Twelve years after he began teaching the meditation technique now called Transcendental Meditation, the movement by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gained its greatest mainstream prominence. Its founder met the Beatles.
The Maharishi, whose honorific one-world title translates to “great seer,” had already traveled the globe for more than a decade before meeting the band in 1967. The former university physics student taught in his native India and lectured from Africa to New Zealand and Argentina to Singapore.
After meeting with the Maharishi, the Beatles and their wives and partners began studying with him. They first traveled to Wales and then, more famously, to India. The Maharishi became their spiritual adviser. He described TM as “the unified field of all the laws of nature.”
The group’s embrace of the Maharishi’s teachings prompted a media blitz in North America. He was a guest on NBC’s “Today” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. The Maharishi appeared on the covers of Life, Newsweek and Time magazines. He lectured at Harvard and Yale and in Royal Albert Hall.
Dr. Frank DiChiara, a former New Jersey family medicine physician who now lives on Marco Island, is the director of Naples/Fort Myers Transcendental Meditation Center in Naples (tm.org). He offers free introductory talks to area organizations and groups, and details what he recommended in his 40-year medical career and TM teacher tenure.
“The TM technique is a simple, natural, effortless scientific technique that allows the mind to easily settle down and experience one’s essential nature, which is a state of consciousness,” says DiChiara. “It’s described by physiologists as restful alertness. It is profoundly simple to teach, learn and practice—yet remarkably effective.”
DiChiara believes TM is “an effortless technique for recharging mind and body, creating a brighter, more positive state of mind.” He concurs with devotees who believe the meditation form helps alleviate stress and anxiety, improving brain function and cardiovascular health.
“It is a deeply restful, relaxing and blissful experience, but more importantly, it has holistic benefits in everyday life,” DiChiara says. “The extensive scientific research on the TM technique has shown significant results in the improvement of an individual’s creativity and intelligence, overall health and social relationships.”
“For me, when I was in high school, my family was like, ‘She’s so confident; it’s changed her life,’” says Aisling Swift, a writer in North Naples and a longtime TM practitioner. “I was a musician, and I just shook on stage. I choked off my windpipe and I just couldn’t play. It (TM) really, really helped relax me. It was recommended by several musicians for stage fright, and it helped me throughout college.”
In the acknowledgment of its 60th anniversary in 2019, the Maharishi Foundation USA, a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Fairfield, Iowa, announced that 10 million people had learned Transcendental Meditation. The American Heart Association has recommended the discipline be considered in clinical practice.
Practice is recommended for two 15- to 20-minute sessions twice a day. While sitting in a comfortable position and breathing through the diaphragm in a relaxed way, a mantra is repeated. Accepting and focusing on thoughts and sensations is paramount to success.
When the Maharishi first began traveling throughout the world, he wrote: “I had one thing in mind, that I know something which is useful to every man.”
Transcendental Meditation teachers today follow the same approach.
“It is the one tool or modality that anyone can own and utilize for a lifetime of creating self-sufficiency, and therefore it has been particularly rewarding for me as a physician to impart this knowledge,” says DiChiari. “I consider it a privilege to continue to teach Transcendental Meditation.”