Group to build Peace Palace in Cape

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The facility will be a place to go to practice Transcendental Meditation.

Ask David Zimmer what Transcendental Meditation has meant to him in the 30 years he has been practicing the mental technique and he'll laugh and say: "You got a month or two?"

In other words, it's meant a lot.

It's helped him develop his potential and achieve greater inner peace, Zimmer says, as well as escape for awhile from a world struggling with war, natural disasters and the rigors of everyday life.

"It seems sometimes like the world is spinning off its axis," said Zimmer, co-owner of the Zimmer family-owned radio stations. "People need a place where they can get centered and focused to relieve the stress that society and life puts on us every day."

The Peace Palace will be such a place, Zimmer said.

Zimmer is heading a project that will bring to Cape Girardeau a so-called Peace Palace, a project affiliated with the organization led by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Zimmer is still scouting the Cape Girardeau area for a spot for the Peace Palace. He said it is likely still about a year away.

Peace Palaces are used primarily to teach Transcendental Meditation, or TM, a technique described by practitioners as a way to settle down the mind. TM is practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.

Maharishi challenged his organization to launch 2,600 Peace Palaces throughout the U.S. and 3,000 worldwide at a recent convention in Europe. Other Missouri cities getting Peace Palaces include St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia, he said.

Kent Boyum works for the Maharishi's organization, called the Global Country of World Peace near Fairfield, Iowa. He said most Peace Palaces will look the same -- typically two-level, 12,000-square-foot modular buildings on up to 10 acres. They are constructed using Vedic principles under which buildings face eastward.

The buildings can cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $3 million. The organization helps construct the buildings using private donations from its members. Once the buildings are up and running, the not-for-profit organization gets some of the money back, Boyum said, using it to start new Peace Palaces and to build homes for the poor in Third-World countries.

He said the Peace Palaces will teach TM as well as offer classes on how to practice. The building will also sell related music, books and clothing. Courses will also be offered on diet and health.

"But the main purpose is to provide a place for individual meditation and group meditation," he said.

According to the TM Web site, the technique requires a silent mental repetition of a simple sound known as a mantra, allowing the repetition to spontaneously become quieter and quieter until it disappears and one is left conscious but without thoughts. That state is called pure consciousness.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the ancient ways of meditation to the world about 40 years ago. He's the guru who taught The Beatles.

Zimmer said TM doesn't interfere with religious beliefs. He said it is for people of all faiths. He remains a Christian, he said, and was born Catholic.

In the movement's initial stages, Maharishi emphasized the religious aspects of TM and operated under the auspices of an organization called the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. However, he took a more secular approach in the 1970s.

Still, it has at least one local Christian leader concerned.

Dr. Brian Anderson, pastor at Crossroads Fellowship in Jackson, said looking inward for answers does not follow Christian teachings.

"Meditation is not a non-Christian concept," he said. "But that we would receive answers to life by looking inward is a thoroughly non-Christian concept. Christianity is a religion of revelation. That means we receive our meaning and our answers to life from outside -- from God."

But Scott Moon, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, said he sees no harm with Transcendental Meditation as long as it doesn't take the place of a Christian's faith in a Biblical God.

In fact Moon, who teaches world religions at Southeast Missouri State University, said meditation is a time-honored tradition within Christianity.

"I'm not particularly antagonistic against it," he said. "Some people think if it's not specifically geared toward Christianity, it's not good. I don't. Before there was a Christian around, God created the world and said it was good."

Meanwhile, Zimmer said he hopes the Peace Palace will give something back to his home community.

"We've had a great success in this community on many levels," he said. "When you get older, you develop a give-back attitude or you should. That's what we're hoping this does."

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