Introduction: This is Your Brain Health with noted Neuroscientist, Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Your Brain Health Explores strategies to maximize your cognitive functions through life. Here’s Dr. Kristen Willeumier.
Dr. Kristen Willeumier: Welcome to Your Brain Health on Radio MD. I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Today I’m honored to have my new friend and meditation mentor, Bob Roth share with us the profound benefits of a consistent meditation practice. Bob has led quite an inspired life, which I learned through reading his New York Times bestselling book, Strength in Stillness, the Power of Transcendental Meditation. Bob is one of the most experienced and sought after meditation teachers in America. Over the past 45 years, Bob has taught transcendental meditation to many thousands of people and some of the most notable celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Katy Perry. Bob currently serves as the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, a 501C3 charity, which has brought meditation to over 1 million inner city youth in under served schools in 35 countries. To veterans and their families who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, and women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.
Bob also directs the center for leadership performance, another nonprofit which is bringing meditation to fortune 100 companies, government organizations and nonprofit charities. Bob is the host of the Sirius XM radio show Success Without Stress and is spoken about meditation to industry leaders at such gatherings as Google Zeitgeists, Aspen Ideas Festival, Wisdom 2.0, and Summit. So Bob and I met at the Maria Shriver Move for Minds event in supportive research to better understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease, and why this disease impacts two thirds of women. I knew immediately upon listening to him speak that I met a kindred spirit and wanted to have the opportunity to know him on a deeper level. As a student of meditation myself, I’ve had a consistent practice for 20 years and can appreciate its profound benefits on my own personal lifestyle. So this is why I wanted to have an expert like Bob come here today to share his over four decades of wisdom with us. So Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob Roth: It is an honor to be on your show. I’ve been looking forward to this for some time. So thank you for having me.
Host: Well, it’s truly a pleasure and you are just so accomplished in this space. And I wanted to start by sharing with the audience that you have such a fun video clip on your Twitter feed with comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry is one of your clients and shares with the audience that one of the most valuable assets that meditation brings to his life is that he feels less exhausted. Do you want to just share what he says in that clip? It’s really adorable.
Bob Roth: Well, he’s very interesting guy. He’s been meditating now for 40 years. And for the first 38 of those, he did it once a day and then I taught his wife and his kids to meditate several years ago and he was sitting in on the meetings and I said, okay, so you’ll meditate for kids. Do it for 10 minutes. And his wife, Jessica said okay. So you’ll meditate in the morning and then you’ll meditate again in the afternoon. And his eyes got big. He said twice a day and then, and he had forgotten when he learned way back when that, you know, it was best to do twice a day. So he started doing it twice a day and he said, Hey, the energy levels that he’s gotten from the meditation, it’s just been absolutely extraordinary.
And he said that he did once a day, allowed him to do the write and direct and star in Seinfeld for nine seasons. He said, but it just after, after nine seasons, he was wiped out. He said, but if he had been doing meditating twice a day, he said it would still be on cause he has so much energy. Now to answer your question, he said that there are many things that, he appreciates in life, love, creativity, you know family, all these different things, money. But he said above everything, he appreciates energy because you can have a wonderful family, you can have great ideas, you can even have wealth. But if you don’t have the energy, your ideas come to not, if you don’t have the energy, you can’t develop the relationship. If you don’t have the energy, you can’t even enjoy your wealth. So for him, energy is everything. And his meditation practice is just unlocked an infinite amount of energy.
Host: Well, that video of him was so compelling and you knew, he said, you know, I enjoy writing and creating and what I love about him is he’s like, this is the antidote for exhaustion. And I just, I don’t think people really think about that when they think about getting into a meditation practice. They think about quieting their mind, connecting inward, getting that deep sense of stillness and inner peace, but really thinking about it as a way that we can improve our energy levels. And I’ll tell you, coming from the field of psychiatry and neurology, where, you know, when I worked in a psychiatric clinic, I’d say 50% of the people that I worked with had sleep issues and they would wake up in the morning exhausted. So I, I thought that was such a great opener for us to really talk about how does meditation, you know, improve our energy? Is it through just deepening our sense of relaxation?
Bob Roth: Well, it’s interesting you raise a point and there are different types of meditations just like there are different medicines and there are different diets and there’s different exercises, and that sort of thing. And so for the longest time the always thought or for a long time, science assumed all meditations were basically the same. And they looked at research on one meditation and extrapolated that it was research on all meditations. Well not surprisingly, it turns out that they’re not all the same. And there are three, according to brain research, there are three basic types. The first is called focus to T. And I’m going to answer your question. First is called focused attention, focused attention, which is in the, it’s a cognitive process, which is an attempt to either calm the thinking mind or clear the mind of thoughts or something, an analogy of the, like the choppy waves on the surface of the ocean. And it’s an attempt to stop the waves, to bring equanimity to the ocean, or stop thoughts, to bring equanimity to the mind. When you do that, as you know, as a brain researcher, it creates something called gamma brainwaves, which are 20 to 50 cycles per second.
Second type of meditation. Also a cognitive process is open monitoring or mindfulness. And that’s an observational tool dispassionately observing your thoughts, your moods, your feelings, again, observing the waves. And that creates something called the theta brainwaves, which are four to eight cycles per second. And onset dream or just following your thoughts, those two types of meditation are relaxing and sort of quelling the mind. The third fundamental type is called self transcending. And that’s the technique that I teach. And that’s transcendental meditation. And in that scheme of things, it hypothesizes that there’s a vertical dimension to the mind, that the mind is not just the waves on the surface of the ocean, but the ocean has silence at its depth. And in TM, we hypothesize that every human being has deep within her or him, a level where the mind right now is already calm. It’s already settled and it’s the ancient say it’s the source of our creativity. It’s a source of our intelligence and it’s a source of energy. So during transcendental meditation, we like a dive to the use of effortless use of a mantra. We access that deep level and that really opens up like a fountain of energy. So for Jerry, it brings calm, but it brings dynamic activity as well. So different meditations have different outcomes.
Host: So let me ask you, transcendental meditation.
Bob Roth: Was that a painfully long answer?
Host: No, I love the answer. I have so many questions that are just going to come right off, so for transcendental meditation. Do you always need to use a mantra then to get the mind into this space?
Bob Roth: Well, it’s a really good question. And the thing is, is that a mantra is used in TM, not as a point of repetition and concentration. Then you would just be focused attention. But a mantra in TM number one has no meaning associated with it because if it had a meaning, then you’re just stuck up there on the surface of trying to figure out what it means. And the way that the mantra is used is not in a prescribed, you know, sort of authoritarian sort of, you do it at three fourths time or something. And by using this sound pleasant sound that has no meaning and using it in just a delicate, gentle way, it has the effect of allowing the mind to transcend, which just means to go deep, just to settle down. And you draw the attention inward.
Host: And the mantra is actually a vibration. So is it the vibratory rate? So it’s shifting the vibratory rate in changing the vibration of the body, which then allows us to slip more into that.
Bob Roth: It’s, no, it’s that. But it’s also like if you’re sitting in the hot, which you’re not, but if you are in New York City, and it’s not cold now, but let’s say it’s, let’s say it’s August and it’s like a million degrees and you’re sitting in New York City and you’d like to be at the Jersey Shore, you’d like to be at the beach. Well, you can visualize what it’s like to be at the beach. You can imagine it, you can focus on pictures of it, or you can get in a car and drive to the beach. And so the car itself doesn’t bring refreshment, but it gets you to the beach. So the mantra itself isn’t the source of the energy and creativity, and happiness, but it’s a catalyst or the vehicle that gets you to that inner field. And this, you raise a really good point that what I’m saying is so abstract and that’s why this meditation is never taught in a group. It’s never taught out of a book. Every individual for an hour. You have your own trainer, who certified TM teacher who says, okay you do this and you think it like this. And then really within a few minutes you’ve got it and you’ve got it for life. But it just helps to have someone to guide you. So to now answer your question. Thank you Bob for answering my question. I just get so excited by everything.
Host: I get excited too because I’ve been meditating and I understand the shift that happens in my mind. It’s literally a shift in my mind and I go into a completely different space.
Bob Roth: Yes. It’s a different state of consciousness, restful alertness.
Host: It’s so incredible. I meditate every morning for 20 minutes to one hour. Sometimes I just do it quietly. Sometimes I use a guided CD that actually has sound. So it’s, it sounds not sort of a verbal guidance and it’s all about how I connect in the morning and it’s extraordinary and I use it just to sort of stay on my life path and help me stay in the flow and be creative, and let things really move easily into my life. So, you know, my life has changed, you know, exponentially since bringing this practice on. But I don’t do it twice a day and I’ve never been given a specific mantra. And that’s why.
Bob Roth: You know, Kristen, the thing is that I think this is my attitude is there’s different, I like evidence-based meditate. I like legitimate forms, I like, I’m a sort of a skeptical person. I mean, I’m not as cynic because I was a cynic. I wouldn’t get out of bed, but I am fully devoted to, you know, myself living a full life and helping to raise the quality of life in the whole world. But I like to know when I’m spending time that there’s also, there’s data that shows that it works. Like if you had a bad illness, you take a pill that you know that it works. But my attitude towards different legitimate forms of meditation is I like to learn them all. I think, you know, someone says, well, I do Vespasian so I don’t want to do TM or I do TM, so I don’t want to do mindfulness. I said, what are you talking about? It’s not like a religious thing. It’s a tool in the toolbox and you learn it and then you see how it, they have different outcomes. It’s not the same thing. You do a mindfulness technique and you learn something and in two minutes you can do a breathing exercise that can help calm you a child down before they take a test. They could also start the day with 15 minutes of TM and get the body deep rest. It really wakes up the creative centers in the brain. So it’s not an either or. It’s a yes, and.
Host: I love that you said that. And before I close up this first segment, I just wanted to share that, you know, as a brain scientist, I’ve looked at the electrical activity of, you know, many hundreds of people who’ve come into the clinic. And what’s interesting is those who have a consistent meditation practice, we actually see that their brain tends to be more in that alpha state, which can be relaxed and focused. And sometimes I’ll ask like, are you a meditator? Do you have a meditative practice? And so what’s so fascinating about meditation from a research science side is I actually get to see in people’s brains the shifts that happen when they go into that meditative state and how they’re able to maintain a calmer state. And that’s how meditation can help us reduce stress in our life.
Bob Roth: Yeah, no, I think, I’m sure you will agree that the notion of meditation, it’s no longer a luxury. It’s no longer of, Oh yeah, that’s for people in Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side is for everybody. Everybody is a victimized by stress trauma. All the upheaval that’s going on in Washington, DC, the uncertainty that’s going in the world. I mean our children are getting hit with it far worse, but it’s devastating. 80 million Americans on some psychiatric drug. And it just, I mean the numbers you just get depressed just hearing them. But I think you know, what we’re doing with the David Lynch Foundation is we’re working with universities and research institutions to do large scale studies on TM with a thousand veterans or 5,000 students so that it can be treated in the same way as a medication from a pharmaceutical company. So it can be reimbursable just like a medication can. So that’s our focus.
Host: Okay. I want to stop on that point right now. Can you stay for one more segment?
Bob Roth: Anything you would like.
Host: Okay. So I’m just going to say I would love for you to stay. So we’re going to wrap up this segment. You’ve been listening to Your Brain Health on Radio MD. I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier and we will return with Bob Roth.
Conclusion: You’ve been listening to Your Brain Health with Dr. Kristen Willeumier, for more information or to contact Dr. Willeumier, visit DrWilleumier.com. That’s D, R W, I, L, L, E, U, M, I, E, R.com.