The Irresistible Rise of Transcendental Meditation

Across the Atlantic, it’s the celebrities who talk about it best: Jerry Seinfeld describes transcendental meditation as his ” loader”, Katy Perry her “ game changer » Gwyneth Paltrow her rudder for “ navigate the not always calm river of his life”, Kendall Jenner her “ antidote to freak, ransom for his supercharged career as a top and Kardashian. She showed Moby the road to sobriety, Lena Dunham that of painless creation, Gisele Bündchen that of inner peace. The list of followers is long, inflated by the most proselytes who kindly share the experience with those around them, such as Oprah Winfrey who offered training to the 400 employees of her two production companies.

On this side of the ocean, Stella McCartney recently confided daily The Times that it had allowed him to overcome a particularly difficult period, the death of his mother and his arrival (regarded with suspicion by certain gossips) at the head of the artistic direction of the Chloé house. It was the designer and her friend Liv Tyler, another enthusiastic meditator, who organized the UK launch party for the book by star teacher Bob Roth in late February in London. Strength in Stillness (Simon & Schuster), also kicking off a pilot program of transcendental meditation in schools.

8 million practitioners worldwide

Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation, created by the director in 2005 to help the most stressed to discover the technique, the American Bob Roth can be proud of having converted many of the Hollywood figures mentioned above, as well as actors keys to the business world, from Rupert Murdoch to Arianna Huffington. A tireless promoter of the practice for forty-five years, this smiling sexagenarian with the appearance of an elegant businessman has nothing to do with the barred guru. He hammers it himself: hippie delusions have never interested him. Yet it is he who today travels the four corners of the planet to make known this thousand-year-old Vedic method of oral tradition, popularized from the 1950s in the West by the Indian spiritual master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The promise ? Almost too good to be true: two daily sessions of twenty minutes, carried out with closed eyes while mentally repeating a mantra, would lead not only to a deep and immediate relaxation of the mind, but also to multiple physical, psychological and relational benefits over the long term. term: from the drop in blood pressure to the improvement of intellectual and creative performance, through better management of emotions and addictions. If the movement remains almost confidential in France, according to the American center of the brand (registered), some 8 million people practice in the world, including 3 million in the United States. With this same quest: a better quality of life.

How did you discover transcendental meditation?

In 1968, I was a student at the University of Berkeley, California. Militant and ready to change the world, I was destined for a career in politics.

At the same time, I was working for Senator Bobby Kennedy. It was a troubled and stressful time, marked by many riots. A friend I respected a lot told me about Transcendental Meditation and its benefits. The word didn’t even exist in my vocabulary then.

It was fashionable at the time. The Beatles and Mia Farrow, among others, were enthusiastic about the teaching of guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Yes, but fashion has never interested me.

And even less new age oddities. I am skeptical by nature. A meditating Beatles impresses me less than a scientific study.

However, few existed at the time. It was really this friend’s arguments, less stress, more energy, better sleep and concentration, that convinced me to give it a try.

What were your immediate impressions?

It was first a physiological experience, of deep relaxation of my body. Then, over the weeks, relaxation and clarity of my mind, calm and inner peace. From day one, I wanted to continue. And very quickly, teach it.

You wrote a first book in 1987, the second today. Why did you wait so long?

I quickly wrote the first one – a booklet rather than a book – at the request of General Motors (an American car manufacturer, editor’s note), where I had taught a wellness program to employees. This one answers new questions, in particular the confusion which reigns between the various types of meditation. It is also based on research and scientific studies that analyze the effects of each. Finally, I wanted to explain what transcendental meditation is.

How does it differ from other meditations, like the trending mindfulness?

It cannot be learned with a book and cannot be practiced with an app. It also doesn’t require emptying your mind (which I can’t!), visualizing something or concentrating on something else. It’s an easy technique, but you have to learn it with a certified teacher. To explain it, I like to talk about a raging sea. It is agitated on the surface but if you dive, you discover that at a certain depth, everything is calm. It is exactly in this calm zone of the body and the consciousness that Transcendental Meditation takes us.

Why is she so popular again?

I think, and doctors see it too, that we are living in a stress epidemic. And stress is like a tumor that metastasizes. 1. Exacerbated by constant connection to work, news flow, often bad news. 2. Nourished by the need to outperform which begins at school and continues in the professional space.

3. No one has found the magic recipe to fix it. Alcohol, caffeine, anxiolytics, sleeping pills, etc. hide the problem but do not treat it. Transcendental meditation is a simple, easy and very effective answer.

It seems to appeal above all to Anglo-Saxon countries. Are they more stressed than the Latins in general or the French in particular?

It is growing in Latin America. As for the French, without wanting to generalize, they have a more cynical than skeptical approach to what they don’t know. They doubt, without seeking to know by experience whether it works or not.

Transcendental meditation suffers from a bad reputation. She is notably accused of sectarian aberrations…

In the United States, it is now recognized that it is not a religious practice since people of all faiths practice it. And that it is taught in schools, the business community and some state bodies, such as in the army to veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome, editor’s note) . As for the sectarian side, it is also the aim of my book to show that this is not the case. I believe that the main reluctance comes from the false idea that the practice is difficult and constraining.

You are referred to as the “celebrity teacher”. Your actions, on a daily basis, are however broader.

It is more attractive for the media to relay information on a star than our actions on children from underprivileged neighborhoods. But it’s thanks to these same celebrities, when they raise funds for the David Lynch Foundation, that I can teach the less fortunate for free. Because that’s my goal: to make it accessible to as many people as possible, whether it’s an overwhelmed single mother, a stressed father or a Syrian refugee.


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The Irresistible Rise of Transcendental Meditation

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