15 Maggio 2015
“Oltre alla relazione genitoriale, probabilmente nessun rapporto umano offre una maggiore possibilità di benevolenza o di abuso di quello tra guru e discepolo. Non sorprende, quindi, che i fallimenti etici degli uomini e delle donne che assumono questo ruolo possano costituire alcuni dei più grandi esempi di ipocrisia e di tradimento.. “
Segue estratto dall’articolo “The Price of Enlightenment“, (illustrato e scritto da Cici Carmignani). L’articolo integrale in lingua inglese è consultabile cliccando sull’immagine, qui:
Gina Catena è stata una dei primi bambini a essere considerati “quasi-illuminati” dal movimento Meditazione Trascendentale (TM) negli anni ’60, e ora condivide la sua storia nella speranza di informare la popolazione circa le sue preoccupazioni per quanto riguarda la tecnica meditazione trascendentale. Oltre alla sua dolorosa esperienza e a quella della sua famiglia, nel brano che segue, racconta, tra l’altro, di vari suicidi di cui è a conoscenza commessi da persone che seguivano il movimento. Nel suo racconto accenna a un studio pubblicato su Psychological Reports nel 1976 che afferma quanto segue: “Come molte procedure, Meditazione Trascendentale (TM) si dimostra estremamente efficace se applicata in casi correttamente individuati su praticanti informati. E non è una panacea. Se usata indiscriminatamente, indicazioni cliniche suggeriscono che la procedura può precipitare gravi problemi psichiatrici come depressione, agitazione e persino scompensi schizofrenici“. Gina Catena esprime anche preoccupazione per l’insegnamento della David Lynch Foundation che propone tecniche di Meditazione trascendentale per i bambini, in particolare a causa della mancanza di ricerca sugli effetti a lungo termine di queste tecniche meditative su cervelli in via di sviluppo. La maggior parte della ricerca è stato infatti finanziata dallo stesso Movimento TM.
LA STORIA DI GINA CATENA
On October 20, 2014, Gina Catena gave a personal account of her experience with the TM Organization at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Fransisco titled “Cult or Benign Cure-all? Life in Transcendental Meditation’s Hidden Society”. Catena was one of the first children to be deemed “quasi-enlightened” by the TM Movement during the 60’s, and is now sharing her story in hopes of informing people about her concerns regarding the TM technique.
“Many of my loved ones fell down a rabbit hole of self-induced trance,” says an emotionally distraught Catena during her lecture. Catena’s parents were part of the earliest phases of the United Nations in the late 1940s. She says that they were committed to creating world peace after experiencing the horrors of WWII. During the 50s, her father left the United Nations to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer and was transferred to a remote town in the Southern Californian desert. During that time, her parents met a defense contractor named Walter Koch, who was one of Maharishi’s followers. Koch told her father that TM could heal his early onset rheumatoid arthritis and took them to see the Maharishi in Beverly Hills.
A few months later, Catena’s parents brought her and her brother to Los Angeles to be initiated to TM. She says she was about eight years old when she was given her “word of wisdom”. During the puja, she was invited by her teacher to bow down in front of the altar. She remembers saying, “I don’t know who that is, I’m not going to bow.”
After her parents become more involved with the movement, she noticed that their language began to change. Instead of using the word “God” they used “mother nature, being, or the absolute”. Her mother told her what Maharishi had once said, “In a religious age we speak in religious terms. In a scientific age we speak in scientific terms.”
In 1971, Herbert Benson collaborated with Keith Wallace on a study about the effects of TM on the human body at the University of California. Wallace approached Benson claiming that he could lower his blood pressure by using TM. Benson proved these claims to be true after concluding the study. Benson later studied other forms of meditation and prayer and found similar results. He coined the term ‘relaxation response’ and referred to it as a “physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress”. This physical state involves a decrease in heart rate, metabolic rate, and breathing rate. Wallace and Benson went their separate ways after Benson refused to be initiated to TM. Wallace went on to continuing his research on TM and remains one of the most respected scientists within the Movement. During this time, Catena was asked to participate in one of Wallace’s studies because she was “functioning well”.
In 1974, Catena moved to the first campus for the Maharishi International University in Santa Barbara, CA with her mother. She says that she was “revered” for having learned TM at such a young age. At 16, she was offered to go to Seelisberg, Switzerland to be with Maharishi at his palace and become a TM teacher. She refused and said she didn’t want to go because she preferred to spend her time hiking in the hills and going to the beach. She thought the “TM people were fabulous” and really enjoyed living with them. However, she had noticed that some of the people who returned from longer courses had changed. “They didn’t laugh anymore.” She languidly imitates them, “Everything was like ‘Maharishi says this and Maharishi says that’,” and then briskly says, “I didn’t go for that.”
That same year, Catena moved to Fairfield, Iowa and became pregnant with an older student from Maharishi International University. She did not seek out medical care and had a miscarriage. She became pregnant again and gave birth, once again without even considering medical care.
Some followers of the TM Movement believe that TM and it’s associated healing modalities, such as Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology, are superior to modern medicine and therefore do not seek out help from mainstream doctors. Catena had always been taught this growing up. She later came across a document published on Wikileaks containing details of a Governor Recertification Course(TM Teacher’s are also known as Governors) from 2005. It states the following: “We are not going to take help from medical Drs. as medical professionals give poison. So don’t engage any medical Drs. for anything — absolutely whatever it is — even if they are in our Movement family.”
As the years passed by, Catena became more and more disillusioned with life in Fairfield. She recalls being told by one of the leaders of the movement that she would “precipitate World War III” due to her lack of participation in more advanced meditations. She preferred to spend time at home with her children instead. Meanwhile, her father’s arthritis only got worse. He refused any medical treatment and instead opted for prayer ceremonies known as yagyas. Catena has boxes of receipts in her garage at home from some of these ceremonies. One of the receipts showed a yagya that costed $4,000. Her father died in 2005 in what she described as a “painful, prolonged” death with gems strung around his neck. He donated all of the money he had to the TM Movement, plus $80,000 in credit cards which Catena had to settle with her family.
Catena talks about various suicides committed by people she came into contact with during her time within the movement. She mentions a studypublished in Psychological Reports in 1976 that states the following: “Like many procedures, Transcendental Meditation (TM) proves extremely effective when applied to properly selected cases by informed practitioners. It is not a panacea. In fact, when used indiscriminately, there are clinical indications that the procedure can precipitate serious psychiatric problems such as depression, agitation, and even schizophrenic decompensation.”
An article posted Iowa City’s Little Village Magazine in 2014 reports that 20 people have committed suicide in the greater Fairfield area since 2008, according to the local medical examiner. A suicide prevention group, unaffiliated with the TM movement, called Fairfield Cares was created in response to this, particularly for those within the LGBTQ community. It is impossible to say whether or not all of the suicides were caused as a result of practicing TM.
Catena expresses concern about the David Lynch Foundation teaching TM to children, particularly due to the lack of research on the long term effects of TM on developing brains. Most of the research that does exist has been funded by the TM Movement. “Meditation is probably beneficial,” says Catena. “Those who promote TM are well intentioned. They are doing what they were taught to do. My opinion is that vulnerable people might fall for the promises of this society, and some might have severe reactions.”
During the Q&A in San Fransisco, Nat Goldhaber, one of the founders of Maharishi University of Management, comes up to the microphone to defend the TM Movement, “I’ve taught 1,000 people to meditate and had no devastating results in that entire time. My community of friends is largely made up of people who practice TM, some of whom do the vedic astrology stuff, and some of whom don’t.” Goldhaber then proudly lists his accomplishments, including his time as personal assistant to William Scranton III, who served as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1987. According to Goldhaber, Scranton used the skills he learned from TM to calm down “panicked people” during a “tumultuous time” during his term at the Governor’s office. He then says, “There are nutty people in the TM Movement, just as there are nutty people everywhere,” and makes it clear that Catena was speaking from her own personal experience and did not represent the TM Movement in any way. She thanked him, and deservedly so, since he had just reiterated the point she had made in the beginning of the lecture.
Catena moved away from Fairfield 1988 with her husband (to whom she is now divorced) and three children. She earned a BA in Nursing, BA in Art History, and MA of Science from the Dominican University in California and currently works as a nurse practitioner and midwife at a large hospital in San Francisco. She tells me that there are many loved ones in Fairfield who still refuse to speak with her. Catena changed her last name in 1999 because she no longer wants to be associated with the person she used to be, who she says was “rather confused”.
You can listen to her entire lecture here.