Less stress through meditation

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Carol Sorgen

Steve Corrick and Paula Strong moved here from Montana two years ago to establish the Transcendental Meditation Program of Baltimore. Research shows that TM, as well as other forms of meditation, can lower the risk of heart attack and strokes, as well as lower blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Photo by Christopher Myers

“I thought I’d have to go off and meet the Dalai Lama,” said Barbara Webb-Edwards, recalling some of the misperceptions she had when she was first introduced to the practice of transcendental meditation. “But I don’t,” she quickly added with a laugh.

The 62-year-old Bowie resident, who works in Baltimore as the Maryland Division Administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is new to the practice of TM (as it is familiarly called). She first heard about TM as a college student in the 1970s, and more recently on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN television network and on a radio program.

“I found it really interesting,” said Webb-Edwards. She suggested to her husband, Alvin “Ed” Edwards, an executive recruiter for a federal housing agency, that they both give it a try.

“We’re not ready for retirement yet,” said Webb-Edwards, “and we thought TM would help us relax from the 10- to 12-hour workdays we both keep.”

The couple started their training with TM instructors Paula Strong and Steve Corrick, directors of the Transcendental Meditation Program of Baltimore. “It hasn’t even been a month,” said Webb-Edwards, “but I’m so enamored with it, I can’t see ever not doing it.”

Webb-Edwards said she has already noticed that she’s much calmer and able to “take things as they come.” Always a “seeker,” Webb-Edwards had previously investigated such relaxation techniques as visualization, but finds TM much more effective.

“With visualization, you’re trying to focus,” she said, “but with TM it’s not about putting any stress on your mind.”

Easy to learn; not a religion

Strong and Corrick explain that the TM technique is effortless, easily learned, and is practiced sitting comfortably in a chair with the eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day.

“During the TM practice, the active, thinking mind settles down naturally to a state of ‘pure consciousness,’ where the mind is silent yet fully alert. At the same time, the body gains a profound state of rest and relaxation,” Strong said.

Webb-Edwards wants to dispel any notion people might have that TM is a religious practice. “Not in any way,” she said. “You don’t have to change your religion or your lifestyle.”

Unlike new practitioner Webb-Edwards, 74-year-old Mike Mason, an independent commercial loan officer who lives in Westminster, has been practicing TM for 35 years.

When he first started, TM was not on everyone’s radar, and it was difficult to talk about with others not already on board with the practice.

That has changed through the years, though, as complementary therapies, and practices such as acupuncture and yoga, have become more a part of everyday culture.

Mason was initially drawn to TM because he wanted to know what enlightenment meant. In addition, the increasing amount of scientific research into the benefits of TM appeal to his engineering background.

“Other meditation systems didn’t seem coherent,” Mason said.  “I started with TM and that’s where I have stayed.”

TM differs from other types of meditation and mindfulness in both its intensive training program and the way it is practiced. TM uses a mantra or particular sound that is repeated, rather than focusing on breathing, as some other meditation practices do.

Mason said the benefits he derives from TM are many, from experiencing less stress, to focusing more easily, to enjoying “smoother” personal relationships.

“I have much more patience with others,” he said, attributing this to TM. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Mason also believes TM keeps him healthy and youthful: “I feel like I’m in my mid-50s, not my mid-70s.” And he says his doctor agrees. Last year, Mason trekked the Himalayas “and kept up with everyone else.”

Proven health benefits

Research seems to bear our Mason’s beliefs.

A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension reported that TM was an effective tool in reducing blood pressure, anxiety, depression and anger among college students at risk for high blood pressure.

Dr. Gary Kaplan, a neurologist and associate professor of clinical neurology at New York University School of Medicine, has been quoted as saying that there are no known negative side effects of TM. On the contrary, research has shown that TM significantly improves mental, physical and emotional health.

Nearly 150 studies of TM have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, including Scientific American, the American Heart Association’s journals Hypertension and Stroke, and the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health has also awarded nearly $24 million in grants to study the effects of TM on heart disease, hypertension and stroke. Research to date has shown significant reductions in high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other stress-related disorders.

One study, conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, found that heart disease patients who practice TM have almost 50 percent lower rates of heart attacks, stroke and deaths compared to similar patients who don’t practice meditation.]

A program in Baltimore

Strong and Corrick, who are married to each other, moved from their home state of Montana to Baltimore two years ago to establish the Transcendental Meditation Program of Baltimore. They currently offer classes in Pikesville, Canton and in the Annapolis area.

Strong first took up TM in the 1970s in search of something to help her feel less tired. “I was working, going to class and moving in so many different directions that I was always exhausted,” she said. A friend mentioned TM to her and the benefits he had seen, and she thought it was worth a try.

“The wonderful thing about TM is that even if you’re skeptical, it will work,” said Strong. “I was pleasantly surprised. I felt energized right from the beginning.”

Strong eventually became trained as a TM teacher, and also worked as an administrator at the Maharishi University of Management for 19 years before deciding she wanted to teach full-time.

She moved back to Montana to care for her aging mother, and began her TM teaching practice there, working often with the state’s Native American population.

At the same time, Corrick —  who had gone to grade school and high school with Strong but didn’t reconnect with her until years later — took up TM himself in college, and noticed how it helped his competitive golf game.

 “I had my best year as a student golfer when I was studying TM as well,” he recalled.

After a much-varied career, Corrick also wound up in Montana caring for his parents. He and Strong ran into each other one day, while together with their mothers, and “all of a sudden I became a lot more enthusiastic about TM,” Corrick laughed.

The two are enjoying Baltimore. “It’s a wonderful town with straightforward people who love to have fun, love their sports, the water, and put on no airs,” they said in an interview, taking turns completing each other’s thoughts.

They are also enjoying growing the population of TM practitioners in the Baltimore area.

“We’re putting in 60 to 70 hours a week. But because of our own practice of TM, we’re not exhausted in the least,” they said, before leaving on a much-anticipated vacation back to their home state.

The couple says they have an interesting mix of people in their classes — from students and parents, to CEOs, dentists, physicians, business professionals and retirees. Some have been meditating for 40 years or more and are now in their 80s.

TM training consists of four 1-1/2 hour sessions over the course of four consecutive days. The fee for retirees is $720; for those still working, $960. Limited scholarship funds are available, as are no-interest payment plans.

Membership is for life, and you can come back as often as you like for “tune-ups” or to attend some of the special events the couple holds. Recently, an event featured former Baltimorean and renowned TM researcher Dr. Craig Berg, who spoke about his own experiences with TM, living and teaching throughout the world, and on TM and sports (especially as it relates to his beloved Orioles!).

Strong and Corrick offer a free introductory talk to explain the TM technique and how it can enhance health and well-being. “It’s amazing what happens when we get quiet,” they said. “It’s like ‘rebooting the brain.’”

For more information, call (410) 336-2991 or visit www.TMLongevity.org.

Comments

TM and the Orioles

The article is from 2005, but is still relevant to today's Orioles and how the Transcendental Mediatation program, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, can help them to excel: www.tinyurl.com/TM4OS

Baltimore needs less stress

TM not only relieves stress for the person practicing it, but also contributes to reducing collective stress. Just as only a few lampposts are enough to remove the darkness of a city, only a relatively small percentage of the population practicing Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation program removes the stress which gives rise to crime and other social maladies plaguing the city. Extensive research confirms this profound phenomenon. It is well described at the link mentioned in the article.

TM for the Cops!

Baltimore's interim Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis ought to try the TM technique to make him more resilient to the mega-stress that he will inevitably face in his position. And then, as soon as he sees all the energy and inner calm and coolness that he gets from the practice, he should bring the TM technique to the whole Baltimore Police Department.