Thursday, October 20, 2011

eyes closed, nothing stirs

eyes closed, nothing stirs,
a well of silence fills the dome,
cameras forgotten

We're not allowed to take photos inside the Golden Dome, but during our evening program there are plenty of cameras, blue and gold lights and sound booms, filming Oprah Winfrey meditating with 478 ladies. It's October 2011 and we haven't had such a happening in 30 years, when Doug Henning and Debbie Douillard got married in December 1981 in the Bagambhrini Dome, which was still under construction. Oprah, along with 250 of her staff, learned Transcendental Meditation two months ago, and right away she decided to visit Fairfield and Vedic City, a community of several thousand TM meditators. This past week her staff came to town to prepare for her visit. Rumors had leaked the name of our special guest, so we spent the week beautifying our 25,000 square foot (round) meditation hall and entrance.
          On the first day of their visit, the group flies in from Chicago on her private jet, the largest airplane ever to land in our small airport. When Oprah visits the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, she says, "The age of enlightenment is what I have been wanting all my life." She is also invited to visit the campus of the Maharishi Vedic Pandits, where over 900 pandits from India practice TM and the TM-Sidhis program and perform their traditional yagyas. She listens to them chant and afterwards some of the pandits tell her how happy they are to be here, creating peace for the world.
          The day of Oprah's visit to the Ladies' Dome, we are told to wear makeup and there is a big sign in the entrance announcing that if we enter the building we agree to allow our photo to be used for publicity. No problem, since many ladies are eager to sit in the vicinity of the famous media mogul and be interviewed outside the dome. 
          Oprah and the video crew come early to see the dome empty. She loves the framed quotes on the walls, especially the one by Maharishi: "The search for total knowledge starts from the Self and finds fulfillment in coming back to the Self, finding that everything is the expression of the Self -- everything is the extension of my own Self." She stops in front of one by Marcus Aurelius: "Nowhere can a man withdraw to a more untroubled quietude than in his own soul. Grant yourself this withdrawal continually, and refresh yourself." Oprah turns to her video crew and says, "Do you get that? That's what TM is all about."
          The Golden Dome is restricted to ladies who practice TM and the TM-Sidhis, and you have to have a valid badge to enter, but that is waived for our celebrity. Oprah pauses at the entrance to the meditation area, surprised by the number of ladies streaming in or already seated on the foam that covers the floor. "Are they coming from work or home?" she asks. Candace, her hostess, replies, "From everywhere. At work they stop their project and leave for the dome. At home, they put dinner on the stove and come to the dome. Doing group program together twice a day is their top priority." 
          Oprah meditates for about half and hour before leaving us to continue the siddhis portion of the program. The presence of the cameras and lights and a famous guest do not disturb the profound silence of 478 women meditating together. Nothing stirs. As Oprah is leaving, Candace says, "You get it." Oprah throws her arms around Candace. "I get it!" Then she turns to her video crew, "That is amazing." She takes a few more steps, turns back, looks directly at the camera and says, "That is truly amazing."

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