Interview: Dr. Bech on medicine and meditation
Dr. Charlotte Bech is a Danish doctor who has worked in several areas of medicine, including the field of obstetrics (with a degree from the University of Copenhagen). She is an author of several popular books on health, a columnist in national magazines and a frequent panelist at public discussions and media events. Dr. Bech has also looked deeply into alternative ways of healing the human body, mastering the techniques of Maharishi Ayurveda and setting up her own clinic of natural treatment.
In addition to – or rather, in conjunction with – her successful medical career, Dr. Charlotte Bech is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Having taught meditation now for 30 years and to almost 1000 course participants, Dr. Bech is in a perfect position to shed light on why meditation is, arguably, the best medicine available.
We talked with her on October 1, 2013.
Dr. Bech, Transcendental Meditation has so many effects on health and well-being. How would you describe these benefits in your own words?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Let's start from the beginning. From the ancient tradition of yoga and Ayurveda, we have the authentic classical texts. And they are describing how the practice of yoga, the practice of meditation can be seen, fundamentally, as a cure for all disease. The practice of yoga can solve all problems, take away the suffering.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian sage who introduced the technique of
Transcendental Meditation to the Western world. Learn more about the technique
When we look at the research of Transcendental Meditation and we look at the personal experiences of the practitioners, then we find this statement from the classical texts is confirmed. So this is a truth which is verified in three different ways – the ancient texts, modern scientific research of more than 600 studies, and the level of personal experience. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has taught that if something is really true, it has to be verified on three different levels. He called it 'the three Eurekas'.
Do you recommend Transcendental Meditation to you patients, as a doctor?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: I recommend Transcendental Meditation to practically every single patient who comes to the clinic. Many of them learn to meditate, and it has a remarkable effect on their health. It works through stress relief – and most diseases are, in some way or other, related to stress.
For example, cardiovascular diseases – most of these are clearly linked to stress. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, pain around the heart, atherosclerosis, clogging of the arteries… all these various cardiovascular diseases are most often induced by stress. The same is true for asthma, migraines, multiple sclerosis... Transcendental Meditation has a positive effect on these disorders.
Dr. Charlotte Bech reading the pulse of a patient at her clinic
Another example is chronic disease. Transcendental Meditation is useful for patients who are either chronically ill or have some very serious disease like cancer or kidney failure. Research has shown that TM cannot cure these serious diseases. Yet as a result of meditation practice, people tolerate their medical treatments better. They will have more energy and a more positive outlook, they will be happier – in short, studies have shown that such patients will achieve a higher quality of life.
I have had several cancer patients who come to me as a last resort, with a diagnosis of 2-3 weeks to live. They ask: "What can you do for me?" I tell them to learn Transcendental Meditation, because at that moment it is very limited we can do at the level of physiological treatment. In some cases, we have to come to their homes as they are already too weak to walk or even to stand – so we teach them as they're sitting on their beds at home. And at the end of the day, these people say it is the best thing they ever did in their life, the best decision they have ever made. It can completely change their mindset – after learning to meditate, they started to feel the joy of life again and get a positive outlook on their whole life situation.
Listen to an excerpt from the interview where Dr. Bech illustrates the healing power of Transcendental Meditation with an amazing story of a heart-disease patient –
So meditation relieves the suffering caused by various diseases. But what about prevention – does regular practice of Transcendental Meditation avoid falling ill in the first place?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Yes, definitely. For instance, people who practice Transcendental Meditation regularly have less infections – cold, flu, ear or throat infection, even pneumonia. We see significant improvements here. Again, it works through reducing stress levels – as you are less stressed, your immune system is stronger, and you therefore don't catch an infection so easily. So it is useful for all the doctors to know that they can recommend it to their patients. Transcendental Meditation is a highly effective addition to other treatments we are using.
This year, I have been teaching Transcendental Meditation at a large IT-company in Copenhagen in a team with my colleague Henrik Klamer, who is also a TM teacher and also an IT-expert. Everyone who learned to meditate at that company said that it was a life transforming experience – in fact, it pulled many people in that group back from taking a long-term sick leave! The stress in their personal and professional life had been building up, they were exhausted and could not continue to work anymore. Yet practicing Transcendental Meditation turned the situation around. No sick leave was necessary. Six months into meditation practice, these people feel great and fully invigorated. A lot of money was saved for the company, and human suffering avoided.
These are very inspiring experiences for me, too. That is why I keep on teaching meditation – it really works every time.
You have written extensively on the topic of human health. In 2006, you participated together with 16 other Danish doctors in a compilation of articles called "Healthy Skepticism and Healthy Reason" ("Sund skepsis og sund fornunft", Hovedland). What was your contribution about?
Dr. Bech giving interview to Danish DK4 (2012)
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: I wrote about a paradigm shift. On one hand, there is the paradigm which has governed modern medicine so far – that medicine is, in essence, a pill with the active ingredient. A synthetically manufactured product expected to bring relief right away. On the other hand, however, there is a different paradigm of medicine. That perspective is more about natural treatment – like meditation helping to normalize one's blood pressure. I think that we are moving towards this second paradigm, a change in the collective consciousness.
Medicine in the form of pills has so many dangerous, harmful side effects. No synthetic pill can ever be broken down completely. This means that some waste products will always be accumulating in the body and bring unwanted consequences.
In the new paradigm, the results of treatment may not be immediate. In some cases, it may take some time to normalize blood pressure, for instance – it will take anything from 3 months to 12 months with Transcendental Meditation before you get the blood pressure stabilized on a healthy level.
In other words, medicine is gradually moving from the treatment of symptoms to the treatment of causes.
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Yes. The old paradigm has a very limited understanding of the functioning of the human body as a whole. What are the root causes of an illness? How does a disease develop, in relation to other parts of the body? Through understanding of deeper levels of natural law, we gain greater mastery of natural law and we can start to treat the causes instead of symptoms. We can identify and treat the imbalances already at their beginning stages, before they develop any further.
And Transcendental Meditation is the most important modality of treatment – because it goes to the root of life, allowing the mind and body to settle down to the state of least excitation. In this state, mind and body are connected to the unified field of pure consciousness from where everything is originating. Then the physiology spontaneously remains connected to this field of pure intelligence and repairs itself.
You have worked together with many well-known Indian doctors. Are they working from this new paradigm you're describing?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Absolutely – for them, there is nothing 'new' about this paradigm. It is - in fact - the most ancient perspective, where the body is known to be a concentrated mass of consciousness. There is a physical expression, a manifestation. Yet pure intelligence is everywhere, in every cell of the body, in every tissue, every organ and bloodstream. Intelligence is flowing in the lymphatic system and in the liquids of the intracellular fluid.
So the most important point – if we really want to improve our health – is to enhance the flow of intelligence throughout our body. When we get sick, it means the flow is blocked somewhere. Our goal is to remove these blocks and obstacles so that the flow can become free and unrestricted again, carrying happiness, energy, and lightness all throughout our physiology.
CLICK on the image to read some central paragraphs from the ancient Vedic texts
This is the definition of true health. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has mentioned that health is defined as someone who is established in the higher Self, also called Atma. In Ayurveda, the term used here is ''swasthya'' – "swa" meaning the highest Self, the unbounded non-changing eternal inner nature, and "sthya" meaning established. So to be healthy, according to the Ayurvedic tradition, is to be established in one's own higher Self. Transcendental Meditation is the procedure to connect to the higher Self and is therefore an essential procedure to gain good health.
Is there a connection between the two approaches to the human body – the Western mechanistic, technological perspective, and the holistic view of the Ayurvedic tradition – or are they irreconcilable?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Both approaches are useful. What I practice is an integrative approach – we combine, use and integrate the best from the both worlds. There is no doubt that we need the modern Western medicine, too! When one is acutely ill – say, inches away from a heart attack – I will certainly call in the ambulance and let the 'pill' do its work. However, when this patient will be back home again from the hospital, then I recommend to integrate meditation or some herbal treatment or some other adjustments in life style. As the patient then gradually becomes stronger and more balanced, we can gradually reduce the dosage of his medications in collaboration with his own doctor. We do the tests first, and when there are signs of improvement, the patient should discuss the possible reduction of medication with his other doctors. It's a harmonious co-operation.
The natural treatment also has its weaknesses – if practiced incorrectly, it too can lead to negative side effects. Each approach has its merits and demerits. So we have to be open and tolerant and have a respectful attitude to everyone working in different systems of medicine. After all, all doctors and all other health care providers work to improve the health of mankind! The ultimate impulse and motivation is the same.
To finish our interview, let's talk about a specific practical topic which interests almost everyone – food. You yourself are a lacto-vegetarian. Can you tell us a little more about this decision?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: One of the guiding principles of the ancient tradition of yoga is ahimsa, non-violence. We are following that principle when we are on a meat-free diet. Meat always contains an element of violence, no matter how it is produced. So vegetarianism is more conducive for a non-violent attitude, a peaceful mindset, and a more harmonious lifestyle – within oneself, and in relationships with others.
My own decision was natural - I did not want to have meat even from childhood. It was something from inside. Living on a farm and growing up with all animals who had a name and a unique character…. They were living beings, they were my friends.
So even children can have a lacto-vegetarian diet and stay healthy?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Especially children! The foundation of health is laid in childhood – so it is of utmost importance to give children a lacto-vegetarian diet. Moreover, I would say that it all starts even before a child is born. The woman and man have to start living a meat-free life already before they conceive their baby. And the mother has to keep to that during pregnancy, and during the time she is breast-feeding her newborn child.
The reason is that all this meat and fish and poultry contain large amounts of stress hormones and various other substances not conducive to health. So when we eat meat it is all being ingested by our body. And when we favour a meat-free diet, we ingest healthy, energizing and life giving food.
So you say that there is no danger of little children missing out on some essential minerals and vitamins, if they are brought up on a strictly vegetarian diet?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: Yes, children will have sufficient nutrients on a lacto-vegetarian diet.
But of course the parents have to be educated how to compose the meals. Vegetarians have to be vigilant especially about three nutrients: iron, vitamin B 12, and vitamin D. But if you are informed and make wise choices when shopping for food, all of these will be included in the diet.
For iron, the menu has to contain enough seeds (sesame, flax) and nuts (pistacios, cashews), wheat germ, whole grain bread, dried fruits, sun dried tomatoes, red grapes, raspberries and green vegetables like spinach, dill and parsley. Pots made of cast iron should be used for cooking. Vitamins D and B-12, come from milk products eaten thrice a day – full fat organic milk(non homogenized), cheese, yoghurt. Dietary yeast flakes, bee pollen granules and seaweed are also very good sources of B-12 vitamins. Direct sun light 10-15 minutes per day on the skin is a also good source of Vitamin D.
If parents are properly educated about nutrition, their children will be really much more healthy on a lacto-vegetarian diet. For example, studies have shown that vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of diabetes than those who eat meat products.
When do you think all this will become mainstream knowledge, accepted by medical and welfare systems?
DR. CHARLOTTE BECH: It will happen, step by step.
I published a book on children's health a few years ago ("Godt og sundt for børn", Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck 2010). In the book, I stated that the ideal diet for childen is 100% lacto-vegetarian diet. The book created a public discussion in Denmark – in the media, and among doctors... I simply put the research forward, studies with literally thousands of people. And this research showed clearly: less diabetes, less cardiovascular disease, less cancer, less digestive problems, less problems with hormonal imbalance, longer life etc. As a result, the Ministry of Food and Industry launched a new informational website with guidelines on how to become a vegetarian... So change will take place, it is inevitable.
Similarly, many studies on healthcare utilization have shown that society can save substantial health care costs with these preventive methods like Transcendental Meditation and other natural treatments. The private sector is beginning to grasp this potential as well, with many companies in Denmark offering meditation courses to their employees. People are now meditating in city halls, in hospitals… everywhere. More and more people realize that Transcendental Meditation is the most effective path to improved health, more energy, happiness and higher states of consciousness.
Dr. Bech, Thank you for this insightful interview!
*Dr. Charlotte Bech has an official home page
(in Danish but with translation to other languages)
To learn Transcendental Meditation in Denmark, please visit www.meditertm.dk
Also, check out other extensive interviews with
Transcendental Meditation practitioners!