Instruction in Transcendental Meditation (TM) on the Island has been suspended indefinitely after overseas practitioners ordered the local office to start charging $2,000 for initiation lessons.
TM practitioner Dr. Emily Liddell said teaching of the ancient Vedic relaxation technique, which began in Bermuda 30 years ago, was in a state of “hiatus”.
She said this was partly due to the emigration to Canada of the local branch’s leader Brian Horsfield three years ago.
But she added the primary reason was a directive she received last August from the TM world headquarters in Holland which ordered the price for start-up lessons be jacked up from $385 to $2,000.
“I was considering taking up the role of teaching again but this was a curtain coming down on that,” said Dr. Liddell, who was head of TM Bermuda for 15 years from 1984.
“I wasn’t upset or angry but it was a bit like a bomb had dropped.”
Former TM teacher Frances Eddy said she was “outraged” at the price hike.
“It makes it very difficult for teachers to ask for that kind of money and it excludes ordinary people.
“It makes it look like TM is something for the wealthy. But I felt that way before it got to $2,000.”
She added that the question of whether learning TM was worth paying money for was “subjective” and said there were many people believed so and had benefitted from it.
“The reason they can get away with asking high prices is because they can compare it to other things that cost a lot of money.
“But I feel this time its outrageous because I think that TM should be for everyone.”
Environmentalist and former Independent parliamentarian Stuart Hayward, who became one of the first teachers of TM in Bermuda in the 1973, said: “It’s unfortunate that they have seen fit to do that.
“It would be better if it was more available. They have their reasons and I’m not privy to them.”
He said local prices for TM lessons had been kept below the average international costs for many years, although even when lessons were $75 each years ago “people were saying it was too much. It’s funny how people value things”.
And he said the charging for instruction was justified because teachers go through extensive training which requires investments of time and money.
“It’s a very precise technique. It is the meditation technique that has the greatest backing of information and standardised teaching.”
Mr. Hayward, who said he still practices TM twice a day for 20 minutes each time, said: “Learning was the best thing that I ever learned in my life. The main benefit is a freedom from anxiety.
“Just not having that nagging sense any moment of any day is exotic and it’s thrilling.”
While she still practices TM regularly, Dr. Liddell said she is also doing research into other forms of meditation, including Buddhist, Muslim and Christian techniques.
The TM movement in Bermuda was at its height during the mid-1980s, with around 900 members, although more than 2,000 people have been instructed in it since it was brought to the Island in the 1973.
On an international level, the TM movement gathered momentum after Indian visionary Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced it to the world in the 1960s.
He remains firmly at the head of the movement and his plans include the creation of a massive sanctuary in India where people can get together and concentrate their energies on world peace.