HUMBOLDT PARK — Eyes closed in meditation, a small group of grieving women sat in a circle on the second floor of a Humboldt Boys & Girls Club one recent Sunday afternoon.
The lights were dimmed. Except for the hum of the air conditioner and the far away sound of basketballs hitting the gym floor below, the room was awash in a deep silence.
The quiet, say the mothers — most of whom have lost children to Chicago violence — was coming from within, a rediscovered inner peace thought to have died with their children.
“For all these years, I’ve been fighting with my brain. I took medication to forget, but you can never forget,” said 49-year-old Beti Guevara, who was just a girl when her brother was slain 38 years ago.
Erin Meyer says the mothers struggle to find peaceful moments after the death of a child:
With Transcendental Meditation, "I can think clearly, I’m calmer, and I can finally sleep,” he said.
Guevara and her friends are learning the trademarked relaxation method, called T.M. for short, at the invitation of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.
Lynch, an innovator of cinema best known as the director of the TV series “Twin Peaks” and films including “Mulholland Drive” and “Lost Highway,” views T.M. as a tonic for victims of trauma and a vehicle to world peace.
The New York-based foundation that bears his name teaches T.M. on American Indian reservations, in prisons and schools, to homeless people, to former soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and to victims of war in Africa, according to the organization's website.
Recently, the David Lynch Foundation added to that list Chicago mothers living in the wake of a child's murder.
Among those participating are: An-Janette Albert, mother of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, whose 2009 beating death outside Fenger High School shocked the nation; Myrna Roman, who lost her first born in an unprovoked 2010 driveby in Humboldt Park; and Maria Pike, the mother of an aspiring chef, Ricky Pike, who was gunned down in Logan Square in 2012.
The group met multiple times over the course of a week with a husband-wife T.M. instruction team, adopted their mantras and started meditating twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Four days into the practice, most of the new students said they have found a surprising measure of peace.
Transcendental Meditation is not an ancient technique, but a method developed by the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. It became wider known when it was adopted by members of The Beatles.
On Sunday, at the Union League Boys & Girls Club, meditation teacher Chris Busch described T.M. as a nonreligious exercise with myriad mind and body benefits ranging from stress reduction to reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health.
"It's a simple thing," Busch said. "Even children 10 years old, they can do it," he said, describing improvements that some schools in San Francisco have seen through the implementation of a TM program for students.
Lynch told the New York Times earlier this year that he began T.M. in 1973.
"The Beatles were over with Maharishi in India and lots of people were getting hip to Transcendental Meditation and different kinds of meditation, and I thought it was real baloney," Lynch said. "I thought I would become a raisin-and-nut eater, and I just wanted to work."
Then, he heard the phrase, "True happiness is not out there, true happiness lies within."
"And this phrase had a ring of truth to it," Lynch said.
He described T.M., which usually costs about $1,000 to learn through T.M. teachers, as "a key that opens the door."
After spending time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he decided to set up a foundation in 2005 to spread the mediation approach, according to the Times.
"Things like traumatic stress and anxiety and tension and sorrow and depression and hate and bitter, selfish anger and fear start to lift away," Lynch said. He launched a Women's Initiative in 2012.
The Chicago mothers, just beginning to see the potential meditation has to bring order to their lives, stumbled into T.M.
Maria Pike was telling friends on a recent trip to Washington D.C. about the daily challenges she encounters just trying to live a normal life in the wake of her son's murder. The friends turned out to be T.M. practitioners, Pike said.
They made some phone calls, which led to more phone calls. Eventually, supporters of the David Lynch Foundation offered to pay for Pike and her friends to take the T.M. training.
"I feel like it was meant to be," Pike said.
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