Every year, hundreds of new faces from roughly 85 countries pour into the small town, and, according to Webster, who recently completed her MBA at the university, almost all are here on a quest for some form of self-enlightenment. “It’s a safe haven for a lot of people to just come and get themselves together,” she says. “A lot of people here were lost and are searching for something. Being here you’re able to develop things about yourself and find what you’re looking for.” It’s a sentiment echoed by MUM film professor and former student
Amine Kouider, a native of Algeria. On a recent spring morning the 29-year-old sits in the university’s Arts Center and recalls his own journey halfway around the world to his current home in Iowa: “Most people here have this desire to better themselves and find out who they are,” he explains of Fairfield’s gravitational pull. “That it’s in middle-of-nowhere Iowa is pretty weird.” He smiles. “And pretty special.”
TM, as its practitioners call it for short, has been in the public arena since roughly the late 1950s. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an enlightened teacher from India, began touring the world and speaking to the practice’s profound personal benefits. Charismatic and soft-spoken with an almost divine presence, Maharishi, often referred to as “enlightened master” by followers, quickly attained something like celebrity in the late ’60s—if largely because TM began attracting famous followers including the Beatles and Mick Jagger. The practice only got trendier in the ensuing years as more stars latched on to its hip cachet. Everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Jim Carrey to David Lynch to Ellen DeGeneres professes a deep dedication to TM.
But what exactly does TM entail? Maharishi, who passed away in 2008 at age 90, taught that meditating twice a day, specifically while reciting a mantra one receives when learning the practice, allows the mind to settle down to quieter states and ultimately transcend thought itself. According to a recent survey, nearly five million people have learned TM. And of those practitioners in Fairfield, many are millennials who have either been born and raised with TM or have chosen it as their path. To find out what’s it like being a young person entrenched in the TM lifestyle, I’ve come to the right place.