A Marvelous Palace Loses its Luster
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Despite the transforming power of my initiation, my sojourn in Transcendental Meditation proved to be short-lived. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events and discoveries that caused the break.
I have tended to focus on shortcomings and excess in the organization, but now I suspect that my own nature was as much to blame. I have always found it challenging to be a compliant member of any organization, no matter how I esteem it.
"then the TM organization began to seem like a hard-sell, self-promoting business. It started recruiting people for its advanced program, advertising that participants could learn to levitate, even attain invisibility"
I have long forgotten whether I ever attended lectures or meetings or maintained contact with a certified teacher. I think not, on both counts.) I just tried to stay with the meditation program—20 minutes twice a day, me and my mantra. I don’t recall the initiation including any warning that meditation can be a hard slog, that benefits depend on the practitioner persevering through those times when he or she begins to wonder, what’s the point?
My wife and I had two young children. We were engaged in church life and the operation of an experimental public school. My job as a journalist, though low-paid, was demanding. On any particular day, if things were going okay it was too easy to skip meditation. Such choices had cumulative effects.
And then the TM organization began to seem like a hard-sell, self-promoting business. It started recruiting people for its advanced program, advertising that participants could learn to levitate, even attain invisibility.(§) The price was steep--$3,500, as I recall—compared to $35 for mere initiation. Their promoters approached the newspaper I worked for in search of a feature story. We sent a reporter and our chief photographer. No pictures, the TM people said—we would have to use theirs. Our photographer examined these photos and concluded they had been doctored—this long before the days of Photo Shop. So there was no story. As for me—even though I was not involved in evaluating the story—my faith was broken.
All the hype—the Beatles went to India to bask in the Maharishi’s aura, and George Harrison wrote songs inspired by this experience—could not restore my allegiance. I was more affected by an Esquire magazine send-up that disparaged the mystic as the “Mashuganishi,” combining his name with a Yiddish word meaning “crazy.”
And so I wandered out of the oasis. No longer meditating, I had created a vacuum. Still, I always had the sense that I could return to my place in the Cosmos—as I would, again and again.
(§)¨ When I first showed this to my principal reader, she noted I had typed “visibility.” Hah!