Om on the Grange

November 12, 2006

Author: Gary Lee

Source: The Washington Post

It was late afternoon in Fairfield, Iowa, and townsfolk were preparing for the daily ritual.

Marie-Helene Tourenne, who serves up sublime French fare at the Petit Paris restaurant, removed her apron, left the coq au vin to simmer and exited the kitchen. Lonica Halley, co-owner of Natural Selections, a shop offering organic goods, left the store in the care of her assistant. Even Ed Malloy, the amiable silver-haired mayor, ended a meeting and strode out of his conference room.

The three joined a flow of more than a thousand people headed about a mile north of town to the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) and its pair of golden domes, 25,000-square-foot structures that rise above the rolling farmland's barns and silos. There, the pilgrims sat on mats, chairs or the hardwood floor with their backs to a massive altar, facing eastward toward a blank wall. For 20 minutes they remained motionless, in silence.

Five o'clock is meditation time in this town of 9,500, about 100 miles southeast of Des Moines.