How is Transcendental Meditation different from mindfulness?

Mindfulness meditation (associated with Vipassana) is generally considered to be a practice of "open monitoring" — sitting quietly and watching thoughts, perceptions or sensations come and go without judging or holding on, often done to gain insight.

However, there is no standardized form of mindfulness meditation and some practices referred to as ‘mindfulness’ may veer into controlled focus or concentration.

Transcendental Meditation technique does not involve monitoring your thoughts or breathing, nor is it concentration or contemplation. The TM technique is called an "automatic self-transcending" type of meditation, a practice of systematically going beyond mental activity — transcending all thoughts, perceptions and sensations — to experience increasingly refined states of thought or earlier stages of the thinking process until one arrives at the state of pure awareness. Experienced as the deepest level of the mind or the source of thought, here there are no thoughts, perceptions or sensations — just consciousness in its pure and most peaceful state, fully awake within itself. Most people who learn the TM technique report the experience of transcending within just a few days.

Most other meditation practices tend to keep the mind active and engaged on the more gross, surface levels of experience. Such practices do not effectively promote transcending and have not been shown to produce the deep physiological rest and extensive benefits gained from TM practice.

Differences in Brain function:
Brain researchers have found that during mindfulness-type practices, the brain shows EEG patterns typical of monitoring inner processes or performing internal memory tasks — frontal theta waves (5-8 Hz) and posterior gamma (30-40 Hz) (Cognitive Processing, 2010).

Practicing the TM technique creates a brain wave pattern distinct from mindfulness and also different from ordinary focused attention: during TM Practice, widespread or long-range alpha (8-12 Hz)
coherence is commonly seen, especially in the frontal regions of the brain, indicating more efficient and integrated brain functioning and increased inner wakefulness (Cognitive Processing 11:1, 2010).

Such high EEG coherence along with deep relaxation and other physiological markers of restful alertness have consistently been recorded only during practice of the TM technique.
Different Levels of Relaxation:

Research studies show that the unique style of physiological functioning typically gained during TM practice is a state of rest much different from ordinary, eyes-closed rest — a distinct mind-body state not reported from research on mindfulness or other meditation or relaxation methods. Meditation practices that keep the mind actively attentive in the waking state have not been found to consistently produce this deep, coherent state of relaxation.

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