Norwich paves way for widespread use of Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation (TM) was first introduced to Norwich in 2010, when longtime donor and supporter Joan Andrews Prentice brought information to the president about TM, and since then the program has grown, said the Director of the Center for Student Success.

“She thought that it would be something that the university (would find) very beneficial, particularly because at that time the David Lynch Foundation (DLF), which was a foundation she was connected with, was doing some research on PTSD and helping veterans with TM,” said Shelby Gile, the Director of the Center for Student Success.

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Norwich University President Richard Schneider was very interested in the idea, according to Gile, and the university originally looked at Transcendental Meditation as a prevention tool to combat PTSD. The next step was to introduce it to students as a proactive tool they could use.
“We went to New York and met with the David Lynch Foundation and myself and Peg Meyer, who was our director of the Academic Achievement Center at the time, and with President Schneider, we learned all sorts of things about TM,” said Gile.
Lynch is a filmmaker, TV producer, writer and artist who founded the nonprofit David Lynch Foundation in 2005 to promote Transcendental Meditation and its benefits. The Foundation sent personnel to Norwich to do a pitch and get Norwich on board with the idea.
Norwich, essentially, became a new step in research on the benefits of TM.
“The David Lynch Foundation was really excited about (it) because they had never done research on preventative (methods), according to Gile.
Transcendental meditation was seen as a way to prevent stress and help with focusing and clearing the mind.
“For Norwich, we’ve always worried about the whole person; because in battle and in leadership positions in the United States Military you have to be a whole person,” said Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider in a November 2011 video by the David Lynch Foundation.
In that video, Schneider said that Norwich has always concentrated on helping students be whole persons who become smart, strong, great, ethical leaders.
“I think that TM will provide us another whole dimension of integrating all of that and improving my performance in all of those domains,” Schneider said, “I haven’t found anything else that can do that yet.”
Before Schneider approved TM officially as a program offered at Norwich, there was a high-level test group of 15 people.
“The first 15 were staff members including the president, a couple of members from his cabinet, members of the commandant staff, myself, (and) a couple of faculty members,” said Gile.
The training had a positive impact and it gave the group evidence to work with and figure out that it was a good tool for Norwich students.
In the spring of 2011, David George, a veteran working with PTSD, came to speak to Norwich about TM. His talk connected with students so greatly because he was a very close in age to the majority of the student body, Gile said.
“We had a pilot group of students that were TM trained; cadet leaders as well as some lacrosse players. At that point we had decided that there was enough information for us to want to research more,” according to Gile.
So the TM program was launched at Norwich, beginning with a two-year study. The study involved recruit platoons where one platoon learned the technique of meditation and the other platoon did not.
Norwich did the study to see “how TM could affect our students from an aspect of stress management, improvement of mood, situation awareness, looking at EEG’s and other kind of variables that might tell us whether this could really dramatically impact our students on many different levels,” Gile said.
(EEG stands for electroencephalogram, which is a test designed to detect electrical activity in the brain, according to the website www.mayoclinic.org.
“We have the class that started originally, the 2011 group, 11-4-3 and 12-4-3 of course. They were the original meditator group and then we have a few folks left over from the control group,” said Dave Zobeck, an instructor of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
The 11 and 12 stand for the year the freshman came in, the four stands for that they were in fourth company, and the three stands for that they were in the third platoon of that company.
In the same November 2011 David Lynch Foundation video, one of the assistant commandants at Norwich University spoke up about TM.
“The one thing that I’ve noticed about the platoon that’s practicing meditation is how the cadet leaders and the rooks are handling stress,” said Mark Hagenlocher, assistant commandant at Norwich University.
“This appears to be an effective tool for our cadets to help them handle the stressful military school environment, where they are really striving for excellence academically, militarily, and in a lot of cases, physically,” Hagenlocher said.
After those two platoons went through the training for TM, Norwich decided that there was enough evidence of TM’s effectiveness to offer it to more students.
“Our second year study had even higher results than the first year and that our students had many anecdotal evidence to ascertain that students wanted it,” Gile said. She noticed that after the two-year study, TM was improving the overall experience at Norwich.
After the positive reception, the administration decided it was worth keeping at Norwich.
Four years later, Norwich is moving to make it, “a permanent program in which students, staff and faculty can be a part of having this strategy in place to help them with stress reduction and things like that,” Gile said.
Zobeck, the sole instructor at Norwich has taught many students, staff and faculty in the past few years. The numbers have climbed and the program is becoming more popular.
“From those two (original) groups we have about 50 people left over that haven’t changed schools, or lifestyles,” Zobeck said, “So I’m guessing we have around, maybe about 180.”
The current number will most likely grow even more because Zobeck said the program will continue in the spring.
“We taught some graduating seniors, some commissioning seniors, which was the president’s desire to give them this tool when they go into active duty,” said Zobeck.
Students that have participated in the transcendental meditation program find it has benefits.
“I saw that it’s something that really just helps you focus your mind. I use it before studying and stuff and it just makes my studying time more productive because I’m not distracted after meditation,” said Regan Steen, 21, a senior biochemistry major from Eastpointe, Mich.
Steen is graduating in 2015 and commissioning into the United States Army.
Steen did her initial training earlier this fall, where she went and met with Zobeck a few days in a row to learn how to meditate.
“It’s a good tool to have and it’s something that I know that I wish I was able to use more than I do now. But I know once I commission it’s something I have,” Steen said.
The focus on getting commissioning seniors into TM is important at Norwich.
“It doesn’t really take that long to get trained especially if someone’s on the commissioning track. It’s worth just doing it and you’ll see that it is really a very useful tool to have,” Steen said.
The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at Norwich have noticed the benefits of TM and the army is especially keen on the implementation of the program.
“I was briefed on the program, I had been briefed on similar programs at Fort Hood (which) has a resiliency campus there and I had seen some of the benefits of it,” said Col. Eric Brigham, the professor of military science at Norwich and Dartmouth.
Having prior knowledge of similar programs, Brigham decided that it may be something that army cadets at Norwich would be interested in and asked David Zobeck to work with students.
“I allowed David, who’s the lead for this, to have five or ten minutes at the beginning of each one of the classes for ROTC to first explain what (TM) is and what it’s not,” stated Brigham.
While Brigham introduced TM to the Army ROTC department and its cadets, he did not stop there.
“I did the same thing with my staff and I have a number of them that have gone through it and found it very beneficial so, yes, I’m a big supporter of it,” said Col. Brigham.
Because transcendental meditation works to clear and focus the mind, which leads to better decision making, Brigham felt that the program would benefit the army department immensely.
“One of the things that we try to teach is critical thinking and decision-making, and when you’re trying to critically think and decide on things that affect peoples lives, if you can give somebody a tool that allows them to get rid of the rest of the noise in their head so they can focus on the decision at hand, I think that’s a positive thing,” Brigham said.
Zobeck is a veteran teacher of TM and has taught at a long list of places. He taught his first meditation class on Torrejon Air Base in Spain, and then, he said, “I taught in France and Switzerland, and then of course Colorado, and then I gave courses out of my home.”
While students faculty and staff may feel it is a blessing to have Zobeck at Norwich, he feels he is the lucky one.
“To be here at Norwich to teach it, oh man. I mean if I had all of you as my clients for the last 25 years, I’d still have hair,” Zobeck said. “I get called “sir” by you all, I was called some other combinations of animals and other things, that was very interesting. It’s a real blessing.”
And it is a blessing to have the program at Norwich as well, because maintaining the program is not cheap.
There are multiple grants that allow Norwich to have the meditation program at the school. “The Educational Foundation of America (EFA) is actually the foundation that helped us to launch this and help to benefit us financially with some grants,” Gile said.
The EFA gives Norwich two $40,000 grants a year to help with the TM program.
“One of our own students who has since graduated was actually on the board of the EFA and he was actually the one that sponsored us to get the grants,” Gile said.
Users find TM benefits and helps students, faculty, staff and graduating and commissioning seniors in important ways.
“It’s kind of more about clearing your mind and it’s kind of getting to the almost subconscious where at some point you’re not even realizing you’re doing it,” Steen said.
“ROTC commissions 70 percent of all the officers of the United States,” President Schneider said in his video. “Could you imagine if by this experiment at Norwich University, the birthplace of ROTC, if we provide a very important tool in these young officer’s tool box that they’ve never had the benefit of before?”
While Zobeck has been an instructor for years, he says that teaching does not feel like a job to him. And he feels strongly that TM is good for all people.
“It’s an additional tool to all the other gifts and tools that someone brings to the table anyway. Clear minds make less mistakes,” stated Zobeck.
Because Norwich is making an impact on so many people’s lives, he thinks that the effect will translate to other places.
“Norwich is that tug boat that’s going to pull the big three with it, the service academies, because it’s the cutting edge,” Zobeck said.
Zobeck said that if anyone is interested in TM meditation on campus, they should contact him and the journey will begin.

Comments

  1. Is this research ongoing, or has it been cancelled?
    Thanks.

    • Andrew Nemethy says:

      TM has become an accepted part of the Norwich campus, but I will refer your question to someone who can answer it more completely. Thanks..

      Andrew Nemethy
      Guidon Faculty Advisor

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