Supriya Venkatesan is a veteran of the U.S. Army, a wellness junkie and a freelance writer
The ancient epic Ramayana is the most widely read story in the world and many consider it to be the ultimate spiritual guide. The stories are celebrated over fire dancing Kecaks in Bali to reenactments all over India and Thailand. It tells the tale of an enlightened prince who was unjustly banished to the forest for 14 years. But he didnât go alone. His super devoted wife and brother followed him. The three had encounters with friends and foesâfrom wise sages to horrific demons to flying monkeys and wise bears. The climax occurs when the princeâs wife is captured by an evil demon-king and the hero must battle armies of demons and liberate the earth from darkness. Noted scholar Michael Sternfeld says in the introduction to The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmikiâs Ancient EpicâComplete and Comprehensive (just out from TarcherPerigee), âthe Ramayana has been described as the original epic questâcomparable to the Bible, Star Wars, and Romeo and Juliet all rolled into one.â
With the explosion of yoga and meditation in the west, there are readers who also want to understand this story more deeply. The problem is that because the original tome was in three volumes, the translations were very long and cumbersome to read, or were very short and lacked spiritual depth. Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy spent the last 18 years writing this new version to fix that. They wanted to portray the poetry of the original text and still illuminate the profound spiritual heritage of India. This book is so lyrically rendered that you wonât even notice the wisdom seeping in. (Tweet this)
In a conversation with Linda Egenes, she says, âthis story has endured because the theme is dharma, a Sanskrit term that refers to living in a way that upholds the path of evolution, maintains balance, and supports prosperity and spiritual freedom.â Adulting would be way more fruitful if we used this guide to achieve balance, abundance, and yogi-hood. (Tweet this)
Linda tells me, âThe Ramayana makes the abstract principles of dharma concrete, and the life of Rama, the hero, serves as an example.â In this story we see that even when prince and princess are pressed to their limits, they demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to friends and foes alike. One of the most telling moments happens at the climax of the story when the demon-king has been destroyed. The prince mourns the death and consoles the demonâs brother and tells him, âDeath quells all enmity. We have achieved our purpose. Perform his rights with honor, for he is as dear to me as he is to you.â The Ramayana offers practical wisdom to anyone on a spiritual path. The role of meditation and yoga in developing wisdom and enlightenment are clearly exemplified in Ramaâs life not only as a prince, but also as a warrior and enlightened yogi.
Linda has been a longtime practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation technique and was fascinated to find that throughout the story, Rama is guided by wise sages who practice meditation and yoga deep in the forests where he is exiled. She says, âIt has been an amazing undertaking to work with this manuscript during the past 18 years, and in many ways it has inspired my own journey of transformation and growth.â Throughout the book, the authors use novelistic techniques to keep the modern reader turning the pages and being transported into a land and era that propels the transformation of those who read it. Linda says, âThe heart-stopping story of Ramayana unfolds in layers of meaning and feeling, revealing hidden values that transform us and speed us on the path of self-realization. This was my experience, and I hope it will be yours too.â
Tune in today at 11:00Â a.m.Â Central TimeÂ at http://delphiinternational.com/donna-seebo-show/Â to hear Linda Egenes interviewed on the Donna Seebo Show live! Linda will talk about her new book, The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient EpicâComplete and Comprehensive, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D., (#TarcherPerigee, Sept. 2016). If you miss the show, check out the archives on the same page!
Oh, that magic feeling when the book you’ve worked on for 18 years is in your hands and it looks so beautiful! BigÂ thanks to the editing and production team at Penguin Random House.
Waves of gratitude toÂ the many, many friends who helped me along the way. To everyone who has already bought a copy, I am grateful beyond words. Over 1,000 copies have already sold, thanks to all of you!
Â âI love the story of the Ramayana and this new version is so simply and beautifully writtenâit will stir the soul!âÂ âDavid Lynch, Oscar-nominated film director
Â âA luminous new rendering of an epic that remains as relevant as it is timeless.â âCraig Pearson, author of The Supreme Awakening
âThis retelling of the Ramayana isÂ an impressive compilation, beautifully narrated, mingled with thoughtful poetic expressions both original and modern. A retelling for all times, it stays true to the original Valmiki Ramayana, and its exalted execution by Egenes and Reddy sounds natural to the ear for modern readers.ââBal Ram Singh, Ph.D.,â¨Director, Center for Indic Studiesâ¨at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and author of Exploring Science in Ancient Indian Texts
âAt last! A retelling of Valmikiâs Ramayana that understands and expresses the role of consciousness in thought, speech, and action. This elegantly written version is the one to read.âÂ âRhoda Orme-Johnson, Ph.D., co-author of The Flow of Consciousness
Â âThisÂ vernacular prose retelling features narrative clarity, richly textured imagery, and a luminous storytelling voice that leaps off the page.Â This is a treasure that begs to be read out loud.âÂ âHertha D. Sweet Wong, Ph.D., assistant chair of the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography
Â âIn this wonderful newly abridged adaptation by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy, the Ramayana takes on new life.Â Egenes and Reddy have given us a text that is lucid and lyrical, eminently readable, and will make a fine addition to libraries and classrooms.â Â âSteven Schneider, professor of English at University of Texas-Pan American and editor of The Contemporary Narrative Poem: Critical Crosscurrents
Â âThe Ramayana is one of the great treasures of mankind. It tells a gripping story but it is very long and it is in Sanskrit. Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy have retold the story at manageable length in beautiful English and they have kept the dramatic tension, which makes the reader want to read on. I know the story well but I could not wait to see what came next. Well done.âÂ âVernon Katz, Ph.D., author of Conversations with Maharishi
âThis eminently readable and poetic retelling by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy captures the flavor of the ancient text, brings out philosophical and spiritual truths sometimes glossed over by modern translators, and flows so smoothly it is hard to put down.âÂ â Jack Forem, author ofÂ Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Â âRama, Sita and Lakshmana are resplendent in our minds and ensconced in our hearts as we traverse the beauty, tragedy, and adventure of the Ramayana in this elegant retelling of the classic.â Â âSaraswati Nagpal, author ofÂ Sita, Daughter of the EarthÂ
Â âPerhaps the best modern retelling to date, this version by Egenes and Reddy is true to Valmikiâs text yet keeps you turning the pages. Will be appreciated by adults and children, Indian and Western audiences alike.â
Â âChandrika Tandon, Grammy nominee and founder of Soul Chants Music
Â âThis lovely and sensitive adaptation of the Ramayana is easy and enjoyable to read without losing the deeper layers of insight that make the story timeless. Â I heartily recommend it!âÂ âPrudence Farrow Bruns, Ph.D. in South Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley, and author of Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song.
Â âIn this new prose translation of the Ramayana, Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy maintain the cadence and richness of language of the original poetic epic. Sternfeldâs introduction provides a new dimension to understanding the depth and breadth of this universal story.â
âCare Connet, poet and author of Diary of the White Bush Clover: A Peace Pilgrimage
âThese authors portray Vedic life in its larger and deeper context, bringing out the nobility of the heroic action of the characters. It is beautifully written, suitable for all ages, and keeps the reader engaged. By the end I was moved to tears.âÂ âSusan Andersen, Ph.D., co-author of The Flow of Consciousness
As tensions rose in Paris and demonstrations swept Western Europe inÂ January of 2015, people around the world wondered how to stop religious intolerance and promote peace and goodwill among all people.
While schools, religious groups and families can do their part in promoting racial and religious tolerance, you have to wonder if tolerance can, indeed, be taught.
The research shows yes, and no. Some researchers question whether schools can help, since educational institutions have historically reinforced racial and economic inequality. Yet one study (Henze, 2001) showed that certain pro-active approaches on the part of teachers could reduce racial and ethnic conflict. These included:
Multicultural or ethnic assemblies and special events
After-school programs and other opportunities for students to mix
Recruitment of diverse staff
Teacher-driven professional development on issues of equity
Teaming between classrooms, usually a bilingual class with a traditional class
I know from personal experience that parents talking to their kids about racial and religious tolerance can make a difference in their attitudes and behaviors. For instance, I was raised in Naperville, an all-white, middle-class suburb of Chicago, yet during the integration battles of the 1960s my parents made a point of telling us that if a racially diverse family wished to move into our neighborhood, they would be welcome. They taught us to never to use derogatory labels and to show respect for people of all races and all religions.
They also encouraged me to enroll as a camp counselor at a bi-racial summer camp in our town. The counselors and kids were half from our suburb and half from the inner city. It was a formative experience, and fortunately for me, paved the way for many loving friendships with people of diverse races and religions around the world.
As I write this, Iâm wondering what causes us to think of another human being as âotherâ than ourselves in the first place?
It seems like part of the problem comes in when people try to create unity on the surface of life, to have the thought, âIf only everyone had the same belief system as me, then there would be no fighting in this world.â
Unity at the surface of life and unity at the depths are two different things.
In fact, when unity is deep in a personâs psychology, when someone has a strong sense of self, a strong sense of who they are, they donât feel threatened by another person for having a different belief, race or religion, because they experience the connectedness between all beings on a deep level. Instead they appreciate, celebrate, and exult in the differences of others.
Itâs like a well-watered garden. Each type of flower is differentâa rose, a dahlia, a daisyâyet at their source they consist of the same colorless sap. No one feels threatened by the diversity of flowers in the gardenâin fact, thatâs what makes the garden so beautiful.
Tolerance seems to have a lot to do with self-actualization, as a person who is more stable in themselves will be less likely to feel threatened by people who have different religious beliefs. And, just as you would expect, tolerance, acceptance of others and lack of prejudice are characteristics of self-actualization as found in Abraham Maslowâs Hierarchy of Needs.
So if self-actualized people are more likely to be tolerant of others, then the question remains, how do we help people to become more self-actualized? Throughout the ages, meditation has been a tool to develop the self, to become more self-actualized or enlightened, and to enjoy inner and outer peace.
Now modern research shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique helps develop self-actualization. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality in 1991 compared independent research studies and concluded that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique increased self-actualization by about three times as much as procedures of contemplation, or concentration. A 2005 follow-up study of university students, also published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, showed that university students who were practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique increased significantly on self-development (ego development) when measured after graduation, in contrast to control students at three other universities who were not participating.
After one month of practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, individuals developed a more strongly defined sense of self-concept, in comparison to matched controls. They also reported that their âactualâ self was closer to their âidealâ self as reported in the British Journal of Psychology in 1982.
I think itâs important to recognize that TM itself is not a religion nor does it involve embracing a particular belief system. Over six million people of all different religions, races and beliefs practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. The beautiful thing is that people often report that practicing TM strengthens their understanding and belief in their own religion. Yet at the same time, as the research shows, it simultaneously promotes acceptance and tolerance of those who are different from us, who have a different religion, race or belief system.
In a 1971 interview Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, noted that as someone starts to practice the TM technique, âthey start to dive deep within, they begin to feel better and the stresses are less, and life becomes easier and âhelp thy neighborâ becomes an instinct, an inspiration to everyone. One doesnât have to know from the teaching to know that âhelp thy neighborâ is a good thing. It becomes a habit. So in this way one begins to live their religion. Living the religion is by developing pure consciousness. Religious life is life, which is spontaneously lived. Itâs not a matter of thinking and doing good, but one is structured in doing good.â
In other words, helping our neighbor, helping other human beings, no matter what their color or economic status or religion, becomes a spontaneous action for someone who is developing pure consciousness through daily meditation. Tolerance becomes a natural state of being.
Like many young women today, Andrea Zapata enrolled in college right after completing high school. Deciding that she wanted to study environmental sciences at a university, she threw herself into researching different transfer options, but soon became discouraged.
âI grew disillusioned with universities that had great environmental programs yet did not show full integrity with the quality of food in their cafeterias or in their commitment to sustainability,â she says.
It was her mother who found a different kind of school,Â Maharishi University of Management (MUM), where the emphasis is on developing the inner potential of the student through a strong academic curriculum along with the practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. At the same time MUM promotes better health by serving fresh, local and organic food and culturing a balanced daily routine with time for yoga, sports, exercise, and adequate rest.
âMy first reaction was that it was too good to be true,â says Andrea, who is now 22 and about to graduate from MUM with a B.A. in business administration and a minor in sustainable living. âBut I came to visit and the students were not only learning and achieving at a high level, they were living the wholesome lifestyle I was looking for.â
Andrea was also impressed by the top faculty, many of whom are graduates of Ivy League schools, and found out that the school has garnered multiple academic awards. Most recently, the Sustainable Living program was ranked #4 in the country byÂ EnvironmentalScience.orgÂ and MUMâs bachelorâs program was twice named a Sierra Club Cool School. The B.A. in business administration was named one of the Top 50 Best Valueâ business programs at small colleges in the United States.
âFrom the start, the aim of the University was to develop the full potential of each student by developing consciousness,â says Dr. Vicki Herriott, Chair of the Department of Management at MUM.
So even though MUM is fully accredited from the BA to the PhD level and offers a standard curriculumâwith degrees in business administration, computer science, education, literature, art, creative musical arts, physiology, physics, media and communications, and sustainable livingâit is truly innovative at its core. While students come from diverse cultural backgrounds from the US and 85 different countries, every student is engaged in expanding his or her âcontainer of knowledge.â In other words, they are increasing their ability to learn and achieve.
At MUM, not only the studentsâbut also the faculty and staffâpractice theÂ TM technique, which is a systematic and scientifically verified means of developing inner peace and wellness. This is the heart of the education at MUM.
Through this simple, natural, and effortless procedure, practiced before the first class and after the last class of the dayâstudents enliven the most creative, powerful, and intelligent level of their own awareness, pure consciousness. As a result, students report that itâs easier to study, that grades improve, stress and fatigue diminish, creativity and leadership skills increase, health improves, and social relationships are easier.Â Scientific researchÂ backs up these personal experiencesâas reported in more than 380 studies published in peer-reviewed journals throughout the world.âStudents are under so much stress today, and simply by lessening the stress students are able to learn better,â says Dr. Herriott. âThe brain also begins to function in a more orderly way. Research shows that even IQ, which was thought to be static, goes up. You could say that the practice of TM expands the âcontainer of knowledge.’â
While TM benefits both male and female students, it is especially helpful to college women today, who make up 57% of the average student body, according to the Digest of Education Statistics as reported inÂ Forbes.Â A 2013 survey of college studentsÂ showed that female students report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than their male counterparts.
âWomenâs options have greatly increased over the last decades, but with the increase in options comes a pressure to âdo it all,’â notes Dr. Herriott. âAnd we sometimes take on too much.Â By integrating TM into their daily activity, young women learn to create balance in their lives.Â As women, we have to take care of ourselves first, if we want to be of maximum good to others.â
Andrea Zapata notes that due to the pressures of the media and popular culture, many young women feel lost. âI feel like itâs really difficult for girls to get to know themselves and recognize their value and their worth. Many are trying to find themselves in other people and other things.â
She says that her MUM education, and especially the TM technique, has taught her how to look for solutions inside herself, giving her a self-reliance that she never knew before.
âComing to MUM has definitely given me more clarity towards a truth that many of us may not have realized just yetâthat happiness already lies within each and every one of us. The secret is in understanding ourselves well enough to tap into our inner happiness a wholesome and nourishing way,â she says. âOver time, Iâve been able to create an actual toolkit for myselfâthe tools that help me cultivate happiness within myself consistently. And TM has been a powerful foundation for that. Whenever I feel low, I can tap into what I know works for me, whether itâs meditating or exercising or eating healthier or free-writing. It ultimately all is a reflective process for me that enables me to take a step back, evaluate where I am, and understand how I could grow in the direction I would love most.â
Developing Leadership Skills
For Andrea, developing leadership skills is an important part of her life. In her previous college, she enrolled in student government and co-founded a mentorship program. She currently serves as the student government ambassador for the College of Business Administration at MUM.
Sheâs also developing a viable business that deals with sustainability and schools. She started the project with fellow students under the auspices of the âConcept to Marketâ program, which is an innovative initiative spearheaded by entrepreneur and visiting faculty Cliff Rose and MUMâs Department of Management.
âPracticing the TM technique has increased my capacity to better process, understand, and assess how to strategize to get from point âaâ to point âb,’â she says. âI call it a âbirdâs eyeâ point of view. This helps me engage more effectively with the group Iâm leadingâto guide and work with them even better.â
MUM students regularly win awards for their projects on the national level, even when competing against students from much larger schools. The MyActions website gave MUM a Silver Level Student Actions Award, which honors undergraduate schools for student demonstrated leadership, momentum, and impact of green, caring, and healthy actions. And recently MUM was named one of âThirty great small colleges for ESTP Personality Typesâ byÂ DegreeMatch.org, a designation that they describe as students who are risk-takers, leaders and energetic.â
Norah Fabek, a non-traditional student who entered MUM at age 25, says that those words describe her perfectly. âI identify with all three of those qualities very strongly, and I think most people would define me by those,â she says. âI feel like those qualities are allowed to shine at MUM, and are developed by the educational system here.â
Norah found MUM an attractive option after dropping out from another school years earlier. âIâd done some college right after high school but I wasnât getting the kind of information I wanted,â she says. âI was looking for bigger answers and bigger foundational ideasâwhy people are the way they are. When I found out about MUM, it made sense and everything fell into place. It really made my education fulfilling.â
Growing Creativity In a Changing World
âTM definitely helps facilitate creativity,â says Nynke Passi, a poet and fiction writer as well as long-time creative writing faculty at MUM. âMy most inspired writing comes in times when I am very inward, when I get quiet enough to listen. With students itâs the same. Meditation makes people appreciate and notice the subtle nuances of things. It enlivens sensory awareness. It opens peopleâs hearts and makes people feel happier inside. The feeling level in my classes at MUM is unique in every way; students are a family, they feel safe. They have a willingness to open up and explore.â
Nynke Passi says others have noticed the extraordinary creativity of MUM students. âIn the past ten years, eight of my creative writing students landed in leading graduate programs in journalism or creative writing,â she says. âI think this unique atmosphere of inner explorationânot just of senses, mind, and intellect, but also feeling, personal voice, and a sense of cosmic connection, a universality you could sayâhas everything to do with the enormous success of MUMâs undergraduate creative writing program.â
Hannah Foster, an art major at MUM, says that TM and the MUM experience have helped her to become a more creative visual artist. âIn the past, I experienced a high level of anxiety during many activities, from having to talk to people at work to completing a project,â she says.
After spending time at MUM, she started to notice significant changes in her anxiety levels. âI think the initial benefit of practicing TM was a deeper confidence and trust in who I was and the ability to complete my goals,â she says. âMy anxiety has greatly lessened. I was always afraid I was making the wrong life choices for myself, or that my intuition was faulty. Through TM, Iâve been able to stabilize an inner peace I recognize as my true self. With this newly found confidence, I have little fear of making myself vulnerable in my artwork.â
Connecting All Knowledge to Your Self
Besides developing consciousness by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day, students learn to approach their studies in a new and insightful way.
âThe practice of TM develops a studentâs familiarity with and understanding of consciousness, the underlying field that they experience in their meditation and that connects all disciplines,â says Dr. Herriott. âBy identifying principles that govern the functioning of their own growth of consciousness, but also govern the most fundamental aspects of every discipline, the student can more easily relate the principles of the discipline to themselves.Â The student begins to recognize these patterns and can more quickly understand new concepts based on their prior learning.â
Students thrive in this kind of atmosphere, because it makes every subject of studyÂ personally relevant. Itâs turning things inside-out, so students can see how every disciplineâwhether itâs math or biology or literatureâhas its basis in the unified, universal field of intelligence and creativity that they directly experience in their TM practice.
âClasses at MUM approach everything as if itâs a subjective experienceânothing is object oriented,â says Supriya Vidic, who had served in the US Army and reached the rank of Sergeant before coming to MUM, then graduated with a BA in media and communications and is pursuing a masterâs degree at Columbia University. âThe âyouâ is just as important as the âotherâ or subject. When you take that view you really see the totality of things.â
Preparing for A Career
MUMâs focus on self-knowledge provides another advantage. âEmployers are hungry for the very qualities that MUM cultivates, such as critical thinking, creativity, clarity, problem solving ability, relationship building, and collaboration,â says Steve Langerud, MUMâs career counselor.
Emily Marcus, M.D., would agree. An MUM graduate in physiology and health in 2004, she completed medical school at Johns Hopkins University to become a âhospitalist,â a medical doctor who works exclusively in hospitalsâa medical career that didnât even exist two decades ago.
âMUM helped me to become more centered,â she says. âI had a very stress-free college experience, which helped me stay focused on what I wanted to do. I was able to maintain a balanced perspective in a field that can be both mentally and physically challenging. That was really helpful to me.â
She also found that her studies at MUM gave her an edge in her current job at New York Presbyterian Hospitalâs Weill Cornell Medical Center. âAt MUM, I learned a lot about nutrition, diet, and lifestyle modification for prevention and treatment of disease. Subjects like nutrition arenât taught much in medical school, but provided me with useful tools for helping my patients.â
Dr. Herriott says, âOne of the greatest joys of a teacher is to watch the growth of oneâs students.Â âTo see our very diverse student bodyâwho come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and countriesâall move in the direction of growing to be the best person that they can be is exhilarating. Itâs the reason I love teaching.Â Students grow in confidence in their ability to present their ideas effectively and work in teams productively.Â They learn to value their skills and their unique contribution to the world.Â They find their niche. They also learn to value the uniqueness of their fellow students.Â MUM is very much a family â a supportive family where each student is appreciated and in turn appreciates.â
Â To find out more about degree programs at Maharishi University of Management, seeÂ www.mum.edu
I originally wrote this blog for TM-Women.orgÂ in April, 2016.
Ann Purcell didnât start out to write a book. A teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique since 1973, she taught Transcendental Meditation and advanced courses in many countries around the world. She also wrote songs about her experiences of transcending.
âMy best songs are those that were totally unplanned and just suddenly, spontaneously bubbled up inside of meâthe melody and the words seemed to write themselves,â she says.
Her writing also unfolded effortlessly. One evening as she drifted off to sleep, a flood of ideas washed over her, and she got up to write them down. The flood of ideas continued almost every night for a month, and by the end she had a manuscript.
That became the first edition of her book, (published under the title Let Your Soul Sing: Enlightenment is For Everyone). Soon a publisher acquired the book and issued a new edition with the new title The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment. Ann also added an intriguing new chapter called, âMother Divine: The Divine Feminine.â Here she explains how we can access the divine feminine in our own lives.
Linda Egenes: How would you explain the âdivine feminineâ?
Ann Purcell: The divine feminine is a term that refers to the creative, evolutionary force within nature itself. It is the all-nourishing power of natural law which governs all life in a progressive, evolutionary direction. Because this creative energy is not man made, we can appreciate it as divine. It is within each of us, within the silent depths of our Being and can be enjoyed as a natural part of our daily lives.
Some people call it âthe goddess within.â The term is quite ancient and comes from many traditions throughout time. For example, the common term âMother Earthâ symbolizes balance, healing, renewal and restoration. The divine feminine is that aspect within every woman that reflects the qualities that are nurturing, loving, understanding, compassionate, insightful, intuitive, creative, forgiving, healing, steady, patient and wise. Men also possess this quality because it is a fundamental constituent of natural law itself. But women more readily express it in their natural tendency as the mothers of the world to nourish one and all.
Linda: How does this concept of the divine feminine relate to our busy lives here on earth?
Ann: Women want to access more nurturing, intuitive, creative feelings that are deep insideâbut unfortunately in this day and age, the stress and day-to-day activities are so overwhelming that many women have lost access to their finer feelings. Women today are busy managing their homes or jobs and trying to balance both. Most women want to be nourishing to their families, but they might get so tired that they start to disconnect from their deeper feelings and get easily angry or stressed out. Theyâve lost touch with the more refined levels of feeling, where the inner qualities of the divine feminine are predominant.
Linda: So youâre saying itâs a womanâs natural state to express the finer level of feeling?
Ann: Of course men also have a nurturing, creative side. But women were born with the capacity to give birth to a child, so they naturally have those precious instincts and that nourishing power. Itâs natural for a mother, and most women have those natural instinctive qualities. Itâs not that men donât also have these qualities, but it might be a little more natural for a woman to have those tender, motherly, nourishing instincts.
Certainly a mother has to be creative in the household. You might not think of that as creativity, but a mother is always drawing on her creativity, her inner resources to meet the needs of the children, the home, the family.
And of course, women in the workplace are also solution-oriented. Recent research shows that businesses were able to raise their problem-solving ability or âcollective intelligenceâ just by adding more women to their teams.
Linda: How is intuition an important feature of the divine feminine?
Ann: I think itâs important to consider the question, Where does creativity come from? And where does intuition come from? Weâve all heard that creativity comes from within. Sometimes something from the outside can cause creativity to flow, but ultimately it comes from inside us.
At the source of thought of every human being is an ocean of silence. We can call this ocean of silence a field of infinite creativity, a field of creative intelligence that pervades the universe. This is the creative intelligence that I was speaking of earlier that is our divine inner essence. Tapping into this creative energy is what produces the connection to our finest feeling level.
The feeling level is closest to this ocean of silence. Most of us are aware of very subtle feelings within or flashes of intuition. That feeling level is on the borderâon the junction point, on the level closest to the field of silence from which all creativity wells up. If we have a natural awareness, a quiet attunement to those feelings, our intuition is more sharp.
I think everyone has had the experience of saying, âOh, if Iâd just gone by my feeling.â They know that their feeling is right.
Parents often tell their children to learn to listen to their inner voice, to listen to their inner feeling. âDonât go by what your friends are saying,â they might tell their kids. âListen to your own inner voice, because that will guide you in the right direction.â
What happens is that people have that inner feeling, a flash of intuition, but donât always go by it. Then they find themselves getting into a little troubleâin a work situation or a social situation.
Linda: How can we break this cycle of stress and express these beautiful qualities of the divine feminine in our daily lives?
Ann: One simple way is to be more rested. I know thatâs a challenge for many people. There is a growing body of research on the impact of sleep on cognitive functioning and health. Many people may have heard Arianna Huffington coming out strongly on the importance of a good nightâs sleep. Sleep is important for natural well-being, but being rested also helps us act from the fine feeling level. When weâre feeling happy and relaxed, thereâs less noise in the mind, and we can access those fine feelings of love, understanding, compassion, insightfulness, intuition, creativity and patience. So getting more rest is one basic, fundamental way to make those finer feelings more accessible.
Another way is through the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM), which allows the system to get very deep rest. Due to the deep rest, stress released by the nervous system, and when there is less stress and fatigue, the mind is clearer. The deep rest through TM is like a broom that is sweeping away all the stress and the internal, mental noise, the chatter of âI have to pick up my kids,â or âI have to get to workââall the worry that goes on in the mind. Research shows that with the regular practice of TM, happiness naturally grows, harmony grows, creativity growsâall those qualities of the divine feminine start to shine.
There is another important way that TM can help. The practice of Transcendental Meditation takes the mind from the surface level of thinking to finer and finer and finer levels of the thinking process until it transcends even the finest level of thinking and experiences the source of thought.
That means that the mind, through the process of transcending, becomes habituated to experiencing the finer feeling levels through the process of transcending. So not only is the stress swept away along with the noise in the mind, but youâre also accessing the finer levels of the thinking process, so more and more youâre able to pick up thoughts on that finest feeling levelâincluding the creative thoughts, the intuitions, the tender feelings of the heart. And youâll be able to use those creative, finer feelings and thoughts to accomplish what you need in your daily life.
Linda: Thatâs a beautiful point, that TM not only clears the noise from the mind, but it allows the mind to become more refined.
Ann: And this experience creates a strong feeling of self-empowerment and self-reliance. Because everything we need, all the wisdom we need, is there inside us, in that silence. Our own inner silence is the greatest gift we can draw upon to guide us through the stormy aspects of life. And the beautiful things that happen as wellâwe want to be just as creative during the good times as the challenging times. We want to be able to draw on those creative, nourishing, intuitive qualities in every aspect of our lives.
Also, the more creative we are, the happier we are, the less stressed we are, the more weâre able to transform our outer environment as well. If weâre calm, our family and the people around us tend to reflect that calm. If we come up with creative solutions to the challenging situations of life, weâre better able to diffuse problems, more able to contribute to accomplishing any tasks, any jobs. So it has many many benefits in daily life.
This is the real meaning of self-reliance or self-empowermentâwhen weâre not dependent on anything from the outside for our power or strength or resilience. Itâs all there inside. If a storm comes, and if weâre securely anchored down, weâre not going to get tossed about by the stormy waves. Weâll be very resilient, firmly established within, where nothing from the outside can shake our inner stability and inner joy and inner well of creativity.
Linda: It seems that when more and more women are experiencing their divine feminine, we could really change the world to become a more peaceful, happier place.
Ann: Exactly. In fact, a few years ago we established an organization to specifically reach out to women, called the Global Mother Divine Organization (GMDO), which is part of the worldwide TM organization. GMDO has opened TM centers just for women, allowing women to enjoy the nourishing quality of being with all women. Many women report that the softened atmosphere allows them to completely relax and be themselves.
And that creates a situation conducive to experiencing the silence inside. Transcending is an extremely nourishing situation in itself, but when you come to group meditation with other women, itâs enhanced exponentially.
Also, GMDO has outreach programs to many different womenâs groupsânursing programs, educational programs for women and girls, cultural programs, programs for women in poverty and programs for self-empowerment. I just read today that this is a worldwide trendâfor women to gather together, and organizations for self-empowerment are sprouting up all over the world. What better way to empower the self than to be in the Self, which is the all-empowering field of silence, the power of bliss, the power of creativity?
And the beautiful thing is that itâs our own inner nature. Itâs our own Self. If every woman can access this level, they will create a huge transformation for society through enlivening that inner silence. Real change begins within.
I have mixed feelings about New Yearâs resolutions. On the one hand, theyâre a good excuse to set goals and get my life back on track. My resolutions tend to center on health, mainly because thatâs a big focus in my life. But I canât help but notice theyâre all about changing things that are wrong with me. Like âI will stop eating sugar.â âI will lift weights three times a week.â âI will get to bed by 10.â
Each of these resolutions implies that I am lacking in some wayâlike I am currently eating way too much sugar, not building my muscles and not getting enough sleep.
I was thinking about how to make my resolutions stick, and a thought popped into my head: Perhaps these kinds of resolutions fail because they make us face the new year feeling less than inspired.
It occurred to me that maybe if they were a tad more positive and fun, I might actually stick to them. And who knows? They may have a better effect on my life than all the grimly disciplined âto dosâ of my normal list.
This idea gained momentum for me when I read about Shonda Rhimeâs new bookÂ Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.
If youâre like me and the name Shonda Rhimes doesnât ring a bell, never mindâher accomplishments will. As the creator, head scriptwriter and executive producer of Greyâs Anatomy and other TV shows, and executive producer ofÂ How to Get Away with Murder, she calls herself a typical Type A personality. And until recently she was living a spectacular life on the job, but less so at home.
What spurred her to write the book, she says, was a sharp wake-up call from her sister. “You never say âyesâ to anything,” her sister said. This made Rhimes decide to not only say yes more often, but to seek out the very things she was prone to say ânoâ to, the very things that scared her. And she ended up standing in the sun and dancing it out, as the book title shares.
I liked this idea of saying yes and immediately started making a list. Instead of focusing on things that scared me, I decided to focus on things that I want to continue doing because they are working for me. And on things I donât allow myself to do because (as I tell myself), I donât have time, donât have money, donât have the talent, etc.
Hereâs my list so far:
1.) Taking a cue from Rhimes, I say yes to dancing. Iâve been taking a class in Indian classical dance that has been truly fun and has lots of health benefits too (when you slap your bare feet on the floor, all the nerve endings in your whole body wake up, stimulating your organs and hormones in a really good way). Plus itâs an all-womenâs class, so thatâs part of the fun. Yet lately, when I moved up to a more advanced class and couldnât keep up with the practice time, I let it go. Yet in thinking it over, even if I practiced 10 short minutes a day, I could return to the class and not fall behind.
And why not say yes to this chance to dance? Why not twirl and swirl ten minutes a day? Itâs worth a try.
2.) I say yes to taking time to engaging in unstructured play for an hour every weekâto spending time in nature, wandering without a schedule, to journal or to play with my water colors and colored pencils.
Playing is so so so important, especially if youâre in a profession that relies on a fresh, creative mind. For me, playing not only rejuvenates my spirit but gives me new ideas that help me in my work. Itâs a win-win, so why not say YES to play?
3.) I say yes to getting enough rest. Usually I feel tired by around 9:30 at night. I say yes to the needs of my body and mind. I say yes to paying them more attention. And I say yes to continuing to make time in my day for my twice daily practice of Transcendental Meditation. TM helps me feel happy. It helps me feel rested. It helps my mind think more clearly. And it keeps me grounded to my essential nature, so I stay connected to my best self even when the circumstances around me get challenging or crazy. So I say YES to giving myself this gift even if Iâm traveling or with relatives or friends who donât practice meditation.
4.) I say yes to continuing a great exercise routine. Full disclosureâI spent the money I received from my mom for Christmas on a Fitbit HR, and that has shown me that Iâm doing well in the exercise realm. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk each morning with my husband in the early morning sunlight sets me up for the dayâwith just a little more exercise, my daily running around the apartment brings me to the recommended 10,000 steps most days without strain. And the three times a week weight training is making me feel so enlivened and happy. I say yes to continuing all that and more.
In writing these ideas down, in my mind saying yes started to converge with feeling gratitude for the things that are going right in my life. In some ways, I realized, gratitude is a way to find the yes in every experience.
And that is a good thing. I sometimes find myselfâwhen I get stressed or have too many deadlinesâwishing my computer didnât take so long to boot up, that I didnât have to wait in line, that there werenât so many mundane tasks to do in a day. If Iâm really stressed, I start feeling agitated by other peopleâs lack of speed or efficiency. Or my own lack of whatever.
This is not something Iâm proud of. Itâs a way of wishing lifeâand myself and the people in my lifeâwere different. And when you start doing that, you canât enjoy the great people and things that are right in front of you.
So now, when Iâm waiting in line at the post office or at the grocery store, Iâm using the time to think of things and people Iâm grateful for, including the clerk who is so graciously serving me at that very moment. I also am starting each day thinking of three things Iâm happy about, and ending the day that way too.
In Part II of this post Iâll explore the power of gratitude, its influence on brain functioning, and the latest findings on the Transcendental Meditation technique and its impact on happiness and well-being.
Happy New Year!
Letâs Dance in the New Year (Part II)
Does Gratitude Work?
Expressing gratitude is certainly not a new idea (prayer is a form of gratitude, after all), and lots of people have written about the power of gratitude in recent years. What is new is the increasing evidence that positive emotions, such as gratitude, have a positive effect on brain functioning.
The brain produces an astonishing 100,000 chemical and hormonal reactionsÂ every second. These can have good or bad effects. For instance, when we are stressed, the stress hormone cortisol courses through our body, contributing to aging, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Conversely, other chemical messengers have a positive effect on our minds and bodiesâand are released when we are feeling balanced and happy.
Our brainâs neuronal connections also respond to our experiences and our emotions. In fact, the more we experience positive things in our lives, the more we give our attention to happiness, the more our brain gets wired to default to happiness, and the easier it gets to perceive our world in a positive light.
As brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor wrote in her gripping memoir,Â My Stroke of Insight, âScientists are well aware that the brain has tremendous ability to change its connections based upon its incoming stimulation. This âplasticityâ of the brain underlies its ability to recover lost function.â
Basically, she explains, the neuronal pathways strengthen to reflect the stimulation the brain is receiving. If you make it a habit to think about positive things, in other words, your mind will tend to repeat those neuronal loops instead of the negative ones. Itâs kind of like building a muscleâyou use the same thought patterns in your brain enough, and those neuronal circuits get stronger and stronger.
A Dance Between Spontaneity and Intention
Yet thereâs a problem here. Unless youâre genuinely feeling happy, itâs hard to keep up the positive thinking for very long. It works fine for a while, but if you get tired, or rushed, or stressed, then all good intentions fly out the window. Finding yourself in a negative thought loop, you may say or do things that you later regret.
And, letâs face it,Â tryingÂ to be positive can be a strain. If youâre not actually feeling so happy, plastering a smile on your face is not going to change your inner reality a whole lot (research does say that the act of moving the muscles on your face does lift mood a little). But ask anyone who is depressed how it feels to try to smile and be happy, and they will tell you it is a tremendous strain.
In fact, constantly monitoring your thoughts, forcing any kind of feeling (even positive ones) can divide your mind and add tension and strain to your life.
When you genuinely feel happy, on the other hand, then itâs so easy to respond in a positive way to everyone around you. Then your gratitude is a natural expression of happiness, a spontaneous result of feeling happy.
I think this word âspontaneousâ is really important. Itâs one of the things that attracted me to the Transcendental Meditation technique in the first place. I really liked the idea that you could spend time meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, diving deep into that reservoir of intelligence, energy and happiness inside you, and then when youâre outside of meditation, spontaneously act. I liked the idea that I didnât have to try to remember to be happy or make a mood of being happyâthe results would come naturally as a result of the experience of pure happiness in meditation, my teacher said.
And thatâs pretty much what happened. As I found myself growing in happiness, I naturally started having a more positive viewpoint on my life and the people around me. Basically, itâs become my default mode to feel gratitudeâand if I sometimes fall into an impatient mode, itâs not that hard to shift back.
This is a common experience among people who practice TM, Iâve found out. People often find that when they begin the practice, others ask them, âWhatâs different about you? You seem so happy!â
Rewiring the Brain for Happiness
And yes, there is research that supports this experience ofÂ greater happiness. For instance, people practicing the TM technique score higher on tests of well-being and happiness, and higher levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin are measured in the brains of TM practitioners. Research has also shown a significant decrease in stress, anxiety and depression in TM practitioners.
Dr. Fred Travis, the brilliant neuroscientist who has studied the effect of meditation on the neuroplasticity of the brain, explains that the experience of transcendence and inner happiness during Transcendental Meditation actually rewires the brain in a lasting way.
In his book,Â Your Brain is a River, Not a Rock, he explains that 70 percent of brain connections change every single day, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity.
âThe circuits in the brain are continuously sculpted by experience,â he says. âIf we are constantly under stress, then the part of the brain that triggers the fight-or-flight response grows thicker, and we find ourselves reacting to small stresses as if they are life-threatening.â
Dr. Travis goes on to say, âButâand this is the take-home pointâif we add the experience of transcending to our daily routine, then brain connections that support the experience of pure consciousness are strengthened. This is the reality of growth to enlightenment. It happens every day with every session of the Transcendental Meditation technique.â
In other words, because in our quiet moments of meditation our minds experience the field of pure happiness inside us, that style of functioning of the brain becomes more dominant. Over time as we meditate regularly and go about our daily activities, the mind becomes more and more habituated to staying in that state of pure happiness, or bliss, even outside of meditation.
I love this idea of spontaneously growing in the ability to embrace more of life, of saying yes to the beautiful world around us. This is really what enlightenment isâexperiencing everyone and everything as being as dear to us as our own selfâour senses expanding to drink in the sounds, tastes, smells, textures and sights of our beautiful world. And from there, to embrace with love all our fellow creatures on this earthâwhether family, friend or stranger across the world.
These are a few of my thoughts for the New Yearâwhat are yours?
Like falling in love, the process of creating art can be a mystery, even to the person writing the song or sculpting the statue. As the novelist Eric Jerome Dickey said, âItâs impossible to explain creativity. Itâs like asking a bird, âHow do you fly?â You just do.â
Yet a growing number of creative artists and actorsâthink Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Hugh Jackmanâhave found that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique is a powerful yet dependable way to capture the ever-elusive muse. And if one artist can boost creativity through meditation, you have to wonder what would happen if everyone on the setâsinger, actors, producers, installation artists, production crewâpracticed the TM technique?
âThis reworking manages to enrich the sound without losing its ethereal quality.â âIndiewire.com
This actually happened when LA actress Elena Charbila (who has a dual career as a singer-songwriter under the monikerÂ Kid Moxie) asked producerÂ Michael SternfeldÂ to collaborate in creating a music video for her hauntingly beautiful rendition of the iconic scoreÂ âMysteries of Love,âÂ composed by Angelo Badalamenti for director David Lynchâs 1986 filmÂ Blue Velvet.Â
In just three long days of shooting and ten short days of editing, Elena, Michael, and a crew of over twentyâall of whom practice TMâcreated an artistic and evocative video that debuted at the âMusic of David Lynchâ tribute concert to a sold-out crowd of 1500. As reported inÂ Rolling Stone,Â the concert not only raised funds for theÂ David Lynch FoundationÂ to teach TM to at-risk children, but featured an all-star lineup of Duran Duran, Moby, Donovan, Chrysta Bell, and Sky Ferreira performing music from the directorâs movies and albums.
The âMysteries of Loveâ music video garnered positive reviews, like this one fromÂ Indiewire.com: âWhile the original composition has long been a favorite among die-hard Lynch fans, this reworking manages to enrich the sound without losing its ethereal quality…and the end result is pretty great.â
Yet the real story is found in the making of the video, as the mythic power of love not only informed the theme of the song and video, but became the creative force that united the team and threaded its way through every image and sound.
Connecting with the David Lynch Universe
For Elena Charbila, the video was the fulfillment of a lifelong love affair with the work of award-winning director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti, who collaborated on the scores for most of David Lynchâs films.
âSome melodies become a part of you, inspire, and transform you,â says Elena. âThe universe that David Lynch co-created with Angelo Badalamenti was like that for me.â
Although born in Greece, Elena based her career in LA, starring in films alongside Al Pacino and Malcolm McDowell. Five years ago, she had the chance to interview her personal hero, David Lynch, for a major Greek newspaper.
âThe way he talked about meditation and creativity intrigued me,â she says. âBecause I deeply respect his work as an artist, I thought there must be something there. So on my next birthday, I gave myself the gift of TM.â
âFor me, the underlying theme was showing the dark and the light side of love.â âElena Charbila
âIt helped clear away the mental clutter,â Elena adds. âTo have a clear idea of what you want to express through your art, you need to hear your own voice better. And TM certainly helps you do that.â
Soon she became a contributor to theÂ David Lynch FoundationÂ and its radio station,Â Transcendental Music, to help underserved children and adults learn the TM technique. Then one day she worked up the nerve to mail her music to Angelo Badalamenti.
The fabled composer not only liked her music, but at a later meeting, mentioned that he was remaking âMysteries of Loveâ with a full orchestra and suggested that she perform the vocals.
Elena found his offer âboth scary and extremely excitingâ and recorded the song in the transcendental, delicate vocals that are her trademark. âIt was a personally satisfying moment for me,â she says. âAngelo loved what I did with his song, and he was generous and gracious enough to let me use it for my new album,Â 1888.
The story might have ended there, but Elena couldnât let go of a certain idea.
A Collaboration Based on Trust
âI remember that it was floating in my head that âMysteries of Loveâ was such a cinematic piece, an iconic song, and there was no video for it,â she says. âSo I called up Michael Sternfeld and said, âWe have to do this together.â â
Elena had met Michael Sternfeld through the David Lynch Foundation during Michaelâs five-year stint as event producer for events featuring Paul McCartney, Ringo, Sheryl Crow, Moby, The Beach Boys, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jim Carrey.
From the start, the two felt tuned into each otherâs thoughts to an uncanny degree. âWe were laughing that we could read each otherâs minds, and we both felt that there was trust,â says Elena. âThat is a huge building block for starting anything.â
They decided to shoot the music video in Fairfield, Iowa, home ofÂ Maharishi University of Management (MUM). Michael set out to assemble the production team, recruiting directors Amine Kouider, media and communications faculty at MUM, and Sam Lieb, head of DLF.TV, as well as co-producer Donald Revolinski, faculty of theÂ David Lynch MA in film at MUM.
At first it was challenging to get the team to clear their schedules. Then Michael thought, âWouldnât it be amazing if we showed our music video at the live âMusic of David Lynchâ concert?â Says Michael, âWe didnât even know if David wanted to feature music videos. It was basically a one-in-a-million chance, but the project suddenly went from some wild, pie-in-the-sky idea to something that could actually happen.â
The only problem was, there were only three weeks left before the concert.
The Art of Creative Collaboration
What transpired in just three long days and nights of shooting outdoors in freezing March temperatures was nothing short of magical.
Elena, who had never taken a creative journey with a group of people who were all TM meditators before, was struck by the level of harmony on the set. âThere was extreme care with each otherâs ideas. Egos were kept at a minimal healthy level. From the first meeting, there was so much love, like a nonverbal contract that we were going to stay connected, we were going to stay in love for the entire process. I had never felt that before.â
Elena also felt a heightened energy level that she finds hard to explain. âIt was a very long shoot. We were reaching for the sky with the things we wanted to do. Yet the feeling level was electrifying. For me it was a beautiful pool to swim in.â
âUnderneath there was a feeling of no doubt that we would finish, a deep trust in the flow of nature.â âMichael Sternfeld, producer
With shoots lasting into the wee hours of the morning, she appreciated the meditation breaks. âThere was a mutual understanding that everyone was going to do it. Whereas here in LA, if somebody saw you meditating, theyâd be like: âHey whatâs up? What are you doing?â There, nobody asked any questions; everybody knew the process. That was pretty refreshing.â
Realizing the Vision
The videoâs beautiful yet disturbing visual images of the cocoon unravelling into a butterfly, performed byÂ S.B.Woods, a performance and installation artist who has been practicing the TM technique for 34 years, fit perfectly with the shared vision for the film.
âFor me, the underlying theme was showing the dark and the light side of love,â says Elena. âBecause love is both beautiful and scary, especially in the beginning stages.â
The motif of light and dark reverberated through images of the videoâs mystical forest set, created in two days of freezing temperatures by âtree womanâÂ Cherie Sampson, an environmental performance and video artist who previously taught at Maharishi University of Management and now teaches at the University of Missouri.
After the last day of shooting ended at 4:00 a.m., there were only five days left for the three editors to complete post-production editingâa task that would normally require three months of work.
âThe entire project was a stretch,â says Michael, âBut underneath there was a feeling of no doubt that we would finish, a deep trust in the flow of nature. We never gave in to fear or anxiety; we just did it. And that comes from working with a group of meditators.â
The crew waited as David Lynch and the producers of the LA concert reviewed the video. Finally, just a week before the concert, word came that David Lynch not only loved it, but it was the only music video approved for the live concert.
âThat was stunning,â says Michael, âbut there was no time to celebrate. Because we had sent an unfinished version, we spent the remaining five days on final edits and the coloring process, finishing just twenty minutes before being delivered to the control room in the theater at the ACE Hotel in LA.â
Michael notes that from the moment they conceived of this project, there was a feeling of inevitability that swept them along. âInstead of thinking, âwe need to make something happen,â what if love itself was making this happen?â he wonders. âAnd that, to me, is keyâthe feeling youâre left with at the end of this video. If the viewerâs heart opens to some deeper level of life, then we accomplished our job.â
Watch Mysteries of Love hereÂ
[This article was originally published in Issue 25 of Enlightenment: the Transcendental Meditation Magazine.]
TM originates from the Vedic tradition of knowledge of ancient India. This broad-based tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth and encompasses a wide diversity of areas including Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).
Perhaps youâve been practicing the Transcendental MeditationÂ technique for several months and have enjoyed greater happiness and calm in your life. Now you want to know more about its origins and what distinguishes it from other practices. Recently Enlightenment asked Dr. Thomas Egenes, an associate professor at Maharishi University of Management and a Certified Teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique, to answer your questions.
Q: Where does TM come from?
Dr. Egenes: The Transcendental Meditation technique comes from India, from a deep, profound source called the Vedic tradition, which is thousands of years old. The word âVedaâ means knowledge. The Vedic tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth, maintained continuously and passed down from teacher to student. It is a broad-based tradition of knowledge encompassing a wide diversity of areas. Just to name a few, it is the origin of Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).
To maintain this age-old tradition, four seats of knowledge were established in India by the great Vedic scholar, Shankara, thousands of years ago. Maharishi is part of this ancient heritage, having studied with the leading custodian of Vedic wisdom (Shankaracharya) from the northern seat of knowledge. Maharishi first brought this knowledge to the West in 1959 when he started his first of several world tours teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique.
Q: Since Transcendental Meditation and the knowledge of transcending was contained in this original expression of knowledgeâthe Vedasâdoes that mean it is connected to a religion such as Buddhism or Hinduism?
The ancient wisdom of transcending through the TM technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.
Dr. Egenes: Actually, the Vedas predate these religions. The rich, profound knowledge contained in the Vedic literature has been drawn upon for inspiration by literally hundreds of schools, religions, and philosophers on every continent throughout history. Today, people from all religions and cultures around the world practice the TM technique to experience inner peace and happiness, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, or aetheists.
This ancient wisdom of transcending through the Transcendental Meditation technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.
Q: What are some personal experiences of transcending?
Dr. Egenes: You may notice when you sit to meditate that your breath becomes softer, or there may be a brief period of time when there are no thoughts and also no mantra. You know you are awake, because if someone walked into the room, you would hear it. However, you may experience that you are awake toawareness itself, without thoughts. Or you may notice that your mind and body are completely settled. As one person described it, âDuring the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the silence became very deep, and I experienced a vast sea of peace within.â
After meditating, you may find that you are spontaneously happier and healthier, and life is more fulfilling. Millions of people have reported similar experiencesâthat after meditation their mind is more calm, their body healthier, their emotions more positive, and behavior more harmonious since starting the TM technique.
Q: How is this subtle experience of transcending validated by scientific research?
Dr. Egenes: When Maharishi introduced TM to the West, long before anyone had conceived of a mind-body connection, he encouraged researchers to study the effects of meditation on mind and body. Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.
The first physiological study on the TM technique was conducted at UCLA by Dr. Keith Wallace and published inScientific American and other journals in 1972. By studying EEG, breath rate, and heart rate of subjects while they practiced the TM technique, Dr. Wallace found physiological evidence of this fourth state of consciousness, which could also be called a state of ârestful alertnessââârestful,â because the physiology is in a deep state of rest, and âalertness,â because the mind is wide awake.
Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.
This groundbreaking research by Dr. Wallace, and subsequent research on increased EEG coherence (orderliness) of brain activity, shows us how the fourth state of consciousness experienced during the TM technique is a unique state of consciousness, as evidenced by Alpha1 waves observed throughout the brain during Transcendental Meditation, with the highest concentration in the pre-frontal cortex. The brain waves become synchronous, which means that the brain is more coherent and integrated, with the different parts working together like a symphony orchestra. This results in better memory, increased creativity, increased intelligence, and emotional stability as shown by research.
In subsequent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and top research universities, weâve seen that the practice of the TM technique results in decreased anxiety, decreased cortisol (the stress hormone), decreased blood pressure, decreased insulin resistance, decreased insomnia, and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. At the same time, research shows an increase in happiness, well-being, productivity, efficiency, and success.
Q: Can you explain how transcending is validated by the ancient Vedic texts?
Dr. Egenes: The literature from the Vedic tradition, called Vedic literature, is a vast body of knowledge. Here are examples from three ancient texts that Maharishi often quoted in his lectures.
From the Yoga Sutras: âYoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.â This key phrase is perhaps the classic definition of Yoga, or union. While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well. In the literature on Yoga, this state is referred to as Samadhi, a state of pure awareness, or Transcendental Consciousness. It is pure wakefulness, devoid of any content such as thoughts, feelings, or perceptions.
The Bhagavad-Gita, also considered to be a text of Yoga, has many passages that describe how the mind settles during meditation. The verse â. . . having established the mind in the Self, let him not think at all,â describes how the mind becomes established in the Self, or pure awareness. This is awareness, but not awareness with an object of attention. Rather, it is awareness aware of itself. In this state, the person meditating has gone beyond thinking. There are no thoughts, no mantra, and no other object of attention. The mind is in a simple, settled state, calmly aware of awareness itself. In this state, the Bhagavad-Gita describes a person as being âfreed from duality, ever firm in purity, independent of possessions, possessed of the Self.â
The Upanishads describe the fourth state of consciousness at great length and as different from waking, dreaming, and sleeping. In the Upanishads this state is called Turiya Chetana, or the fourth state of consciousness, often referred to as the Self (with a capital S, to denote the universal Self). For example, in this passage âThe peaceful, the blissful, the undivided is thought to be the fourth; that is the Self. That is to be known,â specific characteristics are given for this fourth state of consciousness: it is peaceful, it is blissful, and it is undivided, meaning that it is an experience of unity. There is no object of attention, just the Self knowing itself.
While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well
Itâs important to note that the experience of the fourth state of consciousness happens innocently during meditation, often without us even noticing it. Itâs not a matter of trying to be calm, or trying to feel relaxed. This is one of the major differences between TM and other techniquesâthere is no conscious effort required because the natural tendency of the mind is to transcend. Without effort, you experience a deep state of pure consciousness during meditation and naturally enjoy its many benefits throughout the day. Effortlessness in meditation and spontaneity of benefits are two of the key principles of Transcendental Meditation.
Q: Does the Vedic literature discuss benefits experienced outside of meditation?
Dr. Egenes: The Vedic literature gives ample knowledge about the benefits of experiencing the fourth state of consciousness. For example, the Bhagavad-Gita states, âSupreme happiness comes to the yogi whose mind is deep in peace.â And it makes the point: âEven here, in this life, the universe is conquered by those whose mind is established in equanimity.â
This brings up a theme that is found throughout the Vedic literatureâthe fulfillment of desire is a natural consequence of knowing the Self. It has been everyoneâs experience that when we are anxious or fearful, it becomes more difficult to achieve what we want to achieve. Maharishi has been very clear about thisâwhen one has the ability to desire from the Self, from the settled state of the mind, then the desire easily finds fulfillment. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Maharishi says: âIt brings a realized man to a state where, by virtue of a high development of mental strength and harmony with the laws of nature, he finds that his thoughts naturally become fulfilled without much effort on his part.â
The Upanishads place great importance on the experience of inner happiness and inner peace, because as meditators around the world have experienced, the calmness of mind experienced during meditation carries over into activity. Even from the first days of learning to meditate, people report that they feel calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed. This was described in the Chhandogya Upanishad, which says, âEstablished in the Self, one overcomes sorrows and suffering.â
The Upanishads eloquently express how desires are fulfilled by contact with oneâs own Self:
Whatever world a man of purified nature sees clearly
in his mind, and whatever desires he desires,
that world and those desires he wins.
Q: What about regularity? Do the Vedic texts discuss the value of experiencing this fourth state of consciousness on a daily basis?
Dr. Egenes: Yes. They are very clear about this point. The daily experience of pure awareness, or Yoga, is emphasized in the literature. For example, the Yoga Sutras say, âYoga becomes an established state when it has been respectfully and uninterruptedly cultivated for a long time.â
We all know that the benefits of exercise depend upon doing it as a regular habit. Similarly, the benefits of meditation depend upon regular practice. The Bhagavad-Gita gives similar advice: âThis Yoga should be practiced with firm resolve.â
All of the benefits described in the Vedic literature and confirmed by modern scientific research result from regularity of practice. And the rewards are great.
Oprah Winfrey recently stated that at 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. her entire company, Harpo Studios, sits down to meditate because, as she described it, being still, coming back to the center, is more important than whatever work her staff is doing. âTM teachers have taught everyone in my company who wanted to learn how to meditate,â she said. âThe results have been awesome: better sleep, improved relationships with spouses, children, coworkers. Some people who once suffered migraines donât anymore. Greater productivity and creativity all around.â
Thomas Egenes, PhD, is an associate professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management and author of seven books, including The Upanishads: A New Translation, co-authored with Dr. Vernon Katz, Tarcher/Penguin, 2015.
âTM changed everything. It brought in the light. The conflicting thoughts that had plagued me all my life were gone. It claimed my mind and gave me peace.â âGladys Kimtai
BY GLADYS KIMTAI
I was born in Kapkoi, a small village in Kenya, to a Roman Catholic family. My parents died when I was two, so my grandparents raised my sister and brothers and me. My grandparents both passed away by the time I was twelve. At that point my three brothers, who were not much older than me, had to quit school and take over the farm, raising livestock and growing beans and corn.
When we had food, we ate. Otherwise, we didnât. We slept on cowhides by the open fire in the kitchen, underneath quilts my grandmother made out of old clothes. We had no soap, washed in the river, and drank from that same river.
I donât know how it happened, but after my parents died, a prosperous doctor and his family from our village offered to provide an education to the youngest child. That was me. So when I was only three years old, they enrolled me in a boarding school near their home in Eldoret, which was a three-hour drive in a matatu, a kind of public bus, from my home.
I canât describe how unusual it was in my village for a girl to receive an education. Usually if a family had resources, they would send their boys to school. If there was money left over, they would send the girls. But that almost never happened.
Although I am very grateful for my education, it was also very difficult. In the city I had three meals a day, hot, running water and nice clothes, yet I felt deeply confused about why I was being given all these gifts while my family struggled so. I didnât feel like I belonged there.
Most international students struggle with homesickness and adjusting to a new culture. My struggle was not about the culture. It was something inside me, my conflicted feelings over the good things that kept happening to me.
I didnât feel like I belonged at home, either. I spent most of my school holidays with the doctorâs family in Eldoret. At school I spoke Swahili and English, so when I did get to return to my village, I found I was losing my ability to understand and speak Kalenjin, my tribal language. It became difficult to talk to my grandparents when they were still alive, and because none of my siblings understood what I was going through, I found it difficult to confide in them.
As a teenager, I boarded at a Catholic secondary school nearer to my village. Most of the students spoke Kalenjin, so I was able to relearn my language. I no longer wanted the doctorâs family to support me, yet I knew that my mind was quick and that my education was the one thing I had control over. So when my friend heard that a Kenyan student had earned a running scholarship to an America college, I thought, âThis is for me.â
Iâd never done any running before, so my friend literally held my hand and ran with me for a week so that I could learn how. We recruited other friends to run together and write letters to colleges asking for scholarships. It was such a random thing. A few colleges wrote back asking us questions like, âWhat is your SAT score?â So then we took the SATs, and fortunately we all scored high.
The colleges wanted to know what kind of running we did and how fast we ran. We didnât know the answers to these questions, but we knew that weâd have to do some serious training. We couldnât train in our villages, because people would think we were trying to compete with the professional athletes that Eldoret is famous for and would discourage us, especially the girls.
So we moved to a training camp in an old, abandoned building about an hour from my village and lived there for ten months. We slept on the floor, half the building for the girls and half for the boys. We brought cooking pots, grains, and vegetables from home.
Like so many other important events in my life, TM came to me as a gift.
At one point I had three offersâand two were full academic scholarships. I wasnât able to accept those because the 2007-2008 election riots made it too dangerous to travel to the embassy in Nairobi to get my visa. But in the fall of 2008, I accepted a cross country and track scholarship at Harding University, a Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas. I majored in pre-med because I wanted to become a doctor and help the people in my village.
Most international students struggle with homesickness and adjusting to a new culture. My struggle was not about the culture. It was something inside me, my conflicted feelings over the good things that kept happening to me. Even though I was working on campus after class and during the summers so I could send money home to my brothers, I would cry at night because I couldnât stop thinking, âNo, no, no. This should be for my family, not me.â
Like so many other important events in my life, TM came to me as a gift. In my senior year, a group of friends and I traveled to Little Rock to take qualifying tests to join the US Army, which was offering international students the opportunity to serve in return for citizenship and an income. By chance, we met a family from Fairfield, Iowa, who told us about the benefits of TM.
I called the Little Rock TM Center right away, but I didnât have the money to start. After graduation, I worked as an aide in a hospital in Searcy, but by now I knew that I could not become a doctor because the suffering of the patients made me feel too emotional. At the same time the opportunity to serve in the US Army fell through.
Then in spring of 2013, when I thought I would have to return to Kenya without any real skills to offer the people there, the Little Rock TM Center called and said, âA donor has paid for you to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique.â The donor turned out to be the family I had met in Little Rock!
I also hope that I can be a role model for women and girls, because in my village everyone knows that I have gone to college, and they want to see what I can do. Iâd like to help girls from Kenya become educated and find a way to support themselves.
TM changed everything. It brought in the light. The conflicting thoughts that had plagued me all my life were gone. It calmed my mind and gave me peace.
The first thing that lifted was the burden of guilt Iâd carried so long. I realized that my brothers had supported me out of love, and that they werenât expecting me to repay them with money, especially while I was still a student. I realized that there were many other ways that I could help them.
I also stopped feeling guilty for all the unasked-for gifts in my life. Now I understand that it was âsupport of natureâ and that I should enjoy the amazing opportunities that came my way, since life is meant to be easy, not a struggle.
At the TM Center, I found out about Maharishi University of Management, where Iâm currently enrolled as an MA student. Now I have a strong desire to take the TM Teacher Training Course so I can bring this experience of inner peace to my familyâto my three brothers and sister, to my three stepbrothers, and to the doctorâs family who helped me get an education.
I also hope that I can be a role model for women and girls, because in my village everyone knows that I have gone to college, and they want to see what I can do. Iâd like to help girls from Kenya become educated and find a way to support themselves.
I think learning TM will help them to achieve what they want in life. Thatâs something I can give, something valuable that I can bring back to my family and my village.
(I originally helped Gladys write herÂ storyÂ forÂ Enlightenment Magazine,Â Issue number 21. Reprinted with permission.)