(This is a two-part series. To read Part 1, "Increased Stress through the Transcendental Meditation program. Part 1of 2: Rushing, Lack of Stimulation and Guilt-Induction, " please go to the TM-Free Blog essay posted on June 22, 2010.)
On the Creating Coherence Course, our lives were chaotic. Interspersed with the boredom described in Part 1 of this series were sudden upheavals.
For example, one day the announcement is made: "You will all be moving to different dorms." No matter that we had settled into our mini-apartments, made friends, organized our schedules. Out you go!
One day Maharishi announces that we should form into groups of ten, and move to different American cities to spread TM. (This was the "Vedic Atom" program.) Those of us who "followed Maharishi's wishes" uprooted ourselves from our homes, friends, jobs, schedules, community in Fairfield. Moved to a strange city. Received a whole new set of rules to live by. For instance, teams were directed to do everything together. One friend on a "Vedic Atom" team wrote me that when one of them needed a new pair of shoes, all ten of them had to go to the shoe store together! Her letter guardedly hinted at how stressful her new life was, how unhappy she was.
Another time, Maharishi announced that everyone who could should promptly fly to India for a month or two to study Indian herbology. (This was the beginning of the Maharishi Ayurveda program.) Again, uprooting, leaving behind friends, homes, jobs, schedules, community. Once in India, my friends sat in hot humid halls barely able to hear the lecturers, and contracted tropical diseases. One friend who had obediently gone to India confided to me that her disease was so obscure that the local doctors couldn't even diagnose it. Therefore she had to get up at 2 a.m. for several weeks in order to drive 40 minutes to a medical clinic to provide a fresh stool sample. I never did hear of the TM organization reimbursing her for her medical expenses or giving her a lighter work schedule during the time she was sick.
Then there was the time Maharishi came to Fairfield and paid a visit to our meditation hall to see how his flying technique was coming along. As was usual, we screamed and babbled during the "flying." Maharishi asked in annoyance, "What's all this noise?! From now on, no more noise." ("Except for the occasional squeal of bliss," Bevan later amended.) This meant, in a day filled with silence, sensory deprivation, lack of aerobic activity, minimal socializing and rigid rules, we were suddenly deprived of 60 minutes a day of letting off steam. (Did you ever read about the Christian monks who took vows of silence, but sang hymns each day? When the hymn-singing was eliminated, the monks developed clinical depression.)
Then there was the time I returned to Fairfield after a two-week vacation to discover that my job had been given to someone else.
A few weeks after that, Maharishi announced that henceforth we should think an affirmation every morning. It went something like this: "Let us go together, let us be together, let us eat together, let us think together. Never shall we denounce one another; never shall we entertain negativity." Also, he instructed us, "Everybody must be fabulously happy! That's all!" We were guinea pigs in his new program. Had we voluntarily joined? Had we been screened? Were we trained how to do them? Had they been proven safe? Would anyone assist us if we found them harmful? No, no, no, no and no. Nevertheless, we attempted to "never denounce anyone," which I believe constricted our expressiveness; and we tried to "not entertain negativity," which I believe suppressed our emotions. We tried to "be fabulously happy," which I believe got us out of touch with our feelings. Is it any wonder that some of us started having anxiety attacks?
Yes, proponents of Transcendental Meditation state that one of its greatest benefits is that it reduces stress. While the TM technique itself may reduce stress, the TM lifestyle that Maharishi directed us to follow increased stress in numerous areas of our lives.
How about you? What were your experiences of stress in the TM world? How did you deal with the rules? How did you hold up under the stress? What did you think about it all? If you'd like, share your thoughts and memories with us below.