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Comparing Meditation Techniques

Many meditation techniques are available today. Contrary to common belief there are distinct differences between techniques, such as the effort involved, their impact on the brain, and whether or not they result in verifiable benefits.

A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition identified the following three meditation categories, based on measured brain wave differences:

  • Concentration or focus: Zen, Vipassana, etc.
  • Open monitoring: Mindfulness, Kriya Yoga, etc.
  • Self-transcending: Transcendental Meditation
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Meditation techniques and their impact on the brain

Form of meditation Transcendental Meditation Mindfulness
(monitoring of thoughts)
Concentration or Focus
Mental effort Effortless Moderate effort Strong effort
EEG image alpha brain waves theta brain waves beta brain waves
Brain wave activity Alpha Theta Beta
Brain wave description “Relaxed, happy, focused”— Mayo Clinic “Dream-like”— Mayo Clinic “Logical-thinking,
problem-solving”— Mayo Clinic

Transcendental Meditation

Brain wave activity Alpha
EEG image alpha brain waves
Brain wave description "Relaxed, happy, focused"— Mayo Clinic
Effort required Effortless

Mindfulness (monitoring of thoughts)

Brain wave activity Theta
EEG image theta brain waves
Brain wave description "Dream-like"— Mayo Clinic
Effort required Moderate effort

Concentration or Focus

Brain wave activity Beta
EEG image beta brain waves
Brain wave description "Logical-thinking, problem-solving"— Mayo Clinic
Effort required Strong effort

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Why do people who have tried other techniques find TM to be completely different?

  1. Absolutely effortless — The TM technique is so easy and enjoyable that anyone can do it, even children with ADHD.
    • No concentrating
    • No control of the mind
    • No monitoring of thoughts (mindfulness)
    • No trying to “empty the mind”
  2. Proven effective — Hundreds of published research studies on the TM technique have documented its effectiveness on stress and anxiety, brain function, cardiovascular health, and more.
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“Research on meditation has also shown a wide range of psychological benefits. For example, a 2012 review of 163 studies that was published by the American Psychological Association concluded that Transcendental Meditation had relatively strong effects in reducing anxiety, negative emotions, trait anxiety and neuroticism while aiding learning, memory and self-realization.”

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