The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 21, 2003
By PATRICIA GUTHRIE, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Attention really rich people concerned with avoiding Armageddon. Atlanta’s transcendental meditation community has a proposal: Help endow a Peace Palace and you and the entire city will prosper from less crime and more harmony.
What’s a Peace Palace? A place to engage in group meditation and yogic flying.
An advanced form of transcendental meditation, devotees claim yogic flying emits positive energy to surrounding people and places. Less violent crime, fewer traffic accidents, less stress, even an end to terrorism could result, they say.
“Gridlock, depression, recession, terrorism, war, you name it, we have it,” said Stuart Baesel, an attorney who credits his longtime TM practice for his good health, focus and .365 batting average. “We live in stressful times, and that’s actually an understatement.”
Plans for building the 12,000-square-foot center in a soon-to-be-decided location in north Atlanta were unveiled recently at a gathering of two dozen TM followers. The initiative is led by Steven and Dori Rector, directors of the Transcendental Meditation Program of Atlanta.
About 22,000 people have started practicing TM in metro Atlanta over the past 30 years, the group estimates.
Based on an ancient ritual of India, TM is a learned technique that followers say quiets the mind and body, relieves stress and increases productivity and creativity. It’s practiced by about 5 million people worldwide.
Numerous studies on the health effects of transcendental meditation have shown it helps lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety; Morehouse School of Medicine research results on meditation’s benefits for African-Americans with high blood pressure are being scrutinized. Additionally, a five-year look at health-plan patients who practiced TM revealed they had 50 percent fewer doctor visits than those who didn’t.
Its ability to temporarily defuse conflict and crime was shown in separate observational studies in the Middle East and Washington, with results published in sociological journals.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, spiritual leader of the TM movement, who introduced it to Americans (and the Beatles) decades ago, wants to build 3,000 Peace Palaces around the world, including about 200 in the United States. He hopes wealthy people in each city will step forward to endow the project.
The first Peace Palace just opened in Lexington on the University of Kentucky campus, its $4 million price tag financed by Howard Settle, a Lexington oil and gas businessman who’s practiced TM for 30 years.
Atlanta’s center is estimated to cost $1.2 million. Sites are being considered in Buckhead and near Perimeter Mall and North Point Mall.
Although the specifics of Atlanta’s palace remain vague — such as who will pay for it and what it will offer — no one in the TM community appears worried. Or stressed. Or pessimistic.
Such is the power of the mantra, they say.
“It all sounds too fantastic to be true,” admitted Michael Glaza, an Atlanta management consultant who’s meditated since 1970.
“Someone doing something quietly in one place can affect someone somewhere else. But I know that TM is one of the techniques for improving the quality of life that really works.”