Arianna Huffinton, founder of the Huffington Post, challenges us in the West to review our measurement of success in her book, Thrive.  This is after she collapses from exhaustion and lack of sleep.

Is it really just money and power we need, or is there something more than what we settle for?  We need a Third Metric, she says, in order to live the lives we truly want and deserve.

This third measure of success goes way beyond money and power ­ they are:

  • Well-Being ­ taking good care of your physical health.
  • Wonder ­ experiencing and appreciating the joy that the world around you offers, even during our normal daily activities.
  • Wisdom ­ disconnecting from our devices to find the answers, but tapping into the knowledge that lies within.
  • Giving ­ the willingness to give, prompted by our empathy and compassion.

Meditation could help build all four pillars. Perhaps this is why so many celebrities have recently described meditation as life changing.

But is one form of meditation the same as the next?  Not really.  It has to be said that all forms of meditation are beneficial, but some techniques are learnt from a book, and some taught by a teacher.  Some techniques require hours at end, and some a few minutes every day.  Some techniques take years to master, and some are mastered right from the get go.  The different techniques even have unique effects on the brain.

In Dr. Norman Rosenthal¹s book, Transcendence, meditation experts Dr. Fred Travis, internationally renowned neuroscientist and Dr. Jonathan Shear, Professor of philosophy, categorised the different meditation techniques into 3 overall categories ­ focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self transcending.

  •  Focused Attention styles of meditation are meditation techniques that focus on something in particular, like an image or an emotion, and divert the attention back to the focus when thoughts intrude.
  • Open Monitoring techniques, which includes Buddhist-type mindfulness meditation, teaches the meditator to observe the breath or whatever thoughts and feelings may enter the mind, without reacting to them.  This makes the meditator more aware of internal patterns.
  • Automatic Self Transcending, represented by Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique where the meditator uses a mantra in a specific manner, which allows the mind to settle into the simplest state of awareness.

Travis and Shear have performed research around the world through EEG measurements on many meditators and explain that each meditation category show different brain patterns during meditation, meaning that each technique has its own unique effect on both the brain and the meditator.

The Focused Attention styles of meditation show increased activity in the areas of the brain that regulates emotion.  Long-time meditators showed more prominent activity than novice meditators.

The Open Monitoring styles of meditation show an increased activity in the areas that regulate emotions, as well as the area that assists with decision-making and other executive functions.

During Transcendental Meditation, in the Automatic Self Transcending category, increased activity over a wider spread area throughout the brain was noted. During testing, brainwaves also tend to fall into phase, meaning that they become more orderly, over larger areas of the frontal regions of the brain. This is also known as brain coherence. TM meditators continued showing this coherence even in a non-meditative state, after as little as two months of regular practice.

The only record we could find of a focussed attention style meditator showing the same brain coherence as that of a TM meditator was during the EEG scan of a Buddhist monk, who had been practicing meditation for 40 years

This illustrates just how effortless and easy to learn the TM technique is.  In fact, several Buddhist communities in Thailand include Transcendental Meditation in their spiritual practices due to the simplicity of the technique and the results achieved.

Should you wish to find out more about learning the Transcendental Meditation technique, contact the Houghton office on or 011 483 0684. They will put you in touch with your nearest centre.  It will be a good call, and if some of your new years resolutions have already fallen off the list, this would be a good one to add.

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