Paul, Ringo, the Mararishi, me, and world peace

Yup, I did it in the 70s — took a course in Transcendental Meditation. It was, indeed, relaxing. And, after all, the Beatles were doing it.

And now Paul and Ringo, along with filmmaker David Lynch, are promoting (and funding) introducing TM to public school students, especially those who are “at-risk.”

Of course, as the above linked story indicates,

“Public schools are not supposed to be in the business of promoting religion – and that means any religion,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Advocating for a Hindu-based religious practice in public schools is the same as pushing Christianity or another faith. It’s equally unconstitutional.”

Personally, I believe that the process that is called “meditation” is a great stress-reducer and can open the meditator to attitude-altering personal insights that bubble up from the subconscious. But you don’t need a religious framework to accomplish that.

Shortly after the rise in popularity of TM, Herbert Benson wrote a book called The Relaxation Response, outlining a meditative practice that is really TM without a connection to any spiritual belief. Sort of a TM for the secularist.

From here:

The relaxation response represents a form of meditation which has been practiced for many years. The technique can be found in every major religious tradition. It is a simple technique, but it is not easy to practice or to incorporate into your life. You will find your mind wandering, and you will probably find it difficult to set aside the time to practice. It feels like setting aside 20 minutes a day to sit and do nothing.

If you do incorporate this or any relaxation technique into your life you may notice at least the following four benefits:

* You will gain increased awareness of whether you are tense or relaxed. You will be more “in touch with your body.”
* You will be better able to relax when you become stressed-out.
* You may even reduce the resting level of your autonomic nervous system – walking around more relaxed all the time.
* Your concentration may improve. By repeatedly bringing yourself back to the meditation you are strengthening the part of your mind that decides what to think about.

Devotees of Transcendental Meditation believe that if enough people participated in the practice, world peace would be achieved. Well, maybe so, if meditation really does reduce stress and, therefore, related frustration and aggression.

But maybe it also would be true that if enough people practiced the Relaxation Response every day, we would move steadily toward world peace. Or, at least have a population less stressed and more insightful.

I wonder what would happen if public schools offered a “Relaxation Club” rather than a “Meditation Club” and used David Lynch’s foundation money to pay at-risk students to attend after school. It would be an interesting study to see if the process had a beneficial effect on those students. It would be the same process as “meditation,” but presented in a different package, one more legally appropriate to the “separation of church and state” Constitutional mandate.

The Transcendental Meditation website cites the value of meditation (AKA “the relaxation response”): creativity, focus, health, happiness, success.

I don’t know about “happiness” and “success,” but three out of five ain’t bad.

The site also quotes Dr. Gary Kaplan, a neurologist at NYU’s medical school:

“The TM technique simply and naturally allows the mind to settle down to experience a state of inner coherence and calm during which time the left and right hemispheres, and the front and back of the brain, begin to work in harmony with each other. This brain wave coherence has been correlated with improvements in memory, problem-solving and decision-making abilities. This change in brain functioning also affects the rest of the physiology, reducing high blood pressure, strengthening the heart, and overall improving health.”

I really do need to meditate (whatever you want to call it), but that means I have to spend less time online.

That’s the hard part.