One of Transcendental Meditation's main advertising points is that TM reduces stress. While the TM technique may reduce stress, the TM lifestyle is something else altogether. I would like to offer my thoughts on the one and one half years I spent on the TM "Creating Coherence Course," which I attended from 1979 to 1981 in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.
If constant rushing about trying to keep on a tight schedule is a stressor, then the Creating Coherence Course was designed to be stressful. We spent all day running from place to place, with barely enough travel time. Every morning, course participants rushed to the meditation hall to arrive before the doors were locked at 7:50 a.m. Attendance was always taken, and you'd get a demerit, a serious talking-to, and a guilt trip for missing too many meditations. That was because each person on the course was "personally responsible for preventing World War III" by doing the meditations together. Bevan Morris, the Dean? the President? of Maharishi International University had told us so, complete with mathematical equations proving it was true. We did our morning TM and TM-Sidhis programs until about 11:00 a.m. While each person's subjective experience of these meditation programs was different, my personal experiences ranged from blissful to physically painful to boring to anxiety-producing to mind-numbing.
Once done with our morning program, we changed out of our meditation clothes and into our street clothes, and rushed to arrive at work (a TM-owned decorative-glass factory located off-campus) by 11:15 a.m. (Since this all happened 28 years ago, and I'm writing from memory, I may have gotten some of the schedule slightly wrong. For this, I apologize, and if anyone has any corrections, please write them in the "Comments" section below. Thanks!) We worked until noon, then we rushed back to campus for lunch, which was served from 12:15 to 1:00. We rushed to be back at work by 1:15, and worked until 4:00. Then we rushed back to the meditation hall, changed out of our street clothes and into our meditation clothes, and rushed to fit in our lying down, yoga stretches and yogic breathing exercises before 4:30, when our afternoon meditation program started. Meditation ended about 6:45. We changed back into our street clothes and went to dinner, which was served until about 8:00. Our evening meetings started at 8:00 p.m. Each person's subjective experience of the meetings was different, but I personally found them mind-numbingly boring: stodgy repetitive "celebrations," hypnotic readings of English translations of Hindu scripture, boring videotaped lectures by Maharishi or occasionally by someone else, and stultifying tapes of Hindu chanting. Meetings ended at 9:45, and we rushed back to our dorms, because if you weren't in bed with the lights out by 10 p.m., we'd get a demerit and a guilty conscience. (We were told that staying up late was detrimental to the success of our world peace efforts.) This was our schedule six days a week. On Sundays, our schedule was the same except that we had the day off from work.
Aside from all the stress of rushing, boredom and guilt, there was the stress of not enough time and subsequent lack of stimulation. We clearly barely had time to pursue our creative, artistic or intellectual interests; nor to stay in touch with non-Fairfield relatives and friends; nor to enjoy recreation and entertainment. It was even difficult to fit in socializing with our fellow course participants! Talking on the way to the meditation hall was discouraged. Socializing in the meditation hall was prohibited. I had one married friend admit to me that Sunday afternoons were the only time she got to spend time with her husband! There was minimal time to do laundry, clean our rooms, take a shower, floss our teeth or get aerobic exercise. There was minimal time to contemplate our lifestyle, our values, the direction of our lives, our career plans, or romantic relationships. With men and women largely segregated, and sexuality tacitly discouraged (see my May 4, 2009 TM-Free Blog article, "Maharishi's Teachings on Sex and Gender Roles"), opportunities to pursue relationships, marriage, and child-bearing were minimized.
It was clearly a very unbalanced lifestyle. Despite the TM organization's claim that the TM technique unfolded the full potential of the individual in all areas of life in a balanced way, the rules of our Maharishi-designed Creating Coherence Course were detrimental to the development of a well-rounded, self-actualized, healthy adult, and the chronic racing around, lack of stimulation and guilt-induction made our lives more stressful.
(This is a 2-part series. To read Part 2, " Increased Stress through the Transcendental Meditation Program. Part 2 of 2: Live Chaotically and Be a Guinea Pig," please go to TM-Free Blog at September 20, 2010).