We speak to the chairman of the UAE's Transcendental Meditation organisation, which organises classes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Taking Transcendental Meditation past the Flower Power stage
To many, Transcendental Meditation (TM) is still synonymous with hippy culture after The Beatles famously travelled to India in the late 1960s to learn its mind-calming techniques.
But according to TM advocates in the UAE, these days your average practitioner is more likely to be wearing a designer suit than bead necklaces and flared trousers.
Ged Valente is the chairman of the Transcendental Meditation UAE organisation, which organises classes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He believes TM should no longer be associated with Flower Power since many practitioners these days are high-flying professionals who use TM to improve mental ability and workplace performance.
“Yes, the fact The Beatles did it was positive, but the negative side of it is that in the minds of some people, it’s kept TM rooted in the hippy era,” says the 54-year-old Scot. “It became known as a hippy practice. But since then it’s evolved quite spectacularly and is practised by people from all walks of life.”
TM was first popularised in the West by the guru the Fab Four visited in India – the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Basing his work on ancient practices, Mahesh developed a technique for calming the mind that involves sitting with one’s eyes closed for 20 minutes while chanting a mantra.
While it does promote inner peace, Valente also says it has other benefits.
“Professional people find it very useful to improve the functioning of their mind and it makes them more able to focus sharply,” he contends.
“It increases intelligence, memory, creativity. You know, all these things have been documented by scientific research.”
Medical experts have also proven that regular practice can improve health. For example, earlier this year the American Heart Association published a paper stating that TM lowers blood pressure. It recommended that TM should be a clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
Valente believes these results are due to the deep state of rest that TM encourages.
“Scientists have measured that when you’re meditating, it’s a deeper state of rest than deep sleep,” he states.
“Sleep rids the body of surface-level fatigue, but TM rids it of deep-rooted fatigue. This accumulates over time and impedes the functioning of the immune system. It leads to poor defence responses and makes them susceptible to diseases.”
And this is another reason why so many successful business people and celebrities are turning to TM these days, says Valente.
For example, stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry and Hugh Jackman regularly espouse their admiration for its effects on their lives. The film director David Lynch is such a keen advocate that he founded a charity to fund the teaching of TM in schools.
Valente says its popularity is rapidly spreading to the UAE, which he believes is due to the entrepreneurial spirit in this country. “I think the reason for this is that people often come here to make money, to start new businesses,” he says. “These people are quite dynamic and they realise what TM can do to improve performance. TM is fantastic in that area. It helps you reduce stress and gives energy and vitality.”
Nevertheless, there are many who still associate TM with the New Age brigade. Valente believes this reputation belies its true worth. “I challenge anyone who thinks this to come along and find out what it’s about. Once you’ve seen it you can make an informed judgement,” he says.
“We have to battle with the idea that people think it’s something hippyish and not suitable for them. But I think everyone should at least try TM because it’s unlike other meditations and will have such a huge, positive effect on your life.”
For more information about classes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, visit www.tm.ae
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