Richard Beall ’74
Brings Meditation to Young Students
When Head of School Richard Beall ’74 looks at the faces of the students at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE), a pre-K-12 school in Fairfield, Iowa, he sees children who are “wide awake and ready to learn.” Many heads of school might say the same thing, but these students made an unusual stop between the school bus and the classroom: a meditation hall. There, in the morning and again in the afternoon, they meditate and practice yoga and breathing exercises. The result, Beall says, is students who have prepared their brains for learning.
The goal is to optimize consciousness, which Beall explains as “how awake we are to the world and to ourselves.” He says Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a way to raise that wakefulness. The ability to be alert and focused, especially given the amount of external stimuli most children are subjected to these days, is a critical need and one that is largely overlooked in education.
“We are seeing that this practice impacts every aspect of the educational process,” he notes. “People are rapidly recognizing that stress for students and teachers is at an epidemic level. Having the opportunity to download some of that stress twice a day is a very significant contribution to education.”But Beall says there is much more to TM than relieving stress. Powerful research shows that brain coherence between the left and right hemispheres and frontal and posterior lobes increases during TM. In effect, the brain becomes more orderly and that carries into daily activity. MSAE’s outstanding achievements point to this fact: for several years, the school has been Iowa’s leader in an international creative problem-solving competition, and boasts the most champions in the state in drama, science and tennis competitions.
“These kids are truly awake, and they apply that wakeful attention to whatever their interest might be,” he says.
Beall discovered TM two weeks before graduating from Wittenberg. In 1981 he helped establish MSAE’s secondary school and expanded its programs over the next 10 years. He went on to be the National Director for Consciousness-Based Education and traveled around the country bringing TM programs to schools. His interest in education also inspired him to open the Carolina International School, a public charter school in North Carolina that emphasizes global education and environmental studies. But after four years, he felt the pull to go back to MSAE and returned to become its head of school.
“It has been a powerful experience to be able to give this practice to students, and I wanted to invest the rest of my career in continuing to do that.”