Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Physician recommends wider use of evidence-based mind-body interventions for prisoners

February 1, 2017

Medical doctor calls for mind-body approaches to help prisoners reduce stress, trauma, and recidivism

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A group of female inmates practicing Transcendental Meditation experienced significant reductions in trauma symptoms compared to a control group. Photo credit: The Oregon Department of Corrections*

A randomized study published online January 17, 2017 in The Permanente Journal on 22 female prisoners found that those practicing Transcendental Meditation for four months had significant reductions in total trauma symptoms compared with a control group. And a similar study in the same journal published October 7, 2016, involving 181 male prisoners found a 47% reduction in total trauma symptoms compared to a non-meditating control group.

In an editorial, published February 1, 2017 to accompany the two studies on Transcendental Meditation in their Winter 2017 print edition, Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP, a clinician and researcher with Kaiser Permanente, called for wider use of evidence-based mind-body interventions for prisoners.

Advantages of mind-body interventions for prisoners

Dr. Elder cited many of the advantages of these interventions.

Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP

Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP

“Mind-body interventions can provide the patient with a simple self-help tool that can effectively reduce anxiety, help treat substance abuse, reduce inmate recidivism, and help address a range of medical conditions,” he wrote, citing research on Transcendental Meditation that supports these benefits.

In addition to these benefits, he points out that a mind-body intervention can be cost-effective. Since Transcendental Meditation has been shown to reduce recidivism — the percentage of inmates returning to prison after their release — it can save money that would otherwise be spent on incarceration. And, he points out, a prisoner who becomes a productive member of society provides an economic benefit, instead of a deficit.

Rebecca Pak of The Women’s Prison Association agrees with Dr. Elder, “The results inside correctional facilities and schools with Transcendental Meditation have been simply astounding. If we shifted our focus from punitive responses to interventions designed to improve mental and physical health, we would have much greater impact.”

Convenience of mind-body interventions

Dr. Elder also describes the convenience of mind-body approaches.

“Once taught the technique, an individual can use the skill for the duration of his or her life, as a stress management tool, providing ongoing benefits across a range of domains…. In addition to helping the inmate cope with the stress of incarceration, there is a range of additional ‘side benefits,’ ranging from reduced recidivism to improved cardiovascular health.”

He says a trained instructor can take Transcendental Meditation directly to the prisoners, rather than their going to a clinic or meditation center. And direct personal instruction is better than trying to learn a mind-body intervention online, since many may be unable or unwilling to engage an online format.

Effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation

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Sanford Nidich, EdD, lead author

Led by Sanford Nidich, EdD, Director of the Maharishi University of Management Center for Social and Emotional Health, the two recent studies published by The Permanente Journal were conducted at three prisons in Oregon. The hypothesis was that Transcendental Meditation would help prisoners deal with serious trauma and stress. Surveys have shown that prisoners have one of the highest rates of lifetime trauma of any segment of society, with 85% having been a victim of a crime-related event, such as robbery or home invasion, or physical or sexual abuse.

This trauma leads to stress and poor lifestyle choices, including crime and substance abuse. In addition to these recent studies, earlier ones have found that Transcendental Meditation helps inmates deal with trauma and stress and reduces recidivism. Here is a sampling, with some listed in the editorial:

• 2017 — the study described above that found reduced trauma in female prisoners in Oregon

• 2016 — the study mentioned above that found a 47% reduction in total trauma symptoms in male prisoners in Oregon over the course of the four-month study, including a reduction in anxiety, depression, dissociation, and sleep disturbance, as well as a significant decrease in perceived stress

• 2003 — A study of 17 subjects at La Tuna federal penitentiary in Texas showed a reduction on the MMPI psychasthenia scale, suggesting a reduction in obsessive–compulsive behavior, and a decrease in social introversion.

• 2003 — A retrospective followup on 152 inmates who had learned Transcendental Meditation at Walpole prison in Massachusetts found that these inmates were 33% less likely to have returned to prison after 30 days compared to a control group that participated in counseling, drug rehabilitation and religious activities, and 47% less likely compared to all non-meditating control subjects.

• 2003 — A retrospective analysis of 248 inmates at Folsom State Prison used Cox regression analysis to calculate that prisoners who learn Transcendental Meditation are 43.5% less likely to return to prison.

• 1987 — A study of 259 inmates who had learned Transcendental Meditation at several different prisons in California found that they were 40% less likely to have returned to prison one year after release compared to matched controls, and 30% less likely after six years.

• 1978 — A study of 115 inmates at Folsom Prison in California found a reduction in anxiety, negativism, and suspicions, as well as improved sleep.

“The overall body of research suggests that Transcendental Meditation could be used more widely to help prisoners deal with trauma and stress,” said Dr. Nidich, lead author of the recent studies conducted at Oregon prisons.

Source: Mind-Body Training for At-Risk Populations: Preventive Medicine at its Best.

About the Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) is a simple, natural technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. The TM technique is easy to learn and enjoyable to practice, and is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. Unlike other forms of meditation, TM practice involves no concentration, no control of the mind, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts. It automatically and effortlessly allows the active thinking mind to settle down to a state of deep inner calm. For more information visit www.tm.org.

*Photo: The Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon.

MarketWired: Medical doctor calls for mind-body approaches to help prisoners reduce stress, trauma, and recidivism

Related posts: New study shows Transcendental Meditation reduces trauma symptoms in female prisoners and Transcendental Meditation reduced stress and trauma symptoms in male prisoners in 4 months

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally M Peden

January 17, 2017
Sally Peden - 1992

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

A repost celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden, which includes descriptions of her peaceful and graceful transition, memorial service, and Vedic cremation ceremony. Many beautiful tributes were added that give a glimpse of how special she was. Included is a poem I wrote about Sali’s passing, and descriptions of the auspicious times of her death, and spreading of her ashes in India’s holy Narmada River. May she reside in the highest heaven.

Source: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times 

New study shows Transcendental Meditation reduces trauma symptoms in female prisoners

January 17, 2017

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The first study to specifically focus on reducing stress in female prisoners has found that Transcendental Meditation significantly reduces trauma symptoms. Women have become the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., and research shows they suffer from higher rates of mental and emotional trauma, and higher rates of sexual abuse than men. This randomized controlled trial, published in The Permanente Journal, follows a recent study on reduced trauma in male inmates through Transcendental Meditation.

Significant reduction in trauma

The results showed that after four months of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, the women inmates in the meditation group had significant reductions in total trauma symptoms, including intrusive thoughts and hyperarousal compared with controls. Trauma symptoms were measured using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian (PCL-C).

‘This study is a valuable addition to the research literature in women’s mental health, showing a natural and effortless alternative approach to reducing trauma symptoms,” said lead author Dr. Sanford Nidich, director of the Center for Social and Emotional Health at Maharishi University of Management. “It further replicates an earlier randomized controlled trial with Transcendental Meditation (TM) in male prison inmates suffering from high levels of trauma symptoms. Previous studies have shown reduced trauma in other populations, including veterans and African refugees with the TM program.”

Comments from the subjects

Those practicing Transcendental Meditation in their prison cells said they felt a lot better—less stressed, with a greater sense of inner freedom and resilience. Read some of the dramatic changes in their own words, and more details about this study in the press release.

The study was funded by the David Lynch Foundation.

Expanding preventive medicine to include mind-body approaches

In addition to the study on TM, the January 2017 issue of The Permanente Journal includes a companion editorial by Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP, titled, “Mind-Body Training for At-Risk Populations: Preventative Medicine at its Best.”

According to Charles Elder, MD, Kaiser Permanente, Northwest, “A principle advantage of the TM technique is a time-tested, standardized intervention protocol…. Once taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, an individual can use the skill for the duration of his or her life, as a stress management tool, providing ongoing benefits across a range of domains. In addition to helping the inmate cope with the stress of incarceration, there is a range of additional ‘side benefits,’ ranging from reduced recidivism to improved cardiovascular health.”

Related: See this recent study explaining how and why Transcendental Meditation is effortless, distinguishing it from other practices.

Transcendental Meditation reduced stress and trauma symptoms in male prisoners in 4 months

January 1, 2017

Prisoners have one of the highest rates of lifetime trauma of any segment of society, with recent surveys showing that 85% have been a victim of a crime-related event, such as robbery or home invasion, or physical or sexual abuse. Trauma is associated with higher rates of recidivism (returning to prison) and mental and physical health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

A randomized controlled trial of 181 male Oregon state correctional inmates found that the Transcendental Meditation program significantly decreased total trauma symptoms, anxiety, depression, dissociation and sleep disturbance subscales, and perceived stress compared to controls over a four-month period. Trauma symptoms and perceived stress were assessed using the Trauma Symptoms Checklist and the Perceived Stress Scale.

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Within the TM group, a 47% reduction in total trauma symptoms was observed over the course of the four-month study. Further post-hoc analysis showed a 56% reduction within the TM group for those with the highest level of trauma symptoms above the mean in baseline trauma scores.

Compliance with TM practice was high. Of those randomized to learn the TM program, 88% completed the initial seven-step TM course (total of five sessions) and over 80% were regular with their daily TM practice over the course of the four-month study, which included weekly meetings to ensure continued correct effortless practice.

“To date this is the largest randomized controlled trial with the Transcendental Meditation program on trauma symptoms,” said Dr. Nidich, lead author of the study and director of Maharishi University of Management Center for Social and Emotional Health. “These findings, along with previous published research on veterans, active military personnel, international refugees, and other at-risk populations provide support for the value of the Transcendental Meditation program as an alternative treatment for posttraumatic stress.”

“I have watched inmates learn Transcendental Meditation and become more human after a long and isolating period of becoming less human,” said study co-author Dr. Tom O’Conner, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Western Oregon University. “TM helps to awaken, deepen, and solidify the kind of transformational process that we so badly need in our overburdened and costly correctional system.”

The study, Reduced trauma symptoms and perceived stress in male prison inmates through the Transcendental Meditation program: A randomized controlled trial, was published in The Permanente Journal, and funded by the David Lynch Foundation

Read more valuable information about this study in the press release, from where this content was excerpted, on EurekAlert!/AAAS.

NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101089/

Another study, this one done with female prisoners, also in Oregon, will be published later this month.

How and why Transcendental Meditation is effortless, distinguishing it from other practices

December 31, 2016

imageStudents at Maharishi University of Management practice the effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation twice a day on campus. This study involved 87 students who had been practicing TM from one month to five years. Credit: Maharishi University of Management

As the value of meditation becomes widely recognized, researchers are increasingly trying to understand the differences among approaches. A new study published in Brain and Cognition reports subjective experiences and cortical activation patterns that distinguish the Transcendental Meditation technique from other meditation practices.

It seems TM is able to easily activate the Default Mode Network (DMN), a deeper more integrated structure in the brain, when other types of meditation requiring some form of effort turn it off.

For a clearer explanation of how and why the TM technique is effortless, and can be easily learned and practiced by anyone, with immediate results, read this report: Research validates the defining hallmark of Transcendental Meditation—effortlessness.

For more information on Maharishi University of Management, visit www.mum.edu, and Transcendental Meditation, www.tm.org.

An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times

December 28, 2016

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally Monroe Peden

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

Sally M. Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

This photo of Sali was taken in the summer of 1992, about a year before we would meet. She arrived to register us for a large advanced meditation course in Washington, DC. When Sali came up to me to ask my name and check it on her list, two thoughts immediately entered my mind: Too bad I just got married again; Too bad she’s on Mother Divine (a course for single women). Our lives would drastically change—my second marriage would end and I would eventually return to Canada, later leave to join Purusha (a course for single men) and travel the world; she would leave her way of life and end up at MUM in Fairfield, Iowa working for John Hagelin’s ISTPP and the NLP. We would meet there 10 years later in the fall of 2003, as if for the first time. A beautiful friendship would grow and transform our lives, a story worth writing one day.

Sally M. Peden, passed peacefully and gracefully on Saturday, October 1, 2016, 11:17pm, during the evening of the first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony were held on Wednesday, October 5, 2016, at the Behner Funeral Home in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

Sali had devoted her life in personal service to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi since 1971. She traveled the world with him as a personal assistant and lived for many years at the International Capital for the Transcendental Meditation movement in Seelisberg, Switzerland working on many important projects. Sali was very humble, the sign of a great soul. She accomplished untold tasks for Maharishi, which pleased him, but never felt the need to draw attention to herself, just pure dynamic devoted service.

Many emails from around the world poured in praising Sali. I’ll reference a few here.

Sheila Chalmers had worked closely with Sali at International on several projects. In her tribute to Sali, which was read aloud, Sheila described Sali’s brilliant mind, amazingly focussed work ethic, and how much she learned from her.

Emily Levin, a close friend of Sali’s, sent this wonderful tribute to Sali, which was also read aloud. Maharishi had paired them up early on, and Emily shines a glorious light on Sali and their fun-filled friendship.

Some other people who used to work with Sali spoke at her Memorial Service. Alarik Arenander, a neuroscientist from the early days of Maharishi Eureopean Research University in Seelisberg, described an incident when they were recording an EEG of a meditating subject. Maharishi happened to enter the lab with an important guest. The scientists showed Maharishi the EEG brainwaves being printed out from the moving ink pens. Maharishi asked, “What is that?” Researchers again explained the brainwaves. After asking several times, since the researchers were not ‘getting it,’ Maharishi pulled apart the long ream of neatly folded EEG paper emphatically pointing to the long non-fluctuating line at the bottom below the EEG. The researchers had an ‘aha’ moment when they examined the breath rate signal, which indicated extended periods of no breathing. They had been looking to find a marker for transcending in meditation and there it was, right in front of them, unnoticed, until Maharishi pointed it out. Sali was meditating in the next room, and it was her clear orderly mind and refined nervous system that brought out the understanding of breath suspension during Transcendental Meditation as an indicator of transcendence! That, along with the orderliness of coherent brain functioning producing relaxed alpha waves. The rest is history!

Gerry Geer, an MUM faculty member and ISTPP director of publications, described her extraordinary personality and some of the amazing things she had accomplished early on in her career. Gerry first met Sali around 1970 when he dropped into the Cambridge TM Center to find out what it was all about. She inspired him to learn TM and to become a teacher. Decades later they would work together at the ISTPP. Read Gerry Geer’s tribute to Sali. In it he mentions a very special incident he witnessed between her and Maharishi. It speaks volumes!

Valerie Gangas, a friend and author, posted a personal reaction to that very special day celebrating Sali, and our relationship, on her blog: Life in Love with You. It was a powerful revelation for her! I am so thankful she wrote it. Also definitely worth reading!

Dying, Dharma and Devotion

In the weeks leading up to Sali’s transition, I was reading two books to her. The first was an enlightened description of the nearing death experience, clearly delineated by Kathleen Dowling Singh in her reassuring book, The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die. I believe this book prepared us for what was to come, to both let go and allow it to happen naturally.

Sali would soon be put back on Hospice for added care, and moved to a private room, which gave us the needed privacy for such an intimate experience. She would pass within a few days, at an auspicious time in the Vedic calendar.

The second book was The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic–Complete and Comprehensive, written by Linda Egenes, a friend, and Kumuda Reddy. It is an inspiring story as relevant today as it has been throughout the ages, of dharma, duty, triumphing over evil; enlightened leadership; and an ideal love between an evolved man and woman. Listening to that story kept our attention focused on something spiritually elevating during her final days.

I got as far as the end of Chapter 36, where Hanuman, after finding Sita, consoles and reassures her that Rama is preparing an army to free her from her abductor, Ravana, king of the rakshasas. This comes as a great relief to Sita who was at her lowest with no hope in sight.

For the previous two days and nights, Sali’s breathing pattern consisted of short quick breaths, in and out. It was at this point in the story that her breathing began to change. It became softer, slower, and then, stopped. I waited for another, very feeble attempt, then put one hand over her heart and the other on her head. Not finding any sign of life in the body, these words came into my mind: “It’s done. The karma is over.” With a sense of relief and finality, I said: “Peace, Peace, Shanti, Shanti,” and lovingly kissed her forehead, our last goodbye. I felt a profound peacefulness deep within me, which I could not fully comprehend. The answer would come later, in a word, while meditating in India, where I wrote this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

As promised, I did continue reading the rest of The Ramayana to Sali, wherever she might be, that evening and the following morning, finishing it at the funeral home, after they had picked up her body and brought it there. Her memorial and cremation would take place a few days later, still within the auspicious Nine Days.

Narmada River, Brahmasthan, Atirudrabhishek

At the luncheon in Revelations following Sali’s cremation, one of our friends, Sheila Ross, suggested I take the cremains to the holy Narmada River, where some of Maharishi’s ashes had been placed. She said it was also close to the Brahmasthan, geographic center of India, where meditation courses were being held, and thousands of Maharishi Vedic Pandits were reciting Atirudrabhishek, an ancient Vedic performance to create world peace.

At the invitation of my family, I did go to India, a little over a month after Sali’s cremation, to spread her ashes from a boat at that location near the Gwari Ghat. It turned out to be during a most auspicious time—a celebration of the holy day of Kartika Poornimah, November 14, 2016, also known as Devi Dipavali, the Festival of Lights of the Gods—one of the most spiritually significant days in the Vedic calendar, during the biggest full moon in 70 years, the supermoon! Truly befitting someone of Sali’s spiritual merit.

Staying at the Brahmasthan afterwards for three weeks was healing for me. It was a powerful and blissful experience visiting the Maharishi Vedic Pandits in their large meditation hall, listening to them perform their Vedic recitations! You can sample some of them in these eCards, enhanced with audios, videos and slideshows.

To get an example of Sali’s sweetness and our special relationship, see this previous post from December 8, 2016—Capturing an authentic moment in writing—about Being with Sali on August 1, 2012, during another full moon.

I am so thankful for the support of our families, the Slusers, Kaplans, Mitchells, and Petch Peden and Robert Harper, and for many of our friends who helped handle so many details, especially Kate Ross and Jennifer Hamilton! I also appreciate acupuncturist Sarah Brooks, the staff at Parkview Care Center and Hospice Compassus for their tireless care of Sali, and sometimes me.

Enjoy some of the Zen Poetry of Ryōkan

July 3, 2016

Zen Poet RyōkanA friend loaned me a copy of Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf, Zen Poems of Ryōkan, translated by John Stevens. A delightful little book, his poems are deceptively simple, yet go straight to the heart. A Zen master, Ryōkan was also considered one of the greatest calligraphers of all time in East Asia. Living as a hermit, he spent much of his time writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and communing with nature.

The Translator’s Introduction ends with this sage advice from the poet:

Good friends and excellent teachers—
Stick close to them!
Wealth and power are fleeting dreams
But wise words perfume the world for ages.

Ryōkan’s poems are pure, honest, direct. Here are a few beauties that caught my attention as I read them aloud to Sali.

It’s a pity, a gentleman in refined retirement
……….composing poetry:
He models his work on the classic verse of China,
And his poems are elegant, full of fine phrases.
But if you don’t write of things deep inside your own
……….heart,
What’s the use of churning out so many words?

 —————

In the stillness by the empty window
I sit in formal meditation wearing my monk’s surplice.
Navel and nose in alignment,
Ears parallel with the shoulders.
Moonlight floods the room;
The rain stops but the eaves drip and drip.
Perfect this moment—
In the vast emptiness, my understanding deepens.

—————

At night, deep in the mountains,
I sit in meditation.
The affairs of men never reach here:
Everything is quiet and empty,
All the incense has been swallowed up by the endless
……….night.
My robe has become a garment of dew.
Unable to sleep, I walk into the woods—
Suddenly, above the highest peak, the full moon
……….appears.

—————

When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.

—————

The Lotus

First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
Its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it rises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.

—————

Bamboo

The thick bamboo grove near my hut
Keeps me nice and cool.
Shoots proliferate, blocking the path,
While old branches reach for the sky.
Years of frost give bamboo spirit;
They are most mysterious when wrapped in mist.
Bamboo is as hardy as pine and oak,
And more subtle than peach or plum blossoms.
It grows straight and tall,
Empty inside but with a sturdy root.
I love the purity and honesty of my bamboo,
And want them to thrive here always!

—————

Leave off your mad rush for gold and jewels—
I’ve got something far more precious for you:
A bright pearl that sparkles more brilliantly than the
……….sun and moon
And illuminates each and every eye.
Lose it and you’ll wallow in a sea of pain;
Find it and you’ll safely reach the other shore.
I’d freely present this treasure to anyone
But hardly anyone asks for it.

—————

Keep your heart clear and transparent
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought, though,
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Let myriad things captivate you
And you’ll go further and further astray.
How painful to see people
All wrapped up in themselves.

—————

I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deep despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world
……….suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.

—————

Even if you consume as many books
As the sands of the Ganges
It is not as good as really catching
One verse of Zen.
If you want the secret of Buddhism,
Here it is: Everything is in the Heart!

—————

Chanting old poems,
Making our own verses,
Playing with a cloth ball,
Together in the fields—
Two people, one heart.

The breeze is fresh,
The moon so bright—
Together
Let’s dance until dawn
As a farewell to my old age.

See some of Ryōkan’s quotes at goodreads. Here’s one I liked:

“In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same. What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.”
Ryokan

Here is a goodreads description of his life introducing Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan.

Five great articles on #TranscendentalMeditation in The Quad-Cities Online @Dispatch_Argus

July 1, 2016

Here is a series of five stories exploring Transcendental Meditation written by Jackie Chesser and published in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Click the titles to see each one of them online with photos at QCOnline. Or click Dispatch-Argus-May 2016 articles to see a PDF of them all together, courtesy of The Dispatch/Argus.

May 14, 2016: Transcendental Meditation could improve your life

May 15, 2016: Transcendental Meditation a lifesaver for vets with PTSD

May 15, 2016: Q-C instructors are passionate about Transcendental Meditation

May 16, 2016: Transcendental Meditation pays off in the classroom

May 17, 2016: ‘It has been a godsend!’: Q-C people talk about Transcendental Meditation

Fairfield, Iowa, TM and MUM make national news

June 10, 2016

Many articles have come out in praise of Fairfield, Iowa. Two and a half years ago, Rox Laird, The Des Moines Register’s editorial columnist, published an Opinion piece, Fairfield defines community action, on the city’s civic collaboration and Maharishi University’s Sustainable Living Center. The Smithsonian named Fairfield 7th out of 20 best small towns to visit that year. BuzzFeed named Fairfield one of the coolest small towns in America. And The Iowan had published an article on how Fairfield thinks inclusively creating rural success in Iowa.

I like to think the positive outcome of this latest article on Fairfield, TM and MUM, by Kevin Hardy in The Des Moines Register and the  USA TODAY NETWORK, resulted from a phone call I received on my birthday.

In April, I went to visit my son Nathanael at his new home in the Santa Barbara Riviera. For lunch he took me to The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, a well-known outdoor restaurant on the beach by the ocean. While waiting for our food to arrive, an unknown number called my cellphone. It was Kevin Hardy. He told me he covered business, labor and the economy for the Des Moines Register, and was researching why some towns in Iowa were thriving while many were losing population and failing economically. Then he said something that surprised me.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fairfield was Iowa’s fastest-growing city among cities of a similar size. Kevin wanted to know what role I thought Maharishi University of Management had played in the demographic and economic growth of Fairfield.

In addition to some of the longtime established businesses, I  gave him an historical overview how hundreds of meditators came from all over the US and Canada after MIU had moved to town from the mid-1970s onwards. Many would stay and relocate their businesses or start new ones. Also told him about today’s younger entrepreneurs, the new successful ventures they started, and gave him a list of people and companies to visit and interview.

Kevin Hardy and Register photographer/videographer Zach Boyden-Holmes really did their homework. They put together an impressive article that became a national success story! It is reproduced here with permission.  See the full article with 14 photos taken May 9, 2016 by Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register. I added links for more information.

Why this Iowa town is thriving when so many aren’t
By Kevin Hardy, June 1, 2016

Click here or on the image below to see a short video of Fairfield entrepreneurs. (1:20)

Fairfield out-performed all of the state’s 15 micropolitan areas in terms of population growth between 2010 and 2015.

FAIRFIELD, Ia. – Take a walk around this town’s bustling square and you’ll see an array of businesses that would rival some shopping malls.

On one corner sits a coffee shop that roasts its own beans in house. Down the block is a store specializing in sustainable children’s clothing and toys. Along another strip, there’s a women’s boutique, a Verizon store and a nutrition company.

The town’s retail center also is home to a salon, a consignment store, a furniture store and an art gallery. Just off the square is a pet spa, a natural remedy store and a photography studio. And for those looking for a bite to eat: a Thai restaurant, an Indian cafe, an Italian spot and a joint peddling pizza and steak.

In fact, local officials count only one vacancy in the storefronts that line shady Central Park. It’s just one more sign of success in this town of 9,500 in a state where most small cities and rural areas are seeing residents leave.

Since 1969, census data show Iowa’s metropolitan areas have gained nearly a half million people, while smaller cities and rural places have lost more than 171,000 residents.

But Fairfield has prospered, particularly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015, the city saw a 4 percent population gain – a rate that rivaled the growth of some of Iowa’s much larger metro areas.

This southeast Iowa city is known as a magnet for practitioners of Transcendental Meditation at Maharishi University of Management, who flocked here since the 1970’s. Fairfield was able to capitalize on that unique niche, building a surprisingly metropolitan quality of life.

While Fairfield is home to 1,000 fewer jobs than it had 15 years ago, state figures show employers have rebounded in the last five years, adding nearly 700 jobs between 2010 and 2015. During that time, Fairfield went from 714 employers to 751, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

“We have a great quality-of-life culture and an entrepreneurial culture,” said Mayor Ed Malloy. “And we see it is allowing more young people to put down roots in this community.”

Around town, there is no shortage of small-city staples like Casey’s General Store and Pizza Ranch, though Fairfield is better known for its funky coffee houses, shops and restaurants. Locals claim the city is home to more restaurants per capita than San Francisco.

Yet the place that Oprah Winfrey dubbed “America’s most unusual town” is more than just quirky. It’s one of the few nonmetropolitan areas in Iowa posting strong population growth, according to U.S. Census figures. And around town, evidence abounds that Fairfield has done what so many small cities in the Midwest struggle to achieve: attract and retain people.

Troy with MUM Solar Array

Troy Van Beek stands in front of a solar power array his company Ideal Energy installed at the Maharishi University in Fairfield Monday, May 9, 2016. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

TM’s long effect
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Transcendental Meditation, or TM, in India in the 1950’s.

But he brought his technique and “Consciousness-Based education” to Iowa in 1974, when Maharishi International University moved from Santa Barbara, Calif., to the 1 million empty square feet vacated by Parsons College in Fairfield. (The university later changed its name to Maharishi University of Management.)

While some in the community resisted the influx of meditators, locals say most of those tensions were alleviated years ago.

“As time has gone on, everybody’s meshed seamlessly,” said local designer Linda Pettit.

Pettit, who with her husband owns Finishing Touch interior design, has watched Fairfield thrive over the last 32 years from her storefront on the town square. She ticks off quality-of-life improvements such as a new pool and new recreation center.

She boasts about the many restaurants. And she tells of all the new and unusual businesses that have opened.

“We have a very vibrant community,” she said. “I think a lot of small towns don’t have the diversity that we do.”

Pettit hears about layoffs at plants in nearby Ottumwa. She knows how Iowa farmers are struggling with low commodity prices. But she said that isn’t Fairfield’s storyline.

Her business works on residential and commercial projects. But she’s noticed a slant toward more commercial projects in recent years, as new businesses pop up and old ones invest in upgrades.

“It’s a great place to have a business,” she said.

Iowa’s ‘Silicorn Valley’
Over the years, many TM practitioners and others who visited Fairfield decided to stay.

Once here, they had to find a way to make a living. Some Fairfield residents drive to Ottumwa or Iowa City for work. But many have started small businesses in Fairfield, which has been called “Silicorn Valley” for its mixture of tech startups and entrepreneurial ventures.

“People moved here and they had to figure out how to stay here,” said David Navarrete, spokesman for Sky Factory.

The 38-employee company was founded in 2002 by Bill Witherspoon, an artist who moved to Fairfield for its TM community. A serial entrepreneur, he formed Sky Factory as a means of supporting his family. It creates window and ceiling panels that recreate outdoor views like those of a blue sky or a beachfront.

Sky Factory’s biggest clients are health care providers, as research shows even a simulated view of the outdoors can boost moods for those trapped indoors.

“I think there’s definitely an entrepreneurial spirit here, and I think a lot of that comes from the university,” said Witherspoon’s son, Skye Witherspoon, now the company’s CEO.

Fairfield is also home to a surprising array of manufacturing.
Creative Edge makes intricate flooring for some of the world’s best known hotels, casinos, hospitals and universities. Bovard Studios makes and restores stained glass windows for churches across the country. And a host of businesses manufacture agricultural parts, iron castings, polyethylene piping and laundromat washers and dryers.

So many things are made in Fairfield that the Iowa Economic Development Authority will host an export conference here in the fall.

Fairfield’s biggest employers have grown in recent years, too.

Cambridge Investment Research now employs about 700 and boasts more than $70 billion in assets under its management.

Mixed signals
Like many small cities, some employers in Fairfield report trouble recruiting and hiring, especially with Iowa’s unemployment rate remaining below 4 percent.

Lori Schaefer-Wheaton, president of the 170-employee Agri-Industrial Plastics, said hiring is a struggle. She has 20 openings, a number that has held fairly constant over the last two years, she said.

Fairfield is an anomaly among small cities in Iowa, she said, but she thinks recent population growth is largely related to the university.

“That kind of population growth might show up on our census,” she said. “But I don’t think it changes the dynamics of the workforce in our town.”

Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson said Fairfield definitely out performs many similarly sized cities. But some signals are mixed: While some measures show recent job growth, other data actually point to employment losses, he said.

“They seem to be demonstrating both demographic and economic growth that stands out,” he said. “The big question is this a short term growth or is it sustainable?”

Natives return home
Meghan Dowd came to Fairfield as a child when her parents migrated here for the TM community.

She moved away for college, then ended up working in television in California.

From there, she visited her mom in Fairfield and realized it was going through a “renaissance,” with monthly art walks, a new events center and lots of cool coffee shops and restaurants. She moved back in 2009 and started Shaktea, a maker of kombucha, a trendy fermented drink.

In Fairfield, she says she can do just about anything she could in a metro city. Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy a home or start a business. (She also started Cado, an organic avocado-based ice cream, featured with a photo in the article and video.)

Her children attend a Waldorf-inspired preschool. And after yearning for a yoga studio, she just opened her own.

“A lot of people moved here, the kids grew up here, but then the kids wanted to go out into the world and experience different things,” Dowd said. “I think that happened and some of that is kind of boomeranging back to Fairfield.”

Jesse Narducci followed a similar path. He returned home to Fairfield a few years ago after living in Colorado and California for more than a decade. He opened Jefferson County Ciderworks just outside of town. He brews hard apple cider and runs a taproom featuring hard-to-find craft brews.

Narducci said many of Iowa’s smaller towns are undesirable places to live because they lack quality places to grab a meal or a drink out. Not Fairfield.

“You don’t have to drive to Iowa City to have a good ale or a good meal,” he said. “I don’t really leave that often. … I’m trying to create my own little paradise out here.”

(more…)

Norwich University, oldest private U.S. military college, benefits from Transcendental Meditation

May 10, 2016

Five years ago the Transcendental Meditation technique was introduced at Norwich University in Vermont, the oldest private military college in the U.S. They began with 30 cadets and now there are 300 at any given time practicing TM on campus.

Dave Zobeck, the TM teacher who began the program, which was funded by the David Lynch Foundation, has a permanent, full-time position teaching TM to cadets, faculty, and administrators at Norwich. Below is a David Lynch Foundation update with a new video report from DLFTV.

TM teacher Dave Zobeck and Norwich University President Dr. Richard Schneider .png

Dave Zobeck and Norwich University President Dr. Richard W. Schneider

Transcendental Meditation at Norwich University

Founded in 1819 near Montpelier, Vermont, Norwich University has educated young adults to become leaders in the community, in business and in the military. It has the distinction of being the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Transcendental Meditation (TM) was first introduced to Norwich in 2010 when the longtime donor and supporter Joan Andrews Prentice brought information about TM to Norwich University President Dr. Richard Schneider.

After reviewing articles and research from the David Lynch Foundation Dr. Schneider said, ”I was reluctant—skeptical—but the more I learned, the more confident I became.” After presentations from the David Lynch Foundation, he saw TM as a way to prevent stress and help with focusing and clearing the mind. He decided to be the first to learn TM saying, ”You have to lead from the front . . . ”

In collaboration with Norwich’s board of trustees, the university directors decided on a trial research project for TM. The idea of participating in the trial was presented to all incoming students and their parents in 2010. Thirty new students learned TM and thirty were in a non-meditating control group.

Group TM at Norwich U

For the TM group after learning, ”the reaction was dramatic,” says Dr. Schneider. A typical comment from a student on learning TM: ”After the first week of practicing it, you felt a difference, you felt calmer and much more aware of your surroundings, and you could focus.” Another said, ”TM is the greatest tool that I’ve had for stress-management and for keeping clarity in my life.” Since then the program has grown. Today Dr. Schneider says there are currently 300 TM participants at the University.

Major General (Ret.) Stephen Rippe, a member of the NU board of trustees, says, ”[TM practice] is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. You work out, you take care of your body, you do Transcendental Meditation, it helps you take care of your mind. The powerful part of that is that it actually, physiologically improves your brain functioning.”

Referring to their extremely full day, one young woman said that ”after I do TM, I just get it done instead of sitting around being overwhelmed by so much to do.”

improvement in psychological parameters in students.png

Psychology professor Dr. Carole Bandy reviewed scientific research showing overall improvement in psychological parameters in students, saying, ”constructive thinking, behavioral coping, and resilience all went up significantly.”

Staff and faculty are also practicing TM at Norwich University. As a student says, ”people here want to do what works—we see it as a tool that enables us to handle stress.” Dr. Schneider concludes, ”I think it should be made available to every college student.”

Copyright © David Lynch Foundation

Earlier Related News

The Norwich Guidon: Rooks experiment with meditation

Norwich University President Receives “Resilient Warrior Award” at National Veterans Summit in Washington, DC

Good Morning America anchor George Stphanopoulos interviews Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Roth on the importance of Transcendental Meditation for PTSD.

Read more reports about TM at Norwich University on their website.

A similar situation has occurred in medical education. See The first Transcendental Meditation elective course offered at a major US medical school.


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