The Domes Revisited
A Personal Essay About Meditating in the Golden Domes
Fairfield is home to over 2,000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners andMaharishi University of Management.
BY ROSES DERISE
Silence. Many people think of silence as a problem—theawkwardness when conversation grinds to an embarrassing halt, a mother’ssense of trouble when the kids go quiet, the media announcer’s franticattempt to fill up air time with anything other than nothingness.
But as a meditator, I know silence as something altogether different.To call it bliss seems trite, but even as a writer I fail to find an adequatedescription for that sweet spot inside so still that even breath causesripples in it, that oasis hidden on the dark side of the moon, that placeinside us where we flirt with genesis. Whatever name we give to innersilence, I’ve learned that the best place to find it is in the domesin Fairfield.
We didn’t have domes when I learned yogic flying in 1978 on thefirst MUM student’s course. We’d heard whispers about flying,but I don’t think we really believed it, not even when we saw sheetsof foam spread on the pod-house floors.
But on that magical summer, almost before we had time to close our eyes,the woman next to me popped up with an astonished “oh!” asif someone had goosed her. Like a pot at the boiling point, the room fairlysteamed with intermittent stifled gasps and giggles as more of us experiencedthat sudden, bubble-like lifting into the air. We learned that the foamwas to soften the landing.
After the course, we did programs alone. A few months later, a messagecame that Maharishi wanted everyone to meet in the fieldhouse. It feltlike a secret-service mission as we almost tiptoed into that stodgy, darkbuilding, finding the basketball court covered with foam.
What an adventure! We seemed less about silence then than noise and exuberance.We were filled with a sense of wonder and daring as we made great leapsand wild sounds like fledgling giants testing their reach. We watched thestock market and world news go up and down, depending upon our numbers.I have never lost my sense of sadness that on the one day we did not doprogram together, the day of my graduation in 1979 when they took up thefoam for commencement, an airplane crashed killing 271 people, the onlysuch accident in months before or after.
After graduation, I left Fairfield. While I was gone, Maharishi himselfinaugurated the 22,000 square feet (approximately the size of a footballfield) dome, called the Maharishi Patanjali Hall of Knowledge, in 1980.On returning, the enormity of it, the sheer volume of space from floorto ceiling, reminded me of the mothership in Close Encounters of the ThirdKind. Tongue-in-groove wood ceiling, central skylights, red carpets, andgold velvet drapes covering more than a hundred arched windows all servedto bring new heights to the depths of silence.
I felt jealous because it had been built for the men, feeling only somewhatmollified when women got to use it on alternative months. At first, I felttraumatized by the segregation of the sexes. But the oscillation betweendome and fieldhouse taught me what no amount of lecturing could have aboutwhy segregation was useful. It wasn’t for arbitrary puritanical standardsbut because we were different. Where the guys had been for a month, itsmelled like a locker room. Nice smell, actually, but it had a differentenergy, a more forceful kind that I began to identify as distinctly masculineas compared to our softer, feminine energy. It left me with a greater appreciationfor both sexes and a longing for the completion of the women’s dome,the Bagambhrini Hall of Knowledge, the twin to Patanjali.
Looking up at the stars through its open rafters during construction,I was aware that, with every nail and board, history was being made. Whenwe got to fly in it for the first time, in December 1981, it felt likecoming home to a new level of silence.
The pattern was clear—there was deeper silence in the fieldhousethan alone, more in Patanjali than the fieldhouse, and more for me, asa woman, in the women’s dome.
But while inner silence had increased, the outer level had gotten outof hand. Before program, hundreds of us gossiped in loud whispers againsta background litany of microphone announcements and security procedures.Noise may not be a barrier to meditation, but during program there wasso much coughing, clanking of keys, and rustling clothing that when I hadto leave again in 1987, I looked forward to doing program alone.
The Power of Flying in a Group
But on returning to Fairfield ten years later, it became obviousthat the outward silence wasn’t what made the process work. Atthe Raj, where I stayed when I first arrived, program was obviously deeper.Then, when I moved six miles away, the quality of program dropped. Thecontrast was remarkable. I didn’t want to spend the money or haveall that hassle of getting dressed on cold mornings or rushing to beon time, but who can argue with direct experience? I signed up for thedome.
Inside, I was thrilled (and, admittedly, chagrined!) to learn that thepre-program announcements and gossip sessions had ceased. But now it wasmore than a settled atmosphere. After the doors closed, the first thingthat struck me was the awesome silence. I was so stunned by it that longafter everyone else had gone inward, I sat, open-eyed, soaking up the feelings,amazed by the tangible power generated by the hundreds of people sittingin that warm, softly lit sanctuary, together in Silence.
Beyond the power of those present, I could feel the accumulated effectsof thousands of people meditating there over nearly three decades. Theyhad imbued the place with an energy greater than the sum of the parts.What amazed me most of all, when I finally closed my eyes, was how muchdeeper my experiences were.
I liked it so much I moved onto campus. I estimated that program in thedome was worth three in my room on campus, worth four or five in town,and worth at least ten elsewhere in the world. I heard Maharishi say thatcasual programs produce casual results. It appears to be true. The silencewas so sweet, I felt inspired to go for even more of that wonderful feelingby doing whatever I could to aid it—even going to bed early. Themore serious I got about it, the deeper my programs became.
When I had to leave again, I hoped I could preserve the depth of silence.But “out there,” I finally had to face the fact that as goodas life was in a beachfront home in Florida, life was flat compared tothe matchless minds and hearts of Sidhas … and to being in the domes.While others were going south for the winter, in January 2003, I movednorth, to stay.
On returning, dreading Iowa winters, exhausted from packing and drivinga moving van for three days, I was surprised to feel that tangiblefreshness, a renewal of wonder beginning as far away as Hannibal, Missouri.What had changed—was I more sensitive or had the domes gotten more powerful?
I was soon to decide that it was the latter. By the second program, moreclearly obvious by the third and unquestionable by the fourth, the dome’sawesome power begin to distinguish itself. It was so gentle, so quietlysoothing and nourishing as it seeped through me, cell by cell, relaxing,nourishing, healing.
The domes, I realized, are the powerhouses that radiate the energy I feltover 100 miles away, felt more strongly as I walked around town, felt strongeryet on campus and in interactions with old friends, long-time TMers. EverywhereI turned, their timeless beauty humbled me. Many long-time residents appearedto be so accustomed to the effects as to actually not know how enlightenedthey were. But having the contrast for comparison, I could see that thedomes were the twin suns that were making everyone’s life’sshine brighter than if they were alone. The domes were the hot spots forsilence, the ground zero of bliss.
The Domes Today
Thanks to donors and volunteers, the domes today have many improvements,including a place for newcomers set up with backjacks and blankets,new roofs, new bathrooms, new curtains. New foam and deep cleaninghave removed the dust and mold. Thanks to sensitive regulations, whispers,clanking thermoses, and even coughing have all but disappeared.
During the Taste of Utopia course in 1983-84, when 8,000 of us packedevery available space, the domes were full of gasps of delight and ripplesof spontaneous laughter as by the hundreds we found ourselves lifted upsimultaneously from the power of coherence. What an amazing sound thatlaughter is—you can hear the essence of the dome in it—suchpurity, such surprise, such innocent joy. Today, with more flyers comingin to help protect America and the world, we are again feeling those waves.There’s an excitement today much like the Taste of Utopia courseand those early days of flying, the feeling that something important ishappening.
How I wish you would come here to live with us and join us in the dome.With new Maharishi Sthapatya Veda buildings popping up everywhere, thecampus of Maharishi University of Management and the surrounding area isrich with a lively, energetic peacefulness. If you came here, you wouldfeel it too—the tangible results when inner silence gets manifestedinto concrete expression. The place where you can find the most silenceis the same place you can help create peace for the world. From home todome, this is the best place, possibly the safest place, in the world,the place where you can find the most silence.
Whether it’s for a week or a lifetime, please come join us.
Write to Roses Durese at
.For course information, visit http://www.invincibleamerica.org/
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