From spiritual to financial: why Wall Street is meditating
Ray Dahlio, CEO of the $160 billion Bridgewater Associates, the most successful hedgefund in the world, credits all his success to his 40 years of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, practice. He pays for all of his employees to learn the technique.
Transcendental Meditation is the most practiced (6 million practicioners), most widely researched (600 studies), and according to this research, most effective meditation technique in the world. Recently a Financial Times article reported that now also more and more Wall Street brokers and top bankers are learning TM for very down-to-earth practical reasons: Having a clear mind makes them more successful in their jobs.
Success starts in your brain, and stress is damaging it
People with a stressed brain won’t do nearly as well as those with a brain that can function normally.
On this page we’ll discuss how Transcendental Meditation:
- reverses the damaging effects of stress on the brain.
- Is like fitness for the brain: developing both IQ, EQ, and creativity.
- Is an easy, natural and effortless technique that cannot be compared to other meditation techniques.
- Can be easily learned, in 4 evening sessions.
Reversing the damaging effects of stress on the brain.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed your creativity seems blocked, you can’t think as clearly, can’t control your emotions and your actions become more impulsive?
Yes? Good, you have a normal brain.
The brain has 2 distinctive parts, front and back. The back part is responsible for all the primitive actions, like sensory perceptions, muscle movement etc. It is similar to animals. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, is our uniquely human “thinking brain”. We think and plan before we take action, and have free will to act on our impulses or not. Animals don’t have this part, which is why you will never see a cow packing a suitcase and planning a holiday.
Under stressful situations this prefrontal cortex will shut down, and we’ll see this happens for a very good reason.
Here we see the flow of information in the brain under normal circumstances. The information goes from our eyes to the visual cortex. Then it is sent to the prefrontal cortex, which evaluates all the information and decides how to react. The decision is then sent to the motor cortex which controls our muscles.
Under stress this normal flow is interrupted. The prefrontal cortex is bypassed and the information goes directly from the sensory system to the motor cortex, inside the impulsive brain.
There’s a logical reason for this. If we’re crossing the street and we see a car coming at us, we don’t want to think about it and analyze the situation. No, we want to jump out of the way, impulsively. If we would have first thought about it, it would be too late.
The shutting down of the prefrontal cortex under stress is designed for our survival. We stop thinking, and just act impulsively. This is callled the fight-or-flight response. The blood flow shifts from the frontal region to the amygdala, the stress center in our brains, that raises our heartbeat and our bloodpressure and pumps all kind of stresshormones into our body so we can react quickly to an upcoming danger, either fight it, or run away.
The problem is that this mechanism wasn’t designed for the chronic stress situations most of us experience all too often today. When we’re standing still in an hour-long traffic jam while we’re already late for an important meeting, there’s no need to either fight or flight, and yet still the stress response is activated.
The more the brain experiences such chronic stress, the more the prefrontal cortex is actually trained to permanently shut down.
After some time of this actually damages the brain. SPECT bloodflow scans of violent individuals show how the prefrontal cortex simply had holes, places where the bloodflow was permanently shut down.
This is a clear illustration of how stress causes us to lose our ability to think clearly, which leads to mistakes, impulsiveness, emotional instability etc. These are all the things which will influence the effectiveness of Wall Street traders, but they just as much influence everybody else.
Deep rest: The best antidote to stress.
During TM practice, people learn to activate a natural process where their minds will automatically go to a state of deep inner silence. With the right technique this is easy to learn, anyone can master it and it’s enjoyable to practice.
Research from Harvard Medical School found that during this state the body comes into a state of deep relaxation, far deeper than sleep. This was measured by oxygen consumption. Ref.Science 27 Vol. 167 no. 3926 pp. 1751-1754 1970
More than 30 other studies have confirmed the deep rest during TM practice.Ref.American Psychologist, 1987, 42: 879-881.
This is the reason why TM is now the most successful stress management technique in the world.
Norman Rosenthal, MD, U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health
During this state of deep rest, also something fundamentally changes in the brain. The blood flow to the amygdala significantly decreases, indicating a similar deep state of deep physical relaxation (a confirmation of previous research). At the same time the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex increases. The prefrontal cortex gets reactivated. Through brain scans we can now visually observe how during Transcendental the damage of stress on the brain is healed.
The effect of reversing the damaging effects of stress is usually noticeable immediately. Most people notice, even within a few days after learning TM, that they feel more themselves (the prefrontal cortex is responsible for the sense of being yourself) that they manage to remain more calm during stressful situations, and keep their emotions more balanced. After a few weeks most people notice they can think more clearly, have more energy, sleep better, and can focus and concentrate more on the tasks at hand.
Here’s a beautiful video of how this experience, which we call “transcending”, can change lives, especially with those who had to deal with traumatic stress, and why more and more scientists, celebrities and governments are supporting the Transcendental Meditation technique.
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Coherent brain = success in life.
The ancient texts described transcending as far more than just a stress-management technique. They claimed it was absolutely essential to regularly experience this state for our full development as human beings. Today modern research can verify this.
Imagine our attention (our consciousness) to be like an ocean. When our attention is focused on something (something we see, something we hear). Then it is as if the ocean rises up in a wave. Our attention goes from unfocused, unbounded, to being focused on an individual object.
If we could bring the mind then in a state where it becomes completely quiet, while still remaining fullly conscious (so unlike the quietness from sleep) but where there is nothing particular to focus on (no perceptions, no doing, even no thoughts), then the reverse would take place, the wave would settle down into the ocean and we’d have an expanded awareness.
This is what happens during TM practice, in a completely natural and effortless way. We access the deeper layers of our subconscious minds, the areas of intuition and an almost unlimited creative potential.
The amazing thing about our modern technology is that the effects of this can be measured in the brain in real-time while somebody is practicing the TM technique.
When a part of the brain is active, it generates electrical signals, which can be measured trough an ElectroEncephaloGram or EEG, which will visualize the fluctuations of these signals over time in waveforms.
Next a computer can analyze to what degree these waveforms are similar to each other, a phenomenon called brainwave coherence. If coherence is high, this is an indication that different parts of the brain are communicating to each other and working together.
During ordinary waking state this coherence is generally low, as different parts of the brains are focused on different things. During transcending, when the wave settles down into the unbounded ocean, suddenly we see the whole brain becoming coherent.
This is visualized in the below research where the average coherence levels between different parts of the brain of a large group of students were measured with eyes open, eyes closed and after 30 seconds of TM practice. The thicker the line between the 2 parts of the brain, the higher the coherence.
Increased EEG coherence has been related to increased IQ, EQ, creativity, moral reasoning, emotional stability, learning ability, decreased ADHD etc.
This video shows a session where the changes in brain coherence practice are calculated and visualized in real-time during TM practice.
These measurements show a clear difference between the TM technique and other meditation techniques. Only the experience of true transcending will create full EEG coherence, and this experience can only be reached in a completely natural and effortless way. (see below)
Like with anything, the more we expose the brain to a particular experience, the more the brain will habituate to this experience. Over time EEG coherence will start to grow outside of meditation, as seen in the graph below.
This graph shows that after an initial strong increase during TM practice, (yellow line) there’s no real further increase over time. This is because TM is not something you get better at as you practice more. It’s a completely natural technique that will bring the experience of transcending (and the high EEG coherence) from the first few sittings. Practice does have an effect, however, as shown by increased EEG coherence outside of meditation, during activity.
When Norwegian researchers examined EEG coherence (as part of a wider measure called the Brain Integration Scale) of a group of managers, they found that top-level managers had significantly higher brain coherence than mid-level managers. What was more surprising is that the same results were found in athletes. The difference between mid level athletes and world class athletes was mostly in the coherent functioning of the brain.
Success, in no matter what we do, seems related to how coherent our brains can function more than anything else.
Here’s the average Brain Integration score of TM practitioners in comparison to the same top-level managers and world Class athletes: before TM, after about 1 year of TM practice and after more than 7 years TM practice.
The most spectacular example of what TM can do for the brain is a small school in Iowa, USA, where children who learn TM and practice it as part of the school curriculum have won 4 world championships in creative problem solving in the past 10 years, something no other school in the world has ever done before. Typically 100.000 of the most creative children in the world participate in these competitions. (for more info go to TM in education)
This is fitness for the brain, and it creates an almost unfair advantage that we have over others.
Transcending is easy, enjoyable, and anyone can learn.
Most people understand “meditation” to be some form of controlling the mind, usually through some kind of concentration (on a sound, the breath, or “being in the now”), with the aim to get some relaxation.
By now it must be clear that transcending, the experience of complete inner mental silence, is far more profound than just relaxation…and perhaps surprisingly it’s also much easier to reach. If we use the right formula, all we have to do is set a process in motion where the mind will go to this state by itself, completely naturally, completely effortlessly. The mind is always attracted to someting enjoyable and transcending is an experience of coming for the mind, it is the most enjoyable experience there is. It naturally wants to go there.
The mind is already genetically programmed to transcend, all we have to do is activate the programming and then allowing the effortless process to happen.
How can I learn?
The Transcendental Meditation technique is individually taught by a professionally trained teacher during meetings on four consecutive days (usually evening sessions). TM is a natural technique, and doesn’t really require anything that you have to learn or practice. It’s just a particular formula to activate a natural process that the mind instinctively already knows. This is why people usually experience transcending from the first few settings.
The personal instruction is followed by a detailed support and follow up program over the next six months to ensure the correct practice.
The first step, however, is simply to attend a free info seminar.
Do you have 90 minutes to discover how everything can change
To understand how a simple technique can provide so many benefits, sign up for the free informational seminar that are organized around the country. Just fill out the form below, or select your nearest city on the map below. You will be able to:
- Meet a certified TM teacher
- Learn all the benefits 20 minutes twice a day of TM practice can bring on stress reduction, brain development, self-confidence, relationships etc.
- Ask any question you may have
- Schedule a TM course
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