Google describes Transcendental Meditation as “A technique for detaching oneself from anxiety and promoting harmony and self-realization by meditation and repetition of a mantra.”
In a Southeastern Iowa town, TM, or Transcendental Meditation®, is the method the Maharishi community eats, sleeps and breathes.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi developed the TM technique that the students of the Maharishi University of Management, a liberal arts school (M.U.M.), use everyday to decompress and get away from the stresses of college and everyday life.
Hannelore Clemenson, a 32-year-old student from Des Moines and single mother, has been a student for two years at MUM and practices TM daily.
Clemenson found Fairfield and TM by word of mouth. Her dance teacher suggested going to MUM and when she thought her son was missing out on “small town life” she made the trip to Fairfield and hasn’t left.
Clemenson said, “I came across this school ten years ago and it was always a possibility and something definitely different from all the other schools I had been to before. If I was going to go back to school with my son it was going to have to be a special place.”
The soft-spoken Clemenson said MUM provides students with a Consciousness-Based℠ education that helps get rid of fatigue and stress and keeps students awake in class. M.U.M. uses block scheduling, which means they have only one class a month and attend six days a week.
Clemenson said the classes are very hands on, which allows her to pursue music depending on which class she has that particular month. With the block scheduling, students take one class for an entire month, allowing them to do more in-depth projects.
Class is only part of the MUM college experience. Clemenson, along with the rest of the M.U.M. students, are required to take a six-week course that introduces the students to Maharishi’s knowledge. In the second week, students are taught how to meditate and learn the proper technique of meditation. Students are required to meditate for 20 minutes before coming to their morning class, and after their morning class is completed they do a ten-minute meditation, which Clemenson said is very helpful.
“That’s really benefited me, even though it’s not a full meditation. I have a lot of stomach problems, so when I started meditating before I went to eat it helped soothe me,” Clemenson said.
When the afternoon classes end around 2:45 p.m., students take a break and attend their second full meditation together.
Clemenson said, “It’s a really nice way to unwind and shake your eyes from the computer screen. It’s just 20 minutes, twice a day, it’s the most incredible thing. I’ve noticed it’s changed me little by little. All these things have improved; the way I operate, the way I think and react to things, it’s just happened and I’m grateful everyday that I do this.”
Clemenson said, “Learning TM was the best thing that’s happened to me; it’s sweet to have that be a part of everybody’s life.”
AHEAD OF ITS TIME
Have you ever been in a building that creates more energy then it uses? Or in a building that is held up by tree logs and made entirely of Earth blocks? It’s unlikely because many of us haven’t been to Fairfield, Iowa to visit Lawrence Gamble and his Sustainable Living Center.
The Sustainable Living Center on the Maharishi campus is a classroom, a workshop and an office building, all while not leaving behind a carbon footprint.
On a sunny day, the center will generate ten or twenty times more power than what is actually used and on an annual basis, the building produces 30% more than what they use, for not only electricity, but for heating and cooling as well. The building has produced 3,000 more kilowatts than what it’s used.
The building is one of a kind, made entirely of earth blocks that were formed by former M.U.M. students and large tree logs that support the building. Everything in the building is all-natural.
The paint that goes on these earth blocks is made of sand, chopped straw and cow manure which helps everything stick together. The building is heated by a flow of water running throughout the entire center and is lit only by strategically placed windows. In classrooms, the desks that students sit in are hand-made from wood.
Gamble, the Curriculum Director for the Department of Sustainable Living, said, “A large percentage of energy in a building like this is for lighting, and there are environmental consequences for building solar panels and wind generators, so we want to use that energy really wisely.”
Gamble continued by saying the classrooms stay lit by, “Putting the windows in the right places.” The building has taller windows that allow more light to enter and the main corridor is designed to let light in.
Gamble said, “In our program, what we are designed to do is give students the skills to be successful in a world that doesn’t exist yet. We are giving them a way of looking at the world with a new set of eyes, and we are trying to give them a broad perspective.”
Sustainable Living Programs are comparable to environmental science classes, and the area that M.U.M. and Gamble decided to focus on was environmental problem solving.
“We rolled our sleeves up and got right to work asking ourselves what are the practical things we can start doing now,” Gamble said. “The development of consciousness, which is kind of the central unique feature of M.U.M., is essential to this whole process.”
Another feature to the Sustainable Living Center is the Greenhouse or student lounge. The windows in the Greenhouse face south and this is one of the main ways the building is heated. Solar panels sit on top of the Greenhouse and provide shade in the summertime. With the sun’s position in the summer, the panels shade the windows so that the building does not get unnecessary heat, keeping the building cool.
Gamble said, “We like to do a lot of project based learning. I’ve taken kids to an island off the coast of Alaska.”
He said that him as well as a group of students over a period of years, helped setup solar powered energy in an Alaskan Village.
The students that worked on that project learned how to install solar panels and when they returned they started their own company. Last year, they sold a million dollars worth of solar panels.
Gamble, as well as every other professor at M.U.M. believes TM is essential for a student to fully maximize their potential in the classroom.
Gamble said, “Transcendental Meditation has such a simple way of allowing your mind to settle down, get deep rest and have that experience of being inside you that everything in nature is connected. Then when you come out of that meditation and you study sustainable living, you are intellectually exploring how everything is connected.”
Transcendental Meditation, TM, benefits more than studying habits. According to tm.org, the techniques help develop the brain and increase creativity and intelligence while improving decision making and problem solving skills.
THE BRAIN OF TM
Dr. Fred Travis, Director for the Center of Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at M.U.M. studies the brain to understand consciousness.
Travis said, “The brain is the interface between us and the world. The brain is a way that allows us to actually see the world and interact with the world.”
Travis, who taught at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, said M.U.M. is different from other places he’s taught at.
“It’s quite unlike any other place,” Travis said. “The students don’t have their heads on the table, they keep you on your toes with very challenging questions.”
Travis said that when the brain is stressed and tired, it doesn’t allow you to take in as much information as it would if you were rested and aware. By adding TM it opens the student’s mind and brain to an entirely new way of thinking.
Travis observed that stress takes frontal executive circuits off line and so keeps students from being able to see larger implications of what they are learning. He noticed that the students he taught at Iowa Wesleyan were are able to follow the lecture, but he couldn’t tell them everything that he knew.
“What you would be giving them is very much superficial, facts and how the facts relate,” Travis said. “The more fundamental ideas of underlying principles and how this relates to the meaning of life and how it relates to the environment, you can’t go into that because they don’t have the framework to take it in.”
Travis believes that the scheduling at M.U.M. plays a major role in how the students succeed in the classroom.
“At M.U.M., students take one class at a time. Instead of juggling two or three courses at once, you can focus on one subject,” Travis said. “The part of your brain used when you focus is the memory center. The part of the brain during multitasking is that part of your brain that has to do with sequencing.”
Travis said, “TM practice adds another engine to learning. Learning requires localized areas of the brain to function. In contrast, TM practice is a process of transcending and the brain is restful and alert as suggested by global alpha brain coherence.”
With regular TM practice, these brain changes are seen during a person’s daily activity after meditation practice. This gives a new platform to see the world. You are more awake, and more alert.
Writers Joey Aguirre & Stephanie Ivankovich Designer Allie McFayden Photographer Stephanie Ivankovich
I asked Fred Travis to revise his quotes to appear closer to what he said. – Ken Chawkin
See this article from Drake University journalism honor students: Students find their centers at Maharishi.