Battling stress and stress-related disorders with transcendental meditation

David Lines at home located in Laguna Niguel. Autumn Stallings|Lariat

 An interview with South Orange County’s transcendental meditation teacher, David Lines

Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM for short, is a relatively new mediation technique that has gained a lot of momentum since the ‘60s, when it was first introduced to the U.S. by popular British band The Beatles.

If you googled transcendental meditation, the results will return a list of Youtube videos of both celebrities and educators endorsing TM as well as different medical research websites explaining the positive effects of TM.

Some have been known to describe it as respite care for the nervous system. TM is being taught to people all over the world. The list of certified TM teachers is around 40,000 in over 100 countries.

Today we will be discussing what TM really is with South Orange Countys’ certified TM teacher, David Lines. He teaches TM in all of Orange County and resides locally in Laguna Niguel.

For those who don’t know, can you explain exactly what transcendental meditation is?

Transcendental meditation is a simple, natural and effortless procedure that allows the mind and body to rest profoundly. It allows us to experience the thinking process on a progressively quieter and quieter level. And at the same time, the body gets very, very deep rest.

Ideally, doing transcendental meditation for 20 minutes, twice a day. You sit comfortably. You don’t have to believe anything. It’s a scientific process that brings distinct and measurable physiological changes and those changes are beneficial. They bring a wide range of benefits to life.

Who is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the founder of transcendental meditation.  He came from India. He studied with a teacher in India, and he had this technique of meditation that he wanted to make available to the world.

He felt it was very important to this time with the world because of the growth of stress in society. The progress was becoming faster and faster and as that greatest speed of progress brought with it a lot of stress.

People find it hard to adapt to this very fast pace of change and they get stressed. And transcendental meditation is a procedure that brings about psycho physiological changes that are the opposite of stress.

So, it reduces anxiety, makes people feel more balanced, more integrated. The thinking is clearer – has enormous health benefits.

For students, it’s very good for learning. People learn better, they remember better, they understand better because that experience with that inner quietness allows us to think more clearly, to be able to draw more on our inner creative potential.

He essentially taught the Beatles, right? How to meditate?

He did, yes.

What’s his role? Is he just a teacher?

Well, he passed away. He died in 2008. First of all, he taught transcendental meditation himself. TM was something that was kind of unknown. 

It wasn’t widely known in India or anything like that. It’s a very different practice. This effortlessness of TM is very interesting because typically meditation has been thought of as something very difficult.

Only certain people would do it. It wasn’t really practical, but what Maharishi said was “No this is something that is missing from everybody’s experience. This experience of our own inner awareness. Anybody can learn it – it’s a natural procedure. Anybody can learn TM.”

He traveled around the world, and he taught people wherever he went. And then he realized he needed to train teachers in his life. He trained about 40,000 teachers in almost every country you could imagine.

 I was told Maharishi is a –

A title.

It’s a title.

I suppose the western equivalent would be like a sage, like a wise person. Actually, what it means is rishi is a seer so someone who sees or someone who knows than a Maharishi is a rishi who teaches.

One thing is to know, but to be able to teach things to other people, that is kind of a different thing. So, what Maharshi was able to do was to formulate the teaching of TM in such a way that you didn’t have to learn from a sage. You could go to a local TM center and learn from a trained teacher.

He traveled the world, and all the teachers would set up centers. Another thing that was very interesting about him was that he understood the importance of science. So back then, we’re talking about 1960, that kind of stuff, people didn’t think of mediation in a scientific context.

People thought it was something that some people did for some reason. He said “no, if something is real it must be measurable.” He wanted people to examine TM and to show what was happening during the practice and also the results of it and so now there are hundreds of studies.

I don’t know how many hundreds of studies that have been published on TM and the early research was very basic.

Subsequently, it’s become more and more rigorous, so the research has become more reliable and there’s a huge body of research which shows the benefits for all areas of life.

Can you tell me about the scientific research that supports the physical changes in the brain because of TM?

There’s a number of different areas of research but what’s been found is the people who practice TM when they learn to practice TM, their thinking improves, their cognitive performance improves, their intellectual performance improves. So that means creativity, learning ability, even IQ has been shown to be increased.

Memory, all of these things improve so the researchers say “ok, why does that happen? How can we explain that” and so they look at brain functioning and particularly they look at the electrical activity of the brain something called EEG.

What EEG does is it measures electrical activity in the brain so what you see during transcendental meditation is two distinct kinds of change taking place. First of all, the predominant frequency of electrical activity during TM.

The brain produces what’s called alpha waves, so alpha is about eight to 10 cycles per second, and it’s associated with alertness, clarity, calmness and creativity and well-being.

For example, when you’re sleeping the brain produces what’s called delta waves. There are about two cycles per second. They’re very slow. But during TM, this alpha wave is about 10 cycles. It’s not very slow. It’s actually fast.

But this inner experience during TM is this inner quietness. The mind becomes very quiet, and yet, it produces a lot of these alpha waves. But there is a second thing that happens that seems to be unique to TM. And the brain function becomes more coherent. What that means is normally if you measure the signal from different parts of the brain, they’re different. They are unrelated to each other. But during TM, the signals line up with each other and become something called phase coherent and that happens immediately, as soon as someone starts to meditate, the brain becomes more coherent.

Is there a faith associated with TM?

The amazing thing about TM is not only do you not have to believe in it, but you also don’t even have to believe it works. You can even believe it doesn’t work and it will still work.

It’s not based on a belief system. It’s giving us an experience and experience of inner quietness. It’s compatible with any belief system.

What’s the difference between TM and other meditation techniques?

That’s a great question. In terms of the practice, what you actually do, there are different systems of mediation. So, all meditations are not the same. They train you to do different things.

Well, as you would expect when you’re doing something different with your mind, you see different effects on the brain.

So, during transcendental meditation, the brain produces this coherent alpha activity. Concentration meditation, for example, is a very common type of meditation where you focus on your breathing. 

You focus on the tip of your nose. In all of those meditations you’re trying to control the mind to fix it, to stop it from wandering around with those kinds of meditations.

Brain functioning is very fast. You see frequency of brain activity about 20-30, 40 or even 50 cycles per seconds. So, very fast brain functioning which is completely different from TM.

Most importantly, transcendental meditation it’s effortless. So, when you do it, it’s natural. It’s a natural procedure that means when you see what happens during TM happens naturally.

So, you’re not trying to discipline your mind. You’re not trying to make yourself think in a particular way. You’re not trying to make yourself a particular kind of person.

I credit TM as being the reason I am here today as I personally have suffered from medical marijuana misuse, anxiety and PTSD before I met you and learned TM. What are some of the other reasons one might seek help from a TM certified teacher?

The reason you would seek out a TM teacher to learn transcendental meditation, why would you want to learn transcendental meditation? Because you want to have a better life.

TM is for anybody who wants to have a better life. Because what it does is it allows us or enables us or provides us a technique which allows us to unfold our inner potential as a human being,

So, it allows us to develop ourselves in a very holistic but very scientific and very systematic way. So it affects all areas of life, our mind, our performance.

A mind is so important. What we achieve in life is dependent on our mind. If we use more of our mind, we are able to achieve more, get more done.

Be more efficient, more effective, and that’s what people find with TM. But also our body, our health, is very important to use our full potential as a human being. We need good health.

TM is very good for the health because what it does is it allows the body to rid itself of accumulated stress, tension and fatigue. People sleep better when they use TM.

 Why do you think TM has attracted the attention of so many celebrities?

Because it works. High performing people realize the benefit of this because it recharges them. Jerry Seinfeld said, “it’s like having a battery charger for your phone.” You just plug yourself in and you get recharged and that’s what happens.

High performing people who are living highly demanding lives that have to problem solve, that have to perform all the time, they notice the benefits more than anybody else because they see it, it works.

What is the process of becoming a certified TM teacher?

You need to do TM, first of all. You need to practice it and you need to enjoy it. You need to like it, and if you think it’s a good thing, and you think you like to train a teacher.

There is a training course that you go on. It’s about five months long. It’s a residential training program. Now there is some talk at the moment that the course may be presented in a way that some of that can be done at home.

But basically, it’s a thorough training program and, at the end of it, you come out really understanding deeply what TM is all about.

All the different experiences that you have during the why they come the way they do and to teach it. It’s a systematic procedure. You learn a skill how to teach TM.

What’s your response to the skeptics that claim this is pseudoscience?

They can believe whatever they want. There is something like 6 million people around the world and 400 peer-reviewed studies. TM has been studied by the Department of Defense. They did a study two years ago. It was published. It was done at the V.A. in La Jolla, California.

They looked at veterans with post-traumatic stress and compared TM with what they considered to be the gold standard. That means the best thing that they have with helping veterans with post-traumatic stress and they found that TM was more effective.

It produced bigger reductions in the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. It did it more quickly and it was more acceptable to the people who learned it, so they were more likely to continue. That’s just one study.

To say its pseudoscience just means you just don’t know what it is or anything about it. And you haven’t studied it properly and you haven’t looked into it. Of course, people can have opinions about things, but it’s good to have an informed opinion.

What type of commitment and what is the process for one to do to start practicing TM?

There’s a course of instruction, it’s four sessions on four consecutive days. Each session lasts between an hour or two hours and at the end of those four sessions, you’ve learned TM.

There is a new way to do it when part of that course can be taking an online platform. You still have to learn the technique individually from a teacher but the follow up sessions can be done remotely in that way.

There’s a financial commitment for students which can be found on our website. It’s not a huge amount of money, we try to make it affordable to students.

Editor’s Note: More academic resources can be found at the website Truth About TM.

This is an edited version of a longer conversation.