Tiffany O’Donnell: On the surface it looks just like any other Iowa town square, but if you look a little closer, you’ll find it’s international flare.
Jack Miller: And that’s not the only reason people are flocking to Fairfield. It’s the center of a meditation movement. And our Kelsey Minor spent some time there to uncover the big mystery behind how meditating is helping the people there thrive. Kelsey?
Kelsey Minor: I know Tiffany’s excited about it; she’s been there. Jack, you need to get there.
You don’t often hear of Iowa being associated with meditation, but it’s happening right here in Eastern Iowa, and it’s in the process of shaping some of our state’s youngest minds, as well as the minds of Fairfield’s leaders.
FAIRFIELD, IA (KGAN/KFXA) — Tucked deep in Iowa’s flatland, among the barns and fields, is one of the 12 great places Mother Earth News says you’ve probably never been. It’s Fairfield, Iowa, and something’s been happening in this city of 95-hundred, a mystery, until now.
“Trust me, we want to get the secret out. We’d love for people to come and discover our community. We believe that’s happening now,” says Mayor Ed Malloy.
This small place, less than a two-hour drive away from Cedar Rapids, has its international flavor with its Indian restaurants and Italian coffee houses. But that’s not the mystery. I have to bring you here, to the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, where for nearly four decades, the simple act of meditating, twice a day, everyday, has attracted all sorts of people, including the students in this private school.
“We’ve been the kind of pioneering or flagship school for this approach we call Consciousness-Based education,” says Head of School, Dr. Richard Beall.
It’s like any other college prep school across the State of Iowa but here the students, faculty, and staff all take time to practice Transcendental Meditation or T-M.
“So we are taking a significant amount of time in the morning and afternoon, bookends, before and after school, to practice meditation and yoga, so that our kids when they go into the classroom are wide awake,” Beall said.
Those 20 minutes, says school officials, rids everyone of stress making it easy to learn and perform better.
“Of course there are cynics out there who may say that this doesn’t work, and your argument against that would be what,” CBS 2′s Kelsey Minor asked.
“We kind of welcome skepticism because you can put it to the test and I think it stands up really well,” says Beall.
And so far it has. This consciousness-based learning helps send more than 95 percent of its seniors to top colleges and universities across the country. They always score in the top one percent in Iowa’s standardized test, not to mention the top honors in Math, Science, the Arts, and Sports.
“All that’s evidence that something good is happening here,” says Beall.
But this isn’t just a school thing. Roughly 25 percent of Fairfield’s population practices TM, including Mayor Ed Malloy who’s been practicing for 38 years.
“The science shows that there is an influence of reduction of crime and stress,” says Malloy.
A town that takes TM seriously.
“You have arrived right when people are first arriving for their meditation,” says resident Jim Mayhew.
Each day between four and five o’clock the cars and the people start to arrive, joining together in large numbers for meditation groups. This is the end result of that rush hour traffic—a parking lot full of cars, their owners meditating inside these golden domes. It’s a town like no other, and the people who practice TM say what they do inside these domes helps create change. And it all started here, at the school where consciousness-based learning is helping to shape tomorrow’s leaders.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child and I couldn’t imagine a better village,” says student Caroline Fulcher.
(A great village it is indeed.) Now Transcendental Meditation has become so popular that other schools across the country are now implementing the program for its students. As for Fairfield, there’s plenty to do there, and if you haven’t been already, they sure would like to see you.
In the studio, Kelsey Minor, FOX 28 News at Nine/CBS 2 News.
Links to see this news report on FOX 28 News at Nine: http://www.kgan.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kgan_vid_11222.shtml, and on YouTube for CBS 2 News at Ten, which includes introductory comments by the news anchors: http://youtu.be/FZdOStcEkC4.
Related stories on Fairfield: Video segments of Oprah’s Next Chapter on OWN: Oprah Visits Fairfield, Iowa—“TM Town”—America’s Most Unusual Town | The Iowan: Sizing Up Small Towns: Rethinking Success in Rural Iowa: Fairfield Thinks Inclusively | The Cultural Oasis of The Midwest: Fairfield, Iowa | Finding peace in Fairfield by Diane Vance