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DUSTY SCHWEICKART. One of the astronauts who will be on the next Apollo flight to the moon, practices Transcendental Meditation (TM). While this fact might surprise many people who associate meditation with passive seclusion, other meditators such as Major General Franklin Davis, or the Beach Boys, would consider his practice perfectly natural.
If Apollo monitors report that Schweickart's metabolism had slowed down considerably at times in his space flight, thousands of meditators in the United States will understand it is not a peculiar effect of the ionosphere; he is merely experiencing the usual benefits from his twice-daily meditation. He has incorporated the technique into his routine activities, and can mediate on an Apollo ship as easily as anywhere else.
Transcendental Meditation first appeared on the California horizon 13 years ago when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of India introduced the technique to this country. In 1967 after a period of gradual expansion. TM suddenly burst into the limelight when the Beatles. Mia Farrow and other celebities adopted Maharishi's method.
But people soon lost interest TM dropped from the headlines. By the late sixties, the public saw Transcendental Meditation as another shining cult which had faded as soon as the gloss wore off Practical problems and distrust discouraged many potential meditators--they objected to the initiation fee or mistrusted the claims that anyone could practice and benefit from TM. But gradually it has become clear that although Maharishi disappeared from weekly magazine covers. Transcendental Meditation itself did not disappear. The organization has quietly grown into a thriving, world-wide movement. Calculated from participation in meditation centers, the Student International Meditation Society (SIMS) and the International Meditation Society (IMS) now estimate that over 300,000 people meditate in the United States alone and the number has doubled every year since 1968.
I heard no more about TM until this fall, when I went to an introductory lecture at Philips Brooks House (PBH) A friend of mine was going and I had nothing better to do. While I was vaguely curious about TM secretly I knew that meditation just wasn't for me. But the lecture surprised me. The man and woman talking were too practical for my concept of meditation and I found myself intellectually agreeing with most of what they said.
Larry Geeslin '70, who teaches Transcendental Meditation says that the greatest problem with promoting TM is in overcoming the misunderstanding which arises from the word "meditate". To many people this brings to mind a long period of ascetic or reclusive training which builds up to an eventual Spiritual reward. Maharishi and his students make a conscious effort to dispel this image of mystical asceticism. They explain in lectures that while the technique "is as ancient as mankind." Transcendental Meditation differs significantly from the practices of other groups in the contemporary American spiritual renaissance. TM is not a religion or a cult, but a practical mental technique easily learned.
I approached meditating with a cynical attitude. I found it hard to believe that it was effortless, or that anyone could do it. I was sure that I would be the one exception. Still if meditators' claims that The calms you down yet given you energy were true, it sounded like a worth while addition to my hectic Cambridge achoduate. I was curious enough to attend the second lecture, and then took the course. But I also locked into the claims they mode more closely: and I found out that other academics had preceded me.
Nothing the growing popularity of Transcendental Meditation, several scientists are testing the validity of the physiological and psychological benefits which meditators claim. The most significant physiological studies are those of Dr. Herbert Benson an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Robert Keith Wallace, an independent researcher.
In their most recent experiments, Benson and Wallace studied 36 people who had been meditating from under a month to nine years. I heir results indicate that meditation is both a released and an alert condition. It is different from the states of wakefulness, deep sleep, and dreaming--in other words a fourth state of consciousness.
The study reported that a change in metabolism observed during meditation corresponds to a deep balanced state of rest deeper even than sleep Specific body reactions such as a sharp fall in oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide elimination and a simultaneous reduction of the heart's workload scientifically explain the restful alertness" claimed by meditators.
In studies of the psychological effects of meditation, results seem to be equally positive. In a study at the University of Kansas this summer. Dr. Maynard Shelley found that meditators seemed less nervous or depressed and more creative and expensive. In a study conducted at the University of California-Los Angeles last December. Dr. H. George Blasdell found that meditators performed faster and more accurately in perceptual motor tests.
Wallace and Benson are now researching the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation with drug abusers. They see meditation's restful, unwinding effect as an effective counter to increasing hypertension and other nervous diseases.
So TM rests well in the laboratory but how does it fit in with living at Harvard "I think it's done a lot of good things for me, like calming me down." Sarah Greenburg, a Senior in Eliot House explained. She has been meditating regularly for 11 months. "Just doing it twice a day can help you get ready for whatever the day brings. I don't know if it's because they tell you it's going to relax you or if it's something else but hell, if its going to relax you it doesn't matter."
Eric Allen '73 approaches TM in a similarly practical manner. In an unusual sequence. Allen's father was the first member of his family to try meditation. He then called up his son and daughter and suggested that they take the course. Allen's sister now teaches TM herself. Eric, however, prefers a non-intellectual approach to meditation.
"I deal with TM on a practical level," he explained. "I find that it really peps me up in the morning when I feel drowsy. If I meditate before dinner when I'm a little tired again. I find I have the energy to work on whatever I'm doing for at least five or six more hours."
While many people swear by meditation as most people swear by their morning coffee, others have stopped meditating. "I just don't have enough time," a pre-med junior said. "And I still have some questions about it." A senior from Quincy House stopped after meditating for ten months I didn't think it was doing anything after a while so I stopped.".
Larry Geeslin commented. In my experiences anyone who practices TM correctly always receives benefits. One implies the other. When a person stops TM he is really stopping an unrewarding or even difficult practice which he unconsciously turned meditating into.
LFARNING the technique of Transcendental Meditation entails seven steps at once dubbed the "Seven Steps to Bliss." After two free introductory lectures, the actual course-which costs $45 for college students and $75 for full-time working adults-consists of an initiation and four one-hour lessons on consecutive days. The beginner learns to meditate the first day through step-by-step instruction with his teacher and immediately starts the practice of regular meditation-once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. In the next three lessons teachers check their technique and discuss their experiences at meditation.
When I took the course up until the moment that I began meditation I doubted that anything would happen I was almost disappointed when it was so easy I thought I was doing something wrong. But my instructor informed me that the surest way to meditate incorrectly is to make an effort in any way to achieve a result is effortless.
Once you have taken the course, any center in the world is open to you. A major function of these centers is checking your technique. During the first year of practice, you are urged to go to the center to be checked, "as often as you want, but at least once a month."
These centers also provide advanced lectures, discussion groups, and video-tapes of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi--such as a discussion between Maharishi and Buck minister Fuller. The centers also sponsor weekend residence courses in which people meditate more frequently and attend discussion groups.
A step beyond in teacher training courses, students spend a number of months with the Maharishi himself. Last summer over 2000 people attended the teacher training course in Matorca-Spain Three undergraduates at Harvard graduated from the course Larry Geeslin Larry Farwell and Clark Easter.
Clark Faster said his initial involvement with TM was casual almost a by product of his other interests and pursuits. He starting meditating two summers s ago while he was working to earn enough money to go to India. The previous year as a sophomore at Harvard he quickly tired of majoring in Government and living at Dunster House and then of majoring in Anthropology and living in one of the Harvard Cooperatives.
At this point," Clark said, "I freaked out, hated Harvard, and wanted to leave." I through his academic studies, however, Clark became convinced that the spiritual experience he sought did in fact exist. He explored several different life-styles, ranging from macro-biotics to commune living. He even tried out guitarist John McGlaughlin's guru, but nothing satisfied him.
I decided to quit Harvard after finishing up the year, and go to India. In my naivete I thought that was the best place to go. Then I saw a course in TM advertized at John Hopkins, while I was working at home in Maryland, and decided to take it.
I began to feel a lot better, and calmed down quite a bit. But I was still planning on going to India. I had the visas, the shots and all the money ready. On the weekend before leaving. I took a residence course in TM. I realized that I hadn't known the extent of the philosophy involved. I was really impressed with the experience of more concentrated meditation, and with the video-tapes of Maharishi. It was the first time I had ever heard him talking. At the end of the course, I learned that I could leave in two weeks to attend the teacher-training course in Majorca. So I went there instead of India."
Clark admits that initially he was very skeptical of the Hindu monk. "I watched Maharishi like a hawk for three weeks," he recalled. "And then, finally. I decided that he made complete sense on both intellectual and experiential levels. Summing up his five months with the Maharishi Clark said. "It was the most intense and important experience I've ever had."
How did his family react to all this? After he got back, he initiated his mother, his father, an executive in a plastics company, and his brother, a computer technician. "I've even initiated some of my Dad's business associates," he said.
Here at Harvard. Clark is giving introductory lectures in several Houses this Fall. He said that he hopes to offer a House course this spring in the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI), the intellectual study of meditation.
Transcendental Meditation has been incorporated into the curriculum of several universities already, including Yale. Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania. At Yale, over 1000 students and professors are meditating, according to the New Haven SIMS center. Some high schools are piloting TM programs. The Illinois House of Representatives last year passed a resolution recommending that Illinois schools give accredited courses in TM and SCI.
The organization's aspirations are still growing. SIMS-IMS has a plan to continue expanding and building centers all over the world. Under their "World Plan" formulated last year, there will be a center for every million people in the world. Each center will have the resources to train 1000 teachers. SIMS hopes to build a University or Training Academy in the United States, such as one now under construction in Austria. On a more immediate and approachable level of expansion, the SIMS center in Cambridge recently moved to larger quarters at 33 Garden St.--former headquarters for the International Student Association--to accommodate the growing number of meditators in the Cambridge area.
Initially the organization relied on donations but eventually SIMS-IMS decided that in order to finance such expansion they needed a steadier source of capital which course fees now provide, SIMS-IMS, a non-profit educational institution, uses the money for literature, building and maintaining centers, and constructing training academies. American money will eventually help support sister centers in poorer countries. Geeslin said the organization now hope experiments showing TM's beneficial effects on drug abusers will bring Federal funds for their programs.
At any rate, Transcendental Meditation is back in the news. No longer dismissable as a fad, meditation is stimulating interest from many segments of society. Research results in such areas as education and health are optimistic, although inconclusive. The stigma attached to meditation is dissolving, as more and more people look into it. Once attributed to hippies or monks. Maharishi's technique seems to have become an important regenerative factor in the lives of many people, whether they are astronauts, college students, or executives in plastics companies
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