Des Moines Register
March 24, 2012

Fairfield's fame levitates after Oprah's meditation


The already more-well-known-than-you-think town of Fairfield, Ia., is about to have its national visibility grow by Oprah-esque proportions.

The media icon paid a stealthy six-hour visit to the Maharishi University of Management last October and will tell the country about her newfound devotion to transcendental meditation at 8 p.m. on Sunday as part of her new weekly series, "Oprah's Next Chapter."

Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy, who took the media mogul on a tour of one of the university's golden domes before she meditated there with about 400 other women, said Winfrey already had a working knowledge of transcendental meditation based on her experience with inner-city school systems.

The practice has been introduced there to children suffering from academic and behavioral problems with the help of Maharishi board of trustees member David Lynch, the television and film director whose private foundation promotes "consciousness-based education and world peace."

"It's had phenomenal results (in schools) and I think she became intrigued by that," said Malloy, who has practiced transcendental meditation for 38 years.  "Oprah's bright and energetic and gregarious and thoughtful and provocative and we are honored and tickled to be featured by her in this way."

Transcendental meditation first came to Fairfield by way of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who gained international fame as the guru to the Beatles before transforming the bankrupt Parsons College property into his namesake university in 1974.

In 2001, the Maharishi's followers incorporated their own town, called Maharishi Vedic City, about two miles north of Fairfield.  Sales of non-organic food are banned and buildings are designed to follow principles the Maharishi established, such as facing east and featuring a golden roof ornament.  About 1,300 people live there, and an estimated on-quarter of Fairfield's 10,000 residents also practice transcendental meditation.

Winfrey has tried to make a similar impact on her employees by encouraging them to meditate twice during each work day.

Paul Chesnutt-Winer, who hosted Winfrey in his home and will be featured with his family on Oprah's television show, said the practice of transcendental meditation could not have made a better friend.

"She's an amazing combination of being a strong, executive women and really a lot of fun," he said.


Subscribe to the Des Moines Register