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June 18, 2003 1 min read
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Chilling Out

At the 500-student Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, a Detroit charter school, administrators are combating student stress with the relaxation technique known as Transcendental Meditation.

“Children have a lot of stress,” said Principal Carmen N’Namdi, who founded the school. “Kids used to feel that they lived in a safe world, but now [they] have access to information only adults used to know.”

The constant bombardment of news and information can put pressure on students, she notes. “Today, you know everything about politicians, from their personal lives to their flaws,” she said. “We saw the war [in Iraq] on TV. Now, imagine being 7.”

Students also feel pressure from parental expectations, according to Ms. N’Namdi. Many busy parents, she contends, need their children to achieve certain things to prove to themselves that they’re good parents.

The school, which began its meditation program in 1997, allows students 10 minutes of meditation time twice a day to help them relax. Transcendental Meditation is a nonreligious technique in which a person meditates using a “mantra,” or special word-sound, that only he or she knows. The practice originated in India in 1957 and was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Some parents have reservations about the technique, Ms. N’Namdi said, because they believe it has religious implications. But the principal, who has been practicing the method for 30 years herself, said it is designed only to help the body to rest.

A recent study of the technique at the school, in fact, found a “significantly higher elevation in positive emotional state” among meditating students. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan.

"[Students] have to prepare for a world that has access to them 24/7,” said Ms. N’Namdi. “They are going to have to be able to balance themselves and rest.”

—Marianne D. Hurst

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