Will other forms of meditation produce the same results?

While there are many venerable forms of meditation, scientific research shows that the various practices produce their own effects and that they do not all yield the same results as one another—nor are they seen to produce the same benefits associated with the Transcendental Meditation technique. Because of the many independent scientific studies showing the TM technique's holistic benefits and unique effectiveness for lowering high blood pressure, it is the only form of meditation recommended by the American Heart Association.

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Different practices, different results: Most meditation practices involve attempts to concentrate or control the mind, to keep it focused on a specific object of meditation (such as a thought, mantra, one's breathing or other sensations). Some approaches might involve contemplation, visualization, watching your thoughts or trying to maintain a passive or non-judgmental attitude—all of which employ varying degrees of effort or sustained attention. Though these various approaches have their benefits, they tend to keep the mind active, engaged or localized, usually within the active realm of thinking.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is unique. It is effortless and involves no attempt to control the mind. The technique allows the mind to systematically transcend all mental activity to experience the deeply settled state of restful alertness or pure awareness. During this process, the brain functions with greater coherence and the body gains profound rest. The holistic benefits associated with TM practice result spontaneously from this experience of effortless transcending. Practices that keep the mind active or engaged on more surface levels have not been found to consistently produce the deep levels of rest or holistic range of benefits known to result from TM practice.


Dr. Vernon Barnes, Medical College of Georgia: "Comparative research 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’s no reason to expect the same results from the various methods or that scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program will apply to other practices.

"There have been many studies looking at the effects of the TM technique, Zen, Mindfulness, Tibetan Buddhist and Vipassana meditations, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Benson’s Relaxation Response—examining such factors as brainwave patterns, levels of rest, and benefits for mind and body. While some other forms of meditation have been found to produce good effects in specific areas, these various practices have their own aims and are not necessarily intended to produce the broad range of benefits seen to consistently result from Transcendental Meditation.

"Neural imaging and EEG studies indicate that TM creates a unique brain pattern: it is the only meditation technique known to create widespread brainwave coherence. The TM technique also produces deeper rest than other practices, and studies show the technique to be more effective at reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-actualization."

VERNON BARNES, Ph.D., is a researcher at the Georgia Prevention Institute of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, which has received $1.5 million from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on African American teens at risk for high blood pressure. 

James Krag, MD, Clinical Psychiatrist, Veterans Administration: “Just as there are many kinds of medication, there are also many approaches that are termed ‘meditation.’ The vast majority of the more compelling research on meditation has been on the Transcendental Meditation technique—and the findings clearly indicate that the TM technique works better than other researched mental techniques to promote health. If research shows that a specific medication helps treat a disorder, it would be irresponsible and illogical to conclude that all medications help treat that disorder. In the same way, research on Transcendental Meditation should not be generalized to include other techniques also called ‘meditation.’ We should intelligently choose what works and what is supported by research.”

James Krag, M.D., is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, recent president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists. He is currently clinic psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration.

The three categories of meditation practices 

How the TM technique differs from concentration, mindfulness, other mantra practices and everything else 

Short essay: What kind of meditation technique did the Buddha teach?

VIDEO: Quantum Physicist John Hagelin on the variety of meditation techniques and how they differ: "Experiencing the Unified Field"

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