Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Utopia: false promises of meditation (audio)

Claire Hoffman, Dave Davies (Fresh Air, June 13, 2016); Amber Larson (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly

Greetings from Utopia Park (Claire Hoffman, Harper, hardcover 265 pages, purchase)
Fresh AirSurviving a TM Childhood
Utopia Park author Claire Hoffman
Author Claire Hoffman estimates that she's spent at least 2,200 hours of her life meditating -- but not because she became a devotee of the practice as an adult.

Her mother was a follower of the [Beatles' favorite holy man] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Hoffman spent most of her childhood in a community in Fairfield, Iowa that was devoted to Transcendental Meditation.
Hoffman, who writes about her unusual upbringing in the new memoir Greetings from Utopia Park, tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that moving to the utopian community from Manhattan, New York when she was kindergarten-aged was idyllic -- at least initially.

"Those first few years, it was entirely magical," Hoffman says. "We believed that we were changing the world, and everybody was meditating. ...It was this sort of blissful experience."

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, London, 1961 (NPR)
Maharishi, the yogi whose teachings inspired her mother, specialized in "Yogic Flying," a practice that he claimed would infuse practitioners with the power to levitate. He charged Hoffman's mother and other devotees thousands of dollars to learn it.
Because Yogic Flying was practiced in secret, Hoffman believed for years that her mother could, in fact, fly. Then when she was 9 or 10 she attended a demonstration of the practice and was crushed.
"It was this sort of funny frog hop that they were doing across the room," Hoffman says. It was a childhood of Transcendental Meditation, spent in the "shadow of a guru". AUDIO

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