Sunday, December 10, 2017

An excerpt from "Meditation : A safety guide"

Here's an excerpt from a book written by a "meditation mentor" in Singapore. My posting of this excerpt is not to endorse any system of meditation or any religious tradition. It does serve as a rather thorough exploration of the downsides of meditation, and why it may not be recommended for a lot of people.

REAL DANGERS OF MEDITATION
[Abridged from Piya Tan, Meditation : A safety guide, Singapore: The Minding Centre, 2013 Intro.]
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The meeting of western science and eastern meditation has not always been smooth [1]. On the positive side, we now know more about the nature and effects of meditation—and how to recognize the “real” thing—or at least avoid the negative aspects.
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PROBLEMS WITH MANTRA MEDITATION

By the mid-1970s, clinical reports of negative outcomes of various mantra meditation programs began to appear in psychiatric literature [2] These included people becoming unemployable because they were unable to control their mental states (for example, everything around them seemed unreal), and even more serious problems ranging from depression and agitation to psychosis.

Leon Otis, a psychologist at Stanford Research Institute, found that adverse outcomes were related to how long that person had meditated using such methods [3]. Michael Persinger, neuroscientist at the Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, found that, for some people, meditation can bring on symptoms of complex partial epilepsy, such as visual abnormalities, hearing voices, feeling vibrations, or experiencing automatic behaviours [4].

SELF-HYPNOSIS

Another concern, explored by Esalen founders, Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan, was that advanced practitioners of mantra meditation ranked high in suggestibility [5], not surprising given its similarity to self-hypnosis. A number of people in the US have successfully brought legal suits for damages suffered as a result of their participation in meditation programmes, especially commercialized methods such as TM (“transcendental meditation”) [6]. Legal suits against TM for damages were common [7].

Many people doing TM suffered from problems and difficulties regarding thinking and attention. Other impairments included emotional difficulties, blackouts, anxiety, “spacing out” [feeling drowsy, weak and bored], amnesia, and losing track of time [8]. In short, TM is not safe [9].

In the early years of Buddhism in the US, two approaches were common. The first was the empty-mind mantra meditation based on the Hindu tradition. The second, from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, is reflective meditation, where you reflect as a way of focusing the mind.

In the former, a close relationship between teacher and pupil included attention to individual differences and any problems which might arise. In contrast to earlier approaches, meditation today is often being sold by mass marketing, and often by individuals who have no religious affiliation or do not declare it [10].



FOOTNOTES

[1] This section is mostly based on http://www.ex-premie.org/pages/ismeditation.htm.

[2] Clinical reports of negative outcomes. A A Lazarus, “Psychiatric problems precipitated by Transcendental Meditation,” Psychological Reports 39 1976:601-602. For full biblio, see Meditation: A Safety Guide, 2013.

[3] N Mead, “Why meditation may not reduce stress,” Natural Health 23,6 Nov-Dec 1993: 80-85. For full biblio, see Meditation: A Safety Guide, 2013.

4] Michael A Persinger, “Transcendental Meditation and general meditation are associated with enhanced complex partial epileptic-like signs: Evidence of ‘cognitive kindling’?” Perceptual and Motor Skills 76, 1993:80-82. For full biblio, see Meditation: A Safety Guide, 2013.

[5] Michael Murphy & Steve Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, Big Sur, CA: Esa¬len Institute, 1989.

[6] On the dangers of TM (Transcendental Meditation) (a detailed insider report by Joe Kellett), see http://www.suggestibility.org/. Another comprehensive insider’s website is www.minet.org.

[7] Legal suits for damages. John Doe I-VI and Jane Doe vs Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; World Plan Executive Council-United States; Maharishi International University for the US District Court for the District of Columbia, 95-2848, 2849, 2851, 2852, 2853, 2854 (consolidated); Jane Green vs Maharishi Mahesh Yogi et al. US District Court for the District of Columbia, 87-0015-OG. Patrick Ryan vs World Plan Executive Council-United States et al. US District Court for the District of Columbia, 87-0016-OG.

[8] Problems found in therapy. M T Singer & R Ofshe, “Thought reform and the production of psychiatric casualies,” Psychiatric Annals 20,4 1990:189-190.

[9] On the ineffectiveness and problems of TM, see A Lutz, Donne & Davidson 2007:41-43.

[10] On various aspects of the commercialization of meditation and pseudoscientific claims, see eg Barry L Beyerstein, “Pseudoscience and the brain: Tuners and tonics for aspiring superhumans” at http://www.sfu.ca/…/…/articles/06Pseudoscience-and-Brain.pdf.

More of this excerpt from the author's Facebook page

More on this book

Introduction of this book


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

the end of playing the game


TM: religion, cult, science? 
Sure, why not! 
It's how you play the game, plain and simple. 

An old-time friend wanted to know why I, such a devoted, committed, true-believer (in the old days), quit TM. When I said I began to feel that I was living a lie, he declared a whiff of bovine excrement. He was right.

It was so much more than that. But the words that told the story were short in coming, suddenly. Hard to believe, I know, given my propensity for rants.

What was really going on? what had really gone on?

Some folks find that TM is ok, lets them feel rested and lets them go about their business feeling free-er ... ok, less stressed. Is that a lie, too? Mahesh said, I thought quite rightly, that we judge the effectiveness of meditation by our results in activity. I don't know any TMers any more. Haven't met one in years. Are they good, kind, effective, happy people? Does anyone know? Or is expecting to find good, kind, effective, happy people anywhere a contemporary myth and fantasy?

Unfortunately, like drivers on the highway, we only notice the ones who cause accidents, vehicular trouble. Just as unfortunately, I met lots of TM casualties. To me, they were "proof" that there was something absolutely NOT universal about Mahesh's panacea. Something whiffy about the TMO party-line.

When I compare the true-believing big-wig organizational whoo-has on YouTube (including the head whoo-ha, David Lynch) I wonder just who Maheshism is benefiting, other than whoever is in charge of Mahesh's bank account. I don't see and hear solid-based logic and clarity. I hear proselytising and belief-based fantasy. Perhaps I am jaded (oh, horrors). Yet, I think that is not the case. Logic is logic and I hear alternative-logic, alternative-facts and lofty "spiritual" crap-speak.

Any ideas? experiences, commentaries?

Friends tell me that Leigh Remini's TV episodes on Scientology are informative, worthwhile watching. I shy away from even clarifying-cult talk; it's just too full of the old days, somehow. Will there, ever/someday, be a post-TM-version of Leigh Remmini's courage, clarity and forthcoming? I hope, but do not restrain my respirations.

Mahesh envied Hubbard (his apparent success, anyway) and I guess, like the current U. S. President, tried to outdo what he considered a rival. I see a lot of similarity between Mahesh (the one I knew in private) and the very public current President. One shudders at the thought of what goes on in private in the oval office one hears so little about! but that's probably another story inappropriate for this Blog.

So, what are current TMers like, the Fairfield variety, the ordinary other-than-Fairfield variety, the run-of the mill variety? do they talk like the YouTube variety? are they really successful, skilled in action and so on?

 I, a curious reader, want to know.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Transcendental Meditation for Everyone, but at what cost

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Most of us might well see some less than rigorous search for facts. Following this article is a former TM teacher's response.

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Bob Roth, chief executive of the David Lynch Foundation, teaches transcendental meditation to a range of students, from elementary-school children to CEOs

 

by Alexandra Wolfe


June 30, 2017 1:07 p.m. ET

 
Bob Roth knows his field sounds a little like “woowoo” spirituality, as he says. But as a teacher of transcendental meditation, he now works with a wide-ranging clientele that includes celebrities such as Katy Perry and Jerry Seinfeld, hedge-fund managers, inner-city students, prisoners and veterans. He has the same goal for everyone: to teach them the virtues of T.M., as it’s called – a practice that involves silently reciting a mantra over and over for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. 

Proponents say that the practice reduces stress and raises self-awareness. Bridgewater founder and co-chairman Ray Dalio, a student of Mr. Roth’s for more than a decade and a donor to the foundation, is a believer. The practice has been “integral to whatever success I’ve had in life,” he says. “It makes one feel like a ninja in a movie, like you’re doing everything calmly and in slow motion.”

Mr. Roth, 66, is chief executive of the David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded with the film director in 2005 that is dedicated to teaching transcendental meditation, particularly to at-risk populations, “to improve their health, cognitive capabilities and performance in life,” as the foundation’s website says. Some of its funds come from teaching courses to companies and individuals; a four-day training course costs up to $960 a person. The foundation has 60 employees in the U.S. as well as partners in 35 countries.

In early June, Mr. Roth opened the nonprofit’s first office in Washington, D.C., where he says he is currently teaching a dozen members of Congress. His organization has also been participating in studies in prisons recently. In a study published last year in the Permanente Journal, 181 male inmates at the Oregon State Correctional Institute and the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem either took a transcendental meditation program through the foundation or did nothing outside their usual routine. The researchers found greater reductions in anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms in the group that had taken meditation.

Mr. Roth finds an analogy in the sea. “The ocean can be active and turbulent on the surface, sometimes with tsunami-like 30-foot waves, but is, by its nature, silent at its depth,” he says. “The surface of the mind is the active, noisy, thinking mind – often racing, noisy, hyperactive, turbulent. But like the ocean, the mind of everyone is quiet, calm, silent at its depth.”

T.M. was developed in India by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a physicist turned meditation teacher, in the 1950s; it gained popularity in the 1960s when he worked with the Beatles and other celebrities. 

The son of a doctor and a teacher, Mr. Roth dreamed of being a senator when he was young. He started meditating in college at the University of California, Berkeley, after a friend suggested it as a way to relax amid the student riots on campus. 

·         Response Posted In Transcendental Meditation for Everyone 


 I was a TM teacher who worked for the National TM office for 5 years in the 1970s.
It is disappointing that the Journal would publish an article without due diligence. While promoting a safe meditation practice to alleviate stress, TM conceals that Maharishi chose mantras that he said were the names of Hindu gods.

The initiation ceremony – the event during which a person first receives his or her mantra – takes place in a candlelit, incense-filled room with a TM teacher chanting Sanscrit prayers before an altar. At the conclusion, the inductee bows before the altar. The altar holds offerings that the student brought to the ceremony and the teacher used to worship Maharishi’s predeceased teacher. Every monotheistic religion considers this idol worship.

All this was documented by the New Jersey courts which tossed TM from the public schools in that state.

People can do what they choose. They should have honest information which TM withholds from them.

 


There are some more exchanges between our former TM teacher and Bob Roth. If possible, these may be posted later, perhaps in a separate article.