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The Transcendental Meditation Program

A simple, effortless technique that anyone can learn and enjoy

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Anxiety James Krag, M.D.

James Krag, M.D., is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.

Steele Belok, M.D.

Internist Steele Belok, M.D., is a staff physician at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge and a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Here Drs. Krag and Belok
answer questions on anxiety.

Q: I get nervous in certain situations, like when I have to give a presentation at work. Is the Transcendental Meditation technique something that could help me cope?

Dr. Krag: The fear of public speaking is a prevalent fear and leads to the panic feelings that are physiologically identical to the “fight-or-flight” response. The Transcendental Meditation technique produces the physiological opposite of the fight-or-flight stress response. As the TM meditator gets increasingly accustomed to that calm state, it is predictable, based on scientific research, that the fear will gradually fade away.

Dr. Belok: The Transcendental Meditation technique settles mind and body so that the nervous reaction to stress is reduced. Indeed, you can see how well TM works by looking at a meta-analysis of the current scientific literature on anxiety, which used one of the most accepted stress measures, the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers compared Transcendental Meditation with various other relaxation techniques, including Progressive Muscle Relaxation, EMG Biofeedback, Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response and other meditation techniques. They found that these programs functioned at placebo levels.

In the studies of the Transcendental Meditation technique, however, there was a dramatic decrease in anxiety—to levels roughly twice the effect size of placebo. So according to this meta-analysis of all the programs available at the time of the study, the Transcendental Meditation technique is the single-most effective program to reduce stress. With this information, physicians can feel very comfortable in offering the Transcendental Meditation program to patients, knowing that they are unlikely to find a more effective stress reduction program today.

What does this mean for anyone who gets nervous making presentations? With continued practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, you can become less and less anxious, developing a stable inner quietness than can be a buffer against otherwise stressful experiences.
Related Scientific Research

Q: I’m constantly under pressure at home and on the job, and my friends say I’m stressed. Could the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique help me?

Dr. Belok: Twenty percent of Americans have an anxiety disorder. Stress arises when a person has trouble coping with the demands placed on them. When unable to cope, the resultant anxiety leads people to self-medicate in various ways: food, TV, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and coffee are common examples. However, these methods are a short-sighted and maladaptive attempt to reduce the stresses in life, because they do not help one function any better; indeed, they worsen an individual’s adaptive efficiency with time. So we get into a vicious cycle of stress, where the less we are able to cope, the more we self-medicate, which worsens our ability to cope, and causes us to again self-medicate.

The Transcendental Meditation technique cuts short this vicious cycle of stress. When practicing the TM technique, a person sits comfortably in a chair for 20 minutes twice a day, closes the eyes, begins the process, and experiences the mind effortlessly settling down to quieter and quieter levels of the thinking process. Finally, the mind comes to the source of the thinking process, awareness itself. This experience is called restful alertness. In this state, the body is deeply rested and the mind is fully alert. Stress is dissolved by this experience—by the quiet and soothing experience of inner being.
Related Scientific Research

Q: I’m so anxious, what if I can’t sit still enough to meditate?

Dr. Belok: The experience of restful alertness is pleasant and comfortable, and this allows you to continue to sit quietly for twenty minutes twice a day. When practiced regularly, this program dissolves stress cumulatively, and with time, you experience less and less stress and nervousness. As a natural result of this lessening of stress, the mind settles down when you’re meditating and you don’t feel the need to get up and move around. The direct experience of stillness and peace takes care of those feelings of restlessness.

With continued practice, anxiety plays less and less a role in a person’s life; the individual starts making better decisions about daily activities because he or she is better able to cope with stress. So, with time, one gains the possibility of becoming stress free. This means being motivated by the needs of the situation rather than one’s own stressful response to the situation. Instead of reacting to challenges as a threat, one sees challenges as an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Related Scientific Research

Q: Won’t forcing myself to sit still and meditate just make me more anxious?

Dr. Krag: Research has found that some types of “relaxation techniques” do, in fact, cause a person with an anxiety disorder to become more anxious. However, the experience of thousands of people with anxiety, over many years, has been that they can learn the Transcendental Meditation technique and reduce their anxiety. With proper guidance from the TM instructor, they are able to feel a sense of calm quite unusual and pleasant for them. If you are capable of thinking a thought, you can learn the Transcendental Meditation technique.
Related Scientific Research

Q: I’m so busy, even if I learned Transcendental Meditation, I’m afraid I’d never do it.

Dr. Belok: All of us take time to recharge our batteries. All of us take the time to sleep, to eat, to shower each day. The Transcendental Meditation technique is a program to prevent stress from slowly accumulating over time—and to prevent stress from interfering with your ability to function and enjoy life. It is a way for the mind and body to get a very deep level of rest so that you do not lose life in the living of it. Rather, life becomes a growing experience where you look forward to new experiences, because you are able to easily manage them as a result of adequate rest and integration of mind and body.
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