Tuesday, March 27, 2012

still-sound 54. TM

I found this on a walk this week.  It must have fallen
from a tree and cracked open.  I like the heart inside.

I watched a program on Oprah's channel this week about an entire town in Iowa dedicated to Transcendental Meditation.  There are two domed buildings where residents of the town convene twice a day to silently meditate.  There is a school where all the students, even the little ones, meditate.  Oprah mentions that the crime rate is virtually nonexistent.  The people who move here subscribe to all religions - their dedication to Vedic meditation is what they all have in common.  TM is not a religion, it's a practice.  A quiet focusing of the mind.  I like to think of meditation as a method leading us closer to the Source - the elimination of all imaginary boundaries that separate us from each other and the rest of the universe to realize that everything is interconnected and interdependent.

I am exhilarated by this town's existence.  Although there are countless religious people in America, our culture is by and large spiritually starved.  I'm troubled by the me vs them attitude that pervades every aspect of American life.  I feel that the compassion organ in our country has been surgically removed.  Fifty million people without healthcare anyone?  Too bad...  Stripping the planet of resources to satisfy a grotesque compulsion to acquire possessions (for the sake of acquiring) at the grave expense of future generations and the earth itself?

There's an area of this town in Iowa where 800-1000 young men from India live and meditate all day.  Their intention is to will world peace.  Imagine that - a focused commitment to the improvement of the collective rather than the self.  Times 800+.  It seems like a human power-plant, located in the very center of the country, generating energy fields of love.  Oprah loved this.  So did I.  I feel that if Allen Ginsberg were alive, he'd love it too.

I think deep-meditators create fields of synchronicity.  A couple of years ago I spent some time researching crop circles in Wiltshire, England.  I wanted to approach the phenomenon as an art historian, contextualizing the ornate field patterns in the tradition of land art.  That the artists behind these works remain anonymous presents a refreshing alternative to the celebrity-artist and fetishized authorship.  Where as most celebrated land art can be viewed as the control of nature executed by a man-with-a-plan, the crop circles seem to just appear as (a decidedly witty) part of nature.  There is no name behind the piece and no exchange of money (this to me is the most radical aspect of the crop-circles-as-art approach).  Art without money?  What?

I read an intelligently written article about crop circles online.  I jotted down the author's name, hoping to meet her one day and have a chat.  A two-sentence biography at the end of the article revealed that the author taught Vedic Meditation in Los Angeles.  The next day a man walked into the perfume store where I work, hoping to find some nice fragrances that wouldn't interfere with his students' concentration.  He happened to be a teacher of Vedic Meditation.  I mentioned the crop circle article.  He knew the author very well.  He was her teacher.  He gave me her email address and encouraged me to contact her.  When I did, she did not seem surprised by the coincidence.  "Deep meditators like Will attract synchronicities like that" she explained.*


Can you even imagine this town in Iowa?  I'm sure it's not some idyllic shangri-la.  Nothing is.  They're not even doing anything that remarkable - they simply sit in silence twice a day, quieting the mind, perhaps fostering a sense of compassion.  Yet, it seems so foreign, radical and ultimately essential.

*The author turned out to be Amely Greeven, a brilliant writer and remarkable person.  I highly recommend her essays and book. 


  1. Steve! A good friend of mine went to that TM college in Iowa. She mentioned this a couple of years ago, and as I never knew such a thing existed, I thought she was kidding. Since then, it's always the first thing I tell people about her when I introduce her: "Janet went to a TM college!" When she went, it was completely outré, but now with Russell Brand, David Lynch and Oprah on board with the place, I guess it's edging nearer the mainstream.

  2. That's so interesting! I would love to hear about her experiences there. I heard that there is a new Contemplative Studies major at my old college - don't know if it's true or not. If it had existed back when I was studying there, I wonder if I would have majored in it. Probably more useful than Art / Semiotics!