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When I was 5 years old, I moved to ‘heaven,' otherwise known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s national headquarters for Heaven on Earth in Fairfield, Iowa.  My family was struggling and my mother didn’t have much, but what she did have was deep dedication to meditation and belief.  A belief in her guru, Maharishi, and a belief in the movement he had founded: the Transcendental Meditation Movement. 

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You may have heard of Transcendental Meditation (TM) as a form of meditation practiced by the likes of Katy Perry, Ellen Degeneres, and Lena Dunham, but there’s a bit more of a back story.  Transcendental Meditation is a trademarked form of meditation created by Maharishi, and is based on the technique he learned when he was a monk living in India in the 1940s and ‘50s.  It’s a mantra-based meditation, where you’re given a special mantra that you keep secret and repeat to yourself.  The idea is that you can achieve quietness, transcendence, and some form of relaxation through your mantra and meditation.

I started meditating when I was 3 years old, and at the beginning of my practice, I loved it.  It was something very special and intimate in my life that made me feel like myself.  However, over the years living in Fairfield, a community where everyone was fixated on meditation as a means to enlightenment, or to a higher state of consciousness, I stopped enjoying it.  It stopped feeling like I was practicing meditation for meditation’s sake, and more about trying to get somewhere.  Soon after leaving Fairfield, I left meditation behind too.

Over the last decade, I’ve come back to meditating and doing TM.  It may seem strange that someone who fled this community would come back to the very thing she ran from, but for me, just accepting meditation for what it is, and having that space in my life that’s quiet and alone without distraction, is fundamental to who I am.

Accepting meditation for what it is, and having that space in my life that’s quiet and alone without distraction, is fundamental to who I am.

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If you're interested in meditation and its benefits - stress relief, relaxation - start by doing some research.  People often have an idea of what meditation should be but really you need to try different methods and find what works for you and your sense of quietness.  I practice TM, but there are plenty of other types available, and some free classes and apps to tap into (like Headspace or guided meditations on YouTube). 

My book, Greetings from Utopia Park (out June 7th) talks about growing up in the heart of the Transcendental Meditation Movement in Maharishi’s headquarters for Heaven on Earth, and learning to believe in belief all over again.

 

Claire Hoffman is a writer living in Los Angeles, working for national magazines, covering culture, celebrity, religion, business and whatever else seems interesting.

 

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