Inside Maharishi's Ashram: A Personal Story. Memoir by Rhoda Orme-Johnson
May 9, 2017
It all started when Rhoda Orme-Johnson’s husband David spotted a tiny note on a bulletin board that read: “Want to enjoy life more?”
It was an advert for the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.
At first Rhoda, a no-nonsense mathematician who had programmed abort trajectories for the Apollo project, was skeptical about the whole thing.
But when she saw how learning TM transformed her husband from restless and anxious to relaxed and joyful, she wanted to give Transcendental Meditation a try herself.
Little did she know that what she signed up for was not just for more peace of mind but also a whole new life dedicated to the Transcendental Meditation movement and its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
A life devoted to the Transcendental Meditation movement
First Rhoda and David’s house became the hub of the local Transcendental Meditation activities. Then David, a Ph.D. in psychology, conducted a stress-response experiment comparing those who practiced TM with non-meditators as part of a course he was teaching.
The results clearly demonstrated that people who practice Transcendental Meditation react less to and recover faster from stress. When the news of David’s pioneering study reached Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, one thing led to another and soon David was appointed the Director of Research for the rapidly growing international organization.
This propelled Rhoda and their two young children, Nate and Sara, to a worldwide adventure. From Santa Barbara, California to Fairfield, Iowa, from Italy, France, Switzerland and Netherlands to apartheid-era South Africa, the USSR during the end of the Cold War, Armenia in the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake and India, the birthplace of TM – whenever and wherever the movement needed the couple’s talents the most. Often, this meant working directing with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
David, with the support of Rhoda, laid the foundation for much of the scientific research on the psychophysiological effects of TM. The couple was also part of the founding faculty at Maharishi International University (now Maharishi University of Management) where Rhoda was a professor and a chair of the literature and language department for a total of 20 years.
An authentic portrayal of an extraordinary life
What makes Rhoda’s account of her colorful life so compelling is her honesty.
She credits and appreciates, especially in hindsight, the guidance she received from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi both indirectly and directly, yet does not sugarcoat the experience of being constantly on the road with two small children.
She does not shy away from expressing her doubts and pointing out her own shortcomings. The readers cannot help but grow deeply fond of her, witnessing her approaching the extraordinary situations with humor and grit.
Rhoda’s story also offers an inside view to the expansion of the Transcendental Meditation movement and underscores the great contribution of both Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and all the people around him who dedicated their lives to making his vision a reality.
Rhoda mentioned in one of her interviews that since writing this book was a blissful activity for her, she hopes those reading it will experience the same. Well-written, full of fascinating details and engaging storylines, the memoir surely is a pure joy to read.