Talking with Transcendental Meditation Expert Bob Roth

Like so many meditators around the country, I adore Bob Roth.

I first met Bob when Oprah Winfrey decided to offer Transcendental Meditation training to any interested staffer at Harpo Studios in Chicago. Twice daily meditations were soon scheduled company-wide. (He would later do the same thing for our team in Los Angeles at OWN.)

It was good stuff, not religious, no set of beliefs to buy in to, no organization to join. The only requirement: You need to close your eyes and practice an easy meditation technique twice a day for 20 minutes. When you do it as faithfully as brushing your teeth, it’s been found to reduce stress and anxiety and create a deeper rest than sleep.

More creativity. More clarity. More happiness.

I believe in it and know it’s good for me, yet I continued to dabble in and out of a regular practice.

In our self-proclaimed year of radical self-care, STORY cofounder, Nancy Hala, and I are determined to make TM a part of our individual recipes for a beautiful life (Belle Vie). We called Bob at his headquarters in New York to help us get back in the groove.

Nancy: Bob, in our “Year at Belle Vie” we’re getting to the truth of the story we want to tell ourselves about the lives we want to live. We’re changing the way we eat, the way we move our bodies, the way we approach creativity and all our projects. Sheri is doing yoga, we’re both taking on more rigorous exercise, and each of us knows that meditation is the cornerstone of all this stuff.
Bob: Transcendental Meditation is a simple, easily learned technique that you practice for 20-minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed. Through the use of a mantra—a sound that has no meaning—you are taught in individual instruction how to access deeper, quieter levels of your mind while your body gains a state of rest and relaxation that is deeper than sleep. And what I love about it is that there is no religion, or philosophy, or change in lifestyle. In fact, you can be 100 percent skeptical and it still works.

Nancy: And there are studies about how TM truly helps our health, right?

Bob: Yes, hundreds of studies have been published in top medical journals over the past 40 years on TM. One important study is on cortisol, the “stress hormone,” that fuels anxiety, insomnia, and weakens the immune system. A good night’s sleep reduces cortisol levels by 10 percent. Twenty minutes of TM reduces cortisol levels by 30 to 40 percent every time.

One man, who was running a big company in New York City, said that he could manage other people’s time but couldn’t really manage himself. He was having difficulty getting in his 20 minutes. I told him to look at TM as energy management. You invest a few minutes morning and evening in meditation and you get many hours of a clearer, more creative mind in return. Jerry Seinfeld is one of the busiest guys in the world and he always finds the time to meditate. I asked him why. He said the most important thing he can have in life is energy. He loves his wife and kids and he loves good ideas but without energy he can’t act upon it. For Jerry—and all of us—energy is the fuel of life. Again, Jerry knows that if he invests 20 minutes at the beginning of the day, it will improve the quality of his energy throughout the day. And if he meditates for 20 minutes at the end of the day, it will impact the quality of his energy with his wife and kids in the evening and he will sleep much better at night.

Sheri: I was so surprised when I learned that Jerry Seinfeld has been meditating for YEARS.

Bob: 44 years!

Sheri: I have always considered Jerry one of the wise ones. If you listen to his interviews he is as brilliant about life as he is funny. We were backstage at the show talking to Jerry one day and I’ll never forget this encounter. We were going about what we had to “do” so much on our “to-do” lists “ and goodness knows I certainly wasn’t managing my stress very well and he said this about life and time and schedules “It’s yours to design”. And everybody went “ohhhhh” because truer words were never spoken. After all, we are in charge of the quality of our lives. And Jerry walks the talk. There he is one of the funniest ever and he makes it his practice to quiet his mind and get still twice a day for 20 minutes. I made note of that for sure.

Bob: And Paul McCartney, too. TM gives you the energy, creativity, and resilience to get to the top and, equally importantly, to stay at the top. In fact, many of the most successful people in the world meditate. How do they find the time? Well there are 1440 minutes in a day—and they have resolved to find 40 minutes for themselves. The question is: Are you willing to take 40 for yourself?

Nancy: That is going to stay with me, Bob.

Sheri: And how do you get back on track when you have fallen off?

Bob: You must be very forgiving with yourself. You are busy women, and like so many other busy people you are genuinely pulled in a million different directions. It’s easy to find yourself slipping away from the practice. Then, fortunately, our inner voice calls us back from the complete absorption of the outer world and conspires to make us realize, “Hey, I gotta get back to that inner world.” So, I would say, “Meditate regularly but be forgiving with yourself when you don’t.”

Sheri: Bob, how can people find a TM teacher?

Bob: You want to have your own properly certified TM teacher to instruct how to practice the technique properly. You also want access to TM teachers who can support you in our practice for the rest of your life. Go to— it’s a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization in 300 cities in the U.S. and the world. It takes four, 90-minute sessions to learn. There are also scholarship programs for those who can’t afford the fee.

Sheri: You also go into schools, right?

Bob: Through the David Lynch Foundation we’ve provided scholarships for 500,000 at-risk children and adults. We work in inner city schools, with victims of domestic violence, veterans and their families, and prisons.

Nancy: I am fired up about my meditation practice.

Sheri: Me too. When you come to Los Angeles, we’ll meditate together!

Bob Roth has been a teacher of Transcendental Meditation for 45 years and has taught many thousands of people to meditate all over the world, from bank CEOs and professional athletes to inmates and families in homeless shelters. Bob is determined to make TM available to everyone who wants to learn.