David Lynch

David Lynch gives $1M to teach veterans meditation

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Academy Award-nominated director David Lynch – a longtime advocate of Transcendental Meditation – wants soldiers and veterans to experience the stress-reducing benefits of TM.

The David Lynch Foundation is giving $1 million in grants to teach the meditation technique to active-duty military personnel and veterans and their families suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The filmmaker said Friday that the grants are from the Operation Warrior Wellness division of his foundation, which funds meditation instruction for various populations, including inner-city students and jail inmates.

Recipients of Operation Warrior Wellness grants include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project and UCLA’s Operation Mend.

Lynch’s credits include the films “Eraserhead,” “The Elephant Man,” “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart,” “Lost Highway” and “Mulholland Drive,” and the TV series “Twin Peaks.”

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David Lynch’s strange solo album debut

Chris Willman: Sometimes it’s hard not to think that David Lynch’s fixation on transcendental meditation isn’t a joke the filmmaker is playing on us. Is there any major artist whose entire body of work has seemed more ominous, more filled with sinister intonations, less meditative? Mantras don’t come much scarier than “fire walk with me.”

Lynch’s first solo album, “Crazy Clown Time,” doesn’t sound very Maharishi-approved, either. If you’ve ommm-ed your way to a state of higher consciousness, it’s just the record to bring yourself back down to earth, though it might overcompensate by taking you to the third or fourth rung of …

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Veterans learn about meditation for treating post traumatic stress

Matt Hoffman: Studies show up to 35 percent of our veterans return home with post traumatic stress disorder. But an old world technique is being used in a new way to help veterans, and some say it’s having great success.

Veterans in Eau Claire heard from Jerry Yellin. He fought in World War Two as a fighter pilot, but when he returned home he couldn’t escape the horrors of war he experienced.

“I saw the remnants of 28,000 bodies on 8 square miles of land. 90, 000 soldiers were fighting. 28,000 were killed, and I flew with 16 guys that didn’t come back,” recalls Jerry.

But unlike during today’s…

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David Lynch offers music for meditation

Acclaimed film director David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive) released a 17-track charity compilation on March 8 to support his foundation, which encourages healing through meditation. The album features exclusive tracks by Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Moby, Ben Folds, and others.

In exchange for a pledge of $18, the David Lynch Foundation, founded in 2005, will provide all of the tracks in digital format over the course of the next six weeks. Proceeds go to the organization’s global effort to teach meditation to 1 million at-risk youth and 10,000 veterans of war with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A supporter of transcendental meditation, dubbed TM for short, Lynch believes that it is the cheapest, most effective, and medication-free way of healing people who have suffered severe stress in war and any other extreme experience.

Waits’ track is a live recording of “Briar & the Rose,” composed…

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in 1993 for the play The Black Rider, cowritten by William S. Burroughs. On the website Pledge Music, you can hear a 90-second preview of the track alongside four more cuts from the compilation. Other artists included are Arrested Development, Au Revoir Simone, Mary Hopkin, Maroon 5, Neon Trees, Ozomatli, Heather Nova, and Slightly Stoopid.

Make a pledge and each week you will receive two or three of the comp’s featured tracks, along with videos, photos, and blog updates, “giving you an insider’s view into the artists’ lives and experiences,” states the website.

Last December, Lynch organized a Hollywood A-list fundraising event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for his foundation, which aims to train people in need the art of finding inner peace, said Lynch at the event.

In another one of Lynch’s musical endeavors, he recently released a pair of digital songs on iTunes: “Good Day Today,” with a melancholy electro-pop sound, and the more trance-like, rock-oriented “I Know.”

Inspired by working with his composer Angelo Badalamenti on Inland Empire, his last film in 2006, the director began experimenting with music, he told the Los Angeles Times. “One thing led to another, and I started making music even though I’m not a musician.”

In 2009, the director launched an artistic visual and musical project with Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse called Dark Night of the Soul.

Listen to track samples, see a video of Lynch describing the project, or make a pledge: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/davidlynchfoundationmusic

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From time-out to quiet time: meditation comes to SF schools

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Natalie Jones, KALW News: Innovative ideas are often born in California. This is the home of Silicon Valley, after all. But, that spirit of innovation isn’t limited to finding more ways to plug in to the world of high tech. Innovation also means finding ways to disconnect from it all. This kind of innovation is taking place in three San Francisco public schools that have started school-wide meditation programs. The hope is that a little quiet time and mindfulness will help facilitate learning.

It’s all paid for with private money, and one school says it’s seeing results. Natalie Jones reports on how it works.

* * *

NATALIE JONES: Middle schools do not tend to be quiet places. For many people, middle school is hard enough in the best of circumstances. For students growing up in rough neighborhoods or dealing with difficult family issues, it can be especially stressful.

That’s why four years ago, James Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, decided to implement a meditation program for the entire school to see if it would help students and teachers deal with stress and focus on schoolwork.

JAMES DIERKE: There’s individual stresses of just being a teenager, there’s family stress, there’s community stress, and all those things multiply within a person. So this is something that everyone can do and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort on their part but has great results.

The program is called Quiet Time, and it teachers students the practice of Transcendental Meditation.

PA SYSTEM ANNOUNCEMENT: Please excuse this interruption, teachers and students, please prepare for Quiet Time, please prepare for Quiet Time.

Mr. Tagaloa’s homeroom is getting ready for the morning meditation session – they do fifteen minutes at the beginning of their school day, and fifteen minutes at the end.

VAO TAGALOA: Going to start our Quiet Time, let’s start by sitting up straight…close the eyes….let’s enjoy.

The dozen or so 8th graders in the room turn to face front, shut their eyes, and stay that way for a full fifteen minutes, without breaking the silence or fidgeting.

Visitacion Valley is one of the more challenged schools in the district – about two thirds of its students were getting free or reduced lunch last year, and the percentage of students proficient in basic subjects is lower than both the district-wide and the state-wide percentage.

In the last three months alone, there have been two homicides and more than a hundred assaults within just a mile radius of the school. Principal Dierke compares growing up in the neighborhood to living a war zone.

DIERKE: A lot of our kids come down with post-traumatic stress, just like you would if you lived in Iraq. So it’s hard to turn that off when you come in the school building when you sit down and try to study.

Post-traumatic stress is a hard thing to combat, but there are signs that Quiet Time is effective. Since the program started, test scores have gone up a little bit, attendance rates have gone up a little bit, and suspension rates have gone down, although the changes are only by a few percentage points. Most of the evidence of the program is anecdotal. Students and teachers participate willingly and say it’s helpful for them, and surveys that school has done return positive feedback. Though not everyone was enthusiastic at the beginning.

TRISTAN: Well, when they first took me in to train, I wasn’t so sure about the program…

Tristan is an 8th-grader, and has been doing meditation at school since 6th grade.

TRISTAN: But when I started to get into it and started to do it every day I noticed that it really helped me because I was sort of a trouble child, and then when I started to meditate I started to become a leader, I got good grades, so it was really helpful.

Students do have the option of doing something else quiet, such as reading, but Principal Dierke says only a few have chosen to do that. He’s also had strong support from parents.

DIERKE: In the last four years that we’ve been involved in this, I haven’t had one negative parent complaint.

The program, which for this school year costs about $175,000, is funded almost exclusively by the David Lynch Foundation, an organization set up by the filmmaker David Lynch, who’s known for surreal films such as Mulholland Drive and the TV series Twin Peaks. The organization’s goal is to provide Transcendental Meditation in schools and communities that could benefit from stress reduction. The rest of the funds come from private donations, which pay for 3.5 full time staff members who are trained to teach meditation. They spend their time teaching new students, helping returning students remember how to use the method, and training the teachers.

Two other schools in San Francisco are also trying the program – Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. They haven’t been doing it as long as Visitacion Valley, but they’re all hoping that meditation can create a refuge for students who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

For Crosscurrents, I’m Natalie Jones.

Natalie Jones is a reporter with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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Flying yogis and flying millions

Acolyte David Lynch isn’t happy with this exposé of Transcendental Meditation

He was the original guru pop star. Made famous by the Beatles in the 1960s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the godfather of the Transcendental Meditation movement, known as TM. He inspired such acolytes as author Deepak Chopra and filmmaker David Lynch, and remained TM’s figurehead until his death in 2008 at the age of 94. The Maharishi was once dubbed “the giggling guru.” But now it appears he may have been giggling all the way to the bank. David Wants to Fly (Facebook Page), a new documentary shown last week at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival, offers compelling evidence that the Maharishi’s empire of enlightenment is more devoted to shaking down its followers and amassing wealth than transcending the material world.

The “David” of David Wants to Fly refers to the film’s director, a cheeky 32-year-old German named David Sieveking, and to the dubious feat of “yogic flying” or levitation. It could also refer to David Lynch, who has emerged as TM’s most prominent spokesman and is the prime target of Sieveking’s obsessive investigation. Sieveking embarked on his documentary as an avid Lynch fan dying to meet the genius behind Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. But by the time he’d completed his film, five years later, it had turned into an exposé. Sieveking told Maclean’s that Lynch threatened to sue him and tried to block the film’s Berlin premiere. No wonder. It depicts TM as a secretive hierarchy with overtones of Scientology, and portrays Lynch as its Tom Cruise.

Sieveking, who makes himself a character in the documentary—a neurotic man on a mission—is like a cross between a young Werner Herzog and a skinny Michael Moore. He first travels to America to interview Lynch as a star-struck fan, then becomes an eager student of TM. As his odyssey takes him from Manhattan to the headwaters of the Ganges, he never loses faith in the power of meditation, but he becomes deeply skeptical about TM’s well-heeled leadership.

He learns that its “rajas” pay $1 million for their exalted rank. At a groundbreaking ceremony for a TM university in Switzerland, we see Lynch introduce Raja Emanuel, TM’s “King of Germany,” who wears a gold crown and offers a provocative pledge: “I’m a good German who wants to make Germany invincible.” Jeers erupt from the crowd and a voice yells, “That’s what Adolf Hitler wanted!” Emanuel replies: “Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it. He didn’t have the right technique.” Trying to quell the catcalls, Lynch leaps to the raja’s defence, and hails him as “a great human being.”

Sieveking interviews several TM defectors, including Colorado publisher Earl Kaplan, who donated over US$150 million toward the construction of a vast meditation centre in India, where 24-7 shifts of 10,000 yogic flyers would create world peace. Visiting the project site, Sieveking finds an abandoned, half-built ghost town. And he shows footage of “yogic flying,” which looks more like cross-legged yogic hopping. We also meet the Maharishi’s former personal assistant, who says, “He’d use people and discard them when they ran out of money.” And although the guru preached celibacy, the ex-aide says one of his jobs was to bring women to the Maharishi’s room for sex. Another ex-disciple, Judith Bourque, reminisces about her torrid love affair with the Maharishi, which ended when he found another young woman.

Rumours of the guru’s sybaritic lifestyle have been rampant ever since the Beatles heard that he had hit on Mia Farrow in the late ’60s. His behaviour provoked John Lennon to write a derisive song called Maharishi, which George Harrison persuaded him to retitle Sexy Sadie (“What have you done? You made a fool of everyone”). The film shows Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr rallying to support TM at Lynch’s star-studded 2009 TM benefit. “John Lennon,” says Sieveking, “would be rolling in his grave.”

As for the analogy between TM and Scientology, the director acknowledges certain parallels, but considers TM less rigid—“you can’t be a moderate Scientologist.” Sieveking says he became paranoid after the German raja threatened to destroy his film career. Yet Lynch “is still a guru for me as a filmmaker,” he maintains, just not as a spiritual figure. “I wanted to be his friend. It’s tough for me, because now he sees me as an enemy.” But Sieveking may have found a new guru. Apparently Michael Moore, that documentary raja, is anxious to see his film.

[via MacLeans.ca]
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Zen and success at work

London Evening Standard: If you have ever watched Tiger Woods play golf, you know the look. Brim pulled down over the eyes, which are locked on some point far down the fairway.

Despite all the hubbub, he is locked into the moment.

His opponent stands off to one side gnawing his knuckles, knowing another defeat is just a few holes away. Credit meditation for Woods’ extraordinary focus.

An essential part of Tiger Woods’ success is what he calls “staying in the present” and not letting his mind wander off to hoisting a trophy or depositing another million-dollar cheque.

While other golfers may live in the future, at the moment Woods plays his shots, he is apparently free of the conscious worry which plagues the weekend duffer.

And he puts much of this down to meditation and the Eastern philosophy, mostly Buddhist, he learned from his Thai mother.

In addition to his early morning workouts and hours on the driving range, he also meditates daily.

The value of meditation has long been known to those who practise it. David Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, established a foundation for “consciousness-based education and world peace” inspired by his 30 years’ practising transcendental meditation.

Lynch’s ambition is for children to spend one class a day “diving within”, so they can better deal with stress and be more creative throughout their lives.

In the United Kingdom, William Hague has credited his meditative practice with helping him ride the roller coaster of politics.

With so much stress in the economy, meditation is also gaining popularity with business executives.

After the past couple of years, who couldn’t use half an hour a day to tame what Buddhists call “the wild horses” of the mind?

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One of the most prominent advocates of meditation is William George, a Harvard Business School professor and board member at Goldman Sachs. George started to meditate 35 years ago while running the medical devices firm Medtronic.

He calls meditation “the single best thing that happened to me in terms of my leadership”. He says that it “enables one to focus on what is really important; and I haven’t had high blood pressure since the Seventies”.

Pointing to the recent financial crisis, George told Bloomberg News: “I think meditation in these times has an important role to play.

“If you take Wall Street versus Warren Buffett, he has made much wiser decisions than Wall Street has.

Now, I don’t know if he’s a meditator, but he’s calm, thoughtful and he stays clear. Wall Street’s trading floor is exactly the opposite.”

Firms ranging from Apple to Google and organisations such as Nasa offer free meditation classes to their employees these days.

It is regarded by these firms as far more than Eastern quackery or a luxury like free cappuccinos.

Meditation not only helps focus but it is also an effective preventative treatment of stress-related illnesses that cost businesses billions every year.

Google has held regular meditation sessions at its offices around the world for the past two years.

The firm believes that it helps employees develop their “emotional intelligence”, which in turn benefits the company.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the head of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and one of meditation’s greatest champions, calls meditation an act of love, towards oneself and others.

He is a particular favourite at technology firms.

During his talks, he often brings a tennis ball and drops it to signify the act of dropping into the moment.

He argues that greater knowledge of the mind, attained through meditation, helps business people sweep away the tacit assumptions which so often lead to problems.

In a modern society where so many people suffer from attention deficit disorders, he says, it is all about doing, with little recognition of being. The consequence is that people struggle to rest their minds.

Three years ago, the Dalai Lama supplied 12 Buddhist monks to a team of American neuroscientists so they could study the neurological effect of meditation.

The scientists found that by meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the monks had altered the structure and function of their brains.

It appeared that the monks’ brain waves oscillated at a different rate from those in people who never meditated. They were capable of much more focused thought.

The research was called into question by other scientists but it did prompt a wave of interest in how humans might be able to use meditation to change the function of their brains for the better.

One of the most popular forms of meditation for corporate types is Vipassana, which translates as “insight”.

There are Vipassana centres all over the world, founded by SN Goenka, a Burmese entrepreneur. An introductory retreat involves 10 days of “noble silence”.

Days begin at 4am followed by 11 hours of private and group meditation interspersed with meals and lectures. Once they leave, students are advised to meditate twice a day.

Keith Ferrazzi, an expert on networking and author of the best-selling book Never Eat Lunch Alone, says that the 10-day Vipassana meditation is the one time of year when he stops networking and clears his mind.

The key to networking, after all, he says, is “not being an asshole”.

People are more likely to want to know you if you exude the calm and confidence of the seasoned meditator.

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Stop meditating our children (Globe and Mail, Canada)

Karen von Hahn, Globe and Mail, Canada: David Lynch’s latest production may not involve talking logs or dancing dwarves, but it is, nonetheless, bizarre. The Twin Peaks auteur, who has been meditating for 90 minutes twice a day for the past 30 years, recently became the spokesman for an initiative called the Committee for Stress-Free Schools, which aims to introduce transcendental meditation into classrooms across the United States as a way to combat the stress of high school and improve grades.

“Meditation is the key that opens the door to a vast ocean of pure consciousness, pure bliss,” Lynch said at an April 2 press conference in L.A. “When the light of peace comes up, negativity just goes away.”

One would think that the premise of schools teaching young children to empty their minds rather than fill them would raise a few red flags. Not to mention, in this day and age, when we are freaking about the obesity epidemic among children who are ferried to school from home by car, and spend their precious free time on their widening rear ends in front of computer and TV screens, the notion of introducing a program that forces them to sit still for a few minutes every day as a “health” initiative.

Now, I’m such a New Age-sympathizer that I’ve never met a healing practice I didn’t like, but, sorry, meditating for better marks and a quieter classroom seems to me like a low-rent version of the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

And yet the plan has struck a chord in the United States and Canada, even with Bishop Strachan, this country’s oldest private school for the education of young women. Presumably, for educators in the public system, strapped for both cash and a popular way out of the current education crisis, regular tuning out looks increasingly like a good idea. Hey — it’s not only hip, it’s so cheap they can even afford to do it in India!

On March 10, a group of educators, physicians and parents, members of the New York Committee for Stress-Free Schools, packed a meeting room at the Helmsley Palace Hotel for a conference entitled Improving Academic Achievement and Reversing the Alarming Rise of Classroom Stress through Transcendental Meditation. According to The New Yorker, which covered the event in its Talk of the Town section, high-level scientists and educational theoreticians hyped the physical and psychological benefits of meditation on the younger set.

Dr. Gary Kaplan, the director of clinical neurophysiology at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, spoke of the “coherence of activity between the hemispheres and the front and the back of the brain.” Rita Benn, a director of education at the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, presented data from a recent study of Detroit middle-schoolers who have been practising meditation for the past six years, which found that meditating students had more positive feelings and were more adaptable than their non-meditating peers. And Jane Roman Pitt, a senior fellow at the Institute of Science, Technology and Public policy in Fairfield, Iowa, (the home of the widely respected Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, where the 300 students practise group meditation and yogic flying daily) described the cultural benefits of meditative silence.

“To walk into a room and see a hundred middle-school students in a state of silence — deep, pure silence that you can feel as well as hear — is wonderful,” Roman Pitt said.

Ben Pollack, a Grade 11 student at the Maharishi School who came and meditated for the TV cameras, told The New Yorker that “transcendental meditation makes my thinking clearer, so now I can get through any amount of homework. I can do five hours if I need to.” Similarly positive was fellow student Riva Winningham, who claimed that meditating had increased her grade point average.

According to a recent Time magazine cover story, 10 million Americans say they practise some form of meditation on a regular basis, twice as many as a decade ago. There are meditation rooms in airports and offices, while Hollywood stars such as Goldie Hawn have fully tricked out ones at home, with all the gongs and whistles. Along with such coping tools as spas and wellness retreats, and yoga and bio-energetic foods, meditation is emerging as a hot button in the extremely healthy stress-management industry. Time called it the “smart person’s bubble bath.”

This bath has become such a tidal wave, that even here in good, auld Upper Canada, Bishop Strachan School, long associated with the Anglican Church, saw fit to follow its guiding principle of educating the whole child, body, mind and spirit, with the introduction of a New Age fair called Women’s Wellness Day, at which they launched weekly guided meditation classes for students. My daughter, who attends the school, is an enthusiastic participant.

Cathy Gibbs, the chaplaincy intern who runs the sessions, came up with the idea when she observed the way the girls at the school “hit the ground running.” In her view, the non-denominational practice of meditation has become necessary because “the girls work so hard and are involved in so many things that they barely have time to breathe.”

What I recall of being an adolescent (the good part) was that it really didn’t take much more than an afternoon of giggling over nothing with a girlfriend, or lying on the floor listening over and over to the same record, to reach nirvana.

Everyone needs a time out. But I say throwing an adult panacea like meditation at young people is basically an admission that we as a culture have failed them. That their lives, crammed as they are with obligations, are just as hopelessly stressful as our own. And that at the end of the day all we can offer them is the spiritual equivalent of a hot bath — with or without aromatic oils.

Original article no longer available…

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Transcendental meditation gains popularity

India Health News, New Kerala, India: Transcendental meditation, introduced in the US by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi after the Beatles adopted him as his guru in the sixties, is now practised by 1.5 million Americans and its disciples are steadily growing. Practitioners say a few minutes of meditation by reciting any mantra is best to keep stress and tension away. They list many medical advantages attributed to its practice, but doctors agree that most meditation can boost one’s health.

Transcendental meditation involves sitting in a quiet place for 15 to 20 minutes and repeating a personalised mantra, typically a phrase from Hindu scriptures. The repetition allows the mind to take a break from the many stimuli around us.

“Nothing really compares to transcendental meditation,” Sally Jackson, a teacher with the Maharishi Vedic School in Falls Church, told the Washington Times.

She said it turned a person’s attentions inward to transcend thought altogether.

“Throughout the ages, there have been poets who have described this state. Transcendental meditation is a simple, reliable method for achieving the state.”

On Thursday, director David Lynch will be in Bethesda to help raise funds for a $1 billion endowment for world peace at the Maharishi Peace Palace, in Maryland state. The non-violence measure is part of the view of Yogi, who created transcendental meditation in the 1950s.

Among its high-profile followers were the Beatles who made the Yogi internationally famous after visiting his ashram in Rishikesh, in the Himalayan foothills, in the late sixties.

The process sounds deceptively simple, but Jackson insists it takes a properly trained teacher to help the uninitiated learn. The lessons aren’t cheap.

The first two and last of the seven necessary steps Jackson’s group teaches are free of charge. The remaining four steps, which include one-on-one consultations that take place over four consecutive days, cost $2,500, she said.

“It’s a significant investment for a lot of people,” Jackson said. “That’s why we give all the information beforehand… We show people all the research on transcendental meditation in the realms of health.”

Doctors generally agree that most meditation can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rates and slow the body’s breathing.

Miriam Ratner, a clinical counsellor for the Outpatient Oncology Program at the Washington Cancer Institute, said meditative techniques helped many patients.

Ratner leads her patients into a general meditative state by having them focus on one body part at a time. She asks them to focus on any sensations in that part of the body, be it pain, tightness or any other feeling.

After about 30 minutes of scanning the body in that way, “they become inner-focused, which is what you want,” she said.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a patient whose breathing isn’t deeper, who hasn’t said, ‘I feel peaceful’,” after a meditation session.

Some of Yogi’s proponents contend that gathering together people who practice transcendental meditation can create a peaceful ripple effect that can harmonise otherwise destructive behaviours in that region.

Another meditative form akin to the technique is awareness meditation.

Nancy Harazduk, director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, teaches this form of meditation, also known as Vipassana meditation — meaning to see things as they really are.

“You focus on your breathing, and thoughts will come as they always do,” Harazduk said. “The idea is not to push them away. It’s to become mindful of them and let it go and come back to your breathing.”

Aur Gal, director of the Maharishi Peace Palace in Bethesda, said meditations generally fall into two categories, concentration and contemplation techniques.

“In both, the mind is kept on the surface thinking level. That is why concentration is so difficult. The nature of the mind is to move,” he said.

Marcia Corey, a naturopath with the Washington Institute of Natural Medicine, said every method of meditation has value and reaches the same goal.

“You’re focusing on clearing your mind so you can become more attentive and aware,” said Corey, who as a naturopath is trained in such non-invasive techniques as herbology, acupressure, muscle relaxation and exercise therapy.

“It eventually gets you beyond yourself. It opens up your mind to taking control of your life, of understanding your life.”

Original article no longer available.

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Transcending stress

A simple repetitive mantra can have complex benefits for those who set aside 20 minutes a day for peaceful contemplation. People who practice transcendental meditation tick off a litany of medical advantages attributed to its practice, but doctors generally agree that most kinds of meditation can boost the practitioner’s health.

Transcendental meditation involves sitting in a quiet place for 15 to 20 minutes and gently repeating a personalized mantra, typically a phrase from Hindu scriptures. The repetition allows the mind to take a break from the many stimuli around us at any given time.

The Beatles took up transcendental meditation during the band’s 1960s heyday, perhaps to keep centered in the eye of the Beatlemania storm. Today, the meditative technique is practiced by 1.5 million Americans, including the anything-but-docile radio star Howard Stern…

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Tomorrow, director David Lynch (“Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks”) will be in Bethesda to help raise funds for a $1 billion endowment for world peace at the Maharishi Peace Palace. The nonviolence measure is part of transcendental meditation founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s worldview.The Hindu monk created transcendental meditation in the 1950s and remains a key figure in its existence.

The practice is but one form of meditation practiced worldwide. Some meditation practices like TM focus on breathing rates, while others involve a fixed image or thought. Transcendental meditation proponents say their methods offer the best results both for the immediate benefits and for the practitioner’s overall physical health.

“Nothing really compares to transcendental meditation,” says Sally Jackson, a teacher with the Maharishi Vedic School in Falls Church.

Ms. Jackson describes the technique as turning a person’s attentions inward to transcend thought altogether.

“Throughout the ages, there have been poets who have described this state,” she says. “Transcendental meditation is … a simple, reliable method for achieving that state.”

The process sounds deceptively simple, but Ms. Jackson insists it takes a properly trained teacher to help the uninitiated learn the techniques.

The lessons aren’t cheap.

The first two and last of the seven necessary steps Ms. Jackson’s group teaches are free of charge. The remaining four steps, which include one-on-one consultations that take place over four consecutive days, cost $2,500, she says.

“It’s a significant investment for a lot of people,” she says. “That’s why we give all the information beforehand. … We show people all the research on transcendental meditation in the realms of health.”

Doctors generally agree that most meditation can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rates and slow the body’s breathing.

Last month, a research study released during the American Heart Association’s Orlando, Fla., meeting, said a group of 150 black patients with high blood pressure experienced a more than five-point drop in their diastolic blood pressure after practicing transcendental meditation. Researchers from the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa, credited meditation with reducing stress-related hormones in the patients.

Miriam Ratner, a clinical counselor for the Outpatient Oncology Program at the Washington Cancer Institute, says meditative techniques help many of her patients find a measure of peace.

“In my field, when they hear what they have, all sense of everything disappears,” says Ms. Ratner, whose group is part of the Washington Hospital Center.

“From experience with my patients, even in one session, one automatically gets positive results [from meditation],” she says, including feeling less afraid of their diagnosis.

Ms. Ratner leads her patients into a general meditative state by having them focus on one body part at a time. She asks them to focus on any sensations in that part of the body, be it pain, tightness or any other feeling.

After about 30 minutes of scanning the body in that way, “they become inner-focused, which is what you want,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a patient whose breathing isn’t deeper, who hasn’t said, ‘I feel peaceful,’” after a meditation session.

“It begins to give them a sense of mastery over how they feel,” she says.

Sterling, Va., resident Rose Rosetree taught transcendental meditation for 16 years before turning her attentions to aura readings. Meditation teachers must be instructed by someone associated with its founder’s group before they can claim to teach true transcendental meditation.

Ms. Rosetree says some meditation classes say they teach the Maharishi’s version of transcendental meditation but often practice a generic form of the discipline.

“Beware of people who claim to teach it to you ‘without the trappings,’” she says. “They don’t know what they’re talking about … you can’t learn it from a book.”

Some of the Maharishi’s proponents contend that gathering together people who practice transcendental meditation can create a peaceful ripple effect that can harmonize otherwise destructive behaviors in that region.

“The follow-up activities have a lot to do with the belief system of the founder,” says Ms. Rosetree, who eventually found some of the founder’s dictums to resemble activities that might be found in a cult.

Ms. Rosetree still meditates once or twice daily, though with a more flexible approach than that of transcendental meditation, but she doesn’t ignore its benefits or its impact.

“It has become part of the culture,” she says.

Another meditative form akin to the technique is awareness meditation.

Nancy Harazduk, director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, teaches this form of meditation, also know as Vipassana meditation — meaning to see things as they really are.

“You focus on your breathing, and thoughts will come as they always do,” Ms. Harazduk says. “The idea is not to push them away. It’s to become mindful of them and let it go and come back to your breathing.”

Transcendental meditation, she says, tells its practitioners not to focus on any such thoughts.

Aur Gal, director of the Maharishi Peace Palace in Bethesda, says meditations generally fall into two categories. Concentration techniques focus the mind on a particular object or thought. Contemplative techniques take that perspective, but let practitioners ruminate on the object or thought in question.

“In both, the mind is kept on the surface thinking level of the mind,” Mr. Gal says. “That is why concentration is so difficult. The nature of the mind is to move.”

Transcendental meditation allows the mind to go where it naturally wants to go, he says, “to the more subtle levels of awareness.”

Marcia Corey, a naturopath with the Washington Institute of Natural Medicine, says every method of meditation has value and reaches the same goal.

“You’re focusing on clearing your mind so you can become more attentive and aware,” says Ms. Corey, who as a naturopath is trained in such noninvasive techniques as herbology, acupressure, muscle relaxation and exercise therapy. “It eventually gets you beyond yourself. It opens up your mind to taking control of your life, of understanding your life.”

Some people are able to do that by paying attention to their breathing, while others pay attention to a spot or a sight beyond themselves, she says.

Our increasingly complex world makes meditation a much-needed respite in our lives, Ms. Corey says.

“This is an ability to keep the mind calm. It helps to react in a calmer fashion to everyday situations,” she says.

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