Meditation and the art of capital-raising

Sunday Star Times/August 29, 2004
By Lesley Springall

The New Zealand Maharishi Foundation, which seeks to spread peace and harmony through transcendental meditation, wants Kiwi businessfolk to contribute $15 million for a "peace palace" in central Auckland.

The Auckland Peace Palace would be the first of eight planned for New Zealand's cities and one of 3000 sought globally by the five million devotees of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, made famous by The Beatles in 1968. Since 2000, three of the 3000 have been built - all in the US.

Among those lending their names (but not necessarily their money) to plans for Auckland's palace are former New York marathon winner and healthcare product manufacturer Allison Roe, Auckland District Health Board mental health director Dr Nick Argyle, McKay Shipping chief executive Craig Harris, former Young & Rubicam boss Peter Scutts, Auckland property developer Greg Liggins and New Zealand Institute of Management Canterbury divisional head Reg Garters.

Foundation PR adviser Tony Edmonds said many senior business people involved in the project are regular meditators.

"But they don't necessarily want to talk about it because if they do, people start humming the theme to The X-Files and rolling their eyes because they don't understand . . . But now it's time to talk about it."

One supporter of the plan is former PSM Holdings chief executive, North Harbour coach and All Black selector Peter Thorburn. He said he turned to transcendental meditation more than a decade ago following the death of his wife.

He dropped it later in the '90s but picked it up again about six months ago after a stressful tour coaching in England.

AdvertisementAdvertisement"It helps me to relax. It makes a real difference to your general sense of well-being."

Not involved in the palace plans, though a supporter of the concept, is Michael Hill of jewellery retailer Michael Hill International. He says with meditation, the mind can "unleash unbelievably powerful inner thoughts, particularly business decisions: where one wants to go and what one wants to do with one's life, all becomes clear."

Hill remains sceptical about Maharishi followers' claim that meditation can reduce violent crime, ethnic tensions and even terrorism. Devotees believe that, if enough people meditate in a community, social tensions ease and crime rates fall.

To achieve this Auckland's Peace Palace must attract regular twice-daily meditators numbering more than the square root of 1% of the city's population, or about 100 people.

To sceptics it's far-fetched, but New Zealand Maharishi Foundation directors Graeme Lodge and Martin Jelley - son of Arch Jelley, coach of Kiwi runner John Walker - reel off results from 600 scientific studies they say back the claims.

The palace's $15m price tag includes about $5m for buying the land and constructing the building, while the rest is earmarked to help pay for 100 to 200 professional meditators. Getting the necessary seed funding for the project should not be the problem, rather, finding the land, Lodge said. This should be finalised this year, so building can begin next year.

Internationally, those who have dabbled with transcendental meditation include, famously, The Beatles and actor Clint Eastwood; movie director David Lynch, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, physicist John Hagelin, comedic actor Andy Kaufman and former US vice president Al Gore.

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