Every morning and every evening, for a little more than 20 minutes each time, Dr. Elliott Snyder, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Southwestern Medical School, raises his consciousness. He summons his mantra. He practices TM.

That’s transcendental meditation, and to some of the students and faculty, that means Dr. Snyder is off his rocker.

Others say he’s just misunderstood. And Snyder himself admits there is much about his research and the practice of TM that he doesn’t understand: “All I know is, it seems to work.

“We talk about schizophrenia and paranoia, but we don’t focus often enough on the positive effects the mind can have. It can be a buffer. Meditation can make a person more stress-resistant.”

Snyder set the psychiatry department buzzing earlier this spring with news of a study presented in California to the Gerontological Society. The study showed that the longer a person meditates, the younger he appears on a scale of physiological change. On a scale measuring blood pressure, auditory acuity and visual accommodation, people who had meditated more than five years appeared to be 12 years younger than those who had not.

“Of course, these people [who appeared younger] may have been doing other things to keep themselves young,” says Snyder. “It isn’t a definitive study; a definitive study would take 40 years of careful watch over both the control group and the meditating group. But personally, I don’t have 40 years. I’ll go ahead and meditate because it looks like it does a lot of good things for you.”

But Snyder’s faith in TM does not come from data other scientists have collected. He says his work with the elderly at Dallas Home for Jewish Aged has produced dramatic results, including improved hearing and disposition in certain individuals.

TM produces no side effects, and there is no talk about negativity. And best of all, it’s a means of directing attention to the elderly.

A critic of TM asked whether teaching the residents of the home to play, chess would do the same.

But the executive vice president of the home, Dr. Herbert Shore, had nothing but positive things to say about Snyder. “It’s important that people dispel their prejudices and false notions. There are a lot of things out there that can help us. If things like biofeedback, yoga and meditation help, we should use them.”

Snyder agrees: “While TM may be derived from Indian religion, the practice of TM by a Westerner does not make him a Hindu or a believer in Sheol.

“The experience can be channeled through your own religion and there is no change in diet, no incense.

“I don’t want to say meditation is one cure for everything… but it might be the answer to some of society’s ills, those Achilles’ heels of science -crime, drug abuse – all the bad things we as scientists can’t do much about.”


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