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A New York based psychologist and neurophysiologist explains the difference between Transcendental Meditation® and Mindfulness: A QnA with Dr. Anne-Marie Lepore

BY JEAN TOBIN

Anne-Marie Lepore PhD is a New York State licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist who specialises in treating people with neurological conditions and in trauma-informed therapy. She is also a professional coach for “helping professionals,” assisting them in balancing their self-care to achieve their personal goals and to help others in her practice.

Q: What benefits have you experienced as a result of regularly practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique?

A: I have had this understanding for a long time that my best life is not necessarily something different from what it is now, that when you can stop and appreciate what is right here, you are living your best life. It used to be a struggle to practice this.

Since TM this comes quite naturally. I have to tell you I cannot recall a time when I so enjoyed and loved the crispness in the air that comes with autumn, listening to birds in the morning when I take my dog out for a walk, or hearing the crickets when I walk in the evening.

I used to eat meals almost without tasting them, going through a list of things I had to get done. Now, I savour what I eat. Things get done in good time. Based on my Apple watch, it looks like my resting heart rate has come down too.

For most of my adult life, I have worked excessively, never really taking the time to nurture myself and my relationships or even take care of my physical space. The desire to be more balanced started before learning TM but has increased a great deal during the time I have been practicing TM.

I am now finding myself in this physical, emotional, and spiritual space of needing to clear old things out of my life that have cluttered things up or weighted me down. This involves physically getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose, healing relationships in my life and more strongly seeing things come up from the past that I need to look at and move on from.

There is this sense of working on freeing myself up from old stuff so I can be more fully in my life now. It’s not terribly exciting or glamorous as I am spending lots of time physically cleaning out closets and stuff, but it seems so important for things to come, even though I am not quite sure what those things are yet.

I have had thoughts in the past of needing to do this, but I am sure it is from my TM practice that I have this strong sense that I absolutely have to be doing all of this right.

Q: Before learning the TM technique, you used to practice and teach Mindfulness Meditation. Please tell us the differences you have experienced between the two.

A: I have wanted to learn TM for a very long time and put it off because I thought of it as a luxury. Now I realize this was a mistake as the TM technique has made such a profound difference in my life.

I used to try to practice mindfulness meditation, which feels effortful, and I could maybe do it five minutes at a time. I absolutely love the ease of TM – I feel like all I have to do is pretty much show up for it twice daily and the rest takes care of itself. I find that the effortlessness of the Transcendental Meditation technique just seems to naturally emerge into my everyday life. This was an effect I noticed within just a few months of regular practice.

Since TM I no longer get upset about things that are little stressors the way I used to. In the past, I always had a calm demeanour, and my mindfulness practice would help me to be aware of when I was carrying a stress response but I had to work hard to use strategies to emotionally shift out of the stress response I would carry.

Now with my twice daily TM practice, things either just roll off of me or if I feel like I want to say something, I just do it at the time and always in a solid and grounded way. This part alone has been a life change for me. If I got nothing else out of TM but this, the time invested in the practice would be so worth it.

Q: How has practicing the TM technique changed your professional experiences as a neuropsychologist?

A: I don’t usually feel conflicted as I have felt in the past. I’m no longer as perfectionistic as I used to be and when I find I am, I easily shift out of it. In my work, I experience flexibility and ease. I feel I am a much more effective therapist because I can hold the space more readily for other people’s difficulties without feeling the urge to jump in and fix things.

I think this experience of easiness and acceptance I feel at the beginning of therapy, helps my clients be more accepting of where they are at. It is so much harder to work on and look at something that makes you feel “less than,” or defective.

Understanding that there is a good reason why anxiety or depression developed makes working on it so much easier. I had an intellectual awareness of this idea before TM, as some of the principles of mindfulness are similar, but with mindfulness when you practice accepting everything as it comes up, it is effortful.

Q: Please expand a bit further on this increased success in your professional life as a result of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.

A: With Mindfulness Meditation, the idea is that when you resist something you suffer, so practicing acceptance supposedly makes you suffer less. So, in Mindfulness Meditation, while you initially resist, you think this thought and practice letting go. With the Transcendental Meditation technique, acceptance comes naturally, without any effort. I have recommended learning TM to many of my clients.

Q: How has the TM technique affected your clients?

A: The ones who have learned the TM technique and practice TM regularly are getting good results. It really helps them to benefit from therapy more.

Q: For the benefit of people reading this who may be going through challenging times, can you mention specific challenges in your life that you are better able to deal with as a result of your regular TM practice?

A: This past year has been challenging with changes in my family including the sudden illness and death of my wonderful father and helping my mother. I also have a teenager getting ready to go to college, I still have my neuropsychology practice, and I am building up my coaching practice so that I can have an even bigger impact.

It is a lot to balance, but I find that this wonderful mediation practice keeps me level. I can allow the feelings associated with grief to pass through me and I generally have a sense of peace. My adherence to Transcendental Meditation practice is a good routine for me as I could potentially be distracted from my own needs.

With TM, I am able to continue to take care of myself, as I manage all of these things in my outer life. During the more difficult times, a sense of being connected to that “unbounded ocean of consciousness” allows me to gain a sense of strength and equanimity.

Q: Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. Is there anything you would like to add?

A: I have completed the “Rest and Repair” Maharishi Ayurvedic diet, which helped me to re-examine my relationship with food. I no longer feel as tired and I don’t have the urge to snack at night like I used to.

I even lost a few pounds that I needed to lose, although I wasn’t really focused on weight loss. In the past, I would have made an effort to eat better and would have been conflicted about whether I should eat something that was an unhealthy treat or something that wasn’t as satisfying but was good for me. Now better food choices seem to come more naturally.

I do have one regret about TM—It’s that I did not learn this wonderful technique earlier in my life. I am so thankful for the wonderful changes I have experienced.