Meditation In The Age Of Anxiety: A Master Class With Bob Roth

Renowned transcendental meditation teacher Bob Roth discusses the recent rise in meditation and the importance of backing up the ancient art with science.

I am, by nature, not what you might think a meditation teacher would be like,” begins Bob Roth, speaking at a recent wellness master class hosted by the Global Wellness Summit. “I really love science. I love big ideas, but I like them to be anchored in ‘real.’ I’ve been called a skeptic and I embrace that. I think that’s healthy, particularly when we’re talking about something like meditation.”

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As one of the most renowned meditation experts in the United States, Roth has been teaching transcendental meditation for nearly 50 years. His clients include celebrities Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hugh Jackman, he’s authored The New York Times bestseller Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation and he directs the Center for Health & Wellness, bringing meditation programs to both Fortune 100 companies and small businesses.

“Self-transcending says, ‘Yes, there are waves on the surface of the ocean by its nature, but by its nature, the ocean is silent at its depth”

The master class, which brought together people from Mexico, Serbia, the Netherlands and Paris, to name just a few, started with Roth talking about what meditation is, defining some of its key terms and discussing how it’s changed over the years.

As a term that was historically, in the words of Roth, “something you didn’t want to say in polite company,” meditation has surged in recent years and is now offered at military bases, in hospitals, schools, homeless shelters and within businesses. For Roth, that surge comes down to a combination of three things: stress and anxiety being worse than ever, a lack of medication or a pharmaceutical drug that you can take to heal trauma or stress and lastly, the rise in science to back it up. “There’s so much scientific research today that you can’t dismiss meditation,” Roth explains. “You could say you’re skeptical [about] whether you could do it, but you can’t be skeptical that meditation produces an effect.”

Roth continued to explain that, as a result of this scientific research, all the meditation apps and current approaches to meditation fall into three categories. He likens the mind to an ocean, where the surface might be tumultuous with waves, but beneath that, there’s a deep, vast area that’s still and calm.

The first type of meditation, focused attention, seeks to approach meditation in order to stop the waves, or thoughts, in order to have a calm mind. The second, open-monitoring, takes the approach that thoughts are not necessarily the disruptor of calm, but, rather, the content of the thoughts. The third type, Roth’s specialty, is transcendental meditation.

“Self-transcending says, ‘Yes, there are waves on the surface of the ocean by its nature, but by its nature, the ocean is silent at its depth,’” Roth explains. “So, by self-transcending we say, ‘Yes, my mind is active with moods, feelings, thoughts, upset,’ but the hypothesis is, deep within every human being right now, there’s a level where the mind is already settled and peaceful and quiet and alert. [And] transcendental meditation gives effortless access to that.”

Following Roth’s overview of meditation, he talked about the mental health crisis that’s resulted from COVID-19 and the role it plays in the current climate. “I think, these days, one of the most significant outcomes is recognizing the need that meditation is not just a luxury for other people who have the time. That illusion is going to have to drop off. There’s 1,440 minutes in a day, [and] we’re just going to have to allocate time for [our minds], like we allocate time for eating or exercising. [In doing so], we’re far more efficient in our day and far less distracted.”

As well as taking other questions at the end of the master class, Roth discusses what he feels the future holds for transcendental meditation, the role of technology on meditation and where in the world transcendental meditation is on the rise.

“I’m hopeful about human nature not listening to ‘experts,’ but finding [out] for themselves how to become healthier, even if it’s not taught in the textbooks or [is] as mainstream as we’d like it to be,” Roth concludes. “The quest for everyone is to find their own path. I think that’s what’s going to lead us through this dark time — human spirit and human nature to find truth.”

You can watch Roth’s master class in full at this link:

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Josh Walker

Josh Walker