Dr. Norman Rosenthal used to be a skeptic. “I was very snotty with these TM people initially,” Rosenthal, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, says of his introduction to transcendental meditation, or TM. Then Rosenthal led studies on TM and saw its effects on anxiety, depression and even coronary artery disease. He became a convert, joining the likes of rockers Moby and Paul McCartney, and director David Lynch, with whom he will speak about his new book, “Transcendence,” Thursday. “My book is not a manual on how to do [TM],” he says. “What I wanted to show in this book is how much it can do.”
A lot of your work deals with the crossroads of mental health and holistic treatments. You also did pioneering work with seasonal affective disorder.
My passion is things that are holistic. … The stresses that come into our lives every day affect … our health and our longevity. [TM] influences the way we process stress coming in from the outside world, and can radically transform how we behave and how our body works and how long it works for.
What is known about the biological mechanics of TM?
It increases prolactin, which is … a soothing hormone. It changes brain patterns. There’s a greater “coherence,” where different parts of the brain resonate with each other with the same alpha rhythm.
A major part of TM is reflecting on a mantra. What is a mantra?
A mantra is a way of taking you into a transcendent state of consciousness. Eventually, the “coherence” meditation produces can be found during the regular daytime.
Can TM replace psychiatric drugs?
I don’t want to go against a standard of care. But if TM were a pill, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster.
» Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Ave., NW; Thu., 8 p.m., free; 202-364-1919, Politics-prose.com. (Friendship Heights)
Photo courtesy of Tarcher/Penguin