Nov 5, 2015

David Lynch and Katy Perry promote meditation with Carnegie Hall event

Rose Hackman
The Guardian
November 4, 2015

The Beatles at a transcendental meditation course in Bangor, North Wales given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images
Katy Perry says it helps with her jetlag, Rupert Murdoch gave it a try after “everyone” recommended it to him, and some of the Beatles’ best and trippiest photos and comments are associated with their embracing of the practice.

Transcendental meditation, a mantra meditation technique conceived and introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sixty years ago, has been a hit with the world’s most loved and hated celebrities throughout the six decades since its inception.

But wealthy transcendental meditators want poor New Yorkers to take time to recite mantras to themselves too. On Wednesday night, through a benefit organized by the David Lynch Foundation, New York’s transcendental meditation enthusiasts with between $150 and $600 to spare on a ticket will converge on the city’s prestigious Carnegie Hall for a benefit concert featuring Perry, Sting, and Jerry Seinfeld, among others.

“It’s very hard to explain,” American comedian Jerry Seinfeld, a transcendental meditator of more than forty years, has said in an interview on the subject.

“It’s like if you had a charger for your whole body and mind. That’s what TM [transcendental meditation] is.”

Proponents of the practice insist it is not a religion, but rather a technique that is compatible with, not exclusive of, all sorts of religions.

In practice, transcendental meditation appears to require meditation of between 15 and 20 minutes twice a day, along with the recitation of a mantra.

But learning the technique is not something you can simply look up online and practice at home for free. It comes at a cost and is taught around the world by a series of TM-approved schools, centers and universities.

In the United States, the training course will set interested candidates back $960, although the organization’s website claims it also gives “full TM scholarships” to “at-risk” populations, including students and veterans.

Costliness is also where organizations like the foundation of Blue Velvet filmmaker David Lynch, which says it pays for the transcendental meditation training of 10,000 marginalized New Yorkers, come into play.

Lynch, sometimes described as being to transcendental meditation what Tom Cruise is to Scientology, has been a practitioner since 1973.

His foundation claims to not just teach TM, but to help create world peace, and Lynch has not been shy to speak in superlative terms on the subject. “Mankind was not meant to suffer – bliss is our nature,” he said in an interview last year on the subject, explaining the practice’s necessity.

At New York’s Women’s Prison Association (WPA), which serves a population of 4,000 women incarcerated, formerly incarcerated and at risk of incarceration, the David Lynch Foundation recently helped introduce TM to staff members and some of their non-incarcerated female clients.

WPA staff member Diana McHugh reported that she had seen positive results already. She said one participant wrote in her feedback report: “I meditate every day, twice a day. I see the benefits every day when dealing with my child or anyone else. I have more patience and understanding. I have more energy. Since meditation, my sugar levels have regulated (I am diabetic).

“It seems like everything has fallen into place because my thought process has changed: things that used to matter don’t matter anymore because I seem to have lost my negative energy. I just totally appreciate you introducing Transcendental Meditation as a daily routine in my life. Thank you.”

With the rise in peer-reviewed studies suggesting meditation has positive scientific effects on the human brain and human behavior, the previously mocked practice has been experiencing a new lease on life.

But Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO of Hogan Assessments and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University, says the scientific evidence actually shows meditation is mostly a placebo and does not work better than smoking cannabis.

“My view is that meditation has turned into a luxury fad: it’s a show-off symbol for those who are not just successful, but also able to disengage from everyday concerns and stress by catering to their spiritual needs.

“For the average person in the world, meditation is unthinkable because they have real problems to deal with: finding or keeping a job, or more than one; physical and health strains; family obligations; etc. Just like it’s stupid to expect these people to have a ‘calling’ or ‘sense of purpose’, or to ask them to be ‘engaged’ at work, it would be naive to suggest that meditation will fix the problems.”

Russell Brand may be on board, Rupert Murdoch may have given it a try, but it seems American Googlers are a little more skeptical. Type “Is transcendental” into Google search, and Google will kindly finish off your sentence with its own, presumably oft-searched, suggestions.

Is transcendental meditation a cult? Is it dangerous? Real? Evil? A sin?

No comments: