Chapter 8 (excerpt)

OVERCOMING Heart disease, Addictions, AND Insomnia AND leading a joyful Senior life

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Deb Scott started Transcendental Meditation in 2011 when she was working at a military medical facility in southern Arizona. A cyber security expert who spent over 30 years in the military or in a civilian status serving the military, Deb started TM because she said, “the job was horrifically stressful” and affecting her health. Deb had digestive problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol. She was also motivated to learn TM because her instruction was free. Deb was able to learn without charge as part of a “provider resiliency” program that made the technique available to “wounded warriors” and those providing them with healthcare. Before starting TM, Deb’s blood pressure was averaging around 150/90 and her LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) had climbed to about 230, which is well above normal—over 190 is considered very high. Like most people who practice TM for a number of years, Deb experienced multiple benefits.

Deb told us that “from the time I started TM, I have not had an abnormal blood pressure reading.” Typically, she said her blood pressure is now in the low 120s and high 60s, and her cholesterol is in the 180s, which she said is the lowest it’s been since she was 25.

Deb actually found another job after learning TM, and while she said that job “was also a very important job serving the military and was also very stressful,” she found that she was much better able to naturally cope with  the stress of work. Through church groups Deb had previously done a visualization kind of meditation and one where you repeat phrases usually from a poem or a prayer. She said she did inside a long full body tube. Deb said:

As  soon as they started the MRI I panicked  and had to stop. Then the nurse asked if there was anything I could do because otherwise they were going to have to cancel the MRI. I told the nurse I could meditate for a few minutes. Then they put the tube over my head, and I meditated the entire 55 minutes I was in there. For me it was amazing.


In a follow-up just before the book was published, Deb told us, “TM is still the best gift I have ever given myself.”

[Deb Scott experienced greater reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol than should be expected. Research and other reports are in the book. Research in one study showed that after just three months, the TM group reduced their blood pressure an average of 10.7 mm Hg systolic and 6.4 mm Hg diastolic. Another study showed that Transcendental Meditation is associated with a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of -5 and -3 mm Hg respectively. Sustained blood pressure reductions of this magnitude are likely to significantly reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.]

A Joyful Senior Life

            Jerry Yellin is one example of a lifetime of benefits from Transcendental Meditation. A pilot in World War II, he learned Transcendental Meditation in the mid-1970s and led a very active and fulfilling life until his death in 2018 at age 93. Jerry authored three books, including The Blackened Canteen, written when he was 83 (2008); and The Resilient Warrior, written when he was 86 (2011). In his late 80s, he also wrote one screenplay about his experiences in World War II and learning to appreciate the Japanese people who he previously considered the enemy. Jerry was the inspiration behind the formation of Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation that teaches TM to veterans with PTSD often at no charge. And he lectured on the benefits of TM for veterans, played golf most days, and even was dating into his 90s. Jay had this conversation with Jerry in early 2017.

Jay:      Tell me your experience with TM.


Jerry:   I put the uniform on of the United States military in August of 1942.  I was  inducted into the Army Air Corps.  When you put the uniform on you learn two  things.  The first is that you’re willing to give your life to protect everybody else’s, and they’re willing to give their life to protect you.  And also the purpose of the war is to kill your enemy. 


I was 19 years old when I graduated from flying school and I was three weeks into my 21st year when I landed a P-51 on Iwo Jima on March 7, 1945.  There were 90,000 soldiers fighting on this small Island, and there were 28,000 bodies rotting in the sun: 21,000 Japanese and 7,000 American. And another 21,000 Marines were wounded. It was horrific.


 Jay:     I am sure it was.


Jerry:   That’s not all. I flew 19 combat missions over Japan in a P-51.  Each

mission was eight hours long, and I flew with 16 guys that I came to know very well, and none of them survived. Five were killed in training, and 11 were killed by the Japanese.


The last of the original 16 were Phil Schlamberg and Jerry Yellin. We were on the last combat mission of World War II, and Phil Schlamberg was the last man killed in combat in the war.  He was 19 years old, and I was 21.  And when I came home, I went to his mother’s house and I brought part of his wings and his lieutenant bars, and she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I was in their house in December of 1945 and she said to me, with a heavy Jewish accent, “It should have been you who was killed, not my son Phillip.  I hope you never sleep a night in your life like I can’t sleep.”  And I never slept.  I thought about suicide.  I thought about taking my life, I stopped flying for the New Jersey National Guard because I knew if I continued to fly airplanes I was going to die by chance or by choice and every night I spoke to these 16 guys. 


Then I got married in 1949 and we moved 15 or 16 times including to Israel, and I was a basket case for 30 years.  Then my wife and I saw Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Merv Griffin Show in June of 1975 and she said to herself, “I’m going to learn TM.”  And my son graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 and he was interested, and he said, “Mom, wait for me to learn TM.”  So Steven  and Helene learned Transcendental Meditation.


 Jay:      Did you see any changes in them? Is that what made you start TM?


Jerry:   I didn’t see any differences in them at all. Not at all.  But I still was thinking about starting.  And I had a guy that I worked with, named Mo. We were running a real estate trust in Coral Gables and I said, “Mo, I’m going to learn Transcendental Meditation,” and he says, “Oh, I learned.  Don’t give them $150. You learn a word and say that word – it’s a mantra – and you just close your eyes and just say the mantra. I’ll give you a mantra.”  He said, “just sit down in a quiet place and say Shalom, Shalom, Shalom.” 


Jay:    Out loud?  Shalom?


Jerry:   No, to myself.  I kept saying it to myself – Shalom.  So, I’m doing this and saying Shalom to myself.  I told Helene that I was doing it, and she told Mike Scalari, who was a TM teacher in North Miami Beach, and he kind of went ballistic and he called me and he said, “That’s all wrong – that’s not what you’re supposed to do.”  Mike introduced me to a TM teacher, and I went through the program, and what they taught me was really different and not just the mantra, the whole technique  This was in August of 1975, and I had an instant change to my life.


Jay:      Like what?


Jerry:   Instantaneously.  The changes in my life went from dark and dreary to green and light. Everything was just changed and I was different.  I looked at life differently.

For example, I had never, ever played golf to enjoy myself, not until 1975 after learning TM [Jerry was a championship amateur golfer and his son, Steven, is now  a well-known golf instructor, formerly with David Ledbetter].  I played golf to kill them. It was my goal, it was my alcohol.  I just went out there to kill – not only the golf course but the people I played against.  I was a killer.  A gambler.  That’s how I made a living.


Then my whole life turned around 180 degrees.  It was then that I saw the  difference in my wife and my children since they started TM,  and in me and my relationships.  I felt like a worthwhile human being. Previously, I didn’t know why I lived and all those people were killed and died.  I had no purpose in life and all of a sudden I had a purpose. 


I settled down into becoming quite an expert in the real estate world.  I had clients like Bank of America, Bank of California, Wells Fargo. All of these guys became my clients.  I was their number one advisor in the real estate investment trust (REIT) area.  And I became a joyful human being.  I just lived a beautiful life.


Jay:     And how are things today?


Jerry:   I’m 92 and I still meditate. In my mind TM is the only unmedicated solution to stress.  Our government today – there are 22 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan that commit suicide every day.  That’s more than 6,000 a year, 7,000 a year.  And the government is buying pharmaceuticals – antidepressants and antipsychotics in particular – for $8 billion dollars a month, and the antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs are addictive drugs and they cause more harm than they do good.  We could teach them TM for less than $1,000 fee for a lifetime.


Jay:     I understand from Steven that you are still playing golf.


Jerry:   I play almost every day that I’m home. 18 holes.  I’ll be home in time to take a days’ rest, and then I’ll start playing. I also run every day in a pool for 30 minutes, and I intentionally don’t eat as much as I used to. I have a 65 year-old girlfriend now [Jerry’s wife passed away a few years ago], and she says, “I’m much too old for you, Jerry.  I can’t keep up with you.”


Effects on the Elderly: A Comparison with Other Techniques 

An important study, published in 1989 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,/20 was conducted by researchers who sought to compare Transcendental Meditation’s effect on elderly persons with a mindfulness training program (MF) and a mental relaxation technique (MR). The study used 10 or so different measures of health and relaxation and evaluated the results of three different techniques compared to a control group that was tested on each of the measures but received no technique.

The mindfulness program involved was not the mindfulness-based stress reduction program discussed in other sections of this book, but  a guided or focused  attention technique  that involved a word production task  (the subjects were instructed to think of a word, take its last letter and find a new word beginning with that letter) and a creativity task that asked the subjects to think about any topic in a new and creative way. The mental relaxation technique (a relaxation response technique) was included as  part of the program to test the hypothesis that TM is simple relaxation, and that a relaxation technique not requiring TM’s use of a mantra would be just as successful as TM. The instructors in this relaxation program had the participants repeat a familiar verse, phrase, song or poem of their choice as is done in the relaxation response technique. That  is vastly different from the TM technique (TM is not just repeating a mantra) and also ignores the value of the particular TM mantra or sound used in the TM practice, both of which have a  coherence-generating effect.

The study involved 73 residents of homes for the elderly, with an average age of 81. They were randomly assigned to either learn TM, mindfulness (MF), or the mental relaxation technique.  TM had significantly better results than the other two programs. Substantially more TM subjects reported feeling relaxed during the practice than immediately before, as compared with the mindfulness and relaxation subjects (the scale used showed relative scores on relaxation of 94.4 for TM, 41.7 for mindfulness, and 55.6 for the relaxation practice). The TM subjects did better on two measures of mental flexibility, as well as on a test of word fluency, on systolic blood pressure, and also behavioral flexibility.  The scores on a scale measuring the overall evaluation of the program was 75 for TM, 38.5 for mindfulness and 40 for the relaxation subjects. The TM group felt less old, more able to cope with inconveniences, and less impatient


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