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Meditation far from 'far-out' for some businesses.

Program at Fayetteville Used to Lower Health Care Costs, Increase Productivity

The word "MEDITATION" usually evokes the image of a robe-clad Indian mystic sitting cross-legged on the floor lost in deep thought. However, a Fayetteville organization is marketing meditation to business and industry as a powerful human resources tool.

Offered through the Maharishi Vedic University in the old Mountain Inn just off the Fayetteville square, the Corporate Development Program provides training in transcendental meditation, or TM, to businesses throughout the state.

"The Corporate Development Program is a comprehensive human resource program that helps business make the most out of their most important asset: their people," says Tom Carlisle, the program's director.

The seven-step course is tailored to each organization in a three-month format consisting of 10 seminars and a number of individual consultations. Carlisle recommends the initial instruction be taken in an in-residence setting such as a three-day retreat. After learning the technique, the employee practices TM for 15-20 minutes twice a day.

It isn't cheap. The program runs $2,400 per person, with discounts for larger groups. A 100-person program drops the per-unit cost to $1,000, but Carlisle says the advantages far outweigh the expense.

"We obviously stress that it's a program for improving individual performance, health and productivity, but we also emphasize it as a strategy for ultimately improving the profitability of the company by reducing costs," says Carlisle, who has an M.B.A. and is working on his doctorate in psychology.

In particular, the program has been found to reduce health care expenses by lowering stress, a major cause of illness, reducing accidents by allowing employees to maintain higher levels of focus and decreasing dependency on drugs and alcohol.

The program has been offered by the university - an accredited institution with headquarters in Iowa - through numerous campuses around the globe for years, allowing it to develop extensive empirical data to support its claims. The case studies, which include such organizations as the Brazilian military's officer corps, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan and various companies around the world, show tremendous results.

One study found a 50 percent reduction in health care utilization for TM practitioners compared with non-practitioners, including 87 percent fewer hospitalizations for heart disease and nervous system disorders, 55 percent for cancer and 73 percent for nose, throat and lung disorders.

More Productivity

Also, the program has been found to dramatically increase productivity. The Fortune Motor Co. of Taiwan saw a 100-300 percent increase in sales by those participating in the program. The results were attributed to reduced stress, more energy, clearer thinking and overall enhanced confidence resulting from TM. Control groups also showed lower absenteeism.

Those who have tried the program are very enthusiastic and endorse it wholeheartedly.

"I'd definitely recommend it to someone else," says Jim Elmore, founder of Trade Fixtures Inc., a $3.8 million Little Rock firm, who tried the program several years ago. "The benefits are undeniable."

Despite these enticing results, Carlisle says he still faces resistance to TM, which is often perceived as some mystical New Age mumbo jumbo rather than a scientific technique.

"The initial resistance is simply one of lack of information and a tendency to go, 'Well, that sounds like it's a little on the fringe,'" Carlisle says. "As soon as you start trotting out the results, it piques their interest."

Carlisle is working with a select group of executives at what he terms "a major company" in Little Rock. Depending on the success of the program, the firm will extend it to several hundred employees, at which time it will announce its participation. Carlisle is certain they will be pleased with the results.

"Ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies have some kind of health promotion or disease prevention program generally under the wellness rubric or stress management," Carlisle says. "There is very little rigorous evidence to show these work. All the analyses show TM works and works astoundingly well."
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Title Annotation:transcendental meditation program offered by the Maharishi Vedic University
Author:Tobler, Christopher
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 14, 1995
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