Transcendental Meditation Thrives in Iowa

Residents of Vedic City, Iowa, still follow yogi's teachings, 30 years later.

ByABC News
December 1, 2009, 2:03 PM

July 5, 2010 — -- When you think of Iowa, you think of cornfields, you think of caucuses, you think of old-fashioned country-living.

Chances are, you don't think of meditation and communal living.

Welcome to Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa -- the only city in the country built on the tenets of transcendental meditation, for meditators, by meditators.

Meg and Erik Vigmostad moved here from St. Louis in 1982.

"We wanted to come to a meditating community," said Meg Vigmostad. "We had two children at the time, one of them was an infant, and we felt like it was the best place to bring up our children."

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Vigmostad acknowledged that the couple's families thought they were "crazy" for making the move. Crazy, because those words, "transcendental meditation," sound, well, different. Many people first heard of transcendental meditation, or TM, in the 1960s, when the Beatles started following Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the official founder of TM.

"Transcendental meditation is a simple technique practiced for about 15-20 minutes sitting comfortably in a chair with the eyes closed," said Bob Roth, national director of the TM program. "It allows the body to get a profound state of rest while the mind just settles down and experiences a state of inner wakefulness, inner calm, inner coherence."

The followers of Mahesh Yogi -- mostly from East and West Coast universities -- moved to Iowa en masse in 1974 to set up their own college, the Maharishi University of Management. The group chose Iowa because that is where they could find the land.

Now the settlement features two huge domes, one for men and one for women, with residents streaming in to meditate together twice a day.

But at the university and in the city, the commitment to Vedic principles of natural law and balance, derived from ancient Sanskrit texts, goes far beyond meditation. The community has banned the sale of nonorganic food within its boundaries. And that's not all.

"The primary characteristics of Vedic architecture, the most obvious one, is that ideally, buildings face east, the direction of the rising sun," said Jon Lipman, the country's leading Vedic architect.