And the Maharishi Said Yes: The truth about Transcendental Meditation

 
(This isn’t my best writing, and I know it. Neither is it a teaching, but it’s here and for what it’s worth, I’ll leave it be for now.)
This is a blog, and only a blog. Sometimes I love this little slice of cyberspace and sometimes – like today – I feel weighed down by its constraints. Blog readers are skimmers and rarely loyal. Those of you who do read these posts, know my story and keep coming back anyway are truly appreciated. I am still apprehensive about going from reporting on our Mission Start to sharing my own personal journey in faith. Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic seems almost narcissistic to me and yet this is the path I feel God is leading me down. So I simply write and tell the truth and trust that God is not setting me up. He doesn’t need me to defend his church or his reputation, he only asks that I share my story with truth, and kindness.   

  This particular entry is by no means exhaustive and I find myself weighed down by the fear that I’ll make the church look bad and I lose my aim for the eggshells that I’m trying to avoid. I began this particular piece of my story  under the post If the pastor doesn’t like me, can I still join?  In that post I shared that I had been to many outreach events as a kid, but was never allowed to become a member of those churches. The TM group however, was more than willing to accept my mother and I into their fold.My aim for today is not, the church didn’t want me so I joined what Christians will define as a cult instead even if that is true. Nor is my aim to slam meditation. My goal today is to shed some light on why we made the choices we made, and how those of us who dare to call ourselves Christians today can make better choices in how we treat others.   

 I don’t choose to be a Christian because the church was so wonderful and kind to me growing up —  I choose to be a Christian today, because it works for me – and yes, I really am that selfish. Now, I don’t mean that nearly as flip as it sounds and I will elaborate on that more clearly in later posts, I promise. And the real truth here is God chose me long before I ever knew him. So it really isn’t about me at all.  

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1957-1998


The Maharishi is dead, long live marketing Gurus.
  I’m a little frustrated with the internet right now. Everything I remember about the Maharishi and his school doesn’t match what I’m finding.  The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a very kind, intelligent, and generous man. I can say that because I’ve met him before. There is a lot that would draw you to him. He was kind, compassionate, loving and truly had a servant’s heart.  Everyday people from The Beatles to single moms like mine were drawn to him.   And yet they (his web page designers) credit him, not with religious practices, but with a relaxation technique practiced world wide.TM’s WEBPAGE  says that “The Transcendental Meditation technique is not a religion or philosophy and involves no change in lifestyle.”   

I can still remember kneeling before an altar, somewhere in Michigan, with statues that I did not recognize. My Spiritual Guide/Instructor was with me and the flowers and fruit (food for the commune I assume) that we were told to bring laid before me as an offering of some kind. My instructor placed her hands on my shoulders and started speaking in a language I know today as Sanscrit. I was being prayed over. To whom the prayers were going? I have no idea. We would go back for visits and spend time with our instructors. At each visit my teacher would ask me about me. She was genuinely interested in who I was, what I was struggling with. The teachers lived on the compound. They grew their own food, lived together, worshipped together and supported each other. And even though people like my mother and myself did not live there — we were considered part of their family. So tell me, how can something that is simply marketed today as a relaxation technique, and yet full of religious ceremonies and offerings NOT be a religion? — It used to be, before they watered it down and simplified it in order to gain the Western Dollar. Todays TM schools are not what the Marharishi set out to achieve.  

Looking back, and knowing what I know today I still believe in the benefits of meditation, I just don’t believe that TM is the answer or the proper way. TM is not mindful — my mantra was simply the word “ing” and I was instructed not to share that word with anyone else or it wouldn’t work for me any more. Also at that time, words were added to your mantra and you progressed in their program. I later learned these “meaningless” syllables were actually sanscrit prayers. So there was some deception taking place depending on who trained you and where you were trained. It’s strange what memories children hang on to.    

We eventually grew beyond this compound and began searching and exploring different areas. For me that meant Christian writings and eventually the church. For my mother?She’s been so badly abused by the church that she’ll never return. Now don’t get me wrong, my mother has an amazing faith in God, she just doesn’t like Christians.  

So, what does that experience have to do with the church? A lot.  

Some facts:

For all of their outreach efforts: community fairs, youth events, and great speakers – the churches in my neighborhood were not equipped to bring in youth as members. They had nothing to back up and support young people needing more than just a great talk or a gymnasium to play in after school. – as I’ve shared before I went to those things but when I approached the pastor’s about joining their churches they had no means for that. To be quite honest, I see the same problems in our outreach today as existed then. 
For all of our talk of a loving God, Christians can be some of the most unloving and judgemental people around — myself included here.
Meditation does have scientifically proven health benefits.

A 2007 national Government survey that asked about CAM use in a sample of 23,393 U.S. adults found that 9.4 percent of respondents (representing more than 20 million people) had used meditation in the past 12 months—compared with 7.6 percent of respondents (representing more than 15 million people) in a similar survey conducted in 2002. The 2007 survey also asked about CAM use in a sample of 9,417 children; 1 percent (representing 725,000 children) had used meditation in the past 12 months.   

People use meditation for various health problems, such as:   

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.

Meditation is also used for overall wellness.   

Taken from:  The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine .    

 Meditation is scripturally sound. Groups like TM and the way it is marketed has however given it a bad name. The marketing became mystic and told people that you can learn to levitate and other such things that just weren’t true and were not part of our original teaching.  For the Christian who is reading and questioning my blog, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water here – love or hate my experience with TM and the pieces I choose to include in my life today – the love, acceptance, and servantship – search the scriptures for yourself. Go to biblegateway.com and look up “meditate” and study those contexts.  

One last note because my readership is so broad: TM practices as taught today and the Buddhist faith, which is also meditative in nature, are nothing alike. I’m not an expert on the Buddhist faith and you’ll need to research that yourself if you want more information  — There are many techniques out there that are more productive and beneficial than TM as marketed today. The mindfulness of Buddhist meditation engages all of your senses and helps you stay focused. It lowers your blood pressure and calms your mind. There is also Tai Chi or Yoga exercises where your mind and your body are equally engaged, both of which I have done and gained great benefit from.  

   So there you have it, my short story about meeting a really nice man — and a page of opinions mixed with what I hope are helpful facts –  guaranteed to snap an egg-shell or two.  

For more information on TM you can also see these two links.  

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_Meditation     

 http://www.maharishischool.com/TranscendentalMeditation.html     

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart: Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic. September 7, 2010. All rights reserved.

I Want You to See Something about Ablaze

For up-to-date Synodical News Check the Synodical Convention Link. They have tabs built within that allow you view live streaming video of what is really going on down there. I love it!

I’ve been talking about our Synodical Conference this week and while doing so I realized that I use the terms Ablaze rather interchangeably. This has been confusing to people, especially to those outside of our Lutheran Circle. Let me clarify if I may.

There is ABLAZE! which refers to our Synodical Mission Program (something our family and home congregation supports) and there is Ablaze, the church plant in Northern Broken Arrow which is sponsored by The Lutheran Church of Our Savior. I didn’t pick the name – so don’t ask me why we named it that, I don’t know.  I realize that unless you are part of our group, it’s really hard to distinguish what I’m talking about. Most of the conversations this week have been about the ABLAZE! initiative. For today’s post, I will be talking about Ablaze Church.

While some church plants receive funding from their districts, others are privately funded. We at Ablaze Church do not receive a dime of the Fan into Flame funding, and we are okay with that. There is another church plant in Bixby that does get district assistance and they need it more than we do.  Thier Vicar (who is under direct supervision of a local pastor) has to raise his own salary and funding for his church and deserves a livable wage. Our pastor is already earning a salary from our home church and the time spent at Ablaze is 100% volunteer. He does not get compensated for his time there – and neither do the rest of us. We are all volunteers. All funding we receive is courtesy of our home congregation and private donations or tithes made by Ablaze families.

Our little mission start began on Easter weekend in 2006. We rent space from Liberty Elementary School and meet on Saturday nights with Bible Study at 6pm and services beginning at 6:30. Because of the rental costs and rules of the school we have to be out by 9:00 pm.  Also because of rental costs, we can really only afford to be there one night a week. That does not leave a lot of opportunities for outreach which is why we host events from time to time.

Ablaze church is a 100% a mobile church. What that means is we have a trailer locked up at our home congregation across town. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, a group drives out there, loads the trailer and drives it back to Liberty, 30 minutes away. The doors open at 4:00pm and for the next two hours we are unloading our trailer, setting up the cafeteria and running sound checks.

Can you imagine if the elders of your church had to do that every Sunday Morning? They arrive to a building with no pews, no sound system, no pulpit, no coffee or snacks, no Bibles or hymnals and they have to set everything up before church can begin?

Services at Ablaze end by 8pm. We have a short time of fellowship and our team begins to take down the sound system, pack up the nursery and the bibles and books and load everything back into the trailer. We pray and are back on the road to Our Savior’s garage by 9pm. Once there, our team unloads the trailer and puts the sound system back inside the church to protect it from the climate.

We’ve been doing this every Saturday for 4 1/2 years.

We've added new faces since this photo was taken, but this is Zion's Fire.

Yes, we have a praise band called Zion’s fire to lead worship. And yes, they do contemporary Christian songs as well as reworked hymns and original compositions. We also have confession and absolution, and pastor Dreier delivers not only the children’s message, but the sermon as well.

We decided early on that we wanted our signature outreach event to be the Easter Egg Hunt.  Most churches today are only doing hunts within the privacy of their own court yards, for their own congregations. We wanted to be different. We wanted to reach the young families in the neighborhood. And so we opened our first weekend with 4,000 eggs and about 100 prizes. It was cold and snowy that day and we expected at most 100-200 people.

Pastor delivering the Easter Egg Hunt Devotional to about 500 kids

750 people showed up that day, filling the cafeteria. People were standing in the hallway to hear the message. And we were blown away. Seeing the need in the community, we went bigger the next year and planned for 8,000 eggs.

Over 60 volunteers gathered to stuff eggs and help with the hunt.

We made a few mistakes with the hunt in 2007.  I’d gather that anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people showed up and we were only expecting 1,000 at the most. We didn’t want to turn people away and yet, our building could not contain the crowds. We learned a lot of hard lessons that year. This event failed on many levels. There was a crowd gathering outside while we were worshipping inside and even though people were stationed out there to guard the eggs families were lining up, a child yelled “go” and like that, all 8,000 eggs were gone. We learned a lot that year. We learned that we needed to be 100% outside. We learned to shorten the service. We learned to combine this with a food drive, to equip team members with walkie talkies, and to have security present. Did the results of this event keep us from trying again?

No. In 2008 we tried again, this time with 12,000 eggs and instead of placing them out in the field before hand, we roped and sectioned it off and placed eggs after people arrived. We also asked families to donate a can of food for Neighbor for Neighbor as they came onto the grounds.

We filled over 35 crates of food for Neighbor for Nieghbor.
Tupper Teaching the Children about the Resurrection - being a new creation in Christ using Balloons.

We also did something unusual. We hired a clown to deliver the message. That is not a typo folks. We hired Stephen Smith, otherwise known as Tupper the Clown, to deliver the message for our hunt.

Do you see how many kids are there? We couldn’t count them. A lot of these families probably have a home church and a lot of these families don’t.  Several families have joined Ablaze church as the result of these egg hunts. And all of these families are invited back to Our Savior for our Easter morning worship services.
For those curious or even offended about the use of a clown to deliver the message that day, Steve Smith is an ordained minister and preachers kids to boot.  He owns and operates Christian Sanity Theater and performs throughout the state teaching children about science, history, and Jesus Christ. You can learn more about him by clicking here to see his websight.  I have personally hired Steve for personal parties as well as fundraisers. He is very gifted.
We’ve done other events as well including a fall festival. We wanted to do something to counter Halloween.
We invited various bands to come perform. This photo is the Axis Worship Band from Rhema
We also invited Christian Comic Michele VanDusen to provide CLEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY entertainment.
Michele VanDusen bringing laughter to the stage.
Local rancher and member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Dale Brookshire brought his chuck wagon for eats.
Everyone Enjoyed Dale's Authentic Cowboy Chuck Wagon
And again we have the children. That come out to Ablaze either on Saturday nights or for our events.
Neighborhood children enjoying a wet inflatable during Fall Fest
And of course, no church event is complete without pastor Dreier proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Ablaze Church in Broken Arrow meets faithfully every Saturday Night at Liberty Elementary School in Broken Arrow. We hold various events throughout the year in order to reach out to the community. We also transport Ablaze youth to Vacation Bible School at Our Savior every year.
We are presently looking at a permanent home for ourselves and need your prayers that God would lead us in the right direction very soon.
Next week, I’ll talk about some of the things Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa does for their LOCAL community as well.