What is transcending, and what does it do for our brains? Neuropsychologist Dr. Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, takes us on a guided tour of the brain during the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique, in comparison to what happens in other kinds of meditation.
Dr. Travis demonstrates the unique brainwave coherence that results from the TM technique by way of a live EEG display of a young woman—his daughter, Dariana Travis—practicing TM on-stage at the David Lynch FoundationSM conference “Meditation and the Brain,” at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.
“Transcending leads to a distinct experience, pure consciousness, that transforms the inner nature of the mind, and so provides a new platform for living.” —Dr. Fred Travis
“The benefit of contacting pure consciousness is the brain begins to integrate the restful alertness of pure consciousness into daily life,” says Dr. Travis, who explains various lines of research showing myriad positive effects on our psychology, health, and performance.
“Transcending leads to a distinct experience, pure consciousness, that transforms the inner nature of the mind, and so provides a new platform for living,” he concludes.
Watch Dr. Travis’ fascinating talk ►
Learn more about research at the MUM Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition ►
Dr. Travis’s talk was fantastic. As a long-time meditator, it is so gratifying to see such clear, concrete evidence of this amazing technique.
I come from a family with extensive histories of depression and mental illness. Fortunately I learned TM in 1971 and have been practicing it regularly ever since. I believe TM is the primary reason I was able to avoid the devastating illnesses that affected both my parents and both my siblings. I am very grateful to Maharishi and all his facilitators like Dr. Travis for their work in making TM available as widely as possible. Keep up the good work!
I believe I’ve had PTSD for a number of years. A number of experiences leads me to believe so. However, now as a longterm meditator, I now experience that deep silence which is mentioned here. I’ve had a number of “bad luck” experiences in my life, but if it hadn’t been for TM, no telling where I’d be. I never want to be without TM. Whenever I want to meditate I can do so. I like to stick to the practice of 20/20, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. God Bless you; Jai Guru Dev.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Ricardo. I’m so happy you’ve found not only relief from PTSD with your regular practice, but also ever-growing inner silence. Continue as you have and Consciousness will just keep growing and expanding. Enjoy!
A very informative but frustrating video presentation. I have been practicing TM since early March and have not missed a session. I have only reached a state of “pure consciousness” a few very brief times for a few seconds. I benefit from TM each time but have thoughts and sensory awareness during each session. I have had my mantra fade away but the thoughts remain. My teacher tells me some people never attain pure consciousness. I feel misled by Bob Roth’s book and by TM presentations such as this.
Thanks so much for your feedback, Mark. I apologize that this presentation made you feel misled, which is never our intention. I hope to help clear up any misunderstanding.
Mark, you mentioned that you “always benefit from your TM sessions.” This indicates that your practice is correct and your are indeed Transcending.
The TM technique give us an opportunity to experience progressive values of inner wakefulness or pure consciousness. This is called Transcending. We are Transcending the active levels of the mind to the quieter levels. Sometimes this is experienced as deeper levels of silence with thoughts. Sometimes it’s the more complete experience of the least excited level of consciousness, with no mantra and no thoughts. These are all experiences of transcending. Whether our subjective experience of pure consciousness is hazy or clear, regular TM practice is always leading to greater growth of experience, even if we aren’t aware of it.
The research Dr. Fred Travis talked about, as well as the hundreds of TM studies showing innumerable benefits in all areas, were done on meditators having the correct meditation experience of both quietness and thoughts. The inward dives of meditation create deep rest, allowing the body to dissolve stress. Because that stress release is an activity, it leads to the outward strokes of meditation, which are experienced as thoughts. Thoughts are a byproduct of stress release, the stress release that allows us to cultivate the nervous system and experience these benefits. So both the inward and outward strokes of meditation are necessary and equally important to our growth and evolution.
One very important thing to remember is that the purpose of TM isn’t to attain quietness but to cultivate a nervous system that can support coherent brainwave functioning and restful alertness all the time, not only during our TM practice but also during activity. Research shows that this starts taking place within months of beginning TM.
Keep up your twice-daily mediation practice as you have been—great job—and your experience will continue to grow. Attending the Knowledge Meetings at your local TM Center, with group meditation and TM Checking and the opportunity to ask all your questions with a TM teacher, is also a great way to deepen your practice and understanding.
Thanks again for your comment, and please let us know if you have further questions or comments.
You may have misunderstood your teacher. I recommend you set a checking appointment with your teacher (or any other TM teacher) and have your meditation checked as often as you need until you feel that what Dr. Roth said is precisely also what you experience. Best of luck.
Thank you for posting this, Mark. Your point is well taken.
Sometimes in making the scientific point that pure consciousness exists and can be experienced, we may oversimplify what people experience during their TM practice.
I use this description of the TM technique when I speak now, which I think offers greater specificity about the experience:
“Immediately as I start to meditate, thoughts become more secondary in experience and an underlying pervasive inner silence becomes more primary. Many times during my TM practice all mental activity settles to silence. I am completely whole and at peace. And often in that silence thoughts come and go.”
The process of transcending is very dynamic–it is a cross-fade of mental activity and inner silence, back and forth. And in this back and forth process we become more familiar with the inner silence that underlies and pervades thoughts. We become able to pick up thoughts at an earlier level of development before they are swayed by environmental input.
And, with regular TM practice, we might find inner silence along with thoughts. This is growth of Cosmic Consciousness, in which we can have inner Being and outer activity together. This often starts with the co-existence of thoughts and deep inner silence during our TM practice.
Hope this helps, and thanks again for the straightforward comment.
Give it more time Mark. Take it as it ccomes. Some people get good benefits without dramatic experiences. It’s well worth it. And go for the advanced TM-Sidhis. That’s when it went from very good respite and calm, and into hyperdrive for me.
Mark, it would be good to go back and visit your TM teacher, if you can, or any TM teacher who is available. Your comments indicate that your TM experience is going very well. All that you need, now, is more intellectual understanding about the experiences you are having.
I am a certified TM teacher and I find that almost 100% of the time, my students do not remember all the intellectual understanding we provide in the first three days after learning TM. Very often – almost always – I find myself repeating instructions one month or even 12 months after my students learn TM and the information is greeted as if for the very first time. This is because we only hear what we can relate to at the time. As our inner experience deepens with regular practice of TM, more intellectual information is required, even if it is the same intellectual understanding we were given in the beginning, but which wasn’t then relevant to our experience.
Repeated check-ins with a TM teacher are necessary, especially for the first year, so that the student receives a full understanding of their experiences.
Your experiences indicate your experience of TM is going very well. For more intellectual understanding of why you are experiencing thoughts and why you feel you are not experiencing pure consciousness in every moment, talk to your teacher. It is very possible that you have misunderstood the comment about some people not ever experiencing pure consciousness. We TM teachers know that this experience is open to everybody, deepening over time.
Great article thank you.
Thank you, so glad you enjoyed!
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