Health & FitnessLife & Style

Sit back, relax, and close your eyes

Stress is on the rise as the world becomes nosier and more crowded. We increasingly find ourselves inundated with thoughts, worries, and distractions. Psychological pollution makes it hard for us to access our spirituality. Worse yet, this affects physical health. Is there any way to avoid being overwhelmed in today’s world of excessive stimuli? Transcendental meditation might be a place to start.

“The connection between body and mind is undeniable,” says Nada Haidar, a member of the Society for the Development of Human Consciousness and Potential, a Cairo-based organization dedicated to promoting mental well-being. Not only are we unable to think clearly without a good grasp of our consciousness, says Haidar, but we are unable to function properly while physically tired and overspent.

To combat these problems, the Society for the Development of Human Consciousness and Potential supports programs in yoga, controlled breathing, and meditation. The society was formed in the early 1980s by Dr. Aziza Hussein. Over almost 30 years, the society and its work have attracted a sizeable following.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the society’s work is in Transcendental Meditation, a practice that requires 15 to 20 minutes of quiet sitting and is reported to promote energy, creativity, and stability.

“Research done by [professor of physiology at Maharishi University Robert] Keith Wallace shows that the technique of Transcendental Meditation drops one’s metabolic rate twice as far as sleep does, while keeping normal levels of CO2 and O2 in the blood,” explains Haidar, whose work with the Society includes teaching this technique. “Nothing is required except thinking, experiencing quietness. After all, silence is the basis of dynamism.”

Haidar is alarmed by stress levels in the world today and sees it as natural that people seek unconventional forms of relief. She also says she believes that stress is at the root of a number of other societal ills, including violence, sicknesses and disease, and psychosomatic problems.

The Transcendental Meditation course involves a number of lectures on the link between consciousness and increased intelligence and mental awareness. The lectures are followed by classes in meditation technique. Participants are advised to practice their technique by meditating twice a day for 20 minutes in a comfortable chair, sitting up, with eyes closed. The meditative state is said to bring one to a deeper state of rest than even sleep.

People swear by Transcendental Meditation. Paul McCartney and Jerry Seinfeld are two of the most vocal advocates of the international Transcendental Movement and both contribute to programs that offer free classes on the technique to troubled children.

In Egypt, the Tuesday meditation sessions give a taste of the diversity of Egyptian meditators. Young and old, doctors, homemakers, teachers, and students come together for 20 minutes of group meditation, an experience that amplifies the energy-giving powers of the technique.

The group’s energy has spawned other activities, as well, including an exhibition of art and photography last year. Many participants attributed their creative work to their experience with meditation.

The Transcendental Meditation movement has had a tumultuous journey. The movement picked up popularity in the ’60s thanks to The Beatles’ controversial relationship with the movement and the effect the technique had on their music and lives. Today, people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique can be found all over the world, from India to England to Egypt.

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