TM

State OKs changes to Cabarrus charter school (Charlotte Observer, NC)

Cristina Breen Bolling, Charlotte Observer: Curriculum viewed as religious removed. Transcendental Meditation, Natural Law fuel controversy

A controversial Cabarrus County charter school that plans to teach Transcendental Meditation and Natural Law Curriculum when it opens this fall must remove all religion from its curriculum or lose its charter.

That was the message Thursday from the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board to the leaders of the Carolina International School.

The school has been challenged in recent months by local residents who believe its so-called Natural Law Curriculum and emphasis on meditation are rooted in Hinduism, and therefore don’t belong in a public school. Carolina International would be the first charter school in Cabarrus County.

At a meeting Thursday in Raleigh, the 15-member charter school advisory board asked the new school to work with the board to remove religion from its plans.

Leaders of the Carolina International, however, say the school has nothing to do with religion.

“We never would have undertaken a charter-school application process if we felt in any way that these programs were religious in content,” said Richard Beall, the school’s director.

TM and Natural Law Curriculum are part of Consciousness-Based Education, or CBE, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, known to many from his friendship with the Beatles.

Michael Fedewa, chairman of the charter school advisory committee, said it’s too early to tell how much of the curriculum will need to be cut to keep the charter.

“TM, in my opinion, has got to be addressed. Clearly, through certain ceremonies and certain results, it clearly has what one could logically perceive to be religious in connotation,” he said, as does the Natural Law Curriculum.

The Charter School Advisory Committee recommends schools to the N.C. Board of Education, which approves the charters. Carolina International received its charter in January.

The advisory board initially didn’t pay much attention to TM or the Natural Law Curriculum, Fedewa said. They were impressed by the school’s business model, its rigorous academic standards and multicultural environment.

Beall said he remains committed to his students and teachers. But, he added, “if the end result is something that doesn’t really contribute in a significant way to our overall educational goals, then it may not be worth continuing.”

More than 550 students are registered for 320 seats in the school, Beall said. The school plans to open with grades K-7 and will add a grade each year to become K-12.

“Natural Law is terrific. I know about TM and it’s not different from any other meditation,” said Eloise Koskinen of southwest Charlotte, whose three grandchildren are on the school’s waiting list.

Beverly Henley of Cabarrus County, a vocal opponent to Beall’s school, called Thursday’s meeting “a positive thing.”

“It’s been our thought all along that it’s a definite violation of church and state. It’s just so in-your-face.”

Original article no longer available.

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Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure in Teens (Health Day)

Black teens at risk of becoming hypertensive adults lowered their pressures with just two 15-minute meditation sessions a day, a Georgia physiologist reports.

The results held even four months after the four-month study ended, said Vernon A. Barnes, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia and lead author of the study, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

“We set up school sessions that were supervised,” he said. Then the teens were instructed to meditate for another 15 minutes at home.

“More than 70 percent said they were compliant,” Barnes said, reporting that they did indeed complete the two meditation sessions.

His study focused on 156 inner-city black teens in Augusta, Ga., who all had blood pressure in the “high-normal” range. Half were in the group practicing transcendental meditation; the other half got information at school about how to lower blood pressure, such as following a low-salt diet and getting more physical activity.

Those who did meditation achieved lower pressures, Barnes said. “The drop in blood pressure was 3.5 in systolic [the top number that indicates the pressure inside blood vessels that the heart is pumping against] and 3.4 in diastolic [the bottom number that indicates pressure while the heart is at rest].”

The group that got only information had no significant change in pressure from the beginning of the study to the end, he said.

On average, he said, the TM students’ blood pressures were about 129 systolic at the start and dropped to about 125 at four months and at the four-month follow-up. The diastolic pressures started out at about 75 [a normal level], he said, and were down to a little more than 71 at the study end and to 72.9 at the four-month follow up. A pressure of below 120 over 80 is termed optimal.

The improvements were maintained at the follow-up after the formal stop of the study, Barnes added. Similar studies have found the same long-lasting benefits in adults, he added.

TM is a simple mental procedure, performed while you are sitting comfortably with eyes closed. Advocates say it puts practitioners in a “unique state of restful alertness” that helps dissolve stress and fatigue as it boosts creativeness, orderliness and other good characteristics.

Exactly how it might lower blood pressure isn’t known for sure, Barnes said. It may decrease sympathetic nervous system tone and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, among other actions, and that could lead to blood pressure reduction.

High blood pressure affects one in four adults in the United States and is a major risk factor of heart attack and stroke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure has its origins in childhood, Barnes said, and blacks are at an increased risk for getting it.

“Based on our study, we would say that transcendental meditation should be considered as an option” to reduce the number of at-risk teens who go on to develop hypertension, Barnes said. Practiced over the long term, he said, it might ward off high blood pressure in adulthood.

Anecdotally, the students reported other benefits they attributed to their meditation habit, he said, including improved academic and athletic performance.

“This is a seminal study,” said Robert Roth, director of communications and a veteran meditation instructor at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. “Dr. Barnes’ study is solid and convincing.”

The cost of implementing meditation programs in schools, he said, “is next to nothing.” His university approaches outside sources for funding. One example of a successful program, he said, is in a Detroit-area middle school, “where 160 children and teachers have meditated every day for seven years.”

Article no longer available.

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Time to reflect called religion (Charlotte Observer, North Carolina)

Cristina Breen Bolling and Gail Smith-Arrants, Charlotte Observer, North Carolina: What started as an unheralded effort to open Cabarrus County’s first charter school became a battle this month after local residents raised questions about the school’s plans to teach Transcendental Meditation.

Directors of the planned Carolina International School say they want to offer 10 minutes of Transcendental Meditation — commonly called TM — to fifth- through 12th-graders each day, to help them center themselves and learn better.

But about a half-dozen local residents and Cabarrus County commissioner Bob Carruth contend that TM is rooted in Hinduism, and as a religious practice, shouldn’t be taught in a school that receives public money.

The meditation, developed from an ancient Indian practice, was introduced in the United States around 1960 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, known to many for his friendship with the Beatles.

Psychology researchers most often study the physical and psychological aspects of the meditation rather than a religious component. TM is practiced by people of many faiths.

School director Richard Beall, who practices TM, defends the meditation, which he says is just one feature of a school that touts individual learning plans, small class sizes and the International Baccalaureate program.

“I’m standing here telling people that this has nothing to do with religion. It’s a mechanical technique,” Beall said during a meeting Thursday night for parents interested in enrolling their children in the school.

“It requires no religious or philosophical belief. … Our contract with the state is our charter, and we’re going to obey that.”

State officials are talking to experts about TM in response to the parents’ complaints.

Like other schools that receive public money, Carolina International School isn’t allowed to include religion as part of its curriculum and must give its students the same End of Grade tests that public school students take.

N.C. law allows up to 100 charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded. A Charter School Advisory Committee recommends schools to the N.C. State Board of Education, which authorizes the schools with a charter. Carolina International received its charter in January.

It would be the first charter school in Cabarrus County and the county’s first school to offer the International Baccalaureate program geared toward students who can do accelerated work. The school has already enrolled more than 300 students, and more than 200 others are on a waiting list, Beall said. About 60 percent are from Mecklenburg County, 40 percent are from Cabarrus County and a few are from Stanly County, he said.

Beall received several graduate degrees related to education from the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, which was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 1981 he helped established Maharishi Middle and Upper Schools in Iowa, where he served for 10 years as middle and high school principal, social studies teacher and coach.

People who use Transcendental Meditation learn to focus on a mantra to let stress and other distractions slip away.

Critics, however, say the trademarked practice can cause depression, anxiety and other side effects, and say they worry the practice will involve more than 10 minutes of relaxation.

TM is rare in schools, but not unheard of. Students at one Detroit charter school practice TM daily. High school students in a Georgia public school district took part in a study into whether TM could affect their blood pressure and response to stress.
What qualifies as religion?

N.C. charter school officials say they’ve heard about a half-dozen complaints about the Cabarrus County school and are researching whether the meditation technique has ties to religion.”If that has been determined to be religion, then that can’t be part of the school. It’s really that simple,” said Michael Fedewa, chairman of the state charter school advisory committee.

Workers at the state office of charter schools are trying to sort out whether TM has religious links and will report back, possibly as early as April 8.

State charter school leaders have questioned the school’s plans to offer TM in the past, but never did outside research on the topic, Fedewa said. The charter school advisory board asked Beall and other Carolina International School leaders to come in a few months ago for a meeting to talk about TM.

“In all cases, they looked us dead in the eye and said `This is not religion. There is no religion being taught,’ ” Fedewa said. “They appear to have answered our questions forthrightly and to our satisfaction.”

That’s not enough for Beverly Henley, a Harrisburg parent who said she doesn’t think state charter school officials took the time to investigate TM fully. Henley said she started looking into the school for her own children, but now opposes taxpayer funding for it because she says the religious tie is clear.

“It sounds like the (charter school advisory board) asked him, `Is this TM a religion?’ and he said, `No.’ So they said, `It needs to stay that way.’ ”

Carruth, the county commissioner, said if Carolina International School is allowed to open using TM, then he’d encourage Christian schools to apply for charter school status so they, too, could receive public funding.

“Why not? To me, that shows that’s how they interpret the law,” he said.
Court ruling

Thursday’s meeting heated up when critics challenged Beall’s explanation that TM is simply a peaceful moment of reflection and has nothing to do with religion.

Some questioned whether students would be forced to go further than meditation, perhaps having to watch teachers undergo a ceremony that allows them to teach TM.

They also cited a 1977 federal court ruling in which a judge in New Jersey ruled that Transcendental Meditation was a religious practice and cannot be funded in public schools.

“It’s a restated form of Hinduism. I believe that’s the real question here,” said Cindy Picarella, a Cabarrus County resident. “I would like to put my child here, but I cannot put my child in this school because I believe it is a religion. … And I still have to pay for it, but I don’t want to pay for it.”

Beall responded: “TM isn’t a religious experience for me, and it shouldn’t be for a student….

“We’re going to make sure everybody involved in this understands what it’s about.”

[Original article no longer available]
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Study: Meditation Cuts School Stress (KSL TV, Utah)

Ed Yeates, KSL TV, Utah: University of Michigan study shows two ten-minute meditation sessions per day in a public school setting reduces stress in children and teens.

In a Salt Lake City home neighborhood adults and teens practice a widely accepted technique for meditation – the same used in the randomized pilot study at a Detroit middle school.

There, researchers from the University of Michigan found that two ten minute sessions per day not only reduced stress, but promoted emotional stability. Within the study group was found less verbal aggression, anxiety, even loneliness.

Some young people in the Salt Lake gathering who have been doing this for several years with their own parents and friends, say the practice does make a difference.

Jamie Shields, High School Student: “Wake up in the morning and go home at night and just meditate. And you just forget about everything, and stress just rolls off and I’m able to focus more what I’m working on – homework, studying in school. I can stay more alert throughout the day.”

Madison Stephens, Junior High School Student: “It helps us be a lot nicer to each other and it helps me do a lot better with school.”

Ali Stephens, Junior High School Student: “I don’t get mad at my friends or my family and stuff. And it just takes away all my stress.”

Based on the Detroit experiment, a small but growing partnership of parents, teachers and physicians at a news conference today called for schools around the country to offer transcendental meditation breaks each day.

It wouldn’t be difficult. It requires no expensive equipment, no special outfits or footwear. In fact, you can do the two ten minute sessions in street clothes. It doesn’t take a lot of practice. Meditating is easy to begin meditating, easy to quit.

Randall Tolpinrud, Meditation Group: “The individual experiences the quieter, quieter state of the thinking process. A relaxed more settled state of the mind until the mind experiences the deepest state of rest possible.”

Since groups around the country claim meditation is not a religion or a philosophy – nor does it require any change in lifestyle – it would be an appropriate stress reliever in the schools.

Read the original article…

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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…

Read the original article…

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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Meditation now being used for health benefits

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Indiana: Five adults gathered in a northeast Miami library one recent evening to learn a meditation technique that spans centuries and continents, from India to Aventura, from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to the Beatles.

Carlos and Sylvia Ranalli weren’t there for spiritual reasons. They were hoping transcendental meditation, or TM, could help them calm, focus and relieve stress.

They’re indicative of a nationwide trend, as meditation is now taught in health clubs, schools, offices, even prisons. The technique was featured in a recent Time magazine, which reported that 10 million Americans practice some form of meditation. In South Florida, professors are investigating the relationship between meditation and the ability to negotiate.

In contrast to its religious roots, today’s meditation is buoyed less by spiritual figures than by scientific studies documenting health benefits.

”If you go back 30 years, what was meditation? Meditation was a thing a bunch of hippies did,” said Doug Kruger, regional representative for the Science of Spirituality.

”Now, it’s not uncommon to walk into large corporations and see meditation classes,” he continued. “It’s become much more popular in the West, but it has lost its spiritual side.”

At the recent TM lecture, instructor Mike Scozzari, a graying man in a pressed shirt, handed out packets of photocopied medical studies and newspaper articles on meditation.

Trained in Spain and Switzerland with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Scozzari said he has been teaching meditation since 1972.

TM is one of dozens of meditation techniques — some concentrate on breathing, others call for focusing on a specific place or a third eye, while some try to solve an impossible riddle (for instance, what is the sound of one hand clapping?). But TM is the most widely researched form, and also one of the most popular, practiced by 1.5 million Americans.

Maharishi, who taught TM to the Beatles, received a degree in physics before he started teaching meditation in 1955. Two years later, he founded the TM movement, which comes from ancient Hindu traditions, in Madras, India.

With a background bridging science and spirituality, Maharishi urged researchers to probe meditation. And he emphasized that TM must be standardized — each instructor teaches the same set of skills.

Maharishi’s appeal to science is evident in the way Scozzari opened his talk, by calling TM a ”mechanical technique,” not a religion.

Often, Scozzari said, this is a concern. He remembered one woman who signed up for lessons, then canceled after her pastor told her not to go.

Despite the real link between meditation and some religions, Scozzari compares meditation to math.

TM is a mantra-based meditation technique, which means that one meditates by repeating a meaningless sound assigned by the instructor. Repeating the mantra allows the mind to stop working and settle naturally into a rhythm.

”You lose awareness of your surroundings, who’s at the door and who’s on the phone,” he said.

You can do it anywhere, eyes closed, in any comfortable position. In contrast to other types of meditation, TM doesn’t involve concentration. If you work hard, you’re doing something wrong, Scozzari is fond of telling students. “In this method, you change what you think with, you don’t change what you think about.”

GOOD RESULTS

It worked for Alexandra Peters of Sunny Isles. She was stressed and struggling after moving from New York to Miami with her baby daughter over a year ago, and meditation helped her return to her ”intuitive” self, she said.

When Susi Deneroff comes home from work ”frazzled to death,” she meditates for 20 minutes by repeating a mantra, and then feels reinvigorated.

”Meditation saved my life,” said Deneroff, who has a family history of heart disease, but is 60 and healthy.

Adeyela Albury, who investigates sexual harassment claims for Miami-Dade Public Schools, started taking a meditation class with her daughter when the 12-year-old started having panic attacks. Since then, the daughter’s grades have improved, and Albury’s high blood pressure has decreased.

”It allows me to be loving but detached,” she said. “Once you learn the technique, you literally can lock in within a second to center your mind and body.”

RESEARCH

Science has tried to put a finer point on it, with rigorous studies — hundreds on transcendental meditation — beginning in the 1970s.

A 1972 paper by Harvard Medical School researchers, part of the packet Scozzari hands out, reported that metabolism and the need for oxygen drop during meditation. These findings, along with monitoring electrical activity of meditators’ brains, show meditation is a distinctly different state from sleep.

It also seems to have long-term benefit. Studies measuring the biological markers of aging — blood pressure, vision and hearing — found that meditators were younger than their chronological age.

Earlier this month at a cardiology conference in Orlando, researchers presented studies on the effect of TM on blood pressure. Among 150 black men and women divided into groups taught health education, TM or muscle relaxation, blood pressure dropped the most in the group that meditated. One suggested theory: meditation reduces stress-related hormones believed to contribute to high blood pressure.

”If the mind can contribute to heart disease, then the mind can contribute to healing heart disease,” said Dr. Robert Sneider, the study’s principal investigator.

It’s meditation’s effect on mental health that interests Clark Freshman, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who meditates regularly. Freshman is investigating how meditation affects the ability to negotiate successfully. The link, he said, is that people who report being in a ”positive mood” are more successful negotiators, and people are often in a ”slightly better mood” after meditating.

”It’s not quite a high, it’s just a sense of complete ease,” Freshman said. “It’s a calmness and pleasantness, unlike anything I’d ever felt before.”

The meditators meeting at the Aventura library used similar terms. One suggested ”restful, blissful.” One said he no longer feels the desire for cigarettes or alcohol. Another described it as ”orgasmic.” They all agreed.

[Original article no longer available.]
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“Twin Peaks” director urges mass meditation

Reuters, UK: As the director of such dark films as Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, and the television series Twin Peaks, David Lynch seems an unlikely leader for a world peace campaign based on mass meditation.

He has, however, joined a Washington real estate developer, Jeffrey Abramson, and a publisher to raise $1 billion to bankroll a foundation supplying instructors in transcendental meditation to ease the planet’s stress. “There’s a ton of sceptics out there,” Lynch admitted, acknowledging a certain giggle factor attendant to his project.

“On the surface there’s the giggle. I would just encourage people to look more deeply into this, and the giggles go away, unless it’s just a giggle of pure happiness at the beauty of this – because this plan has been tested.

“Every time it’s been tested it’s reduced crime and violence. It’s a real thing and it could be in place this year and bring peace to Earth.”

Lynch, whose creations have featured twisted visions of small-town American life, said he has been meditating for 34 years, and that it has not dulled his artistic edge. “When I started meditating, I had an anger in me and some people might say, well, that would give you an edge, you’d have a cutting edge.

“But really, in truth, anger is a poison . . . Two weeks after I started meditating, that anger disappeared and it doesn’t mean you can’t get angry, it just means you can’t hold on to it, it doesn’t poison you.”

Lynch is promoting the establishment of a University of World Peace in the US. He and his partners have raised $88 million, but more will be needed to endow 8000 scholarships to teach the transcendental meditation techniques of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

[Original article no longer available.]
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Medicine for the mind (The Independent, UK)

The Independent: Ian Robinson doesn’t mince his words when it comes to admitting his past failings. “I was a bugger for road rage,” he confesses. “I’d be driving along and someone would cut me up and I could kill.” Ian laughs at the admission. Other road users no longer wind him up. Their driving hasn’t changed – Ian has. The 44-year-old factory worker has discovered meditation.

Ian Robinson doesn’t mince his words when it comes to admitting his past failings. “I was a bugger for road rage,” he confesses. “I’d be driving along and someone would cut me up and I could kill.” Ian laughs at the admission. Other road users no longer wind him up. Their driving hasn’t changed – Ian has. The 44-year-old factory worker has discovered meditation.

Ian and eight of his colleagues from Indmar Sheetmetal in Wigan, Lancashire, were taught how to meditate over a three-month period for a BBC2 documentary which will be screened on Thursday evening. The results were remarkable. According to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Umist, their mental and physical wellbeing increased by more than 300 per cent. “We took pulse rate measures before they started the course,” he says. “We repeated them before and after various sessions, and then at the end to see if there was an overall improvement on pulse rate.” The researchers also used psychometric stress tests at the end of the experiment. “What was very interesting was that the workers showed a massive improvement in their overall mental and physical health scores. And they were better than normative. Eight out of nine people showed substantial changes. And their heart and pulse rates improved significantly, too.”

The factory workers, most of whom were initially sceptical, were taught breathing techniques and t’ai chi, and were then taken on guided meditations during which they imagined themselves in a tranquil place. “I loved it, I really did,” says Ian, a systems manager. “I wasn’t too keen on the t’ai chi, but the meditation – there’s something in that. I felt more focused after I did it. I could meditate for 50 minutes and it would seem like five or 10 minutes. While I was doing it, all sorts of things were happening – I was flying and seeing lights. After-wards I felt relaxed and more focused.” Ian has continued to practise. “I do the meditation once a week at least. Now I’m more chilled. Nothing fazes me.”

Ian’s colleague Elaine Walsh, 40, a press operator, says that learning to meditate has changed her life. “I was sceptical at first,” admits Elaine. “But I found it very relaxing. I had mood swings before. I don’t get them at all now. My husband noticed a change straight away; he made me carry on. It has changed my life. I feel more alive, awake. I suffered from asthma and I don’t get it as much now. I still meditate twice a day.”

Meditation has never been so popular, as more people struggle to cope with the pressures of work and home life. Celebrities such as Richard Gere, Shania Twain, Sting, Goldie Hawn and Sheryl Crow are also at it. Some forms require you to concentrate on your breathing, others on an object such as a candle, or to repeat a mantra. Some are practised while walking or dancing.

Researchers continue to find evidence of its benefits. It was recently discovered that Buddhists who meditate may be able to train their brains to feel happiness and to control aggressive instincts. According to Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy at Duke University in North Carolina, Buddhists appear to be able to stimulate the left prefrontal lobe – the area just behind the forehead – which may be why they can generate positive emotions and a feeling of wellbeing at will.

In August, the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reported that researchers from the University of Wisconsin had found that meditation could boost the body’s immune system and change brain activity in areas associated with positive emotion. Twenty-four employees took an eight-week meditation course, and found that the positive biological effects lasted for up to four months.

Meditation appears to be helpful for a wide range of health problems. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the stress reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been using a type of meditation called mindfulness (which involves paying attention to the experience of the moment) to help people cope with cancer, Aids, heart disease, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, anxiety and panic. In two trials by Dr Kabat-Zinn, psoriasis patients who listened to meditation tapes while receiving ultraviolet light treatments healed four times faster than those on light treatment alone.

In addition, two studies by Dr John Teasdale, a psychologist at the Medical Research Council’s cognition and brain sciences unit in Cambridge, have found that, teamed with cognitive therapy, mindfulness meditation halved the risk of relapse for people who have suffered three or more episodes of clinical depression. The treatment is currently being used clinically within the NHS in a small number of places around the country.

The greatest claims, however, come from supporters of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a specific technique popularised by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was first taught here in 1960 and more than 160,000 Britons have subsequently learnt it – at a cost (currently £1,280 for the course). It is practised for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily, repeating a specific mantra while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.

Research into the technique has been conducted at more than 200 universities, hospitals and research institutions in 27 countries, its supporters say. They claim the studies show that practising TM reduces a variety of important risk factors for diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer, including high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, obesity, stress levels, anxiety and depression.

One US study on volunteers with high blood pressure, which was reported in The Lancet, found that TM could significantly reduce clogging of the arteries and cut related health risks, particularly of heart disease. Studies published in The American Journal of Cardiology and Stroke have shown that TM helps to relieve angina and reduce hardening of the arteries.

More research conducted in America found that a group of 2,000 people who practised TM had fewer than half the number of visits to the doctor and days in hospital compared with a control group over a five-year period. Jonathan Hinde, a TM teacher and spokesman for the organisation in Britain, says over the last five or so years, The National Institutes of Health, the main government funding body for medical research in the US, has put about $20m into research specifically on the connection between TM and various aspects of cardiovascular health. “What has been found is that if you practise TM for about three months, blood pressure tends to be reduced by about the same amount as taking any drug for hypertension. Hypertension is implicated in both strokes and heart attacks, two of the three biggest killers in the Western world.”

There are, of course, sceptics. In an editorial in the BMJ last May, Peter H Canter, a research fellow in complementary medicine, concluded that “overall, current evidence for the therapeutic effectiveness of any type of meditation is weak, and evidence for any specific effect above that of credible control interventions even more so.” He added that most of the researchers for these studies were directly involved in the organisation offering TM, and “seem keen to demonstrate its unique value”.

Yet Larry Culliford, a consultant psychiatrist at a community mental health centre in Brighton, who was trained in meditation by Buddhist monks more than 20 years ago, is convinced that it works. He practises it once a day, paying attention to the rise and fall of his chest and abdomen while he breathes. “Sogyal Rinpoche, who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, says that giving yourself the gift of learning to meditate is the best gift you can give yourself in this life. You could say without too much exaggeration that it has transformed me and my life.

“The evidence is that it is very good for people with a range of physical as well as mental health problems. Meditation gets the mind and body back into harmony and this allows the natural healing processes the best chance to work. Benefits are possible in every organ system of the body and every part of health disorder, including mental health disorder.”

Also convinced of the benefits of meditation is Roger Chalmers, a GP working in East Anglia, who has been practising TM since 1974. “An enormous amount of what we deal with in general practice is stress-related, and TM is a really excellent method for eliminating stress.

“TM is something that anyone can do; it’s completely effortless and enhances wellbeing. Everybody benefits from being more well-rested and free from stress. We all know what it feels like when we have a good rest overnight or a good holiday. Everything in your life improves, and, in a way, you can see TM as something that just gives you a very easy technique to ensure that more of life is spent in that state and less is spent feeling tired and strained.”

[via the Independent]
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North Carolina Supreme Court rejects tax-exemption for meditation center

A spiritual center near Boone where patrons practice transcendental meditation is not exempt from taxes, despite claims that it’s an educational institution, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The decision reversed the Court of Appeals’ opinion and upholds a ruling by the N.C. Property Tax Commission that the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America is not an educational, scientific or charitable institution that qualifies for a tax exemption.

The center is part of the 7,000-acre Heavenly Mountain resort established by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ guru and founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

The resort also includes the campus of Maharishi Spiritual University of America, which is accredited by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to issue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Vedic science. The sciences are the study of consciousness and are based on classical Indian Vedic literature.

The Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, said it sided with a dissenting opinion by Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson in August.

The appellate court was supposed to review the process used by the tax commission, but otherwise respect its conclusion, Tyson said.

In addition, the judges failed to consider that “the granting of exemption from taxation to some necessarily increases the tax burden on others,” Tyson wrote.

In his own review, Tyson said he concluded that providing some short- and long-term meditation courses, as well as Vedic science and Sanskrit courses, did not qualify the spiritual center for tax exemption.

“Thus, while the spiritual center does offer some educational activity that is not its primary purpose. The record clearly establishes that the primary purpose of the spiritual center is the practice of meditation” by adherents who have been a part of their group for 20 years, Tyson wrote.

The Spiritual Center of America had pursued its county tax exemption since 1997 on property valued at about $6 million.

Watauga County collected about $468,000 in fire and property taxes for the 1999 and 2000 tax years from the spiritual center site.

RickRoss.com: Read an archive of the original article…

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