While many people in the medical community finally seem to be coming around to the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, Paul Diakiwski is wondering what took so long.
“It thrills us to see people improving their lives using TM,” said Diakiwski, a certified transcendental meditation teacher from Latham. “Doctors are beginning to recommend the technique, and my first reaction when I heard how the military is having great results using it with vets who suffer from PTSD was, ‘it’s about time.’ ”
A retired businessman who most recently worked for Time Warner Cable, Diakiwski has been sharing his love of the practice since 1968 when he actually met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in a TM event at Madison Square Garden. The Maharishi began developing the technique in the 1950s, and by the late 1960s had attracted several converts to TM, including The Beatles and many other celebrities.
“I heard him lecture at Madison Square Garden and actually met with him afterward,” remembered Diakiwski. “I was like everybody else, looking for a better life, and what he said made complete sense to me. As soon as I heard him speak I thought to myself, ‘this is the kind of thing I’ve been looking for.’ ”
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TM is taught by certified teachers through a standard course of instruction. Practitioners repeat an individualized mantra or phrase designed to help them reach a place of emotional tranquility by sitting quietly for 20-minute stretches. According to TM proponents, the practice helps people relax, reduces the stress in their lives and helps them become more efficient and productive.
Diakiwski had just graduated pre-med from Manhattan College when he first saw the Maharishi. By 1970 he had spent two months at the special TM training school high in the mountains of Colorado and become a licensed instructor.
“I wanted to do more,” he said. “Something had been lacking in my life. I wanted more stability and happiness, and I felt my creative attention was being stifled as well as my intelligence. So I went to school for about two months at my own expense. I wanted to share my experience and help others, so it was worth it to me. Even though [the Maharishi] is a monk, he isn’t without pockets. He still needed money to travel and lecture and spread the word.”
Proper use of the TM technique requires an individual to sit for at least 20 minutes and meditate twice a day. “I would meditate in the morning before I went to work, and then again later in the day, probably late in the afternoon,” said Diakiwski. “You have to integrate it into your schedule. People who do it experience great expansion and happiness in their life.”
He grew up in the Roman Catholic faith and he’ll tell you his use of TM has helped him become a better Catholic.
“It does not conflict with my religion at all, and whatever religion one does practice, I think it will help you practice that religion,” he said.
“It helps one experience the full potential of one’s sense and mind, and that will enhance your appreciation of your religion. TM helps you relax not by adding something, but by subtracting all the stress and all the tension you feel throughout the day. It helps the body release stress and tension in a very natural and effortless way.”
Tom Bojarski, an Amsterdam native and Siena College graduate, is a retired school teacher who has been practicing TM since 1972. Like Diakiwski, he is one of a handful of licensed TM instructors in the Capital Region.
“I got out of work a half-hour early in 1972 to go listen to the Maharishi give a free introductory lecture at Union College, and I went there very skeptical,” said Bojarski. “But I got really interested and I wanted to know what makes him tick. So in 1975 I took the course out in California and then went to Switzerland and studied with the Maharishi. When I came back, I started teaching.”
Since their first certification, both Diakiwski and Bojarski have been recertified. While they have taken time off from teaching TM, they have always continued to practice it for themselves.
“It’s nothing where you have to change your way of living,” said Bojarski. “There are only two 20-minute periods a day that you have to fit into your life. All you’re doing is adding a mental exercise to your routine that will provide you with wonderful results.”
Oona Edmonds, a licensed clinical social worker with the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Capital Region in Scotia, uses mindfulness meditation with some of her patients and said both techniques can prove very helpful in dealing with stress and anxiety in life.
Unlike TM, mindfulness meditation doesn’t involve a mantra and doesn’t require two sessions per day. Instead, an individual reaches a state of peacefulness by sitting quietly and focusing on his or her breathing. The length of the session and its frequency is up to the individual.
“There are a lot of similarities between the two, and they both work on bringing your attention to the present moment,” said Edmonds. “Whereas TM will emphasize a certain mantra, mindfulness meditation works with the same principle but focuses on your breathing. They both help you be present in the moment as opposed to be pulled around by all the stress in your life.”
TM proponents refer to it as a “simple, effortless, natural mental procedure practiced twice a day,” but to get involved does require a financial and time commitment. A seven-step process includes an introductory lecture, but if you decide to stick with the entire seven steps there is a substantial fee. The MM approach isn’t so complicated.
“I learned TM when I was 14, and I practiced Buddhist Tibetan meditation for over 10 years,” said Edmonds. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of different spiritual traditions. What I like about mindfulness meditation is that it is becoming much more accepted in the field of psychotherapy, and it’s presented in a very non-religious way, a very secular way. It’s still something of a commitment, but you can also pick up a book or a CD and practice it. It doesn’t have to get that involved.”
However you measure the commitment to TM, Bojarski and Diakiwski say it is worth it.
“You have to be self-motivated, and we explain all that in our free introductory talk,” said Bojarski. “I know it’s helped me, and I think it’s amazing that it helps people who have been through horrible traumatic situations, like war, in their life. It’s well worth it.”
“There is a cost, but we discuss that with the individual, and there are scholarships available,” said Diakiwski. “We’ve had many a healthy skeptic start out with this program and they change. It’s an easy, natural way to give yourself a better life.”
The next free introductory lecture on TM will be offered July 17 at 7 p.m. at the Econo Lodge at 1630 Central Ave. in Albany. In August, a free TM lecture will be held at the Saratoga Springs Library on Aug. 13, and on Aug. 15 another introductory meeting will take place at the Econo Lodge in Albany. Both events begin at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.TM.org, DoctorsOnTM.org or TM-Business.org.