by Harbour Fraser Hodder at Enjoy TM News
22 February 2021
Maria Perser, M.A., is Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department and Addiction Studies Program at Los Angeles Pierce College, a two-year public college and transfer institution attended by many students of color. “This is where I can have the biggest impact. We have this avenue of TM (Transcendental Meditation) that we could bring to our students. They’re 20-year-olds. If they could learn TM now, it would change the trajectory of their lives,” she says.
Like other founding members of Breathe Again with TM, Perser participates in Nina Meade’s afternoon online Group Meditations and was there the day Dr. John Hagelin’s letter sparked this idea. “I felt like, it’s good that we’re doing TM, but wouldn’t it be great if we could provide this for all of Black America? We know that this works, we know that this will help, so why can’t we offer this? So we started meeting,” she remembers.
Perser has also joined the social justice committee for her teachers union. “I’ve just started getting much more involved, because I feel like this is the time,” she says. “Enough with being a bystander. I need to be in the trenches. I need to be doing this, because I feel like it’s super important.”
Perser has struggled with anxiety but didn’t want to go the medication route. After conversations with a colleague who is a longtime TM meditator, Perser decided that “learning TM would be my gift to myself for my birthday. This was something that I really wanted to do for myself.” She’s been practicing TM for just over a year now.
“It’s a godsend. My very first time meditating, I felt this huge rock lifted from my shoulders, this huge sense of relief. And every time I do my TM, I feel that sense of relief. I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” She used to get panic attacks, “but now if I feel my heart rate go up, I’m able to be more cognizant and see, ‘It’s just a wave. It’s OK.’ It doesn’t go into full-blown panic mode. I know that I can get through this.”
She’s also found her TM practice to be invaluable through the pandemic, with “pivoting to completely online teaching” while being department chair and navigating the needs of her faculty and students. “TM is grounding for me. It’s my way to just go within and find that center and know I’m good. Everything is the way it should be. This is where I need to be.”
Perser looks forward to sharing benefits such as these with as many people as possible through Breathe Again with TM. “We have the infrastructure in place for this to blossom across the nation. But right now the focus is on L.A., to get as many Black individuals learning TM and meditating as possible,” she says. “What I’m hoping to see is that there’s a shift within the Black community, and healing can begin.”
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