achieve by relaxing completely.”

Fact: Scientific research studies show that a wide range of beneficial physiological changes commonly occur during the Transcendental Meditation technique, distinguishing the practice from mere relaxation or other forms of meditation. Studies indicate that TM practice produces a state of rest much deeper than resting with eyes-closed, and also much deeper than other meditation practices.

Research consistently shows a natural decrease in breath rate during the TM technique that is 25-30% greater than controls, and an increase in basal skin resistance (a standard measure of relaxation) up to 70% higher. Physiological indicators of a deeper state of rest also include marked changes in respiratory volume, minute ventilation, tidal volume, blood lactate and heart rate. Studies suggest that this unique state of physiology promotes regulation of cortisol and other hormones associated with chronic stress, resulting in a healthier regulation of serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with mood). EEG measurements show increased alpha coherence and integration of brain functioning, further differentiating the Transcendental Meditation technique from ordinary relaxation and other meditation practices.

Discovery of the fourth state of consciousness: According to many researchers, the unique physiological changes found to occur during the Transcendental Meditation technique constitute the discovery of a fourth state of consciousness—known as Transcendental Consciousness, a state of restful alertness unlike waking, dreaming or sleep. The repeated experience of Transcendental Consciousness through twice-daily practice of the TM technique has been found to produce a wide range of rejuvenating effects on mind and body, stimulating growth of intelligence and creativity and leading to a state of heightened well-being.

Many scientists have lauded the Transcendental Meditation program as a historic scientific discovery with profound implications for health and human potential. World renowned quantum physicist Dr. John Hagelin has equated Transcendental Consciousness with the Unified Field currently being researched by modern physics—theorizing that the silent source of nature’s limitless creativity and organizing power, the Unified Field, is directly accessed subjectively through the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Scientific research on the physiology of Transcendental Consciousness

Does the TM organization maintain real estate holdings worth billions?


The Skeptic’s Dictionary: Maharishi’s organization maintains real estate holdings “worth more than $3 billion in the late 1990s.”

Fact: The founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was not the owner of the TM organization and himself maintained no financial holdings. This is a public fact, easily verified on any country’s government website that lists the assets of nonprofit or educational organizations.

The TM organization's real estate assets are teaching centers, schools, Maharishi Ayurveda Health Centers or properties under development for these purposes. The author of “The Skeptic’s Dictionary” references Britannica Encyclopedia as his source for the claim that the TM organization’s net worth "is more than $3 billion.” However, Britannica itself fails to produce a citation or credible source for this figure, which was apparently picked out of the air or from other non-credible websites. Officials of the TM organization state that the "$3 billion" figure is exaggerated many times over.

Complete listing of all nonprofit organizations in the United States, including the non-profit TM organizations

Summary of "The Skeptic's Dictionary"

The Skeptic’s Dictionary's assessment opens with a misquote from Maharishi, taken out of context to convey, presumably, that Maharishi's aim was simply to raise money. A closer look would reveal that Maharishi was advocating something very different: if the amount of public funding now being spent on war were to be spent on constructive measures, such as proven programs for world peace and eradication of poverty, then we would have a different world.

A further sampling of The Skeptic’s Dictionary’s unfounded pronouncements:

• The TM organization made false claims about Yogic Flying, and then recanted.
• Former meditators maintain a support group for others who have quit the practice due to negative side effects.
• Claims for the Maharishi Effect (societal benefits through a "field effect") have been disproved.

The author shows little interest in details that could confirm or deny the truth of such statements; he merely links to a few other naysayers’ non-science, opinion-based Websites.

"The Skeptic Dictionary" assessment of the Transcendental Meditation program is based, seemingly, on two pre-existing assumptions:

1) The TM organization’s aim is to make money.

2) It is impossible that the TM technique could produce the wide range of benefits commonly reported.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary
presents selective items that appear to reinforce these assumptions; because the author brings no other evidence to the table, because the items are placed one after the other, he magnifies his "skeptical" effect. However, if one subjects The Skeptic's Dictionary's account of the TM program to even moderate critical thinking, its analysis and assertions break down.

One wonders why The Skeptic’s Dictionary features the Transcendental Meditation program among this eclectic mix of items to be "debunked." Perhaps the website’s author should consider how many of his other topics have been:

• Awarded over $26 million in research grants by the National Institutes of Health
• Validated by hundreds of peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals, including the AMA's Archives of Internal Medicine
• Approved by the self-same American Medical Association for continuing education study for physicians
• Shown by research published and promoted by the AMA to improve high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
• Regularly featured in brain research presentations by the American Psychological Association
• Highlighted in American College of Cardiology’s press releases for benefits to cardiovascular health
• Learned by six million people over the past 50 years, including hundreds of thousands of students and teachers in public and private schools in the US and throughout the world, with a 40-year track record in education.
• Offered as a corporate leadership/wellness program in large and small businesses—including Fortune 500 companies—to reduce health care costs and improve productivity and performance.

For his own credibility, I urge the website’s author to examine the Transcendental Meditation program more closely. His evaluation leaves one skeptical about the overall reliability and usefulness of The Skeptic's Dictionary.

Learning the Transcendental Meditation technique:


Why personalized instruction?
Why a certified instructor & course fee?


There are many forms of meditation, practiced for various reasons—to simply chill or relax, to promote a sense of compassion, or to become more “mindful” of oneself or surroundings. Most of these practices can be learned either for free or very cheaply, from a friend who learned in her yoga class, from a book, online or from a CD.

The Transcendental Meditation (TM
®) technique is a specific form of meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Its purpose is to provide the experience of transcending: a state of restful alertness or 'pure awareness,' beyond thought, an experience known to revitalize mind and body and stimulate growth of one’s creative potential. According to Maharishi and the organization he set up to teach the TM technique, learning Transcendental Meditation requires personalized, one-on-one instruction, a series of classes and comprehensive follow-up—all taught by professionally trained teachers. The TM program is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization [501(c)(3)]. When you learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, your course tuition covers the educational expenses of teaching and supports the non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the benefits of meditation to people everywhere.

Why is the TM technique not taught for free, as many other meditation practices? Does one really need a professionally trained teacher and a systematic, seven-step course with personalized instruction and comprehensive follow-up to correctly practice this meditation technique and enjoy its full benefits? Our experience teaching meditation around the world for the past fifty years—along with hundreds of independent, peer-reviewed scientific
research studies [1] that verify the program’s effectiveness—tells us that the answer is most definitely yes. Millions of people who have learned the TM technique in this way would agree.

If learning the TM technique requires personalized instruction and a series of classes, obviously educational expenses will be incurred—this is why there's a course fee.

But why is personalized, comprehensive instruction necessary to learn to meditate effectively? And why would someone choose to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique when so many other practices can be learned more cheaply or at no cost?

Why TM practice is unique:

The operative word in describing the Transcendental Meditation technique is transcendental. During TM practice, one transcends—the mind naturally and effortlessly settles inward—away from the surface, active levels of thinking to progressively more settled and refined levels of the mind, until you experience the silent field of restful alertness at the source of thought, known as pure awareness. Neuroscientists have found that this particular meditative state gained during TM practice is the only experience known to create “global EEG coherence”—a state of highly efficient and orderly functioning throughout the entire brain, which stimulates growth of creativity, intelligence and heightened awareness in daily life.[2]

A basic principle of the Transcendental Meditation program is that this experience of transcending is the primary cause of the positive effects of the TM technique—that is, experiencing the silent, self-referral field of pure awareness at the source of thought, as distinct from practices that have other purposes or which engage the mind and keep it active or busy in various ways, usually on the more surface thinking levels. According to physiological research, it is this state of “
Transcendental Consciousness”—a fourth state of consciousness unlike waking, dreaming or sleep—that gives the most profound rest and rejuvenation to mind and body. Over 600 scientific studies on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique support this principle that Transcendental Consciousness produces the widest range of benefits among the variety of meditative experiences.

Why TM requires personalized instruction:

The process of “effortless transcending” is natural, simple and easy, but also very, very delicate; so delicate that the technique was lost to society—in the East and the West—for thousands of years simply because of misunderstanding and inadequate teaching methods.

In the 20th century, Maharishi revived correct practice of this ancient meditation technique and structured a systematic, standardized, seven-step course of personalized instruction to ensure that everyone everywhere can learn to meditate properly and gain maximum benefit.

Maharishi spent over 50 years elucidating the principles behind the Transcendental Meditation technique, always emphasizing the need for personal, one-on-one instruction:

“By necessity, the practice of Transcendental Meditation is imparted by personal instruction. It cannot be done through a book [or CD or online training] because it not only involves telling an aspirant how to experience the subtle states of thinking, but an even greater responsibility lies in finding out what the aspirant experiences when he proceeds on that path… The experiences on the path of Transcendental Meditation are very subtle… It takes a while for the beginner to be able to pinpoint his experiences of the subtle state of thought. The practice of Transcendental Meditation must always be given by the expert teachers of Transcendental Meditation who have been properly trained to give it and who have been trained to check the experiences.” [3]

When a person learns the TM technique, every instruction is given out on the basis of the previous instruction being understood and acknowledged. The certified TM teacher guides the student step by step, adjusting the teaching process according to the pace of the student.

Follow-up and one-on-one support:

The Transcendental Meditation course comes with extensive follow-up and personal support—offered at no further cost beyond the one-time TM course tuition. This means that even after you’ve completed your TM course, teachers remain available to provide further guidance and facilitate deeper understanding of the practice.

The one-on-one support allows the opportunity for personal meetings with your teacher, as needed, arranged according to your schedule. These private, 30-minute “checking” sessions stabilize correct, effortless practice and verify experiences. It is recommended that these personal meetings be scheduled weekly for the first month and monthly for the first year—or more, according to the student’s needs. After the first year this personal support remains available as needed to everyone who has learned the TM technique.









The follow-up also includes optional, ongoing advanced classes so that your understanding can grow along with your experiences. These advanced TM lectures are held weekly in most TM teaching centers and include checking and group meditation.

The Transcendental Meditation course, one-on-one support and follow-up is designed to allow each student to gain the experience and understanding they need to correctly practice the Transcendental Meditation technique on their own and gain maximum benefit in daily life.

Because there’s an established, professional organization and an initial TM course tuition, the lifetime follow-up can be offered at no charge, and you can go to a TM teaching center in almost any major city and have your meditation checked or receive further guidance from the teachers.

The TM course tuition is a one-time fee for a lifetime program.

What is the course fee used for?

1. Educational expenses: Although the TM organization is non-profit, it’s pays the same overhead that businesses must pay—rent, utilities, teaching supplies, etc. The TM course fee helps sustain the teachers, teaching centers, the non-profit educational organization and TM teaching activities around the world. As with every tax-exempt organization, the finances are public record.

2. To help others learn: Because others before you have paid their TM course fee, the program is now available to you in all its effectiveness. Everyone’s course fee helps ensure that others after them may enjoy the full benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique—especially future generations.

In wealthier countries, like the United States, the Transcendental Meditation organization sends part of the course fees to developing nations to support TM programs for people who cannot afford to pay—places such as Brazil (pictured), India, and Thailand, where, with the help of private benefactors such as the David Lynch Foundation, over 140,000 schoolchildren have learned free of charge and practice the TM technique during in-school “Quiet Time.” [4]

3. Maharishi’s Program for World Peace: Another very important project supported by your course fee is the establishment of “peace-creating groups” around the world. These large groups of hundreds or thousands of people practice the Transcendental Meditation technique and its advanced programs together twice daily. Why? Because scientific research has shown that a sufficiently large number of people practicing the TM programs together create an intensified harmonious effect—not just personally for the individual meditator, but also for the surroundings. Through what scientists call a “field effect,” the quality of life of the whole society improves, measured by decreased crime and violence and improvements in the economy and other social indicators. These large groups have been established on almost every continent, and scientists continue to monitor the effects, with 13 research studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals validating the phenomenon.

As a teacher of meditation, Maharishi was concerned not only for the individual’s personal growth but for the whole world. He believed that a sufficient number of people in society ‘transcending’ twice daily, especially together in large groups, would have a significant positive impact on the entire civilization. This pioneering area of scientific research is ongoing and admittedly outside the current paradigm of conventional sociological methodologies. But the studies thus far are highly promising and support Maharishi’s formula for reducing collective stress in society and creating world peace through large peace-creating groups.

When you learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, your course fee helps support this peace-creating endeavor in your country and around the world. Admittedly, this is a bigger vision and more ambitious program than learning to watch your breath or relax, and a project with such global initiatives requires more funding than checking out a library book about meditation or learning meditation in a yoga class. But Maharishi remained true to his vision that life on earth can rise to its full potential. The certified TM teachers around the world continue to uphold the teaching procedures and policies that have proven so effective in bringing the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation program to everyone.


1. Selection of scientific research:
Hypertension 26 (1995): 820-827.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine 22 (2000) S133.
American Journal of Hypertension (2004).
Human Physiology 25 (1999) 171-180.
Psychophysiology 31 Abstract (1994) S67.
Psychophysiology 27 Supplement (1990) 4A.
Psychophysiology 26 (1989) 529.
International Journal of Neuroscience 13: (1981) 211-217.
Psychosomatic Medicine 46: (1984) 267–276.
2.
International Journal of Neuroscience 15 (1981) 151-157; International Journal of Neuroscience 14: (1981) 147–151.
3. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
The Science of Being and Art of Living (New York: Plume/Penguin Group, 1963/2001), p. 35-36.
4. As of December, 2008.

Natural Stress Relief (NSR)







By Tom Mckinley Ball

Advertisements and marketing articles about a form of meditation called "Natural Stress Relief" (NSR) have been posted by it's promoters throughout the Internet. The pitch typically begins with a few facts about the Transcendental Meditation program, which, as a certified instructor of the TM technique, I'm glad to see—it's wonderful that people wish to teach meditation and spread its benefits. But unfortunately the NSR articles quickly veer off into inaccuracy and make several misleading statements about the Transcendental Meditation technique and TM organization.

What is the Transcendental Meditation technique?

The Transcendental Meditation technique is a specific form of meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The benefits of Transcendental Meditation technique for mind, body and relationships have been enjoyed by millions of people over the past 50 years, and verified by over 350 peer-reviewed scientific research studies conducted at independent research institutions—such as Yale Medical School, UCLA Medical School, Harvard Medical School and Stanford—and published in leading peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. The National Institutes of Health has awarded over $24 million for scientists to further research the TM technique's benefits for cardiovascular health and brain functioning. The Transcendental Meditation program is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization [501(c)(3)], devoted solely to bringing the benefits of the meditation to people everywhere.

The first step in learning the Transcendental Meditation technique is an Introductory Lecture, given by a certified TM instructor or viewed online at one of the official TM Websites. To learn more about the TM technique, research and benefits, please visit
TM.org or DoctorsOnTM.org.


A technique for 'transcending':

The operative word in describing the Transcendental Meditation technique is 'transcendental.' During TM practice, one
transcends—the mind naturally and effortlessly settles inward—away from the surface, active levels of thinking, to progressively more settled and refined levels of the mind, until you experience the silent field of restful alertness at the source of thought, known as pure awareness. Neuroscientists have found that this particular meditative state gained during TM practice is the only experience known to create “global alpha EEG coherence”—a state of highly efficient and orderly functioning throughout the entire brain. Twice daily practice of the TM technique is said to stimulate growth of creativity, intelligence and heightened awareness in daily life.


What is NSR?

The NSR method is a form of meditation very loosely modeled after the Transcendental Meditation technique. The NSR internet marketing strategy is, first, draw attention to the scientifically proven benefits and track record of the TM program, then try and persuade the reader that the TM technique, while highly beneficial, is too expensive and that one doesn't need the one-on-one, personalized instruction and followup offered by the TM program. Next step: criticize the organization that teaches the TM technique for being "mystical," "elitist," "too inward," etc. (someone's personal opinion, perhaps, but irrelevant to the scientifically established facts about the TM program and counter to the benign nature of the non-profit educational organization). Finally, NSR strives to close the deal by arguing that the NSR method is basically the same practice as the TM technique and will produce the same results, but because NSR is taught much differently—by CD or online, as opposed to personal instruction—this home-study "alternative to Transcendental Meditation" can be delivered for much less money than the TM technique—only $47!


Personal instruction: is it important?

Maharishi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, spent over 50 years elucidating the principles behind the Transcendental Meditation technique, always emphasizing the need for personal, one-on-one instruction:

"By necessity, the practice of Transcendental Meditation is imparted by personal instruction. It cannot be done through a book [or CD or online training] because it not only involves telling an aspirant how to experience the subtle states of thinking, but an even greater responsibility lies in finding out what the aspirant experiences when he proceeds on that path… The experiences on the path of Transcendental Meditation are very subtle… It takes a while for the beginner to be able to pinpoint his experiences of the subtle state of thought. The practice of Transcendental Meditation must always be given by the expert teachers of Transcendental Meditation who have been properly trained to give it and who have been trained to check the experiences.

"The checking of experiences is a vital point in the practice of Transcendental Meditation. Again, it cannot be done through books…by nature it is delicate and therefore highly technical. But under personal instruction and guidance the way is smooth and easy.“ [Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living (New York: Plume/Penguine Group, 1963/2001), p. 35-36]

This principle applies to any medium of learning the Transcendental Meditation technique other than learning it through personalized instruction—CDs, videos, online—and to any form of meditation self-training. When a person learns the TM technique, every instruction is given out on the basis of the previous instruction being understood and acknowledged. The certified TM teacher guides the student step by step, adjusting the teaching process according to the pace of the student.

The process of systematic "effortless transcending" is simple and easy, but also very, very delicate; so delicate that it was lost to society, East and West, for thousands of years simply because of misunderstanding and inadequate teaching methods. Maharishi revived correct practice of this technique and structured a systematic, standardized course of personal instruction to ensure that everyone everywhere can gain maximum benefit from meditation.

If the TM technique could be learned from a book, CD or online, it would be taught that way. Selling CDs or offering this practice online could reduce educational expenses, but we would not see the benefits that people enjoy from TM practice. The TM organization's purpose is not to make money or sell a product at the most marketable price point to maximize sales. The purpose of the non-profit, educational organization is to create a better world by bringing the full benefits of this meditation to as many people as possible. This can be done only by preserving the effectiveness and quality (or 'purity') of the TM technique through proper teaching methods and providing ongoing meditator support.


Different practice/different results:

NSR is an autodidactic method of learning. This means the learner takes on the role of both student and teacher. A fundamental requirement for transcending is innocence—being natural and simple without complicating the process. A student is challenged to be completely simple and innocent when trying to teach themselves how to be simple and innocent.

The TM technique differs from NSR practice in many other ways—besides in how it is taught and practiced:

Scientific research: There are no peer-reviewed, controlled research studies verifying benefits from NSR meditation. It is claimed in NSR marketing materials that NSR practice produces the same results as the TM technique, but such strong claims are unsupported by research.

Followup: NSR does not provide continuing followup as needed with a trained and experienced instructor.

• The TM program offers personal "checking" of meditation: a systematic, one-on-one process that stabilizes correct practice and ensures effortless transcending, offered freely in all TM centers to everyone who has learned the TM technique.

• Knowledge program: The TM program provides ongoing advanced lectures, providing further knowledge and meditation instruction—offered at no charge in every TM Center.

Source: The Transcendental Meditation technique is authentic—a gift from the most ancient and revered tradition of meditation on earth, the Vedic tradition of India.

The TM course—one-time fee for a lifetime program:

To learn the Transcendental Mediation technique, or if you have questions, I suggest you contact your local TM center (or call 888-LEARN-TM) and speak to a certified meditation instructor. Learn about the 15 hours (or more) of training you get during the TM course and the careful personalized instruction you receive. Learn about the one-on-one followup—a lifetime of personal guidance, as needed—and the optional, ongoing advanced classes and group meditations at TM centers.

Maharishi created a wealth of knowledge and clarification to ensure that your understanding can grow as your experience deepens. All of this followup is available to you for the rest of your life when you learn the TM technique—at no further charge after you've completed the initial seven-step TM course. And learn about the gift of scholarships and grants for people in financial need, to help pay for such comprehensive training.

The Transcendental Meditation program comes from the oldest, possibly most venerated tradition of self-development on earth, the Vedic Tradition of India. Personalized meditation instruction has has been upheld by the master teachers of this great tradition of tradition of Enlightenment for thousands of years. I invite you to enjoy the gift of meditation from this ancient tradition and experience the many benefits of twice daily TM practice.

*Vedic: The Vedic (VAY-dik) tradition of knowledge is the oldest continuous tradition of knowledge on Earth. The Vedic tradition includes detailed information on a wide range of topics—from health care to architecture, from agriculture to music. But it focuses especially on knowledge about consciousness, technologies of consciousness, and evolution to enlightenment—the highest state of human functioning. People sometimes assume that the Vedic wisdom is a cultural tradition, relevant only in India. But Newton’s laws of motion are not English or Christian, nor Einstein’s theory of relativity German or Jewish. Scientific discoveries are true for all people, all cultures.

® Transcendental Meditation, TM and Maharishi are registered or common law trademarks licensed to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation and are used under sublicense.

Review: Down Joe Kellett's Rabbit Hole

By Tom Ball


Beginning with the faulty premise that TM practice produces a trance, the author of this critical site quickly descends into a labyrinth of personal issues and idiosyncratic interpretations.


“The story of my own fall…”
“This is not the experience that everyone has…”
—Joe Kellett, creator of "Down the TM Rabbit Hole"

Using detailed narrative, repetition of assertions, and storybook illustrations, the author of “suggestibility.org” tries his own powers of suggestion to argue that the most widely practiced and extensively researched meditation technique in the world has no significant benefit and produces harmful effects.

I acknowledge the author’s apparent sincerity, but find the website’s basic premise untenable and the barrage of negative assertions without merit.

If the sweeping accusations on the site were true, Transcendental Meditation would not have enjoyed such tremendous success around the world over the past 50 years, and the David Lynch Foundation—with growing numbers of scientists, scholars, physicians, businesspeople and educators—would not show continuing enthusiasm and support for the Transcendental Meditation program.

The site's fantastic claims, presented below, are at odds not only with peer-reviewed science but with the experiences of millions of people around the world enjoying the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique in their daily lives.

(To read what a psychiatrist says about Joe Kellet, click here.)
___________________________________________________________

Rabbit Hole: The TM technique induces a “trance state” through use of “the power of suggestion.”

Fact: Numerous scientific research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique show that the practice does not remotely resemble hypnotic trance, nor is the subjective experience trance-like: as brain research shows, mental alertness increases, and the meditator does not become disassociated from surroundings as during hypnotic states.

Science has established that the physiology of hypnosis is generally non-distinctive, whereas the Transcendental Meditation technique consistently produces a unique parameter of physiological changes, characterized by a state of deep
physiological rest and relaxation, beneficial changes in biochemistry and integration of brain functioning as indicated by EEG and neural imaging research. This physiological signature—known as the fourth state of consciousness—is unique to the TM technique and is unlike ordinary waking, sleeping, dreaming or hypnosis.

Improved Brain Functioning:
Unique to TM practice, brainwave
coherence spreads over the frontal regions of the brain, the left and right hemispheres and posterior regions, clearly distinguishing the technique from hypnosis and other forms of meditation. Researchers have long known that most experiences (including hypnotic trance) activate only small, specific portions of the brain. Studies indicate that the Transcendental Meditation technique enlivens and coordinates synchronous brain activity over a wide area—stimulating what neuroscientists call “more efficient, integrated brain functioning.”

Twenty-four separate, peer-reviewed studies on brain patterns of people practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique show stabilized, long-term coherence in brainwaves, indicating the growth of improved brain functioning in daily life. Brainwave coherence is healthy and desirable for many reasons: it is associated with increased intelligence and creativity, improved moral reasoning and self-actualization.

Neuroscience has found no instance of hypnotic trance producing such results.

Enhanced Critical Thinking:
“Down the Rabbit Hole” states that people subjected to trance “are likely to have a severely reduced level of critical evaluation about anything that they are told immediately after they come out of a trance state.”
According to numerous research studies, the Transcendental Meditation technique creates a more integrated functioning in the frontal areas of the brain—called the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for higher-level discrimination and decision making. Also, reaction time is faster after TM practice, and research shows a general increase overtime in creativity, IQ, comprehension, and problem-solving abilities. Those who practice the technique actually become less susceptible to suggestion and control by other people, as shown by increased critical thinking, self-sufficiency and self-concept. People practicing the technique also display increased field independence, which psychologists associate with leadership qualities, self-reliance and independent thinking. Students of the Maharishi School (K-12) in Fairfield, Iowa, where the Transcendental Meditation technique is an integral part of the curriculum, are national and world champions at competitions involving critical, creative and innovative thinking.

Fact: There is no 'suggestion' involved in the Transcendental Meditation technique, whereas in hypnosis the physiology and behavior depend on the suggestion of another. (Self-hypnosis depends on a suggestion made by oneself, and such auto-suggestion is also absent during TM practice.) A person can come out of Transcendental Meditation practice at any time—no one is needed to "snap" you out.


How
does the Transcendental Meditation technique work?
The TM technique allows the mind to settle inward by special use of the normal, natural mechanics of the thinking process. Effortlessness is a key feature of the Transcendental Meditation technique. TM practice requires no control or expectation, just simple
innocence. The assertion that the Transcendental Meditation technique involves expectation and suggestion shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the practice.

Rabbit Hole: The reported effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique result from “post-trance indoctrination,” “suggestion” and “expectation.”

Fact: Hundreds of scientific research studies, along with the direct experience of millions of people who have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique, shows that the practice does not produce a trance state (please see above). If there is no trance, there can be no “post-trance indoctrination.”

Are TM’s benefits real or imagined?
“Down the Rabbit Hole” asserts that people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique are mistaken about the wide range of benefits they report, and that these people have been merely indoctrinated—influenced by the power of suggestion and expectation to believe in the benefits of the TM program. Yet fifty years of teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique around the world and forty years of peer-reviewed science shows that the benefits of the program are genuine and do not depend upon personal belief in the technique. Even skeptics who learn the TM technique typically report the same results as people who are “sold out” to the practice, which would not be the case if the benefits were based on expectation.

Click
here for a summary of scientifically validated benefits for mind, body, relationships and environment.

Rabbit Hole: The Transcendental Meditation program is introduced as “a simple, natural, relaxation technique,” but is really a “spiritual system” with “hidden levels of indoctrination.”

Fact: The Transcendental Meditation program indeed provides deep relaxation, and some people may learn it for that reason, but the practice has never been presented as a mere relaxation technique. Since its introduction over 50 years ago, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been taught as a program for the holistic development of all aspects of life—unfoldment of full potential of individual and society.

Is it a spiritual system, or is it scientific?
The Transcendental Meditation program
is a system: it's a systematic program of self-development, with proven benefits for mind, body and behavior, as well as spiritual benefits. All human activities—enjoying a movie, running a marathon, contemplative prayer—are enhanced by a healthier mind and body and more efficient brain functioning. Everything good about the brain depends on its orderly functioning. The enlivenment and integration of the brain that results from TM practice naturally improves one’s spiritual life as well as all other areas. People of all religions have found that the Transcendental Meditation program deepens their spiritual understanding because the practice refreshes the mind and awakens subtler values of awareness.

Spiritual development:
The founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, Maharishi, defines spirituality with a broad stroke: living the wholeness of life—healthy mind, healthy body, with one’s inner reserves of creativity and intelligence fully awakened. Spiritual development in this sense is irrespective of belief and is open to all faiths and spiritual perspectives
through the Transcendental Meditation program.

Is knowledge of “spiritual aspects” withheld?
“Down the Rabbit Hole” maintains that the full extent of the Transcendental Meditation program, including advanced levels of knowledge, is not disclosed until a person becomes more deeply involved. This is incorrect: all options for advanced programs are presented during the initial course of instruction, and this has always been the case. In Transcendental Meditation introductory lectures, the spiritual benefits of TM practice are cited with the many other benefits for individual and society.

As one’s experience grows with twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, it is natural for understanding and the desire for more knowledge also to deepen, and there is no withholding of knowledge on the part of TM instructors. There are over 20 books and many advanced lecture videos readily available to the public that expound the full range of knowledge about the Transcendental Meditation program. Many of these books deeply explore the spiritual implications of the practice and have been available in bookstores everywhere since the 1960s.

Most major cities have a TM Center for continued learning and instruction. Anyone who wishes to become a teacher of the TM technique is welcome to apply for TM Teacher Training, where all the intricate details of imparting the practice can be learned.

From spiritual organization to scientific?
“Down the Rabbit Hole” asserts that the Transcendental Meditation Movement began as a spiritual organization, but then changed its image to "appear" scientific. This is a misinterpretation of fact.

In the earliest days of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, no scientific studies had ever been conducted on the effects of meditation. But from the beginning of his teaching activities, Maharishi invited scientists everywhere to research the effects of the TM technique. As research studies accumulated it became possible to speak about the Transcendental Meditation program in more scientific language—“the language of our times.”

However, the Transcendental Meditation Movement has never shied from emphasizing the spiritual benefits of the practice. In fact, an
oft-stated goal of the Transcendental Meditation program is to “realize the spiritual aspirations of mankind in this generation.”

There is as much open discussion of spiritual implications today as there was 50 years ago.

Rabbit Hole: The Transcendental Meditation technique can produce “unpleasant, even dangerous” results.

Fact: More than 600 scientific research studies have been published on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program, involving over 20,000 subjects practicing the TM technique; no legitimate, well-controlled, peer-reviewed studies have ever found the practice to be unpleasant or harmful in any way—all such studies show positive results. Controlled research on the effects of TM practice has been conducted under a wide variety of settings and conditions: on general populations, people in the workplace, athletes, groups of students at all grade levels, patients at high-risk for heart disease, students with learning disorders, factory workers, members of the military, groups of corporate executives, new meditators, long-term meditators on advanced courses, and people with pre-existing mental health problems. All these studies show significant improvements in mental and physical health, with no negative side effects.

"Harmful effects" studies?
What about those studies said to have found harmful effects? “Down the Rabbit Hole” and a few other anti-meditation websites do present a handful of research studies that purport to show harmful effects from the Transcendental Meditation program—or that the program produces no significant benefit. However, these few papers all pertained to uncontrolled studies with so few subjects that the findings were statistically insignificant—and some of these studies did not actually investigate the TM technique at all, but considered other meditation practices that the authors erroneously generalized as “transcendental meditation.” The claim of harmful effects from the TM technique is typically based on unfounded speculation with no empirical evidence. For more about scientific papers said to show negative results,
click here. For more about studies said to show that TM practice produces no results, click here.

Rabbit Hole: “There is no difference at all between other meditation techniques and TM,” and the same benefits “can also be obtained by other methods.”

Fact: Over 485 research studies on various approaches to meditation, relaxation and stress reduction, involving over 30,000 subjects, has shown that the various forms of meditation do not produce the same effects.

Because each kind of meditation practice engages the mind in it’s own way, there is no reason to expect the same results from the various methods, or that scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program will apply to the various other practices. There have been many controlled studies comparing the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique to other practices, such as Zen, Mindfulness, Tibetan Buddhist and Vipassana meditation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Benson’s relaxation response. These studies examined such factors as brainwave patterns, levels of rest and benefits for mind and body. While other forms of meditation have been found to produce good effects in specific areas, these various practices have different aims and are not necessarily intended to produce the holistic range of effects found to result from the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Neural imaging and EEG studies indicate that TM practice creates a unique brain pattern: it is the only technique known to create widespread brainwave coherence and enliven all areas of the brain. The Transcendental Meditation technique also produces deeper rest compared to other practices, and studies show the TM technique more effective at reducing anxiety, hypertension and depression, reducing drug and alcohol abuse, and promoting self-actualization.

For more about the many distinctions between the Transcendental Meditation technique and other forms of meditation,
click here.

Summary
“Down the Rabbit Hole” begins with the faulty premise that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces a trance state, and then tries to pull the reader into a rabbit hole of misunderstanding and confusion. The author’s detailed personal narrative displays gestures of reason and authenticity, but soon becomes so far removed from the common experience of Transcendental Meditation that one wonders if the story is about the same TM practice that has been embraced worldwide for the past 50 years—and in a very real sense it is not. In the same way that science shows TM to be the “complete opposite of a trance,” reports of people everywhere who have learned the TM technique show its results to be the complete opposite of what “Down the Rabbit Hole” describes. One might say that this 16-page website is not really about Transcendental Meditation at all, but about the author’s personal struggle with what he has believed the program to be.

Evidence?
“Down the Rabbit Hole’s” dizzying but carefully devised Alice-in-Wonderland tale and its many collaborating links may catch some readers unawares, but the story remains utterly unsubstantiated. Consider items the author presents as supportive evidence:

• The website’s first page links to a 40-year-old affidavit of harsh allegations made by one man (what one might call a "disgruntled employee") against Maharishi University of Management. Allegedly, the document was signed by a former professor of MUM whom the website claims was also the university’s legal counsel. However, according to University records the author of these allegations, who worked on University clerical staff for a few months, was never actually on faculty at MUM (his application for faculty was denied), nor did he ever serve as legal counsel for the University. He appeared in court to present his allegations but his testimony was dismissed by the court. None of the allegations were legally acted on or substantiated. Incredibly, the author of "Down the Rabbit Hole" offers this document as his first major, authoritative proof that his experience with the TM program is not unique but shared by others.

• Again reaching four decades
into the past, “Down the Rabbit Hole” links to a series of second- or third-hand anonymous stories collected by anti-meditation activists in the early 1970s—stories about unnamed people who were said to have experienced extremely harmful and bizarre effects from meditation. No factual records or even firsthand testimonies have ever been produced to suggest that these extreme accounts were anything more than a hoax.

An unreliable narrator?
Beginning on the home page, with overreaching parallels between TM and The Church of Scientology, the author’s reliability as a narrator grows increasingly suspect. I find that virtually every statement on this website reflects a gross misunderstanding of the Transcendental Meditation program and its founder, Maharishi. Most of the statements are blatant falsehoods.
The site’s author admits to having been severely delusional during the 1970s, the years he was active in the TM organization, and he claims that TM practice was the cause of his distress. One must consider the possibility that the reason the author’s account of the Transcendental Meditation program differs so radically from the norm is because he is recalling experiences that were psychotic delusions.

It is unfortunate that the author attributes his distress and delusions to meditation—especially when there is overwhelming evidence that continued practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique would have improved his mental health. (Please see, "A Psychiatrist Responds to Down the TM Rabbit Hole.")

It’s a technique, not a religion—no belief required
The site’s author claims that as a TM instructor he frequently spoke untruths about the Transcendental Meditation program—such as telling people that the practice is a mere relaxation technique or that it is not a religion. This and many other such statements highlight the author’s confusion about the program he was supposedly trained to teach. He professes that the Transcendental Meditation program requires acceptance of spiritual beliefs about the practice and about Maharishi’s status as a teacher. Yet the Transcendental Meditation course contains no such notions, nor are certified TM instructors asked to accept or promote such beliefs. To assert that the Transcendental Meditation program is a religious doctrine is to commit a category error: TM is a mental technique, not a belief system. The theoretical aspects of the program are not intended or presented as doctrines to be believed in, but as principles to be verified through direct personal experience, and the substantiation of benefits through scientific research lends empirical verification.

“Down the Rabbit Hole” concludes by attempting to refute possible public responses to the author’s anti-TM rhetoric—responses such as: the site’s author is merely disgruntled, he is seeking to profit, or he is just being negative or malicious. “Down the Rabbit Hole” spends over 2000 words in defense against these imagined responses.

As a full-time TM teacher since 1977, having noticed only positive effects of TM practice
in the lives of friends, family and the hundreds of people whom I've taught, I suggest that the most plausible explanation for the author’s idiosyncratic interpretation of TM is this: Because his entire argument is based on the false belief that TM practice produces an unhealthy state of hypnotic trance, the man is simply wrong.

Popular Posts