The Luxury of Transcendental Meditation

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Bob Roth says transcendental meditation is a vital tool

Julia La Roche, Correspondent at Yahoo Finance interviews Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation at Greenwich Economic Forum (Greenwich, CT)

We live in the land of “gotta, gotta, gotta.” We’ve gotta call him, and we’ve gotta call her. We’ve gotta go to sleep, but we’ve gotta get up.

This constant stress, as described by David Lynch Foundation CEO Bob Roth during a fireside chat at the 2019 Greenwich Economic Forum, is disrupting our lives and affecting everything from the way we make decisions to the way we treat each other. 

“The idea of meditation is no longer a luxury,” Roth said during his conversation with Yahoo Finance Correspondent Julia La Roche. “We live in very stressful times, we live in traumatic times.” 

Roth and the David Lynch Foundation teach a practice called transcendental meditation to everyone from kids to employees of major banks to pro athletes. To help explain the concept, Roth uses the metaphor of an ocean. Say you’re on a boat and suddenly giant waves swell all around you. It feels like the entire ocean is in upheaval. But the sea is miles deep. If you took a cross-section of the entire ocean, you’d find that, overall, it’s very still and silent, even if things are turbulent at the surface. Transcendental meditation is a simple practice that allows us to access the calmer part of our minds and escape the choppy “gotta, gotta, gotta” waves, says Roth.  

“Transcendental meditation recognizes that there is a vertical dimension to the mind and hypothesizes that deep within every one of us there is a level where your mind is already settled,” Roth said. “It gives effortless access to that.”

Roth acknowledged that some people still think meditation is “woo-woo.” But he pointed to peer-reviewed research that proves its efficacy. For instance, one Harvard study found that 20 minutes of transcendental meditation can reduce cortisol levels in the brain by 30% to 40%, he said. By comparison, a good night sleep only reduces the stress chemical by about 10%, he said. 

In practice, transcendental meditation takes about 40 minutes a day—two sessions of roughly 20 minutes each, Roth explained. And it doesn’t require sitting cross-legged in a quiet room. It can be done anywhere—on the train, at your desk, he said. While learning the practice takes four days of working with an instructor, Roth said it essentially involves sitting back, closing your eyes, and repeating a specific word in a way that allows you to shut out the noise around you. 

The David Lynch Foundation focuses on teaching transcendental meditation to as many people as possible, including vulnerable populations like inner-city school kids and veterans. At the time of the talk, the foundation had helped more than 1 million children learn the meditative practice for free, Roth said.    

“We’re equipping children with a nonreligious, non-philosophical, anybody-can-do-this meditation,” he said. “There is no philosophy.”

The results are staggering. Not only improved grades and test scores, but reduced suspensions and expulsions, as well, Roth said. And by helping young people learn to tamp down the hyper-reactivity of their amygdala—central to the brain’s fear and stress responses—the practice can cut down on violent crime, as well. Roth said the University of Chicago Crime Lab studied the effect of the meditation on children living in some of Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods and found that the practice could help bring down arrests for violent crimes by 70%.

We all know and accept the phrase “cooler heads prevail,” Roth said. Yet we aren’t always great at lowering the temperature of our minds. Transcendental meditation is a tool that can help us reduce that entropy—and cortisol levels—and boost serotonin (the happiness hormone).  

Roth said a doctor once told him that if transcendental meditation were a pill, it would be a multi-billion dollar industry. Now that’s something to ponder. 

(Written by Andrew Waite; Editing and revisions by Nicole Liddy)

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