Earlier this month, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eddie Vedder, Donovan, Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper, Moby, Bettye Lavette, Paul Horn, and Jim James – with the help of filmmaker David Lynch and the David Lynch Foundation – came together to host a benefit concert dubbed “Change Begins Within” to help raise money for the Transcendental Meditation (TM) training of millions of at-risk children.
I’m a fan of meditation, but until very recently knew pretty much nothing about TM, so I decided to do some lightweight research.
So…what exactly is Transcendental Meditation?
According to the official website of The Transcendental Meditation Program:
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple, natural, effortless process practiced 15–20 minutes twice daily while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. It is unique among techniques of meditation, distinguished by its effortlessness, naturalness and profound effectiveness.
The TM technique allows your mind to settle inward, beyond thought, to experience the silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence found within everyone—a natural state of restful alertness. During the practice, your brain functions with significantly greater coherence and your body gains deep rest.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the technique in 1958, and since then it’s acquired a colorful history. In the late 1980s the Cult Awareness Network claimed TM aimed to strip people of the ability to think and make decisions for themselves, and during the same decade Robert Kropinski filed a civil lawsuit claiming TM caused emotional, psychological, and physical damage (United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Civil Suit #85-2848, 1986). Two more lawsuits were filed in the 2000s claiming TM can cause harm to people with psychiatric problems.
Maharishi even “banned” the practice of TM in the UK for two years, lifting the ban only when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister.
Still, and unbeknownst to me until now, TM is gaining some serious popularity as a method for school children. The David Lynch Foundation has already provided over 60,000 students, teachers, and parents spanning America, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East with scholarships for learning the method – which, according to some reports, might start adding some brighter colors to TM’s history:
If you think this is all some sort of Mellow Yellow celebrity Magical Mystery Tour, think again. Finding ways to alleviate debilitating stress in children is proving to be critically important. Federal researchers have found that by the time they reach six, poor children have twice the level of stress hormones in their body than other children their age. That physiologically-based stress leads to decreased concentration, impaired cognitive development and builds barriers to learning, mental flexibility and creativity. (www.stltoday.com)
If you want to learn more about what the David Lynch Foundation and the slue of celebs who participated in the concert are aiming to do with this campaign, you can watch the “Change Begins Within” national news conference. You also might want to check out a few of the other videos to learn more about the TM movement in general.
EDIT: Dr. Keith DeBoer commented below and left the link to his blog, Transcendental Meditation Technique. I highly recommend anyone who’d like to learn more about TM check it out.