Saturday, May 15, 2010

A New Generation Looks at Transcendental Meditation Research

I received this article from a non-meditating college student. I think his points are well-taken.


The Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program On Mindfulness (Tanner, Travis, Gaylord-King, Haaga, Grosswald, & Schneider, 2009) Journal Article Critique - Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).

Tanner, M., Travis, F., Gaylord-King, C., Haaga, D., Grosswald, S., & Schneider, R. (2009). The Effects of the transcendental meditation program on mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 574-589. doi:10.1002/jclp.20544.

Source: EBSCO database, Academic Search Premiere, Retrieved July 1, 2005Summary: A study of the effects of TM on mindfulness using a self report KIMS (Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness).

The Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program On Mindfulness (Tanner, Travis, Gaylord-King, Haaga, Grosswald, & Schneider, 2009) abstract reveals the basic information and part of the information to be covered in this article. However, it is somewhat misleading and its findings which are not supported by the data contained later in the article.

The introduction is not clear, concise or relevant to the development of the topic relating to the study of mindfulness and the effect TM has upon it. Some of the articles supporting the basis of the study are quite old and may not be relevant to the study. The written works of the Maharishi in relationship to TM and this study although relevant, are not empirically tested or scrutinized for their scientific validity and bring into question the nature of TM. Those of Kabbat-Zinn and some others are Seminole in relationship to mindfulness; however, there is little current research on the efficacy of TM as a meditation practice. The descriptions of the meditation consciousness in TM are wordy and obfuscate. Additionally, there is no concise description of TM as a meditation practice and how it can be achieved. The subject of the study was finally addressed in the final paragraph of the study which examines if there is a relationship between TM instructions and does it increase mindfulness. Additionally it examines if there is a correlation between mindfulness skills and observing ones inner dialogue or if it is a preexisting characteristic of the individual.

There were 295 participants involved with the study and all completed a pre and post study KIM's exam. All of the participants were graduate students from the Washing DC area. Some individuals were excluded from the study for health reasons. Prospective student were given a $50 credit towards their TM instruction and brief introduction to the TM process. They were also given $25 following the test for their cooperation in the assessment. The whole procedure was done at American University in conjunction with the Maharishi University of Management Research Institute (MU) The TM intervention or procedures are taught in a series of 7 steps, as outlined by this study. The details of those steps and the "instruction" of TM are not included in this study. The instructors who taught TM to the student of this study were initially taught by by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself in the 1970's and were "recertified" by MU the 2005. Students were instructed to use the TM method two times a day 20 minutes each day. Adherence to the TM practice was done via self reporting. Those who practiced at least once a day were considered adherents and were included with the results of the study.

The methods used in this study cannot be replicated under normal circumstances thus making this study highly questionable. The fact that it was taught by TM teachers from the MU suggests bias and perhaps control over information.

Of the 295 pretest participants, only 8 did not complete the KIM's exam and were excluded from the results. Of the remaining 287 individuals, only 210 completed the posttest and from this 15 were excluded because of incomplete KIM's, leaving 195 participants. The number of initial Pretest TM was 145 and the completer sample is 86, only 61% of the original group. The number of initial pretest WL is 145 and the completer sample is 109 or 75% of the original. The KIM's score did show a statistical difference when compared to the waitlist group. However, under all the other conditions, there was little or no statistical significance. The items being measured outside of the KIM's score are not defined or explained in any great detail whatsoever.

Although an ANOVA was done, the results were not reported clearly. There is no ANOVA table, only a comparative means table. The alpha level was not disclosed in this study. There is a notation regarding an alpha level on one chart which contains the r scores but it is only in relationship to the comparison of the present study to the Baer et al (2004) study. The ANOVA data is incomplete and missing many pieces of relevant data. Several pieces of relevant statistical information were contained in a single paragraph that should have been expanded to two or more. No statistical software is mentioned as being used in this study and it appears that the analysis of the data might have been done manually. APA formatting for this article is weak and the relevant data in the tables is misleading and poorly formatted. Other tables included in the text are difficult to read, and poorly designed and when examined carefully may indicate that data was not analyzed properly.

The discussion once again makes the implication that there is a significant increase in mindfulness as a result of practicing TM. However, the facts revealed in the data do not support this hypothesis, except for the KIM's score on a minor level. The statistical findings are not reiterated to back up this supposition. The summary does make some acknowledgement of the limitation of the study which is actually quite significant. Noting that the attrition rate is nearly 29% from the initial group brings to questions the post tests results statistical accuracy. Another factor acknowledged which seriously brings up questions about the efficacy of the study is the fact that only 66% of the participants meditated regularly as prescribed by TM. It is also noted that there are no detailed written logs of meditation times, only a verbal report by the subject. Also it is noted that there the study is limited in that it does not examine or compare TM mindfulness to other forms of meditation which are designed to specifically increase mindfulness (Vipassana).

Although there are some minute findings in this study which may be useful for examination in further research. This study cannot be replicated by any normal means or in a clinical laboratory. The fact that the Maharishi University of Management Research Institute was involved with this study suggests a strong bias and lack of neutrality or objectivity. The statistician who analyzed the data was from this university. Additionally, the results of this study were done by self report and not clinical laboratory standards which can be monitored.

I have read other journal articles on mediation, mindfulness and even Metta meditation (loving kindness) which went into great lengths to examine their findings. They were clear concise and professionally written. This article is none of the aforementioned. Although hoping to find a well written and concise article on TM, I instead found something that is unclear, imprecise and obfuscate.


American Psychological Association (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: APA.

Ruth A., B., Gregory T., S., & Kristin B., A. (2004). Assessment of Mindfulness by Self-Report: The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Assessment, 11(3), 191-206. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Tanner, M., Travis, F., Gaylord-King, C., Haaga, D., Grosswald, S., & Schneider, R. (2009). The Effects of the transcendental meditation program on mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 574-589. doi:10.1002/jclp.20544.

1 comment:

Sudarsha said...

Thanks for this, John.

While there are some very good things to say about the basic technique of TM, Mahesh seems to have ignored the potential there in favour of promoting himself as something he wasn't.

Yes, we have stories (anecdotal evidence) that when he was with Guru Dev, he (Mahesh) was recognized ("by whom" is unclear) as being highly adept at meditation. Just what form of meditation he was doing in also unclear. According to Joyce Colin Smith, who reported on a tape recording of Mahesh talking about the early days, the "inspiration" for TM came to him at a Laxmi Temple in the south of India.

Presumably, when Mahesh was with Guru Dev, the "idea" of TM did not exist. We have the Shankaracharya, Swaroopananda, account from both Kropinski and on David's film, that Mahesh was a clear, the ashram bookkeeper and that he was of the wrong caste to receive teachings of the guru-training variety from Guru Dev and that, indeed, he received NO teachings from Guru Dev, other than, obviously, what he heard in Guru Dev's public talks.

The idea of "mindfulness" meditation has been around for a very long time. The Buddha gave a talk on mindfulness meditation (The Anapanasati Sutta) and recommended mindfulness again and again.

Seems to me that the Buddha's teaching has had a great deal more of the "test of time" than Maheshism. As well, the Buddha's teaching is very relevant to the reality we all share and to a large extent tend to agree upon.

I hope there will be more research articles such as this one forthcoming.

Thanks again, John, for posting this valuable information.

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