Concentrative Or Nondirective Meditation? Which Does Science Say Works Better?

A Wandering Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

World sculpture in the main entrance at The Horniman Museum.  photo by whatsthatpicture on Flickr
World sculpture in the main entrance at The Horniman Museum.
photo by whatsthatpicture on Flickr

Relax and cheer up. Researchers in Norway scanned 14 meditators’ brains with an fMRI machine and discovered that a wandering mind boosts brain waves more than a brain at rest. By contrast, “concentrative”, directed mind in meditation showed less beneficial brain waves than a mind at rest. The non-directed, wandering mind in meditation activates the brain more than concentrated meditation.

The increased energy detected by fMRI in the non-directive, wandering mind meditators was primarily in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This activated prefrontal cortex, scientists understand, is the brain area that helps us to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and the ability to suppress urges.

Agitating Meditators. Conflicts Of Interest?

Somewhat agitating, I suspect for old-school yogi’s, is this research seems to indicate that directive, “concentrated” meditation methods may not be as effective as a brain at rest. However, this study only had 14 participants, much too small of a sample population to make definitive conclusions, like most meditation studies. More meditation research is needed with larger populations of subjects who’s brains can be fMRI scanned in controlled, randomized studies.

Possible conflicts of interest? The “non-directive”, mind wandering meditation method used in this study is called Acem1. Of the 8 person research team behind the study three practice Acem, the others do not. The website, for Acem Meditation International, says it’s a non-profit organization working to help people develop existentially through mindful, reflective processes. Acem was founded in Norway in 1966 by Are Holen MD PhD. The method, they claim, is “you don’t try to relax”. In Acem Meditation, you repeat a meditation sound mentally without effort, while thoughts and impressions are allowed to come and go freely. There is no attempt, the Acem website asserts, at emptying the mind. [For full self-disclosure, I do not promote any organization or any particular meditation methods. I was trained in and practiced Kriya Yoga of Self-Realization Fellowship for 20 years. I’m skeptical of supernatural claims from yogis and meditators].

Now, onto the Science 2.0 post that includes a link to the original research article.

Concentrative Or Nondirective Meditation? Which Does Science Say Works Better?

Mindfulness. Zen. Meditation drumming. Chakra. Buddhist and transcendental meditation. It evokes eastern mystics and hip elites in California pretending to leave their corporeal forms behind and achieve some higher state of being.

But what about poor stressed-out wretches that can’t afford to fly in big-name Yogis? What does the research say? Not much.

The left images show the brain during concentrative meditation, while images to the right show the brain during nondirective meditation. Credit: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

But researchers would like to change that – fMRI imaging can tell us very little about what is really happening, but it’s a start. The authors of a new paper on meditation say that different meditation techniques can actually be divided into two main groups.

Read the full Science 2.0 article Concentrative Or Nondirective Meditation? Which Does Science Say Works Better?.

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1 “ACEM is an offshoot of Transcendental Meditation, founded by an early student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who split with the TM organization in 1966:”- a reader left a reply informing us of this.


  1. Scott at

    @saijanai: Here’s my responses–

    1) RE: “governors” – Interesting! Yeah, kinda spooky though to call hoards of people that. Like “rule” or takeover the world, dictatoresque kind-of-spooky. Seems all ideologies have dreams of taking over the world. Capitalism, democratism, socialism, Catholicism, Islam, etc. Everybody’s own ideas are the best. I know mine are :). We humans are laughable and spooky oftentimes.

    2: RE: Deepak and TM: I’d heard the Deepak Chopra was a TMer and close follower of Maharishi. I could see how TM-Central may resent his fame and fortune riding on their coat-tails, using their foundation and giving them little credit.

    3) RE: Loyalty – $1 million seems like no small token of spiritual “loyalty”. Seems to go against basic “spiritual” values to make large sums of money a sign of loyalty. Unfair and discriminative against most people who, could otherwise be “loyal”, but in their lifetime will not have a million dollars to demonstrate their devotion to Maharishi/TM. Scientology employs a strategy where they seem to enable mega-movie stars (Tom Cruise, John Travolta) a prominent role (and their being millionaires helps Scientology too) in guiding the Scientology organization and being Scientology spokespersons. Nothing wrong with using publicity or money. These organizations would be foolish not to leverage their followers publicity and money. But, for a “spiritual” organization to require money or fame a prerequisite for loyalty or leadership smells fishy at best.

  2. Scott at

    @saijanai: I still think you should be a blogger. You have a lot of fascinating info to share with the world. Your comment here could be a blog post or several on your blog site. Don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate your comments here at my blog. And, welcome your feedback and comments that are relevant to the topic being discussed.

    Now, onto my responses to your posted comment:
    1) You mention psychotic episodes and hallucinations caused by too long of duration of TM or meditation practice. I’d be interested in knowing more specifics about: actual cases of psychotic episodes and hallucinations, severity or outcomes to practitioner who experiences these episodes.

    2) I’d never heard of strict time limits being placed on meditators of any schools or yoga teachers. Except, durations of practice being limited to experience levels. For example: A meditation practitioner who has little to no prior experience meditating using the specific techniques (or method) given should limit meditation to a few minutes at a time and can gradually build up duration as practice is refined. Quality over quantity is an apt rule of thumb. Both is ideal, was what I was taught in the SRF/Yogananda Kriya Yoga discipline.

    3) I have many other responses I could give to your post. However, I prefer to focus on no more than 1-3 points. Otherwise, we can’t do the justice to responding to you and to conducting on a coherent conversation for readers and us.

    You have many fascinating points to make. Readers and I would like to follow. Are you able to limit your comment length to to 1-3 main topics or paragraphs in one comment? If more than that, please break your comments into separate posts. That way I can respond to 1-3 paragraphs or one main idea individually at a time. Let me know if this is not clear. Otherwise, I’ll not be able to respond adequately to all your comments, as I’d like.

    P.S. Your Samadhi topic in your post– I couldn’t follow the “patterns” you typed. Wish I could understand what you mean. Maybe you could put in a separate post and say what you mean in a little different way. Thanks for your comments.

  3. saijanai

    Maharishi never had an official title. He sorta accepted “maharishi” half as a title, and half as a nickname. His only “title” at the ashram was “Bramacharyi Mahesh.”

    There’s no official title for people who practice TM. Most of us outside the hardcore fanatics just refer to each other as “TMers.” Not sure exactly what the hardcore fanatics refer to TMers as.

    “TM teacher” is an official designation. You are an accredited/licensed person legally authorized by the trademark holder to call yourself someone who teaches TM based on formal training you have been through. Prudence Farrow (“Dear Prudence”) was on the same teacher training course as 2 of the Beatles. So were Mike Love, Donovan, Paul Horn, and many other people who DID go on to become official TM teachers. Other celebrities showed up just so they could hang with the Beatles, but there really was a formal course going on during the Beatle’s stay, at least according to Prudence Farrow.

    This is the current website to apply for becoming a TM teacher if you live in the USA:

    Early on, I believe Maharishi referred to TM teachers as “meditation guides.” At one point, in an attempt to emphasize that TM wasn’t really a technique, Maharishi would refer to TM teachers as “Initiators” as TMers don’t really learn anything or do anything different than what everyone already does, and to point out that all a TM teacher does is guide the student through the process of starting or initiating whatever it is that TM really is.
    Later on, after he introduced the TM-SIdhis practices, he started referring to TM teachers who had learned the TM-SIdhis as “governors” as they would “govern the laws of nature and the trends of time.” Later on, after the policy was set that all active TM teachers had to be “governors,” people started just referring to any person who was teaching TM as a TM teacher since the distinction made no sense, and most people were kinda uncomfortable (I suspect) with calling themselves “governors.”

    It was during this period that Maharishi conceived of the idea of a “world government” which would administer from the level of silence, the level of pure consciousness or Being. Later on, that would morph into “The Global Country of World Peace,” which is the current name of the global umbrella organization that runs all TM-related stuff at the international level.
    Here’s the official website:

    A Lebanese doctor named Tony abu Nader, AKA “Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam” is the first official ruler of the GCWP or whatever is the appropriate acronym. At the time of the founding, various people were named “ministers” but that changed over the years.

    A short history lesson:
    By the time Deepak Chopra left the TM organization about 20 years ago, he had drained millions of dollars in advertising & marketing from the TM organization, as well as thousands of man-hours spent by volunteers as well as people within the TM organization in order to make him a household word worldwide. “Deepak Chopra” had become a special brand all its own, meant to be the focal point for the world-wide revival of Ayurvedic medicine that Maharishi was sponsoring. At least one book that was already in the publishing pipeline was given given a byline “Deepak Chopra” and the language polished to reflect his public speaking style and all revenues from book sales were given directly to him. The TM organization and volunteers around the world had developed creative ways of leveraging the existence of a thousand TM centers in order to promote his book sales and Deepak ended up on best-sellers list and eventually caught the eye of Oprah Winfrey.

    The worst part was: he had wasted 10 years of Maharishi’s life and I suspect 20-year-plans had to be scrapped. By the time he appeared on Oprah, he had divorced himself from the TM organization, relocated himself and his entire family (including a younger brother who had been a junior member of faculty at Harvard Medical School), and rewritten all his books (including the one he never even had a hand in writing) to remove all mention of TM, Maharishi, etc., and made it appear as though he magically appeared out of the East one day.

    Partly because of this, the old monk made a new rule:
    anyone who wanted to rise within the ranks of the TM organization had to prove their loyalty. No longer would anyone be given financial incentives to work for the goals of the organization as Deepak was. Instead, if they wanted to run the TM organization at the highest level, they had to either donate $1 million to the TM organization to prove that they were NOT in it for the money, or convince a wealthy friend to donate $1 million on their behalf. This helped replenish the TM coffers and established a cadre of “rajas” who were required to wear a gold crown whenever they appeared in public who were dedicated to the goals of the TM organization, rather than to whatever agenda they might be devising as they became famous (no public appearances for any “raja” on Oprah unless they were willing to expose themselves to extreme public ridicule -something that Chopra never was able to handle 20 years ago OR now).

    When the old monk was dying, he asked the TM leaders to lay out one last organizational plan for his approval, and tweaked it to the form it is now. Certain rajas were given “domains” to run. John Hagelin was made “raja” of North America but never required to donate money. He’d already proven his loyalty by forsaking a promising career and dropping everything to run for President of the USA, standing up to extreme ridicule simply by running. All told, 27 administrative rajas exist, at least according to this web-page:

    I never met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Just as well, I suspect. Either I would have been too starstruck to interact with him well, or my innate cynicism might have made me go to far the other way when dealing with him in order to compensate for my True Believer attitudes.

  4. Scott at

    @saijanai: TM definitely has a rich history and made it’s mark early in the West. I recall my Dad would sometimes watch Maharishi on public television. I remember his voice sounded high pitched and hearing him talk about consciousness. Gosh. That might’ve been 1970s or later.

    What’s the official term or titles for TM followers?
    Does Maharishi/TM have a monastic order and/or ministers with TM churches/centers?
    You called the two Beatles teachers because they studied under Maharishi.
    Maharishi being Indian, and a guru, I would’ve thought to be “teachers” you’d first have to be a disciple or chelas of the guru, Maharishi. You called the Beatles (John and George) and other followers of Maharishi “teachers”.

    Can you tell us about your personal experience and relationship with Maharishi? Did you meet him in person? Maybe spiritually?

    I never met Yogananda in person. He died before I was born. (Though I met people who claimed their guru, Yogananda or another SRF guru or leader, came to them in a dream, in meditation, or through some other miraculous experience. Yogananda’s Autobiography had several stories about “non-physical” visitations and sacred initiations from guru to disciple). I learned of Yogananda and his teachings through books, classes, and recordings. An official disciple follower of SRF / Yogananda, had to have initiation into Kriya Yoga through SRF Headquarters (such was the SRF teachings– like the Church being the “body” of Christ– SRF was body of Yogananda). However, in my time SRF only made disciples official “teachers” of those who first were initiated disciples into Kriya Yoga, who had taken Monastic vows (with rare exceptions), and then only were they specially trained, ordained as ministers, and given a geographic “post” or SRF temple congregation to “preach” the SRF gospel to, or teach the meditation techniques to others.

  5. saijanai

    I should add that there’s a very striking difference between how research on TM and research on ACEM is conducted. Guidelines concerning how long one should meditate were established by the time I learned in 1973, and probably a few years before that: 20 minutes maximum. This was, I believe, to prevent the kind of detrimental effects you hear rumors about from the “good ole days” in the late 1960s when people would meditate continuously for many hours, leading to (according to rumor) psychotic episodes, hallucinations, etc.

    However, ACEM researchers describe findings that involve having subjects meditate for hours continuously.

    TM researchers never, as far as I can tell, ever request that subjects meditate longer than the set 20 minutes (though they may use a shorter time).

    I don’t know if ACEM and TM have the same effects, but it is an interesting thing that ACEM apparently doesn’t have such guidelines concerning time-limits for meditators.

    Even in the “Invincible America” course, where people might practice mental techniques for up to 8 hours a day, meditators are still only doing TM for 20 minutes at a time, followed by other mental practices. The entire set of mental practices is bracketed by Yoga asanas in order to provide some level of physical activity, even in the midst of long-term mental practice.

    As far as I can tell, such practices are not advocated or even conceived of, by ACEM teachers.

    And that leads to the final, and all-important difference (in my opinion) between TM and ACEM:

    The ACEM website does not, as far as I can tell, mention anything remotely resembling “pure consciousness” or “transcendental consciousness” or _samadhi_.

    ALL of TM is explained in terms of samadhi.

    Here’s a comment I left in yesterday in reference to ACEM:

    First thing to understand is that there is no technique to TM.

    TM is merely allowing the mind to wander in the direction of greater happiness. I realize that ACEM teachers often say the same thing, but this shouldn’t surprise you since the founder of ACEM was trained as a TM teacher 50 years ago and then broke away 4 years later over issues of “spirituality.”

    And yet…

    There’s no divorcing TM from the spiritual effect it has. In fact, from our viewpoint, all effects from TM are due to its “spiritual nature.”

    The simple physical effect that TM has, allowing the nervous system to rest, can only be explained in terms of what is considered in Yoga to be the highest spiritual state, and in fact, the physical effects of TM are easily shown to be occurring somewhere along the line between the activity of the brain in normal waking state consciousness that we all have, and the state of _samadhi_, where the brain is still alert, but all mental/sensory perception has completely subsided.

    Here’s a little diagram I just made up to try to illustrate this:

    At one end, you have the normal activity of the waking state, and at the other end, you have the brain activity of _samadhi_, where normal mental and sensory activity has essentially become zero.

    The “W” means what most people consider waking state.
    The **_S_** is the _samadhi_ state.

    The X is where a person is during or outside of meditation as far as how-samadhi-like the electrical activity of their brain goes.

    Outside of meditation:

    The electrical activity found in most people during **W** is far less coherent than found during TM during **_S_**.

    Most people, when they learn TM, start out somewhere close to the **W** and as they practice, the electrical activity of the brain starts to look more and more like **_S_**.

    But it’s more complicated than that. During TM, when the mind starts to become quiet, it is because the brain is becoming more and more **_S_**-like, but this allows repair of stress to start, which is perceived as mental activity, and the brain becomes more active, thinking becomes more active, and the electrical becomes less coherent.

    So… A typical TM session in beginners looks like this as far as electrical activity goes, and their mental activity pretty much follows the same pattern:
    **W**X………………………………………..**_S_** TM starts
    **W**…..X……………………………………**_S_** <= less mental activity/more _samadhi_-like
    **W**…………………..X…………………….**_S_** <= repair activity starts
    **W**…….X……………………………………**_S_** <- mental activity is back to normal levels while the results of stress get repaired.

    Sometimes, for some people, things go like this:
    **W**X………………………………………..**_S_** TM starts
    **W**…..X……………………………………**_S_** <= less mental activity/more _samadhi_-like
    **W**…………………………………………X**_S_** <= _samadhi_ occurs
    **W**…………………………………………X**_S_** <= _samadhi_ continues
    **W**…………………………………………X**_S_** <= Repair activity starts
    **W**…….X……………………………………**_S_** <- mental activity is back to normal levels while the results of stress get repaired.

    Over the years, the trend is for the meditator to have a waking state that has more of the quality of _samadhi_, so the meditation practice goes like this:
    …………..**W**X……………………………**_S_** TM starts
    …………..**W**…….X……………………..**_S_** <= less mental activity/more _samadhi_-like
    …………..**W**………………X……………**_S_*** <= repair activity starts
    …………..**W**…..X……………………….**_S_** <- mental activity is back to normal meditation levels while the results of stress get repaired.

    Sometimes, for some people, things go like this:
    …………..**W**X……………………………**_S_** TM starts
    …………..**W**X……X…………………….**_S_** <= less mental activity/more _samadhi_-like
    …………..**W**……………………………X**_S_** <= _samadhi_ occurs
    …………..**W**……………………………X**_S_** <= _samadhi_ continues
    …………..**W**……………………………X**_S_** <= Repair activity starts
    …………..**W**…….X……………………..**_S_** <- mental activity is back to normal levels while the results of stress get repaired.

    As someone becomes enlightened, their brainwave patterns look more like this:
    Outside of meditation:

    But, even for people who are somewhat enlightened, the cycle continues during meditation. ONLY if a person is always in _samadhi_ at all times does the cycle NOT continue.

    Do you see the point? There's no way to explain what goes on during TM except in terms of _samadhi_ or the ultimate spiritual state according to Yoga. Anyone foolish enough to think otherwise obviously never understood TM and never had an experience of _samadhi_ and the idea that such a person could then devise a meditation practice that would be a valid substitution for TM is totally silly.

    Understand that TM teachers aren't required to be enlightened, or even have _samadhi_ experiences in order to become TM teachers. They are basically *technicians* who agree to teach just the way they were trained and promise never to attempt to teach meditation except the way they were trained.

    When you learn from an ACEM teacher, you learned from someone who was trained by someone who (1) obviously didn't understand the long-term effects of TM ([he started ACEM only a few years after he learned TM according to wikipedia]( and (2) from someone who learned from someone who violated a solemn promise to only teach meditation the way he was taught to teach.

  6. saijanai

    I don’t know how the teaching program matured since circa 1962. I do know that up until 1968, when 2 of the Beatles went to India to learn to be TM teachers (George Harrison and John Lennon I believe), all aspects of TM teacher training were still conducted personally by Maharishi. The course they partially attended was only about 2.5 months long, according to Prudence Farrow, who was on the same course (she has much to say about the circumstances of the “Dear Prudence” song in this youtube interview: By 1973, I believe that much of the TM teacher trained was via canned instruction done by Maharishi’s proxies using video tapes of lectures made around 1970. This was around the time that the first research on TM was published and Maharishi started emphasizing physiological effects and scientific explanations more. There are rumors that far fewer mantras were used in the earliest days of TM instruction 50+ years ago, and the implementation of the formal followup program for meditators, “checking,” wasn’t started until around the time I learned in 1973.

    I know that Maharishi issued final revision instructions to have all TM teachers “recertified” in order for them to continue to teach TM about 2-3 years before he died, and I know that there were various modifications to how TM teacher training was conducted over the years. E..G., at one point, 3 months instruction in-residence, followed by 3 months of practical experience at a local TM center, followed by 3 months of further instruction in-residence was the curriculum. Currently, TM teacher training is 5.5 months long, followed by a 4 day workshop, in-residence, on how to manage a TM center, including accounting practices and such.

    All people who plan to become TM teachers must be “Yogic Flyers” before they attend TM Teacher Training, but that requirement was set 30+ years ago.

    I know that, from what older, former TM teachers have said online, guidelines for how to teach TM became far more strict around 1970. Exact phrasing, etc, was apparently not as important prior to c. 1970 then as it is now. All active TM teachers in the USA have had to be recertified in some way in 2012 , according to the IRS Form 990 for the Maharishi Foundation, USA, which listed minor revenue in the US from recertification fees for 171 TM teachers (coincidentally 171 teachers are considered “active” int eh USA, though this may be more of a formal accounting thing, then actual new information. or procedures). I have heard that TM teachers now tell students to take a few minutes longer to “come out of” meditation than when I learned 41 years ago, but I haven’t attended a TM class in 41 years, I don’t know when this change occurred if it really did.

    The TM organization is extremely protective of their trademark “Transcendental Meditation,” although various countries have different requirements. In the United Kingdom, for example, there are many “independent TM teachers” who have formed their own charity, and are allowed to call it “Transcendental Meditation” despite having signed a statement saying that they would only teach TM under the guidelines of the organizations that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi set up. In some countries, “Transcendental Meditation” can’t be trademarked at all, and anyone can call themselves a TM teacher. There’s ongoing news about “Transcendental Meditation” gurus in one country who instigate violence by their followers against government officials, for example.

    In the USA, claiming that the scientific research done on TM applies to whatever you teach is problematic, and there are court cases pending about that. Other countries have their own laws that make things more or less difficult for the TM organization to control the trademark, or even establish that they are an accreditation/training organization with any rights at all (from what I can gather).

    In other countries, where the president happens to practice TM, things are generally far more sympathetic to the TM organization. In Brazil, the government has announced that they will pay to have 48,000 TM teachers trained in order to have one working in each public school. In Colombia, where the president also happens to be a TMer, there’s a great deal of activity to support Father Gabriel Mejia’s work using TM. The government sends the child-soldiers they capture who were coerced to kill people on behalf of the rebels to Father Gabriel, who uses TM as a therapy for PTSD.

    Maharishi’s comment about such groups was merely “the secret is out.” Most people don’t realize that prior to Maharishi, virtually all meditation practices were deemed difficult and hard. Vipassana was never described as “easy” in the early 60s, and you can find magazine articles from the 60’s quoting rival gurus denouncing TM and Maharishi as fakes BECAUSE he claimed that meditation was easy, and enlightenment natural, and yet now, proponents of virtually every practice insist that *their* meditation is also “easy and effortless,” even though the actual description and explanation continues to be in terms of attention-training, concentration and control.

  7. Scott at

    @saijanai: Welcome back. It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted here. Your blog doesn’t seem to have any posts. I just revisited a few minutes ago. You should consider starting up your blog where we could go more in-depth about TM, Maharishi, etc. You seem well-versed in TM and surrounding research. I’m not so knowledgeable about TM particularly. So, will have to defer to you on the assumptions you outline above.

    Here’s some of my initial questions, I’d be interested on hearing from you about in your blog or comments:
    * In what ways has Maharishi’s original TM philosophy or techniques matured or changed to enhance benefits to practitioners?
    * How does TM, Maharishi, or his followers reconcile development of his “teachings” among splinter groups, like ACEM?
    * Does TM, as an organization, see other groups “developing” TM teachings as a threat or opportunity?

    I’m not asking these questions out of a desire for controversy, but ask respectfully. I think anybody who is attempting to shape their life, through ethical means, is admirable. Yet, in this blog, I try to uncover any “hidden” or untold aspects, not out of love of controversy, but with intent to provide an alternate explanation for many of the assumptions and extraordinary claims about yoga meditation practices that many people take for granted.

  8. saijanai

    “But, ACEM (and any other meditation methodology) probably would have also benefited from decades of further development and tweaking of their practices by their followers. This seems inevitable. Changes creep in over time, much to the chagrin of the “Popes” who want to keep control of the “teachings”.”

    Several assumptions here:

    1) that the short-term student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who founded had greate levelsl of intuitive insight–the same level of enlightenment, if you will–that Maharishi had when he first devised his meditation teacher teaching program and knew what was important and what wasn’t;

    2) that this short-term student continued to develop along these lines at least as fast as Maharishi did, if not faster;

    3) that the feedback from a few ACEM teachers (only a dozen are listed on teh website) that the ACEM founder received was equivalent to the feedback fMaharishi received from 40,000 TM teachers.

    4) that ACEM ever had equivalent effects to TM in the first place.

    What little scientific research that exists on ACEM says that this last point is NOT true: the preliminary research published about ACEM suggests that it doesn’t have the same effect on practitioners as TM does.

    A big irony here is that the purported reason to leave the TM organization was because of the spiritual component, and yet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was calling for scientific research on TM 10 years before the break occurred, and while there have been scientific studies on TM published since 1970, research on ACEM was not published for another 35 years after that.

    And TM research has matured since 1970. People like to denounce TM research as being of poor quality, but in fact in a Letter to the Editor exchange between Robert Schneider, lead author of a recent study of TM’s effects on health in Black-Americans with heart issues, and Robert Brook, lead author of the AHA scientific statement, Dr Brook said: “We do agree thatTM is unique in the robustness and quality of evidence amgon meditation technqiues for BP-lowering…”

    Dr Brook is now conducting his own research on the effects of TM and how it might ameliorate the detrimental effects of air pollution on high blood pressure.

    35 years after the split from TM, ACEM research is still in its infancy. TM research is maturing rapidly. The purported reason to split from the TM organization (too much emphasis on spirituality) doesn’t hold water.

  9. Scott at

    Interesting, @saijanai, to discover that ACEM is a splinter from “early” TM.

    A friend told me TM is expensive (I don’t care how much it costs, that’s irrelevant to me. But, I find it interesting that meditation methods are packaged, promoted, and sold like any commercial product. Further, the meditation promoters want to get customer inside their eco-system and continually, life-long, practice their meditation and buy their programs. I smart, sustainable, and potentially “lucrative” business model). I’m not singling out TM here. Just pointing out most religious/spiritual methods, materials, and products are not just idealogical but commercial. Any one with smarts, and a decent product or service, should use marketing, media, and technology to distribute or grow their organization, business, and customer-/follower-base. Not all will be in it purely for the money. And, money, is just a tool. Not bad in itself.

    @saijanai: “…a possible difference between TM and ACEM, despite the attempt to reproduce its effects without strict adherence to the meditation teacher teaching methodology that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi devised, and then tweaked for 50 years (Note that the ACEM founder, if he was trained as a TM teacher as the ACEM history implies, was trained at the very start of the TM teaching methodology and didn’t have the benefits of another several decades of feedback where Maharishi continued to tweak and standardize TM teacher training).”

    But, ACEM (and any other meditation methodology) probably would have also benefited from decades of further development and tweaking of their practices by their followers. This seems inevitable. Changes creep in over time, much to the chagrin of the “Popes” who want to keep control of the “teachings”.

    Your above argument will be compelling to disciples or practitioners who may be interested in the “One” pure, official, and “blessed” teachings of the Maharishi guru. (Smacks a bit of: He gave his only-begotten son, so that we may be saved). Fair enough, if that’s what somebody wants, to be a follower of the “official” guru-blessed method, you make a valid argument.

    The “purity of teachings” argument and “defense” is one I heard many times about Kriya Yoga of Self-Realization Fellowship, where I was an ordained monastic for 14 years. Of the SRF “disciples” taught Kriya, by the Fellowship’s guru-founder Paramahansa Yogananda, many broke-away from the parent organization and started their own “sect” or splinter groups, organizations, and often modified the “teachings” and meditation practices. The only problem I see is that these kinds of “spiritual” ideologies, when they defend and fight, get nasty and ugly. The Spanish Inquisition and every other spiritual crusades seems bot be about one disciple’s righteousness killing off some other heathens heretical teachings.

  10. saijanai

    ACEM is an offshoot of Transcendental Meditation, founded by an early student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who split with the TM organization in 1966:

    As far as I can tell, the purpose of ACEM was to make TM available cheaply and without the “spiritual baggage” that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi insisted was important.

    There are only 5 published studies on ACEM listed in pubmed:

    though has many hits on (ACEM AND meditation) OR “nondirective meditation”

    THere’s only two fMRI studies on TM that I am aware of, and while they show some of the same areas of activation (having to do with the resting-state “default mode network” that the ACEM study mentions), there are some differences as well:

    TM researchers assert that TM, like mindfulness, decreases activity of the amygdala, while the article you refer to says that ACEM practice increases the activation of the amygdala, so this is a possible difference between TM and ACEM, despite the attempt to reproduce its effects without strict adherence to the meditation teacher teaching methodology that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi devised, and then tweaked for 50 years (Note that the ACEM founder, if he was trained as a TM teacher as the ACEM history implies, was trained at the very start of the TM teaching methodology and didn’t have the benefits of another several decades of feedback where Maharishi continued to tweak and standardize TM teacher training).

    Another area where ACEM practice appears to differ from TM is EEG. Again, there is only one published study of the effects of ACEM on EEG, while there are quiet a few on TM, but the main findings for ACEM are:

    Increased theta and alpha EEG activity during nondirective meditation
    Significantly increased theta power was found for the meditation condition when averaged across all brain regions. On closer examination, it was found that theta was significantly greater in the frontal and temporal-central regions as compared to the posterior region. There was also a significant increase in alpha power in the meditation condition compared to the rest condition, when averaged across all brain regions, and it was found that alpha was significantly greater in the posterior region as compared to the frontal region.

    This is in contrast with the results of several studies on TM, where the most consistent finding is that alpha EEG coherence in the frontal regions was higher, while beta EEG power was reduced, and gamma EEG was greatly reduced. EEG coherence in TM has been noted for 35 years, so any researcher conducting research on EEG in a meditation practice meant to reproduce the effects of TM should certainly be familiar with the most consistent EEG finding about TM. The fact that the researchers either were not aware of this, or failed to perform the measure, or at least failed to report the results, is interesting since it is touted over and over again in the research literature as a place where TM is strikingly different than other forms of meditation: TM produces higher levels of alpha EEG coherence in the frontal lobes, and as experience in the practice grows, between the frontal and occipital lobes.

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