For many decades Americans have been living in the midst of a disease-care epidemic, where prevention and treatment of the root causes of ill health have been disappointingly ignored. Fortunately as natural health modalities have become mainstream, today’s outlook is brighter. Good health is no longer being defined as the absence of disease. Instead, health practitioners are recognizing that a lack of severe disease symptoms may not necessarily be the only criterion for an optimal state of naturally vibrant health.
Experts acknowledge that achieving and maintaining peak levels of wellness requires focus and attention. But with a small amount of initial effort to acquire healthy living habits, healthy lifestyle and routines which include pure food, pure air, pure water, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies and tonics have never been easier to obtain.
It’s reassuring to note that going “back to nature” to take care of our health is sustainable, which makes good sense to today’s Boomers, Millennials and Gen Xers. This can be seen as the pendulum swings away from extreme and often invasive health measures which may lead to harmful side effects. Thus, natural modalities are ranking high for health conscious consumers who are making more enlightened healthcare choices.
As of 2016, medical errors ranked #3 as a leading cause of death in the U.S. exceeded only by heart disease and cancer. As a result, an estimated 60 million Americans are spending $30 billion dollars on complimentary and natural healthcare, most often paying out-of-pocket for modalities not typically covered by insurance. This includes chiropractic, bodywork, naturopathy, massage and acupuncture as well as mind-body therapies.
What more can American’s do to beat stress and keep themselves functioning optimally on every level for healthy longevity?
Getting Back to Nature Naturally: Rest is the Basis of Activity
We know that sound sleep and a healthy balance between rest and activity are a given to maintain a healthy physiology. Sleep is only one of the three essential states of consciousness which we all experience daily. Researchers have clearly demonstrated that deprivation of any of the three major states of consciousness — waking, dreaming and sleeping — can give rise to physiological imbalance and sow the seeds for disease.
Major illness does not just appear overnight. There has to be some kind of predisposition or lifestyle choice which is creating an unhealthy condition over time before major symptoms emerge. Being alert about our health and state of physiology is good advice, because it allows us to avert the danger which has not yet come. This is the clarion call of preventative health care. Live as healthy a lifestyle as possible and address any minor imbalance or health needs as soon as they arise to avoid a buildup of unhealthy toxins or other unhealthy conditions in the body. Getting enough rest in addition to a good full night’s sleep is one of the pillars of preventative healthcare.
Interestingly a British psychiatrist has in recent years come out in favor of introducing a fourth major state of consciousness said to allow us to experience a deeply profound quality of rest for body and mind. Promoting the experience of transcending for optimal health. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a pioneer in using light therapy to treat depression, recounts the research including verbal testimony as to the benefits of experiencing what researchers have called a “fourth major state of consciousness,” absolutely distinct from waking, dreaming and sleeping.
The initial pioneering research came out in the early 1970s on the physiological effects and benefits of practicing a mental technique called Transcendental Meditation, which facilitates “transcending” or what is known as the fourth state of consciousness. Findings included reduced oxygen consumption, changes in galvanic skin resistance, reductions in stress hormones, reduced plasma lactate, metabolic changes and measures which indicated that during a 15- 20 minute twice daily practice, individuals could enjoy the benefits of a deep quality of rest normally gained only over the span of a full night’s sleep. Described as a unique state of restful alertness, researchers began to popularize the benefits reported by practitioners including greater energy, clarity of mind, better memory, increased reaction time and speed in problem solving as well as greater creativity, intelligence, happiness and well-being.
Subsequent research substantiated the benefits of adding this experience to one’s daily routine including a reduction in stress and anxiety as well as measurable reductions in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Neuroscientists have also documented a large volume of research on the benefits of transcending which create a unique and beneficial EEG profile. Increased EEG coherence has been correlated with improved academic performance, higher levels of moral reasoning, self-actualization, increased IQ at an age when IQ is not normally known to increase, improved concept learning and neurological efficiency as well as an improvement in other cognitive skills.
Rosenthal’s point is that “transcending” or going beyond the surface level of thinking, where we usually experience thought, speech and action, can result in the unfoldment of latent human potential and pave the way for optimal physiological and mental functioning.
Researchers have explained that when we are no longer deprived of this fourth major state of consciousness, mind and body begin to function normally and become refreshed in a very profound manner. Rosenthal and other researchers posit that the mind and body need the regular experience of the fourth state of consciousness to function normally and lay the groundwork for optimal wellness and health.
So when prioritizing your day and making the best choices for pure food, water, air, environment, supplements, exercise, routine and more, don’t forget about transcending. Take time to seek out a certified teacher in order to learn how to go beyond the surface level of the thinking process and make use of the latent reserves of the brain and optimal brain functioning to derive the health and wellness benefits of this unique fourth state of consciousness. You will be glad you did!
Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. is a twenty-year researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and the celebrated psychiatrist who pioneered the study and treatment of Season Affective Disorder (SAD). You can find his book Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. with forward by Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. at www.amazon.com
Meditation techniques continue to gain popularity as innovative and effective means to address stress, anxiety and other health disorders. Comparing some of the most popular
meditation and self-development techniques, researchers are suggesting that the many
meditation techniques actually differ widely with regard to the cognitive processes, neurophysiological effects and behavioral outcomes involved in the practice. As a result, the
different types of meditation can be classified according to their EEG signatures, i.e. focused
attention techniques, open monitoring techniques and automatic Self-transcending
techniques. This is elaborated as follows.
1. Focused attention techniques. The first type includes focused attention or concentration
techniques. It is characterized by EEG in the beta-2 (20-30 Hz) and gamma (30-50 Hz)
frequency bands, associated with voluntary sustained control of attention which keeps the
mind focused on the object of meditation and may involve concentration.
2. Open monitoring techniques. The second type includes open monitoring or mindfulness based techniques. This involves “dispassionate” non-evaluative monitoring of ongoing
experience. This type of technique is characterized by frontal theta (5-8 Hz) EEG and in
some cases occipital gamma (30-50 Hz) EEG.
3. Automatic Self-transcending techniques. The Transcendental Meditation technique falls
within the third category known as automatic self-transcending meditation and is associated
with alpha-1 (7-9 Hz) EEG. Alpha frequency is correlated with reduced mental activity and
Researchers have explained that whereas concentration and open monitoring meditations
both require some mental effort (i.e. holding the attention on an object or maintaining a state of open monitoring), automatic self-transcending meditation is the effortless transcending of the meditation process itself. It is said to automatically lead to the experience of pure transcendental consciousness or pure awareness, in which the subject is fully awake within themselves without any outward focus on an object or a process of attention.
Research published more recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine also studied the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on trait anxiety via a meta-analysis. This included subjects with high levels of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as prison inmates. The results found the Transcendental Meditation program to be more effective than normal anxiety treatment as well as a majority of alternative treatments, with greatest effects observed in individuals with high anxiety.
1. Cahn, B. R., Delorme, A., & Polich, J. (2010). Occipital gamma activation during Vipassana
meditation. Cognitive Processes, 11(1), 39-56.
2. Orme-Johnson, D. W. & Barnes Vernon A. (2014). Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Technique on Trait Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5): 330-341.
3. Palva, S. & Palva, J. M. (2007). New vistas for alpha-frequency band oscillations. Trends in
Neurosciences, 30(4), 150-158.
4. Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic selftranscending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese
traditions. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(4).1110-1118.
Simi Summer, PhD is an organic advocate, independent researcher, educator, and free lance writer. She is a strong proponent of organic consumer education and informed consumer choices.