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Barbara Whelehan writes Boomer Bucks for Bankrate.comGetting a discount on inner peace

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said, "The second half of life is the spiritual work."

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Life is about much more than how much money we make, the job titles we hold, the work we do, right? There's little meaning in the accumulation of material possessions. When it's our turn to "go gentle into that good night," we won't take our homes, portfolios or valuables with us.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, "life" was defined as the animating principle; the soul, essence. So what's the meaning of life in the 21st century? The soul is something we seem to neglect in our time. Yet attempting to discover life's meaning is a worthy pursuit, much more so than aiming for the usual trappings of success. But here's the rub: The quest could involve a serious outlay of cash.

Disclosure: I happen to be Christian and go to church weekly. Tradition is important to me. But there's more than one path to spiritual enlightenment. I'm also drawn to mysticism because we can experience our own spiritual nature right here and now, as dwellers of the earth. No need to wait for the afterlife to feel a connection with the divine.

One way to renew that connection is through meditation. But wow, that could be a costly endeavor!

Meditation inflation
I felt a deep yearning to learn how to meditate nearly 25 years ago. My neighbors practiced Transcendental Meditation, or TM. The only way I could learn it authentically, they said, was if I shelled out 500 bucks. It's important to learn from a TM instructor, who would know which mantra to assign me, they said.

To me $500 was an astronomical sum. As a matter of fact, it's still a lot of dough. Since then, the cost of TM has skyrocketed. Today it costs $2,500 for 10-12 hours of instruction. Call it "meditation inflation" at an annualized rate of 6.65 percent.

But meditation has lots of benefits. It's been known for years to be a great stress reliever. According to a recent article in Time magazine, researchers using brain-scanning devices have discovered that "meditation directly affects the function and structure of the brain, changing it in ways that appear to increase attention span, sharpen focus and improve memory." Even some corporations, including Deutsche Bank, Google and Hughes Aircraft, have partaken of the Kool-Aid, paying their workers to take classes.

The TM Web site uses this line of reasoning to entice new customers: "As an investment in your own health, happiness and success in life, the cost of learning can be repaid to you many times over in reduced health care costs, lower insurance rates and greater earning power."

That may be true, but I still thought the $500 price tag repugnant 25 years ago. Serendipitously, I found a book called, "Everything You Want to Know about TM, Including How to Do It." I skipped right over to the chapter with the instructions and read them. I have been practicing it daily ever since.

 
 
Next: "... a decent return for an initial investment of less than 10 bucks."
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