“I started Transcendental Meditation (TM) eight months ago, and it changed my life,” says Cathy Margel, writer for The Fix. “At the time, I was close to four years sober but still dealing with a lot of anxiety, and it was holding me back in my life. Since starting TM, my anxiety has gotten so much better. It is by far the most effective technique that I have found to manage my anxiety. I am calmer, happier, and more peaceful.” Here are highlights of her interview with Bob Roth, Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation, who explains how the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique helps people struggling with addiction.
Cathy Margel: What do you like best about teaching TM?
Bob Roth: I love to be able to teach someone a simple, highly effective tool they can practice on their own for the rest of their life that will, within a few days or weeks, allow them to heal trauma and stress, and overcome the overbearing challenges we all face in our daily lives that otherwise could send us into a tailspin of sickness or addictive behavior. The world is not going to slow down or get less stressed anytime soon. But with TM we have a way to access the calm that lies dormant within us so we are more resilient, more stable, and more effective facing the challenges that come our way.
“With TM we have a way to access the calm that lies dormant within us so we are more resilient, more stable, and more effective facing the challenges that come our way.” —Bob Roth, Executive Director, David Lynch Foundation
Cathy Margel: How can TM help someone struggling with addiction?
Bob Roth: Research shows that TM can help someone who is struggling with addiction in a very real and profound way by giving him or her the unique, direct experience of a state of inner calm and happiness that is far more satisfying and far longer lasting than any drug or drink or experience one could hope to have through the senses. And that subjective experience of inner calm or bliss, according to research, reduces stress and anxiety better than any other meditation technique, heals the traumatized brain, and resets life quite naturally and spontaneously in a healthier, more productive direction.
Cathy Margel: Can you explain how TM lowers cortisol levels, and what does that mean to someone with high anxiety?
Bob Roth: Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys) and has been called the “stress hormone.” There are high levels of cortisol when we are stressed, fearful, or anxious. And it becomes a vicious cycle. High levels of cortisol fuel high levels of anxiety, which then spur the adrenals to secrete more cortisol, so then we feel even more anxious. The whole process becomes a vicious cycle—and can even lead to a panic attack. A good night’s sleep may drop cortisol levels by 10 to 12 percent, but 20 minutes of TM reduces cortisol levels by 30 to 40 percent. TM is not magic. We are just accessing a mechanism in the nervous system to take profound rest at will. That allows the body to reset, or “reboot” itself. As a result, we are naturally far less anxious and tense, and far calmer and happier inside throughout the day—and sleep much better at night.
“A good night’s sleep may drop cortisol levels by 10 to 12 percent, but 20 minutes of TM reduces cortisol levels by 30 to 40 percent.” —Bob Roth, Executive Director, David Lynch Foundation
Cathy Margel: What does the research tell us about the effects of TM?
Bob Roth: Oh my! That is a huge question! In the past 40 years there have been more than 380 studies published in independent, peer-reviewed medical journals, including the American Medical Association, documenting the wide-ranging benefits of TM for all areas of mental and physical health. The studies have been conducted at top U.S. medical schools, such as Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA, and many of the studies have been funded by tens of millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans Administration. The findings repeatedly show TM to be highly effective for reducing stress and stress-related disorders, including heart disease, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADHD, and PTSD, while simultaneously improving creativity, IQ, problem-solving, decision-making, and other cognitive capabilities. Because TM reduces stress and optimizes the way the brain functions, it pretty much improves every aspect of our life.