School News

Maharishi School Magic: Destination ImagiNation

By Dr. Richard Beall for TM Magazine in July 2011. To see the article in it's entirety go to: http://issue2.tmmagazine.org/maharishi-school-magic.html

I’m six miles high, flying across the Midwest to Knoxville, TN, to join 14,000 of the world’s most out-of-the-box inventive kids. It’s Destination ImagiNation’s Global Finals, and we have five Maharishi School state champions representing Iowa. This is a creative problem-solving competition, with teams working for months on complex challenges. Their solutions are part engineering, part entertainment, and several parts youthful exuberance. I was advised to bring earplugs for the raucous Closing Ceremony.

That’s been a joyous event for our school because “Maharishi School” has been announced more times than most any school in the world. In 2005 we had two world champs and almost as many top ten finishes (5) as the state of California (6). This year an 8th grade girls team is combining cosmology (the life cycle of stars) with cosmetics (cleverly typecast as “stars” themselves) and a set that teaches and transforms. Our high school boys took the same challenge, but they mixed song and break-dancing with slapstick humor, tongue-twisting physics, and electronic wizardry. And a 9th grade girls team weaves the story of their community service project; they created a holiday production for a local nursing home and then describe the experience with a mock TV news broadcast and original song, dance, and poetry that brings tears to every adult eye.

We’re a small school. We have an open admissions policy. Our DI teams aren’t handpicked from select Talented and Gifted classes (many other schools’ are). So what’s our secret?

A Day in the Self-Referral Life
It’s around 8:15am when students begin arriving at Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. They come on foot, bike, or car, or are dropped off by parents. But they don’t go directly to class.

Instead, they climb three flights of stairs to the open, light-filled room we call the “Hall of Bliss” where they begin their morning program: a few minutes of rest; some yoga asanas (postures) to loosen up some surface stress and enhance strength, flexibility, and balance; pranayama, a simple breathing exercise that settles mind and body; and then, most importantly, their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Immediately the air settles in the room and a palpable silence fills the space. Not just the absence of sound, but a feeling of fullness and lively alertness. Sitting with them, you too feel drawn inward.

A few minutes later they conclude their TM practice and their morning program with a minute of self pulse diagnosis, a technique from Maharishi Ayurved. It is a simple feedback loop to see how their physiology has changed.

One thing is for sure: the students who enter the classroom at 9:25 are not the same ones who walked into the building an hour earlier. Their physiology has changed. They’ve systematically prepared their mind and body for study and their teachers had better be prepared, because these kids are awake and ready to learn.

The Birthplace of Consciousness-Based Education (CBE)
Thirty years ago Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment pioneered this innovative Consciousness-Based approach to learning. It was the only school in the world where students and teachers were taking time to transcend as a preparation for optimal learning. Now there are schools across the country and around the world investing in a quality of rest that pays dividends the rest of the day—through their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Just yesterday I met with representatives of Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools in India, a consortium of 151 schools with over 100,000 students practicing the TM program. In March our seniors visited a school in Italy where students were enjoying the same advantage: a simple but powerful program that prepares them to learn and grow. Two years ago our seniors visited CBE schools in Brazil, and last year in Thailand and Canada. There are also a dozen public schools in the US that offer “Quiet Time” programs with Transcendental Meditation for students and teachers.

They all know the secret.

200% of Life
A mathematician might take exception, but nothing better summarizes what I see on a daily basis with Consciousness-Based education at Maharishi School than…200% of life.

Our students tackle a college preparatory curriculum that has earned them a host of academic honors and admission into top universities nationwide. That’s the outer 100% where we strive to sparkle in every person, program, and place.

But our kids have a bonus. No other school in America has the complement of programs we offer for 100% inner development. No other school provides the “verticality” of thinking that becomes so familiar to our students: twice a day diving deep into the subtler, more creative levels of their own consciousness. They are not just filling their minds with information, as if they were empty vessels. They expand and explore consciousness and the results are not just deeper ideas—what iconic movie director David Lynch calls “Catching the Big Fish”—but also cultivating deeper relationships and connections to peers, teachers, family, and society.

“Maharishi School is an incredible learning environment,” junior Jonina Thorsteindottir explains. “People accept you for who you are and everyone is extremely welcoming to new students. We all have this underlying foundation and that is our TM practice. So whether you are into theatre or sports or science, at the end of the day we are all really good friends. This is an opportunity that should be available to every child, no matter what their situation is.”

That’s our 200% of school life: high scores, lofty accomplishments, close relationships, and uncommon insight into the unlimited potential of human consciousness. That’s the magic that comes from taking time to transcend, to tend to the neurophysiological basis of learning.

And that’s why I can’t wait to see what comes next—at Global Finals and in our global meditating family.

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