The following feature appears in the August 2016 issue of NYLON.
A flatbed truck whizzing around the town square kicks up dust on Burlington Avenue. A repairman with his morning coffee in hand tosses a smile my way. All cornstalks and cool spring breeze, Fairfield, Iowa, wouldn’t seem unlike any other Midwestern city, ones such as Pleasantville, Swan, or Oskaloosa, which dot the map from here to Des Moines.
And then they come into view.
The Golden Domes of Pure Knowledge: orblike, almost shimmering, vaguely extraterrestrial in appearance, 25,000 square feet each. “Your imagination could go wild,” says local resident Kathy Petersen, who has lived in the Fairfield area for nearly 35 years, with a laugh. “Like, ‘What do they do in there?’” The reality, it turns out, is not a whole lot: Twice daily, hundreds of people meditate together under the domes. Silence. Concentration. Transcendence. This is Fairfield, a major hub of the spiritual practice and ever-growing global movement known as Transcendental Meditation.
“I haven’t really come across a place like this anywhere else,” says 26-year-old New Orleans native and current Fairfield resident Lauren Webster of the approximately 9,500-person town that, in addition to housing the aforementioned twin Maharishi Golden Domes, is home to the Maharishi University of Management (MUM), a school at which the principal mission is to provide a “Consciousness-Based Education” and Transcendental Meditation is part of the daily practice and core curriculum. To that end, all first-year undergrad students are required to take “Science and Technology of Consciousness,” or Transcendental Meditation 101, if you will, during which they learn the technique and traditions surrounding the practice, as well as explore its theoretical foundations. Students can further immerse themselves in all things Meditation by majoring in, say, Maharishi Vedic Science, which, among other big-ticket subjects, aims to help them understand how they can maximize personal growth and contribute to world peace.
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