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Bob Roth: Meditating excess stress from the schools

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, June 9, 2006

CONSIDER THE FACTS: Ten million children are on antidepressant medication. Nearly 5 million children are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The third leading cause of death among teenagers is suicide.

We have a crisis in America today that demands a substantive solution. On May 4, the Rhode Island Committee for Stress-Free Schools (an organization of medical doctors, business leaders, educators, parents, and students) held a conference in Providence to showcase 35 years of scientific research and classroom experience documenting the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique for students suffering from stress and stress-related disorders.

The conference was attended by over 100 educators and was covered in a fair, balanced manner by The Journal's Linda Borg. A May 16 Commentary column by James M. Deschene ("Mitts off our schools, TM!") raised several questions about the practice that deserve answers but also, unfortunately, perpetuated some myths that seem to have a life on the Internet but not in any reputable scientific or medical circles.

In light of the need for informed debate over new ideas and solutions to the critical problems in society -- in particular concerning our children's well-being -- I offer the following scientifically based facts about the Transcendental Meditation technique for teachers and parents looking for solutions to the mounting stress among our children and teens.

Fact: Natural process: Transcendental Meditation is a simple, easily learned technique, practiced for 10 to 20 minutes twice a day, that research shows provides the body with a profound state of rest and relaxation -- far deeper than deep sleep -- while the mind settles down to inner calm and wakefulness.

Fact: It's not a religion. Millions of people of all ages and all religions practice the technique, including clergy of all religions, as well as people who are not religious. In fact, there are priests, ministers and rabbis who are also trained teachers of Transcendental Meditation who have instructed members of their congregations in this stress-reducing practice. The technique does not require any belief or change in lifestyle.

Fact: Federally funded research: More than 600 studies have been conducted on the benefits of the TM technique, at 200 universities -- including Harvard, Stanford and the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School -- during the past 35 years. The National Institutes of Health has granted $20 million to study the health benefits of Transcendental Meditation -- in particular, the reduction of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and stroke effects. This research has been published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the American Heart Association's Hypertension, the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine, and the American Journal of Cardiology.
Fact: TM is widely practiced and well documented in the schools. The TM technique has been learned by tens of thousands of students at schools, colleges and universities nationwide, with a broad range of documented benefits to health and learning.

Research at the University of Michigan Medical School found middle-school students who meditate to be happier, less anxious and depressed, and better adjusted than non-meditating students.

Research published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that the TM technique reduced high blood pressure among African-American high-school students in Augusta, Ga. (One in five African-American teens suffers from hypertension.)

Research by scientists at George Washington University found that Transcendental Meditation reduced stress and improved learning ability among children with  attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Research published in the education journal Intelligence found that TM increased IQ levels among meditating university students.

Research is now under way at American University on several hundred university students on the effects of TM on high blood pressure, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, academic achievement, anxiety and depression.

Fact: TM has no hazardous side effects. There has never been any randomized-control study published in any reputable peer-reviewed U.S. scientific journal showing that TM produces negative side effects. This is remarkable when you consider the long list of documented hazardous side effects -- including suicide and death -- produced by medications prescribed to millions of children for learning disorders, anxiety and depression.

Fact: All meditations are not the same. Note that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that all meditation practices are the same. In fact, over the past 30 years there have been several meta-analyses distinguishing the effects of TM from other techniques, including studies published in The American Psychologist, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, and the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality.

As adults dealing with the pressures of home and office, we often feel we're swimming in an ocean of stress. Well, our children are drowning in it. I invite anyone with further questions on the Transcendental-Meditation technique or who is interested in reviewing the scientific research demonstrating its effectiveness to e-mail either me, at the David Lynch Foundation (info@davidlynchfoundation.org), or the Rhode Island director for Stress-Free Schools, at info@-ne-stress-free-schools.-org.

Bob Roth is a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Committee for Stress-Free Schools and vice president of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.

Online at: http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/projo_20060609_09med.21a5452a.html



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