San Antonio Express-News, June 16, 2003
By Lisa Harrison Rivas, San Antonio Express-News
It’s been more than 30 years since the Beatles went to India to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Although transcendental meditation, or “TM,” is not as popular as it became then, it has kept a following and new forms of meditation are blossoming.
The topic will be addressed in an upcoming issue of Time magazine, and a recent segment on NBC’s “Today” show focused on TM, while San Antonio has seen the formation of groups that practice Falun Gong, rainbow/crystal meditation and centering prayer in the past five years.
Paul and Josie Fauerso of San Antonio, who helped Maharishi establish what is now the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, have been practicing TM since 1967.
Meditators sit with their eyes closed and concentrate on a mantra, which is a word or a sound, by repeating it silently or aloud.
Paul Fauerso said this relieves stress and has a positive effect on one’s physical and mental well being.
Fauerso said TM is not a cult, but Frank Trumpy, a physics professor at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, disagrees. Trumpy said it’s one of the most successful cults he’s ever seen.
“It’s a religious practice masquerading as science,” Trumpy said.
Trumpy presented a report to the Iowa Academy of Science in 1983 debunking claims he said practitioners made about the technique being able to alter the temperature of the environment.
However, Robert Roth, the director of media at the university, said those claims weren’t made by anyone representing the university.
Like TM enthusiasts, practitioners of Falun Gong say they are not required to hold an allegiance to any particular religious belief.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a technique that stems from an ancient Chinese tradition of meditation and exercise.
Hongyi Pan, who’s been practicing for six years, teaches the ritual and meets with a small group each Saturday at the Unlimited Thought Bookstore on Blanco Road.
Pan said stress reduction and physical healing are benefits, but not the main purpose of Falun Gong. He said practitioners strive to live by three principles: truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
In 1999, the Chinese government declared the practice illegal, labeled the group a cult and accused practitioners of spreading superstitious ideas and disrupting social stability.
Practitioners say thousands have been persecuted and thrown in jail for practicing Falun Gong in China.
Although meditation is associated with Eastern religions, Fauerso said he has had students of all faiths, including Judaism and Christianity.
Betsy Pond, the director of the San Antonio Shambhala Meditation Center, said meditation is not exotic, it’s something the mind does naturally. However, she said, people have a tendency to meditate on things that irritate them.
In addition to Falun Gong, Unlimited Thought Bookstore hosts instructor Debbie Sheppard’s rainbow/crystal meditation class. Sheppard teaches participants to relax their bodies and minds by visualizing a colorful stairway, and shaman Glenda Chester waves crystals over them, hoping to balance their electromagnetic field.
“You don’t have to believe that this can work for you or understand it,” Chester said. “You just need to be open to it and it will work for you.”