U.S. Marines and other active-duty military personnel who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are finding relief through a simple meditation technique known as the Transcendental Meditation (TM®) technique.
The rapidly growing interest among the military in the ancient practice has been spurred by modern science.
A study published in Military Medicine in 2011 found that veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who practiced the TM technique experienced a 50 percent reduction in symptoms of PTSD after just eight weeks of meditating.
Similar reductions were found in a study on Vietnam veterans conducted at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in 1985.
Furthermore, findings from a randomized controlled study on cadets who practice the TM technique at Norwich University, the oldest private military college in America, found a marked increase in resilience to stress among the meditating cadets compared to controls.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have PTSD. Symptoms of the disorder can include acute anxiety, nightmares, outbursts of anger, and flashbacks of traumatic events.
Marine Gunnery Sergeant Richard Wilson , who was deployed to combat four times, was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and insomnia. The TM technique, he says, gave him a profound state of relaxation. "After meditating I find myself not so agitated with things around me. I am able to make better judgments—it has also helped me find more peace and happiness," Wilson says.
Marine Sergeant James Thrasher was diagnosed with PTSD as well as nerve problems in his leg. When he heard about the TM technique he was skeptical at first—but intrigued as well. He decided to give it a try. "The power of the TM meditation was surprising to me. Having that inner peace after meditation really emboldened me to deal with things that I'd been just kind of stuffing away. To be able to have relief from agitation, have relief from anger, frustration, sleeplessness, alcoholism, drug addiction—that's huge," Thrasher says.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Swanson , advisor for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Affair Regiment, supports the use of the TM technique for men and women in the Armed Forces because, he says, it allows a person "get under all that noise, and find the peaceful place that is the 'you within the you.'"
Courses in the TM technique are offered to veterans and active-duty military personnel by Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which provides TM instruction at reduced or no cost to at-risk populations, including urban youth in underserved schools, women and children who have been victims of abuse, and veterans and their families who suffer from PTSD.