Fairfield, Iowa is a unique town, because it's home to the Maharishi University of Management, which from the sound of it makes me think of a bunch of hometown heroes educating themselves to become regional managers of fast food restaurants. But it's much more exciting than that. The University is essentially a liberal arts school that focuses on the practice of Transcendental Meditation, and practically everybody in the town of Fairfield is involved in some way. We ended up with a good mix of people who were nice enough to let us shine unfathomably bright lights in their faces and interview them on a random street corner at 1 in the morning. One was an older gent by the name of Tom who was a professor of music at the University, another was a younger girl, Stephanie, who was currently enrolled in her fourth year at the University and had been practicing TM since age 5, and we met a younger guy by the name of Mike, who years before had dropped out of the school due to problems with the curriculum and a general skepticism of the practice.
The way the meditation works is by a series of mantras. There are around twelve different mantras that are assigned to different groups of people based on gender and age group. The practice consists of sitting and meditating on the mantra for about twenty minutes twice a day, and by doing so, they claim it brings them to a point where they "transcend" reality. An easier way for me to decipher it was by referencing a scene in I Heart Huckabees, where the two main characters experiencing "existential crises" sit at a picnic table and whack each other in the face with a giant inflatable ball until their minds essentially go blank and they become the earth and air that surrounds them, somewhat transcending the inevitable drama that they become so distracted by. At their constant request to "go back to the ball thing," their existential counselor reminds them not to call it "the ball thing," but "pure being." Fairfield's practitioners meet twice a day, once before breakfast and once before dinner, in two massive domes, one for men and one for women, and meditate together in giant groups, which they feel is more powerful than meditating alone.
There was a strange and special vibe about this town, and I felt it from the moment I stepped off the bus. Simultaneously to being greeted by a flock of friendly townspeople (prior we were under the impression we'd have to "search" for these folks, HAH!), we were greeted also by a praying mantis that followed us around for a few minutes and landed on everyone if only for a few seconds, which we took as a good sign. The town breathes a good energy, even if it could easily be taken as a placebo effect; most of the townspeople are practitioners and believe that with their daily group meditations, they are successfully sending out positive energy, not just to their town, but to other places in the world as well. Whether they're all avid believers of this concept or not depends on who you talk to, but most of them will vouch that practicing the meditation has helped them ground themselves and become generally more calm, peaceful, and aware individuals.
Afterwards we headed to the 24-hour grocery store because we were told of the magical milk that came out of Fairfield. Apparently singing to their cows causes them to produce incredibly creamy and sweet milk, unlike any milk we were sure to have tasted before in our lives. And apparently that was all the convincing we needed. What began with milk soon turned into magic cereal, magic songs, magic pictures, magic food stamps, magic bananas, and our magic life in this magic town on our magic bus.
You're a very, well... magical place, Fairfield. Thanks for making our search so easy; we didn't have such luck with the Amish or the Mormons...
Reposted from the New World Manifesto.
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