Wednesday, December 08, 2010

TM-Free News Brief, 8 December 2010

Wall Street Journal reports on David Lynch's latest "Billionaires for TM" event: The November 29 Wall Street Journal reported, without the tiniest bit of criticism or skepticism, on the latest David Lynch Foundation gala, this time to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 13. Names liberally dropped in the evidently slightly-rewritten DLF press release included George Lucas (reported net worth: $3 billion), Clint Eastwood (worth $400 million), and Martin Scorsese (worth a mere $40 million).

This time, the DLF's gimmick and targeted population are "to help 10,000 veterans overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other war-related illnesses." As with most of the claims for Transcendental Meditation made by its promoters, a small amount of inconclusive and/or preliminary scientific research, largely created and/or financed by those same promoters, exists to support these claims of benefit to a particular population - a tiny bit that amounts to nothing compared to almost any other generally accepted therapy or treatment.

In fact, it's been proposed that prolonged "cult involvement" similar to that which long-term participants in the Transcendental Meditation program and the organizations that promote it have experienced may induce its own form of trauma.

The second "Change Begins Within" event on December 13, like the last one, will feature a short list of celebrities; some, like Lynch, have been involved with TM for decades, while others are clearly newcomers. Notable among the new names is TV talk-show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon whose embrace of pseudoscience and woo has been the subject of online commentary by prominent science bloggers.

Also on that celeb list is Katy Perry, née Hudson, a pastor's daughter and former Christian recording artist who married event co-host and comedic meditator, Russell Brand, in October. Their lavish wedding in Ranthambhore National Park, India, officiated by a Christian pastor, was widely mis-reported as having been a traditional Hindu ceremony. Sounds to me like, in the same way I've noticed that TM can be considered a piece of Indian or Hindu culture taken completely out of context, many of these cultural elements are available off-the-shelf to dress up your life, for a not-so-small price.
Remembering John Lennon: Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's death. Among the many tributes and retrospectives published today is this one, from Radio Netherlands Worldwide, exploring the Beatles' time in India and how Lennon was influenced by Indian music and culture.
Chicago Tribune's Living Section features Fairfield, Iowa: Tribune reporter Josh Noel pays Fairfield a visit; his travelogue has the usual interesting-things-around-town elements, followed by some time at The Raj, the TM organization's ayurvedic spa, for a round of shirodhara. Noel warns that staying at "the heart of the TM action" can be boring - "there's nothing else to do there."
What If They'd Copyrighted the Mantras? - The New York Times reports on the growing debate over the relationship between yoga and traditional Hinduism. The "Take Back Yoga" campaign by the Hindu American Foundation is the main focus of the article. Transcendental Meditation, of course, has its own relationship with the religious, cultural and spiritual traditions of India - whether I call them "Hindu" or "Vedic" (the preferred term of TM promoters) is irrelevant. Reading this, I wonder what would have happened had the TM movement's organizers attempted to copyright the mantras and other core elements of the program that remained in the public domain - the backlash might have been interesting to watch. The organization's trademarking of all sorts of terminology - like the word "sidhi," a misspelling of the usual translation - may already be a source of friction.
Briefly: Natural Law Party veterans are still out there railing against GMO crops - this time, on the Dr. Oz show... In 1994, "Russian officials in the immediate post-Soviet era were not too choosy about what ideas they were seen to be giving their backing to," including the TMO's silly notions of "invincible defense" ... "The Hindu Young World Painting Competition" was held at one of the schools of the TM affiliated chain in India, Maharishi Vidya Mandir... this mismash of TM and Buddhist practice, including the vague, unsupported claim that group practice of (not even TM-branded!) meditation has a magic effect on bystanders, may be disrupting the peace of some purist in the TM organization right about now.

Here at the TM-Free Blog: John Knapp, founder, in January 2007, of the TM-Free Blog, has stepped down as blog coordinator and contributor. John will continue to comment here as his time allows. We're all going to miss John around here, and we thank him for having created and guided this unique resource of "independent, skeptical & critical views" - and a source of help and healing for many - through the years.

Recent topics here on the Blog have included news of an upcoming San Francisco showing of David Sieveking's acclaimed documentary, "David Wants to Fly," its DVD release in Europe, and Laurie's account of instruction in one of the Transcendental Meditation "advanced techniques."
From the Archives: Going back to the start of the first year of the TM-Free Blog (2007)...
TM-Free News Brief, 8 December 2010. Published irregularly here on Wednesdays by Mike Doughney, who's solely responsible for its content unless otherwise noted.

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