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Miriam Ratner, a clinical counselor for the Outpatient Oncology Program at the Washington Cancer Institute, says meditative techniques help many of her patients find a measure of peace.

“In my field, when they hear what they have, all sense of everything disappears,” says Ms. Ratner, whose group is part of the Washington Hospital Center.

“From experience with my patients, even in one session, one automatically gets positive results [from meditation],” she says, including feeling less afraid of their diagnosis.

Ms. Ratner leads her patients into a general meditative state by having them focus on one body part at a time. She asks them to focus on any sensations in that part of the body, be it pain, tightness or any other feeling.

After about 30 minutes of scanning the body in that way, “they become inner-focused, which is what you want,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a patient whose breathing isn’t deeper, who hasn’t said, ‘I feel peaceful,’” after a meditation session.

“It begins to give them a sense of mastery over how they feel,” she says.

Sterling, Va., resident Rose Rosetree taught transcendental meditation for 16 years before turning her attentions to aura readings. Meditation teachers must be instructed by someone associated with its founder’s group before they can claim to teach true transcendental meditation.

Ms. Rosetree says some meditation classes say they teach the Maharishi’s version of transcendental meditation but often practice a generic form of the discipline.

“Beware of people who claim to teach it to you ‘without the trappings,’” she says. “They don’t know what they’re talking about … you can’t learn it from a book.”

Some of the Maharishi’s proponents contend that gathering together people who practice transcendental meditation can create a peaceful ripple effect that can harmonize otherwise destructive behaviors in that region.

“The follow-up activities have a lot to do with the belief system of the founder,” says Ms. Rosetree, who eventually found some of the founder’s dictums to resemble activities that might be found in a cult.

Ms. Rosetree still meditates once or twice daily, though with a more flexible approach than that of transcendental meditation, but she doesn’t ignore its benefits or its impact.

“It has become part of the culture,” she says.

Another meditative form akin to the technique is awareness meditation.

Nancy Harazduk, director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, teaches this form of meditation, also know as Vipassana meditation — meaning to see things as they really are.

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