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Southeast Iowa Becomes
a Mecca for Meditation

By  Kari Lydersen
The Washington Post

VEDIC CITY, Iowa - When Eric Schwartz decided to move his financial-services business from Silver Spring, Md., to southeastern Iowa so he could join other practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1992, he worried clients and colleagues might think he was a little crazy.
"Some people think TM is some kind of cult or devil worship," he said. "I thought it might be negative for my business, that customers would freak out." Things turned out just the opposite.

With much lower overhead, he found revenue for Cambridge Investment Research rising from one year to the next. He went from a gross revenue of about $500,000 a year in the D.C. area to more than $50 million in 2002. The magazine Investment Advisor named him broker-dealer of the year in 2003. He credits Transcendental Meditation, which he began practicing as a freshman at Amherst College in 1971, for fueling his success.

"Even if investors or customers aren't interested in TM, they are attracted to the fact that I moved here to do this, that I'm concerned about more than just making money or having an ocean view," said Schwartz, who is considering changing his title from chief executive to chief spiritual officer. "That's the kind of business they want to be involved with."

Many other people in Vedic City and neighboring Fairfield feel the same way. The community founded by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles' meditation guru, has become an entrepreneurial Mecca of the Midwest.

Followers began flocking to Fairfield after the establishment of the Maharishi University of Management in 1974, and Vedic City was incorporated in 2001. Residents estimate that one-fourth of the 10,000 people in Fairfield and Vedic City practice TM.

Other successful businesses run by TM devotees include MarathonFoto, billing itself as the largest event photography company in the country; Creative Edge Master Shop, which manufactures intricate floor and wall murals out of marble and granite for Disney, the Chicago Bulls and other clients; and the Raj Ayurveda Health Center, a spa that draws visitors from around the country, who pay hundreds of dollars a day. City officials say more than $200 million in venture capital has been invested in Fairfield and Vedic City companies during the past 13 years.

"For a small town in the Midwest to have so many successful businesses is really unbelievable," said Rashi Glazer, co-director of the Center for Marketing and Technology at the University of California at Berkeley, who spends summers in Fairfield. "It means something's going on here." Vedic is a Sanskrit word meaning "totality of knowledge."

Read Complete Story from The Washington Post website

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