|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Southeast Iowa becomes a Mecca for meditation
By Kari Lydersen
"Some people think TM is some kind of cult or devil worship," he said. "I thought it might be negative for my business, that customers would freak out."
Things turned out just the opposite.
With much lower overhead, he found revenue for Cambridge Investment Research rising from one year to the next. He went from a gross revenue of about $500,000 a year in the D.C. area to more than $50 million in 2002. The magazine Investment Advisor named him broker-dealer of the year in 2003.
He credits Transcendental Meditation, which he began practicing as a freshman at Amherst College in 1971, for fueling his success.
"Even if investors or customers aren't interested in TM, they are attracted to the fact that I moved here to do this, that I'm concerned about more than just making money or having an ocean view," said Schwartz, who is considering changing his title from chief executive to chief spiritual officer. "That's the kind of business they want to be involved with."
Many other people in Vedic City and neighboring Fairfield feel the same way. The community founded by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles' meditation guru, has become an entrepreneurial Mecca of the Midwest.
Followers began flocking to Fairfield after the establishment of the Maharishi University of Management in 1974, and Vedic City was incorporated in 2001. Residents estimate that one-fourth of the 10,000 people in Fairfield and Vedic City practice TM.
Other successful businesses run by TM devotees include MarathonFoto, billing itself as the largest event photography company in the country; Creative Edge Master Shop, which manufactures intricate floor and wall murals out of marble and granite for Disney, the Chicago Bulls and other clients; and the Raj Ayurveda Health Center, a spa that draws visitors from around the country, who pay hundreds of dollars a day. City officials say more than $200 million in venture capital has been invested in Fairfield and Vedic City companies during the past 13 years.
"For a small town in the Midwest to have so many successful businesses is really unbelievable," said Rashi Glazer, co-director of the Center for Marketing and Technology at the University of California at Berkeley, who spends summers in Fairfield. "It means something's going on here."
Vedic is a Sanskrit word meaning "totality of knowledge." Residents live in spacious homes designed with entrances facing east, small onion domes called "kailashes" on top and rooms oriented to correspond with the cycles of the sun and moon. Practitioners of TM generally meditate for 20 minutes twice a day.
The area's TM practitioners are not just being noticed for their entrepreneurship. For 15 years, the fully accredited Maharishi University of Management has been conducting studies funded by the National Institutes of Health on the effects of meditation on cardiovascular health.
Vedic City has banned the sale of non-organic food and runs an organic farming operation that sells produce to Whole Foods Market and other outlets.
Across the street from the farm is the start of a housing project called "Abundance Ecovillage," which will be powered by solar and wind energy. Vedic City and Fairfield receive federal grants from agencies including the Departments of Energy and Agriculture for developing renewable energy sources and running recycling and composting programs.
Residents say most people moved here to study at Maharishi University or to send their children to Maharishi School, an elementary and high school.
"There weren't many jobs for people moving in, so they had to become entrepreneurial and create jobs," said Ed Malloy, a TM practitioner who is president of Danaher Oil and was elected mayor of Fairfield in 2001. "Meditation is about really perfecting and exploring human potential, so it makes sense these people tend to be highly motivated and creative."
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top