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Inside Maharishi school: Transcendental Meditation academy expected to open in the fall
by Josh Bond

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, New Hampshire, USA    Translate This Article
16 April 2009

ANTRIM - With the Maharishi Academy for Total Knowledge working toward an anticipated September opening, Headmaster Alan Colby offered a tour of the campus Saturday and an explanation of the academy's fundamentals.

''The question I hear the most is, 'Is it a religion?' '' said Colby, who has a master's degree in world religion and whose mother was an ordained minister. ''It is not a religion. Transcendental meditation is simply an exercise for the mind.''

Students and educators at the academy will practice transcendental meditation, also known as TM, as a central component of the education. The technique is a form of meditation popularized in the late 1960s by [spiritual leader] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, for whom the school is named. Aside from two 20-minute daily sessions of meditation, the academy would otherwise resemble an ordinary boarding school.

''It is essentially natural,'' said Colby of the technique. ''It's about allowing the brain to do what it's supposed to do.''

Colby said the benefits conferred by the practice of meditation allow students and educators to make the most of the educational experience. As founding headmaster of the academy, Colby brings 35 years of educational experience, most recently as 16-year principal of the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in Fairfield, Iowa. The academy will be rooted in many of the educational principals he developed there.

As opposed to rote memorization, said Colby, the academy will emphasize contextual learning, with curricula that help students make connections between pieces of data and their larger import. With TM, the brain becomes better at integrating information, said Colby, which augments the school's philosophy of contextual learning.

''It's like pulling back the arrow on a bow,'' said Colby of TM. ''It prepares students for a much more productive day.''

By plunging into a deeper state of consciousness—a state of profound restfulness—a person will shed a great deal of stress, said Colby, and enjoy a more wakeful, alert mind. Just as a person who had a poor night's sleep will feel it for the rest of the day, someone who practices TM will enjoy increased brain functioning, said Colby.

''A tired mind does not accomplish all that much and a tired body gets sick,'' said Colby.

Colby cited a number of studies that support the notion that TM improves brain functioning, decreases drug and alcohol dependency and improves academic performance in college students. Additional data suggests TM decreases the frequency of hospital visits for people of all ages. This is not surprising, said Colby, since studies have shown a strong correlation between stress and disease.

The Maharishi Academy, which will serve boys grades 9-12, will be the first boarding academy in the country to specialize in TM, but Colby said he has reason to believe TM will catch on fast. Colby said the education system, which views students as empty cups on a conveyor belt, has been in steady decline.

''It's gotten so dark, it's easy to see this little candlelight,'' said Colby.

Colby said the academy is scheduled to open in September, with 40 students expected. For the property's owners, the Maharishi Global Development Fund, the process of opening the academy has been somewhat less peaceful. After purchasing the property in the early 1990s, the organization spent recent years rehabilitating the neglected campus. The former site of Hawthorne College shut down in 1988, after which the five-building campus was rarely used. At one point, said Colby, there were tentative plans to convert it to a prison.

Colby and his wife have lived in Scarborough Hall since June, when he left a position as principal of a Maharishi school in Iowa.

In the process of revitalizing the 450-acre site, the organization has had to perform extensive renovations on the gymnasium and Scarborough Hall, the main residence building and home of administrative offices. There was celebration when, on March 12, state inspectors conducted a building review of Scarborough Hall and issued an occupancy permit, said Colby.

Colby said the process of bringing just the two buildings up to code has cost more than $1 million and required replacing all the electrical wires and outlets. He said the academy recouped thousands of dollars by cashing in all the removed copper wiring.

Right now, the school's future classroom space is a skeletal span of stud walls and exposed wiring on the south side of the gymnasium building, which houses a regulation size basketball court. Although there is much to do, the Colbys are dedicated to realizing an ambitious plan for a 25-building campus, complete with indoor hockey rink, dining hall and auditorium.

The school will ultimately be an international community, said Colby.

© Copyright 2009 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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