Thursday, January 11, 2007

Transcendental Life

“John Lennon was shot because he began recording music again, despite Maharishi’s instructions to maintain a private life.” Randy explained one December morning following Lennon’s murder, while I aligned spiritual necklaces of brown rudraksha beads, coral and gemstones in our store’s golden display case. Randy’s devotion to Maharishi made him a reliable source of “higher knowledge.” Bizarre as that sounds to me now, in 1980 divine retribution for ignoring Maharishi’s vision seemed perfectly plausible.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, giggling guru to the Beatles was my parents’ spiritual Master. He and his Transcendental Meditation (TM) Movement influenced my family for forty years and three generations.

Secret initiation ceremonies honor Maharishi’s Master, Guru Dev, with chants of obeisance to a holy tradition mythically originating in Northern India. A new “Initiate” carries an offering of fruit, a white handkerchief, and fresh flowers for ritualized placement upon an altar during private meditation instruction. When teaching this “non religious method for rest and release of stress,” my parents explained, “Maharishi teaches this spiritual practice in scientific terms because we live in a scientific age. People will accept it that way. Through TM we connect with God inside ourselves in pursuit of Cosmic Consciousness.”

In padded white rooms we sat cross-legged upon sheets of high-density foam, provided for our protection when we dropped earthward after failed levitation attempts. When pressed down, the special foam rebounded us upward.

Devotees meditate together for four to eight hours daily inside San Francisco’s Maharishi Enlightenment Center and hallowed Golden Domes in Iowa, practicing secretive techniques for levitation, invincibility, and friendliness. Maharishi inspires personal enlightenment and world peace for all time. This begins with today’s introductory fee of $2500.00.

Maharishi always favored the wealthiest amongst us for their contributions. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Donovan, Gore Family (of Gore-Tex), Deepak Chopra, and other wealthy devotees generated global enlightenment partially through financing real estate for Maharishi Universities, Peace Palaces, herbal products and Peace Assemblies with thousands of meditators. TM instructors are “Governors” or “Ministers” of the Age of Enlightenment. Lofty golden-crowned Rajas are spiritually responsible for large geographic regions. TM’s spiritual communities exchange the “Raam” as legal tender for purchased goods, in addition to their nation’s legal currencies.

Believing with my well-intentioned loved ones, I watched devotees donate entire trust funds, become psychotic, and decline needed medical treatment in favor of Maharishi Ayur-Ved medicinals. A few committed suicide. They taught us that hardships were brought upon themselves. We never blamed over indulgence in trance-like meditation or a circuitous theology. After all, no one drank Kool-Aid.

“The world is as you visualize it. Meditate to perform spontaneous right action. You will do less and accomplish more until eventually you do nothing and accomplish everything from the source of unbounded pure awareness within.”

In 1998 my children and I left our mediation community to enter the real world, where parents are held accountable for child negligence and suicide motives are questioned. In the real world, no supreme authority holds the key to the universe. Young adults raised in the TM Movement continue to arrive to my San Rafael home, struggling to function outside their controlled Ayur-Vedic lifestyle. We alternately laugh and cry over shared histories, incomprehensible to outsiders.

One recent October evening in San Rafael, my heart raced while sitting in my children’s Terra Linda High School auditorium listening to a sophisticated presentation for a new stress reduction program being piloted locally. The David Lynch Foundation granted over two hundred thousand dollars to create a Transcendental Meditation club in Terra Linda High School.

My former community unfolded in film clips of TM’s Iowa community. I gasped to see my friend teaching at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. I was her maid of honor; she is my son’s godmother. My friend’s Maharishi teaching job offers no medical benefits; she cannot survive on the stipend they pay her. She had confided her fears about speaking her mind, lest her beloved community ostracize her. Her son had recently spent a weekend with me, preparing to enter the outside world. Warm accepting folks in San Francisco shocked him. He had learned that outsiders “live in ignorance.”

At the high school presentation, the Lynch foundation presenters failed to mention that twenty-minutes-twice-per-day may create an addictive state, leading to dependence upon prolonged meditation, or a potentially suffocating group dynamic. They explained, “Transcendental Meditation is not a religion.” Did the secretive initiation ceremony, higher teachings of God Consciousness, or mantras derived from Hindu deities cause the New Jersey Circuit Court of appeals to declare TM a religion in 1979? After educated objections, the Lynch Foundation withdrew from the local high school.

Now David Lynch promotes his book, “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity,” explaining that creative ideas come during his daily TM sessions. The famed producer fails to mention proper Transcendental Meditation instruction, “Pay no heed to arising thoughts. Gently return attention to the mantra, allowing the thoughts to leave. You will transcend beyond thought to pure Being, the source of all thought and creativity.“ Will the multi-billion dollar TM Movement buy thousands of copies, jettisoning him to bestseller status as they did for Chopra?

I wish David Lynch well. Since he heeds thoughts, perhaps Lynch practices TM improperly. Does he quietly brainstorm, while donating to aging Maharishi for spiritual accolades? Between creative film endeavors, has Lynch experienced the slippery slope lifestyle of those committed to the method he promotes?

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