David Lynch Foundation

Transcendental Meditation Boosts High School Graduation Rates, As Policymakers Look To Alternatives : US/World : Medical Daily

A large socioeconomic underclass continues to propagate in America with a high school graduation rate of only 69 percent and projections for 12 million students to drop out during the next decade.

  • During the next decade, nearly one in three American high school students will drop out, with some entering prison rather than college. Transcendental meditation may be the key for prevention.

    (Photo : Creative Commons) A new study from Maharishi University of Management claims their transcendental meditation technique boosts rates of high school graduation.

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Aside from the social costs of stunted educations in the developed world, high dropout rates will cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion during that time period, with lower earnings and greater dependence on social welfare programs, in addition to higher crime and attendant rates of incarceration.

However, a new study shows the practice of transcendental meditation — a specific mantra-based form of medication developed in the 1950s — as effective in reducing dropout rates among high school students, compared to other interventions.

In research funded by the David Lynch Foundation, investigators from the University of Connecticut found a 15 percent higher graduation rate among students practicing the meditation technique versus other students, even after eliminating differences in grade-point average. And when examining only the lower-performing students in both groups, the benefits of meditation rose to a 25 percent higher graduation rate.

The analysis included all 235 seniors enrolled in one year at an east coast urban high school.

“While there are bright spots in public education today, urban schools on the whole tend to suffer from a range of factors which contribute to poor student academic performance and low graduation rates,” according to lead author, Robert D. Colbert, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, told reporters. “Students need to be provided with value-added educational programs that can provide opportunities for school success. Our study investigated one such program, Transcendental Meditation, which appears to hold tremendous promise for enriching the lives of our nation’s students.”

Developed in India by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the meditation technique involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily while sitting with eyes closed, and is perhaps the most widely practiced and most researched meditation techniques in the world. More than 340 scientific papers have been published on the subject, including a 2006 study finding improved cardiac risk factors for people with coronary heart disease.

Sanford Nidich, who holds a doctorate in education, works as a professor at Maharishi University of Management, an institution in Iowa dedicated to the study and promotion of the trademarked meditation technique, which is taught around the world by instructors ordained by the organization. “These results are the first to show that the Transcendental Meditation program can have a positive impact on student graduation rates,” he said. “The largest effect was found in the most academically challenged students. Recently published research on increased academic achievement and reduced psychological stress in urban school students may provide possible mechanisms for the higher graduation rates found in this study.”

The research findings point not only to lower secondary school dropout rates but also more college acceptances and a lower rate of incarceration.

The nonprofit Maharishi Foundation USA, which licenses the technique, says it has partnered with other nonprofits to provide full scholarships to more than a quarter-million at-risk schoolchildren, veterans, sufferers of Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome, homeless people, and others.

The organization says more academic studies are planned.

Source: Colbert RD, Nidich S. Effect of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Graduation, College Acceptance and Dropout Rates for Students Attending an Urban Public High School. Education. 2013.

Transcendental Meditation Boosts High School Graduation Rates, As Policymakers Look To Alternatives : US/World : Medical Daily.

 

Transcendental Meditation significantly reduces posttraumatic stress in African refugees

April 8, 2013 in Psychology & Psychiatry

via Transcendental Meditation significantly reduces posttraumatic stress in African refugees. graph shows the changes in posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms as reflected in scores on the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) in the two groups. Both groups indicated severe PTS symptoms at baseline. Visible improvements can be seen in the TM group. While a drop in 11 points on this measure is considered clinically significant, TM practice led to three times that drop in PTS symptoms after 30 days practice. The TM group went to a non-symptomatic level after 30-days and remained low at 135-days. Credit: Maharishi University of Management

A significant percentage of veterans returning from wars exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTS). This is now recognized as a serious health problem, but what about the victims of such violence? Refugees live with the constant reminder of what war has done to their lives and those of their families. A randomized/matched study published today in the April 2013 issue of Journal of Traumatic Stress (Volume 26, Issue 2, pp. 295-298.) measured the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms in refugees in Africa before and after learning the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. The reductions were dramatic.

Forty-two refugees from the Congolese civil war, living in Uganda, were assigned to learn TM immediately or wait until after the study. The participants were matched on age, gender and severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms at baseline. All participants were given the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) at baseline, and 30-day and 135-day after learning TM. PCL scores in the control group trended upward from baseline to the two posttests. In contrast, PCL scores in the TM group went from high at baseline, indicating severe PTS symptoms, to a non-symptomatic level after 30-days TM practice, and remained low at 135-days. “We anticipated improvement, but I didn’t expect this magnitude of change,” said lead author Colonel Brian Rees MD, MPH. “The continued improvement at four months also led us to conclude that TM may be a very worthwhile intervention for anyone suffering from posttraumatic stress.” This graph shows the changes in PTS symptoms in the two groups. A drop in 11 points on this measure is considered clinically significant—visible improvements can be seen. TM practice led to three times the drop in posttraumatic stress symptoms after 30 days practice. “I was surprised to see how quickly TM practice had an effect on posttraumatic stress symptoms in these refugees, who had no home, no job, and very little support from their environment,” said co-author Fred Travis, Ph.D., Director for the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. “These findings suggest that TM may be an effective antidote to the rising incidence of PTS in the world.” A person with posttraumatic stress may be hyper-vigilant, sleep poorly, distrust others, have memory problems, and have difficulty making decisions and following through. Traumatized populations are challenged both by outer circumstances and by inner conditions to help themselves. Thus, posttraumatic stress symptoms are resistant to change by usual therapy. The state of restful alertness gained during TM practice appears to reverse the damage done by traumatic experiences. Reductions in posttraumatic stress in African refuges replicate findings in previous research with Vietnam veterans and Iraqi/Afghanistan veterans. TM practice was more effective than psychotherapy in reducing anxiety, depression, insomnia, alcohol abuse, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and stress reactivity in 18 Vietnam veterans randomly assigned to group. Three-months practice of TM was also reported to decrease anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress symptoms in veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Findings from these studies support the efficacy of TM practice for reducing posttraumatic stress symptoms. Large-scale studies assessing both quantitative and qualitative measures are warranted to investigate the effects of TM on reducing behavioral, psychological and physiological symptoms resulting from traumatic experiences across cultures. More information: Funding was provided by the David Lynch Foundation.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-04-transcendental-meditation-significantly-posttraumatic-stress.html#jCp

 

AFP: War veterans say meditation could help

War veterans say meditation could help

By Sebastian Smith (AFP) – 5 hours ago

NEW YORK — Meditation might sound an unlikely activity for men trained in killing people and blowing things up in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But US war veterans say meditation could help heal the post-war mental disturbances that afflict a growing number of American soldiers, including possibly the ex-Marine who gunned down the country’s most famous sniper over the weekend.

Luke Jensen, a former undercover police officer who fell apart mentally on arrival in Afghanistan, said that after trying to commit suicide in front of his family, he agreed to try transcendental meditation — and was saved.

“There’s a lot of coping methods out there that are offered to our veterans. This needs to be one of them,” the heftily built man said in a shaking voice at a meeting of the David Lynch Foundation, which promotes meditation for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jensen said he has since taken a job in the government’s Department of Veterans Affairs, helping other stressed out vets. Just two weeks ago, one of those he worked with committed suicide.

Transcendental meditation “needs to be implemented. It needs to be an option,” Jensen told the panel in New York.

After years of being a little-talked about subject, PTSD is increasingly acknowledged as a mental health epidemic in the United States and one of the less easily quantifiable costs of America’s wars on the other side of the world.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD occurs in between 11 and 20 percent of veterans from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and in 31 percent of Vietnam war veterans.

Although combat is commonly assumed to be the main cause of PTSD, simply witnessing the effects of bombings, for example, or the stress of being in a hostile country, are also blamed.

Another major source of PTSD, though less often discussed, is what the government calls military sexual trauma. Veterans Affairs figures show that 23 percent of women report sexual assault in the ranks, while more than half have experienced sexual harassment.

The most frightening result associated with PTSD is the rising number of suicides, which now run at 22 a day among military veterans, according to a government study released last week.

And the problem is no less alarming among active duty soldiers, with a record 349 killing themselves in 2012 — more than were killed by the Taliban or other enemy in the field.

In the latest incident to highlight the violence engulfing former soldiers, an ex-Marine in Texas was accused Saturday of shooting dead another veteran who had devoted himself to helping comrades adjust to peaceful life.

Adding to the shock value, the victim, Chris Kyle, was an author of a best-selling book about his former exploits as a sniper with 150 confirmed kills.

In the effort to address the problem of PTSD, meditation is an outlier.

However, early studies show remarkable success, and demand is growing, advocates at filmmaker Lynch’s foundation said.

Transcendental meditation involves entering “a state of rest in many cases deeper than sleep,” said Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation. “This allows deeply rooted stresses to be dissolved.”

Retired rear admiral Richard Schneider, president of the private military institute Norwich University, said tests showed that cadets using the techniques increased focus in class and were better “emotionally prepared.”

The meditation instructor, a chisel-faced air force veteran called David Zobeck, said a stigma long attached to meditation was evaporating among students, who are preparing for careers as officers.

“They’re not getting the weird stares anymore,” he said.

Jerry Yellin, a fighter pilot in World War II who spoke of losing comrades and making dangerous missions in the bloody Pacific theater, said he began suffering nightmares, then behavioral problems on return home at a time when PTSD was rarely discussed.

“The hard stuff began in my life, because I didn’t sleep,” he said. “I had an addiction that ruled my life.”

Meditating, he said, “got my life back 100 percent.”

via AFP: War veterans say meditation could help.

Meditation study seeks to help cadets prevent PTSD – Nation – The Boston Globe

Study suggests meditation may help prevent PTSD

By Bryan Bender

| Globe Staff

December 02, 2012

NORTHFIELD, Vt. — It is part of a highly regimented daily routine at Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military academy and a cultivator of battlefield leaders for nearly two centuries.

Dressed in combat fatigues and boots, a platoon of first-year cadets — “Rooks” — are up early in their barracks. On the orders of their instructor, the young men and women take their places. At 0800 sharp, they sit on wooden chairs in a circle and begin — to meditate.

The first-of-its-kind training is part of a long-term study to determine whether regular brief periods of silent, peaceful consciousness can improve troops’ performance. Ultimately, researchers hope the transcendental meditation training might be made available across all branches of the military to help inoculate troops against acute post-traumatic stress disorder, which has reached epidemic proportions and is blamed for a record number of suicides in the ranks.

For an institution that demands that incoming cadets exhibit physical and mental toughness, meditation training is a radical approach. The broader military culture had long associated meditation with a leftist, antiwar philosophy. Known by its shorthand, TM was widely introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Hindu leader who once served as the spiritual guru to the Beatles.

I was very skeptical at first,” said Norwich president Richard W. Schneider, a retired Coast Guard admiral who is among several university officials who have also been trained in the technique. “I’m not a touchy-feely guy.”

‘We want to send people to war whole and for them to come back whole.’

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But the preliminary results of the study, now in its second year, surprised even its lead researchers. They have been methodically tracking the dozens of participants and several control groups of non-meditating cadets through detailed questionnaires as well as brain wave and eye scans to measure levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

“All those things decreased significantly,” said Dr. Carole Bandy, a Norwich psychology professor overseeing the project. “In fact, they decreased very significantly.”

Positive traits such as critical thinking and mental resilience improved, according to preliminary findings shared with the Globe that Bandy and her team plan to publish next year.

The project has garnered high-level attention from the Army.

“Becoming more psychologically fit is just like becoming physically fit. It is better to do it before you are injured,” said retired Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, a surgeon who until recently ran the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program and visited Norwich three times to be briefed on the work. “There seems to be no question that meditation is, frankly, good for you. I am very encouraged by the Norwich University study.”

Not everyone at Norwich is on board. Top university officials acknowledged that a few people in the university community have privately snickered over how meditation is “not Norwichy,” though there has been no formal opposition from the faculty or board of trustees.

But Reverend William S. Wick, the university’s chaplain, remains concerned that its practice could undercut the school’s Judeo-Christian foundation.

“Contrary to what is claimed by its advocates and presenters, transcendental meditation is not a neutral discipline but is, rather, philosophically, spiritually, mystically, and religiously based — having Hindu monism and a pantheistic world view as its underlying base,” Wick told the Globe in an e-mail.

Some ‘jokes about nap time’

The participating cadets, however, seem to share a single-minded commitment to the meditation sessions, which for now are voluntary.

Each of the six men and three women who attended the first of their twice-daily meditation sessions last week sit silently, focusing thoughts on their mantra, a word or phrase privately assigned to them by their instructor in August.

For the next 20 minutes they sit motionless, some with their arms crossed, others with hands resting in their laps. Some can be heard breathing, others cannot.

“Ok, let’s take a few minutes and then open our eyes. Take your time,” David Zobeck, one of two meditation instructors, breaks in.

The approach is one among a variety of meditation techniques that date back thousands of years. The periods of silent reflection are intended to nurture what practitioners call “restful alertness” to improve overall mental health.

Zobeck, an Air Force veteran, works for the David Lynch Foundation, founded in 2005 by the film director to provide TM to adults and children suffering from PTSD. Since 2010, it has donated nearly $1 million to teach the technique to military veterans and their families.

The foundation is funding Norwich’s program.

“It seems like some wacko thing from the Far East but there has been so much research done, including on veterans suffering from PTSD who say they have got their life back again,” Lynch, who has been meditating for four decades, said in an interview. “It’s not a hippie thing, it’s a human being thing.”

“It’s like putting on a flak jacket against stress,” he added. “The things that used to almost kill you in the stress department have less power. For a soldier this is money in the bank.”

The meditating cadets at Norwich agree. “At first it’s silly,” said Chandler Camlin, 18, a first-year cadet from Stamford, Conn. “But at the end of that 20 minutes, you feel refreshed.”

“It feels like a whole tremendous thing off your chest,” said Dayne Valencia, 19, of Houston. “You feel so much lighter — like you told the truth after holding back for a long time.”

Before she arrived at Norwich, said Hana Kita, 18, of Titusville, N.J., “I had less activities and I was more tired. I feel less stressed now than I did back home.”

Yet the meditating cadets have also faced ridicule from fellow Rooks.

“There are a lot of jokes about nap time,” said Anthony Russo, 18, of Rockland.

But much of the razzing has dissipated since the group recently outperformed the 17 other Rook platoons in the so-called “culminating event,” a grueling competition requiring tests of mental and physical resilience. Said Russo: “That pretty much speaks for itself.”

No help with mental health

More senior cadets who have participated in the study bring a unique perspective. A few of them also serve in the National Guard or Reserves and have already been to combat.

Against the din of upperclassmen berating three Rooks running to class, Shea Burke, a 21-year-old junior who returned in February from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan, described his reaction when he learned about the study in the fall: “Are you serious?”

But the Marine Reserve lance corporal volunteered to participate. He now believes it has helped him rejoin campus life after a stressful deployment.

“You are still twisted and trying to come out of it,” he said, wrapping the fingers of both hands together and turning his hands back and forth. “It re-centers yourself.”

The native of Amherst, N.H., said he could have used it in Afghanistan and knows of other troops who need it now that they are back.

“Too many buddies are turning to substances,” he said of those who are relying on drugs and alcohol to relieve tension.

Senior Sam Lieber, 21, who was taught TM last year, said he meditated while he was completing reserve officer training last summer aboard the destroyer USS Chafee in the Pacific Ocean. “I still do it regularly when I need to recharge,” the Hampton, N.H., native said.

John Dulmage, a Norwich researcher who served in 1991 Persian Gulf War, said he wishes he had been exposed to the technique much earlier.

“They never really helped us with our mental health,” said Dulmage, 67, a 23-year Marine Corps veteran from Barnard, Vt., who is a trained nurse and the study’s chief data cruncher. “We want to send people to war whole and for them to come back whole.”

He said his recent exposure to TM has helped him cope with the loss of his wife to a debilitating disease. “It sorts stuff out for me,” he said.

Among the research project’s most influential boosters is retired Army chief of staff General Gordon R. Sullivan, a Norwich graduate and Boston native who is now chairman of Norwich’s board of trustees.

“It is a way to get out in front and expose them, in a prophylactic way, to help them handle stress before the fact,” said Sullivan, who runs the influential Association of the United States Army in Washington. “Whatever skepticism I may have had was dampened.”

Later in the training day last week, some cadets got a small taste of what might lie ahead after they receive their commissions as officers in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps.

After a drill on the football field, some gather in a corner of the fieldhouse for a role-playing exercise designed to test their critical-thinking skills. “You have two soldiers wounded,” the instructor tells them. “One shot in the head, no pulse. Another soldier is shot in the chest.”

Consulting their handouts, the cadets have to make some quick decisions.

“We have spent nearly 200 years preparing them physically to be military leaders,” said Schneider. “What we have never spent any time doing is making them emotionally prepared for battle. We are waiting until the end of the fight. Why not give it to them before they get into the fight?”

Schneider acknowledged that it is “going to take years to track these guys to see how they do.”

But he doesn’t want to wait that long. “My plan is to make it available to anyone who wants it,” he said. “I’m not yet to the point of requiring it [but] if this works I will be shouting from the rooftops.”

via Meditation study seeks to help cadets prevent PTSD – Nation – The Boston Globe.