High School's Club Called 'Religion,' 'Cult' By Parents

NBC 11, California/October 13, 2006

Saulsalito, California -- A new club that some are calling a cult or religion is coming to a Bay Area high school and bringing plenty of controversy with it, NBC11's Stacey Ciauri reported.

Terra Linda High School principal Carole Ramsey brought Transcendental Meditation to the school after she saw a film about the meditation made by David Lynch.

"It's about quieting your mind ... It's actually very good for your brain," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said TM helps students de-stress.

Supporters of the group and parents met Thursday night at the Sausalito school to discuss the club.

The meeting ended when a parent denounced the group and refused to leave the school's stage.

The Department of Education said they have no problem with the club.

Parent Susan Crittendon said the group has raised some concerns.

"Its the beginning of a whole new philosophy of life. They work by putting people in trances, and when you're in a trance you're more suggestible," parent Susan Crittendon.

Multiple teachers and 60 students have shown interest in the group.

Some parents have complained that TM is a religion.

"It isn't a religion," Ramsey said. "It's just like people who practice yoga -- it comes form Hindu tradition."

According to TM.org, the Transcendental Meditation technique is not a religion.

"The Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple, natural technique practiced by millions of people of all religions, including clergy. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique does not require or involve faith or any particular set of beliefs," according to the site.

Lynch, the filmmaker known for Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and the television series Twin Peaks, gave the school a $175,000 grant for starting the club.

"TM really helps. When you’re stressed out from school, it makes you fresher and brighter. At the end of a long day, I meditate and can still focus on my homework," said first year college student, Nalina Loiselle, on TM.org.

"I notice that I get support of nature from meditating. Meditating regularly just seems to make things work out in school, family, and every day life. This makes life easier and more enjoyable," said 16-year-old high school student George Beichert, on TM.org.

TM was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was a spiritual advisor to The Beatles in the 1960s.

According to the group's Web site, the Transcendental Meditation technique "expands the consciousness of each student, significantly increasing their intelligence, creativity, confidence, inner calm, and motivation."

Participating students would use the meditation technique for 20 minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably with their eyes closed.

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