We have known it for ages. Now Americans have woken up to the benefits meditation brings in life.
Meditations have different effects and that meditation can lead to non-dual or transcendental experiences - a sense of self-awareness without content, says a fascinating study.
According to Fred Travis, director of the centre for brain, consciousness, and cognition at Maharishi University of Management in the US, physiological measures and first-person descriptions of transcendental experiences and higher states have only been investigated during practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.
After analysing descriptions of transcendental consciousness from 52 people practicing TM, Travis found that they experienced "a state where thinking, feeling, and individual intention were missing, but self-awareness remained".
A systematic analysis of their experiences revealed three themes - absence of time, space and body sense.
"This research focuses on the larger purpose of meditation practices - to develop higher states of consciousness," explained Travis.
With regular meditation, experiences of transcendental consciousness begin to co-exist with sleeping, dreaming and even while one is awake.
This state is called cosmic consciousness in the Vedic tradition, said the paper published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Whereas people practicing TM describe themselves in relation to concrete cognitive and behavioural processes, those experiencing cosmic consciousness describe themselves in terms of a continuum of inner self-awareness that underlies their thoughts, feelings and actions, added the paper.
"The practical benefit of higher states is that you become more anchored to your inner self, and, therefore, less likely to be overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of daily life," said Travis.
TM is an effortless technique for automatic self-transcending, different from the other categories of meditation - focused attention or open monitoring.
It allows the mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought - pure awareness or transcendental consciousness.
This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness - one's innermost self, said the study.