One Man’s Journey to Peace
February 28, 2014

BY JOSÉ GUTIERREZ  AND LINDA EGENES

José Gutierrez teaches his family the TM TechniqueIt was 30 years ago when a TM poster in an El Paso store window caught the eye of José Gutierrez. “I went to the introductory lecture, and that was it,” he says. “I found what I was searching for. From the first meditation, I experienced unbelievable energy, and it just kept getting better and better.”

José said he had been looking for something to help relieve the stress and pressures of his business. Starting out as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, he had worked his way up to become the company’s distributor for the city of El Paso. His job involved motivating and training younger sales people.

“I found that the TM kept me in a state of calm even when there were a lot of demands on me,” he says.

José also says the daily meditations helped him turn around his health. “In that type of business, you attend a lot of conventions, the whiskey flows freely, and I was nipping too much. After learning to meditate, I got control of the drinking. I also suddenly stopped smoking one day. You just make better choices.”

José is not the kind of person to keep a good thing to himself. Soon he had his wife and seven kids meditating.

“As time went on, our kids got married and had their own kids. I thought, ‘There’s a lot of stress in this world—I can’t do much about that, but I can help our own children.’” So in characteristic fashion, José paid for his grandchildren to start the TM technique.

Today, at age 77, José has 18 members of his extended family practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique with him. With so many close family members meditating, he has lots of turning points to share.

“One of my sons, who had stopped meditating years earlier, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia,” says José. “Lo and behold, he went back to meditating, and in just a short time, within a year or two, he was able to come off his medications. He got married, has four kids, and runs a small construction company. He’s a happy person, laughing all the time, and he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke. He attributes the turnaround to TM.”

José relates how one of his daughters-in-law suffered from high blood pressure. “In the first week after starting to meditate, she went to see her doctor, and he cut her medications in half. By the third week, he took her off her meds altogether. He told her, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it!’”

José’s wife passed away five years ago, but the family remains close. “As a family we have always tried to watch out for one another, to encourage one another. Recently, I hosted a TM lecture at our house, and most of the people there were ours.”

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment MagazineIssue number 2. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

220Anyone who has been an adolescent girl knows the kind of crazy and negative thought patterns that can circulate through the brain when a girl thinks of her own body. I remember spending hours in front of the mirror, trying to change my hair, my face and every part of me to be more beautiful and appealing. And I was convinced that if I did look like the models I saw in the magazines or the popular girls at school, then I would feel more happy, more admired, more loved.

If anything, girls today feel more pressure than ever, not only to fit in with their peers, but to fit in with the perfect body image that they are constantly viewing in ads, magazines, TV and social media. If they feel bad enough about their looks, they can even disconnect from normal life, avoiding activities like attending school or even speaking up with their own opinions, a Harvard study found.

This obsession with looks is not just a question of overcoming typical teenage angst—research shows that negative body images, especially among pre-teens, can lead to eating disorders, acting out sexually, drinking, suicide, and bullying.

Yet what can be done about such a prevalent cultural bias toward only perfect body images? Can we really stop the media from objectifying women?

Blog 24New York City thinks they have a way to turn the conversation around. Through bus and subway ads, an inspiring ad campaign that ran in NYC was designed to tell girls aged 7 to 12 years old that they are beautiful just the way they are.

According to the NY Times, city officials cited evidence in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing that more than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat, that girls’ self-esteem drops at age 12 and does not improve until 20, and that the drop in self-esteem is tied to negative body image.

To help stem the tide of low self-esteem among girls, the city is being plastered with posters depicting ordinary girls saying, in effect, “I’m glad to be me.”

For example, one ad featuring DeVoray Wigfall, a robust, laughing 12-year-old from University Heights in the Bronx, says “I’m a girl. I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring.” The ads show girls of different races and sizes, some playing sports and one in a wheelchair. Each one ends with the campaign’s overall slogan: “I’m beautiful the way I am.”

I think this is a great step toward ending the objectification of women in the media. A great way to help girls take charge of their own body perception: to say, “I’m me and I’m loved and appreciated and that has nothing to do with how well I fit the media’s super-thin (and often PhotoShopped) body images.”

The city’s campaign also aims to increase self-esteem through physical fitness: as part of the NYC Girls Project, the City of New York is offering physical fitness classes for girls through the parks department, as well as a pilot program addressing self-esteem.

Another proven way to increase girls’ self esteem is to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. “Since I started meditating, I don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking of me,” said one 12-year-old girl. “I feel happy.”

Research on TM shows that children who practice it regularly enjoy greater self-esteem as well as improved academic performance, increased memory and heightened creativity. The Transcendental Meditation technique helps build self-confidence from within. When a young girl meditates, she experiences deeper levels of intelligence, creativity, happiness and energy. At the same time, the deep relaxation gained during the TM technique reduces stress and anxiety. By unfolding their own inner nature, girls naturally grow in social skills and self-worth.

It makes sense that the NYC campaign was started by a woman, 38-year-old Samantha Levine, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, who serves as the project’s director. She was motivated to take action when she read that grade-school girls were wearing body-shaping undergarments and getting plastic surgery to become thinner.

The idea for the campaign took off, and for the posters, she enlisted the children of friends and other city workers.

“I think every mom has worries,” said Twanna Cameron, whose daughter was featured on a poster. “We can’t all be models, we can’t all be superthin.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, December 10, 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

IMG_6322According to the dictionary, sustainable means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.” Or “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.” Other people might define it as the energy going out never exceeding the energy going in.

When I think of the words “sustainable living” I think of my parents, who, like many people born in the Depression years, lived a more sustainable lifestyle than most families today. My mom, who calls herself the original recycler, saved tinfoil in a giant ball, washed out plastic bags and hung them to dry, and even packed our lunches in used Pepperidge Farm bread bags.

My dad caught a ride to work so they would only need one car. My dad was an engineer who did not believe in designing machines with planned obsolescence, and he fixed his own tools and machines rather than buying new ones. He also designed and built our passive solar home in 1959, which had six-inch walls and was energy-efficient in an era when fuel prices were so cheap that many homes in our northern-Illinois neighborhood were built without any insulation at all.

On one level they had it down—they fixed, reused and recycled almost everything in their environment, so that the energy going out pretty much equaled the energy going in. Without knowing it they were early pioneers in the sustainable movement of today, which aims to rely on sustainable resources such as the sun and wind so we don’t have deplete our remaining reserves of unsustainable fossil fuels.

I was proud of my parents, and I took their example to heart, reducing my own energy consumption by becoming a vegetarian, and in later life ended up writing many articles about the sustainability movement.

But even while growing up I started to wonder if this principle of sustainability could be taken a step further—could it be applied to our human bodies. Was there a sustainable source of energy within? Most people I knew felt so tired at the end of the day that they couldn’t even enjoy the evening. Even though I was a young person, I felt pretty tired myself. I studied, worked as a waitress and took a bus to high school at 7 a.m. and returned at 5 p.m.

I started to wonder, could there be a way we could draw on resources of energy from within our own bodies, so we could end up at the end of the day with the same more energy (or more) than we started with?

Fortunately for me, when I was a college student I went to a lecture on the Transcendental Meditation technique and the young TM teacher giving the lecture told us, “Inside each of us is an infinite field of energy, happiness and bliss.” This idea rang true for me—that everything that most of us try to get from the outside, could actually be found on the inside. Most of us sense that there is a great deal more creativity and intelligence and yes, energy, inside us than what we have access to as we go about our daily lives. We sense it, but we don’t know how to reach it.

I started the TM technique at age 19, and I can honestly say that I have more energy every year. My 86-year-old mom comments on this all the time. “You have so much more energy than you used to!” she likes to say.

Research on the TM technique tells us why this can happen. The practice of Transcendental Meditation produces a state of profound relaxation much deeper than ordinary rest. When practicing the technique, there is also increased alertness and more orderly brain function, as shown in EEG patterns. The result is a state of “restful alertness.”

This state of restful alertness is experienced from the first meditation, and when you dive deep within, your mind settles to quieter levels of thinking, transcending the pressures, worries and agitation of the active mind.

Women who practice TM regularly, twice a day, report that this state of enhanced energy and alertness starts to spill over into activity. The inner silence, happiness and energy you experience in meditation replenishes your depleted reserves, so you can meet the responsibilities of home and work with greater ease. And by releasing deep-rooted stresses, your mind and body become more vibrant, more stress-resilient, so situations that used to exhaust you or challenge you no longer seem like a big deal.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Shel Pink, an eco-thinker and consultant who established SpaRitual—a vegan, sustainably sourced line of spa products and cosmetics—long before words like “eco” and “green” became popular. She now promotes the principles of “Slow Beauty”— which she defines as expanding your concept of beauty and aging to include the slower path of health and wellness rather than the punitive path of anti-aging through botox and plastic surgery.

“Consciousness is the future,” she says. “It’s such a fast world, an extraverted world. I think people are getting burned out, tired of checking multiple voice mails and emails and being engaged 24/7. People are really craving slowing down. If you’re racing, there isn’t the quality, you really aren’t productive at end of the day. Slow Beauty is about slowing down and connecting with your authentic self, to help raise your consciousness and put that out into the world.”

As a sustainability leader and a mother of two, Shel not only advocates regular meditation to create “slow beauty,” but she and her husband practice the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day to help meet the demands of their busy lives. “It’s reduced my stress levels,” Shel says. “After working all day, you can feel parts of your body hold onto the stress. When I do TM I literally can feel that part of my body relaxing and stress melting away.”

Shel says that if she misses a meditation, she feels that something is missing. “I almost crave it. And in the afternoon it’s a welcome reprieve to tune out from the meetings and deadlines for 20 minutes. It really refreshes me and helps me get through the rest of the day.” She also points to the research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, which shows that the rejuvenating effects of meditating twice a day actually slows the aging process.

Maharishi, the founder of the TM technique, talked about this exact point when he wrote in the The Science of Being and Art of Living, “The system of Transcendental Meditation, however, is the most effective way to bring the mind to the field of transcendental Being, where it will naturally acquire life-energy for performing any amount of hard work and for producing the most effective and desirable results. This drawing of energy from the field of Being is the most striking aspect of the art of living, for it brings the active life of the day-to-day world into communion with the source of limitless life—energy, power, intelligence, creativity and bliss.”

And, it seems to me, that a person who is able to conserve their own energy, to sustain their life energy without exploiting or ruining their own body, will be able to make more sustainable choices for her environment as well.

As the great poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry says, “The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a “new economy”, but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy.”

Perhaps the future of sustainability is about having more energy at the end of the day — a way of living that itself is energizing. A way of living in harmony with out own inner nature, so we naturally create a positive impact on the precious eco-system all around us.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, November 20, 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

As my husband and I drove home from a family trip in the light of the full moon, I pulled out my review copy of Jack Forem’s Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and read the introduction aloud. Wrapped in the warmth of the author’s exquisitely crafted story, we were transported back in time to the early days of the TM® program, when Jack Forem first met Maharishi and was inspired to write America’s first book on the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with Jack Forem 1975

Seven years in the making, the original book was published in 1973 by Dutton and instantly became a best-seller and beloved classic, inspiring thousands of people to begin the practice. This new edition, written nearly forty years later and published by Hay House, will capture the imagination of those who started meditating in the early days and those who have just begun.

Filled with inspiring words of wisdom from Maharishi, interviews of practitioners of the TM® technique, quotes by famous people from Einstein to Oprah, and references to the Vedic literature of India—from which this tradition of meditation originated—the book illuminates fundamental principles underlying the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

The book also dives deeply into the scientific research on TM practice, brilliantly distilling dozens of research papers published in leading academic and medical journals. And with Maharishi’s profound insights, it answers age-old questions concerning the goal of life, religion, and spirituality, the psychology of relationships, higher states of consciousness, and world peace.

Jack Forem became a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in Rishikesh, India, in 1970. He served as the head of the TM Center in New York City and later worked directly with Maharishi writing educational materials, teaching TM teacher training courses in Europe, and leading conferences and seminars on the development of creativity, leadership, and higher states of consciousness. The son of two writers, Jack is a professional writer with a dozen published books.

Here, Jack Forem speaks about his experience in updating his classic work and his creative process as a writer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 11.06.52 AMEnlightenment: What were the biggest changes you made to the original book and why?

Jack Forem: I wanted to revise it because I felt there was so much more scientific research on the TM program and global expansion of the Movement now. The first book was fine for its time, but now it seemed too small. It needed to be painted on a bigger canvas.

I thought it would take two months, but it took two years. The deeper I went into it the more I found that was new. When the first book was published, there were only a few research studies on TM practice. Now there are 350 published studies, most of them peer-reviewed. To convey the essence of a research study is not an easy job—it took time for me to understand each study and to make it clear and readable to others.

My process was to interview more people, to read more, and to see if the old things seemed as important as the new developments. Now people are more aware of the value of meditation and the ideas of evolution of consciousness and enlightenment. Back 40 years ago, these ideas were new to most people. So I didn’t want to dwell on the basics as much—I wanted to talk about the deeper aspects.

Enlightenment: What is a typical day like for you as a writer?

Jack Forem: I don’t have a typical day as a writer. I try to put in at least a few hours writing, but some days I just can’t. So much of what you do as a writer is not writing—you think about things, you read, you do research. It’s not like I work from 9 to 12, or 9 to 5. I’ve never been able to do that. It’s not my way.

I once was sitting in a room with Maharishi with a small group of people and we were writing something. Someone said, “Maharishi, we should have a staff of writers working full-time.” And he laughed and laughed and he said, “Writers can’t work full-time.” He looked at me when he said it.

Sometimes I write a quick first draft and when I go back and look at it, I might throw the whole thing away. Usually there’s enough good in it to revise it. Other times I work very slowly, sentence by sentence, and make sure it’s right before I move on. It depends on the material.

Enlightenment: How has the TM technique helped you as a professional writer?

Jack Forem: TM has helped me by giving me deeper insight. Being able to think at subtler levels and to understand what Maharishi is saying has helped me to express the knowledge better.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say when I’m working. Then I will either meditate or naturally let my awareness settle down and that helps me find a direction—what I want to say next or how to say it better.

Enlightenment: What benefits from TM do you notice now compared to when you learned 46 years ago?

Jack Forem: Now I rarely get upset—things are very smooth. But if there is anything upsetting or difficult in my life, meditation helps me dissolve my anxiety or worry; it resolves anything unpeaceful inside.

Basically I feel pretty good. (Laughs.) I wouldn’t have been able to say that before I learned TM. There’s an underlying stability, a sense of Being or pure consciousness, that I definitely did not have earlier.

Enlightenment: What three things would you like people to remember after reading your book?

Jack Forem: First, I’d like people to realize that through this knowledge, enlightenment is a real possibility for anyone.

Second, the technology that Maharishi has developed for world peace is the great hope of humanity and the world. I didn’t fully realize how effective those programs are for creating harmony, coherence, and peace until I started reading the research on collective consciousness. I am profoundly impressed.

And finally, I want people to realize that this knowledge came from Maharishi. He has provided a path to enlightenment and a better world for all of us to enjoy. He wouldn’t have asked for the credit, but I like to give it to him.

Linda Egenes is a professional writer and the co-author of Super Healthy Kids – A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 10. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Mindy Weisel

For Mindy Weisel, art is about feelings. Take the time she was driving to New York City one winter’s day in 1995 and heard a radio report of the devastating Kobe earthquake in Japan. That day she started an immense painting and collage called “The Day the World Ripped Open” because, as she says, “I’m sure for those people it did.”

An oil painter who in recent years has turned to glass as a medium, Weisel has shown her work in solo shows in prestigious galleries and is the recipient of numerous awards. Her art appears in the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of American Art, the Israel Museum, the U.S. Embassy, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Archives of American Artists at the Smithsonian Institution.

“My process is about what I’m feeling most, what I respond to, and it isn’t always about my own story,” she says. “I care about what is going on in the world.”

For someone whose art is so personal and expressive, it’s hard to imagine that Weisel has ever struggled to find her artistic voice. Yet she identifies this to be her main challenge as an artist.

Drawing from Personal Experience

“I have an unusual background,” Mindy says. “I was born in 1947 in Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in a displaced persons camp, one of the first children born to Holocaust survivors after the war. Growing up as the only daughter of Holocaust survivors, I don’t think I had a clue what it meant to live my own life.”

She did know she liked her art and literature classes in high school, and decided to major in art in college. But finding her place as an artist was daunting.

“It was during the time when my kind of art, which is a very emotional, expressive, abstract expressionist painting, was not taught,” she says. “I really struggled with my professors, but despite a lot of crying and frustration, I stuck with it.”

Weisel continued her graduate studies at American University, and with the help of mentors she found there, she established her own studio by age 27 and launched her first solo painting show.

But it wasn’t until she dug deep into her own personal experiences that she found her own voice and gained recognition in the art world.

“Basically after I learned drawing and painting through all the rigorous study, I understood that you could learn all the technique in the world, but if you don’t feel it, no one else will feel it either.”

In 1978 Weisel started a series using her father’s number at Auschwitz, which was tattooed on his arm. Weisel says, “The paintings started out colorful, but I wrote his number all over them and they became blackened out, dealing not only with the destruction of beauty, but to my surprise there was light coming through the paintings—so it became the survival of beauty.”

Created long before there was a Holocaust museum, before Schindler’s List, Weisel’s paintings of 1978 were well received by art critics and laypersons alike and were shown in a traveling exhibition in museums around the country.

Mindy Weisel: Following Her Heart with Art

Working in the Moment

Yet as her art evolved, Weisel says she continued to struggle emotionally with each piece to discover what she wanted to say.

She quotes the German artist, Hans Hoffman, and the Jewish philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who both said that an artist should not have a memory.

Weisel explains, “What that means is that each time you approach your work it should be as if for the first time. So you’re not thinking, ‘How did I make this painting before?’ or ‘What color did I use?’ as that takes away from the immediate experience of making the art. For me, creating art is not premeditated at all. It’s literally surrounding myself with my materials and going right into it.”

“I really struggled a lot to find an honest voice to say what I want to say,” says Mindy. “I noticed that after I started the Transcendental Meditation technique, my TM practice has really helped me be in the moment.” Weisel continues, “It seems to me that in the last eight years, since I started meditating, that’s what’s changed. If the art is not coming, I don’t even struggle with it. I simply put myself in a place where it’s possible to make art.”

She’s also more at peace. “I was very much a Holocaust survivor’s daughter, running to stay ahead of everything, to fill up the loss,” she says. “And that running had made me very, very sick. Since meditating I can just be. I take better care of myself, I take the time to meditate, and I love the experience.”

“Art is the skillful expression of life. The artist, constantly utilizing his creative impulses, continues to draw from the reservoir of creativity present in his own being. This is how his consciousness, bathing in the fresh springs of creativity, rises to the prodigious brilliance of natural creation. Exposed to the beautiful process of unfoldment, an artist, when he opens his awareness to the fullness of pure creative intelligence within, draws together the strokes of inspiration and ultimate achievement and enjoys them in the oneness of freedom.
—Maharishi, 1975

Another dramatic shift for Weisel is that she is now using brilliant-colored glass as a medium. “This is amazing to me, because I never knew anything about glass,” she says. “I’m doing things creatively that I never ever would have imagined. I walked into this glass studio, I recognized something, I was ready to learn, and I didn’t doubt it. I can attribute this switch in materials to meditating, because it kept me open enough to try it and enough in the present to make it.”

Weisel took classes at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle to learn her new medium, and just a year and a half later, her vibrant, colorful works appeared in a solo exhibition, “Words on a Journey of Glass,” at Katzen Art Museum, American University.

Describing her experience in meditation as a deep, profound, meaningful rest that is beautiful, easy, and simple, she says, “You are in a state of being, of being in the moment, and somehow that lasts—it accumulates.”

Weisel says that this experience of awareness carries over into the process of making her art. “I’m being more present in the creative process as well,” she says. “Work doesn’t have to be so hard. Work can come from a place of flowing, of openness, of responsiveness, of hearing, of listening. You don’t have to fight so hard to get to that work.”

Somehow Weisel finds time to express herself in writing as well. The author of five books, she is currently working on her memoir, Making Marks, in which she writes about making marks of longing, of loss, of survival, of beauty.

“I think that’s what my work is about. It’s very emotional, and I’m always thrilled that somebody feels something when they look at it. You can change your mind about things but you can’t change your feelings about things. You really have to understand them. They won’t go away until you understand them.”

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 3. Reprinted with permission.)

 

BY LINDA EGENES

Students Meditating, Transcendental Meditation relieves student stressFred Travis, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. He is the author of more than 50 research papers that investigate the relation between brain wave patterns, conscious processes, states of consciousness, and meditation practice. He regularly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, gives seminars, and speaks at conferences on brain development around the world.

 

Enlightenment: A considerable amount of research is being conducted on the brain. Can you tell us why this area of research is so important?

Dr. Fred Travis: The brain is our interface with the world. We perceive the world and respond to the world based on the functioning of our brain. The brain transforms our experiences of the outer world so that our consciousness can understand it, and it transforms our conscious impulses so we can respond to the world around us.

A healthy brain, functioning without the restrictions caused by stress, is especially important. Probably the most important characteristic of a healthy brain is adaptability because the world is constantly changing and the brain has to change with the moment-by-moment demands of the environment around us. When we are restricted by stress, fatigue, and other negative factors, then the brain is less adaptable, and we become handicapped in how we process and respond to our world.

Developing the Total BrainResearch demonstrates how alcohol, drugs, stress, poverty, and sleep deprivation change the brain so that it has a diminished ability to reflect, remember, and process. Everything we do has an impact on the brain and will physically change it.

Enlightenment: What does research reveal about the effect of the Transcendental Meditation technique in helping the brain recover from stress?

Dr. Travis: When a person is under stress, the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and executive functions, is less involved in activity. It’s as if it goes “offline.”

The Transcendental Meditation technique has the exact opposite effect on the brain. Neuroimaging studies show increased activity in the frontal area of the brain during Transcendental Meditation practice, as compared to just sitting in eyes-closed rest. In addition to increased activity in the frontal areas, we also see increased activity in the back of the brain—the parietal areas. These two parts of the brain are part of the attentional circuit.

Repeated experience changes the brain, and what we are doing every time we practice the Transcendental Meditation technique is strengthening our attentional circuits. If we want to build up our shoulder muscles, then we do specific exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles and then use those muscles, for example, to carry our groceries home. Similarly, the Transcendental Meditation technique strengthens the attentional circuits so that when we need broad comprehension it will be there—even when we are under stress—because these frontal circuits are stronger than before.

Also, the unique experience of restful alertness during Transcendental Meditation practice gives rest to the core of the brain, the thalamus. The thalamus is like a switchboard: all sensory information comes into the thalamus and then goes to the brain. With the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the switchboard of sensory experience becomes more rested.

Dr. Fred TravisEnlightenment: Can you talk about your research study at American University, in which the students experienced such deep rest through TM practice that they were able to function better even under the pressure of exams?

Dr. Travis: College today is a time of incredible stress. Many students self-medicate to cope with stress. Almost half of college students binge-drink, and 20% use non-prescribed drugs. According to research, 80% of college students report being fatigued on a regular basis.

In our randomized controlled research study, published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, we asked: how are students’ brains functioning before they start the TM technique and how are they functioning after they’ve been practicing the TM technique for three months. The three-month measurement was taken right before spring semester exams—probably the most stressful time of the year. During final exams, students typically stay up late for several days, eating bad food, getting no exercise, and feeling acute anxiety. Any one of these factors by itself is known to decrease the integrated functioning of the brain.

We found that students who did not practice the TM technique experienced a decline in brain functioning, alertness, and ability over the three-month period in which the study was conducted. In contrast, the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique by students buffered the effects of the high-stress college lifestyle. Meditating students were less tired and fatigued; they recovered from stressful stimuli better and showed increased scores on the Brain Integration Scale, which is correlated with emotional stability, higher moral reasoning, and decreased anxiety.

The Brain Integration Scale measures whether the brain is functioning as an integrated whole or as isolated parts. Not only was the stress of finals week not affecting the meditating students, but they were actually functioning at a higher level than before they learned the TM technique. Transcending through Transcendental Meditation practice fundamentally changes brain functioning so that students are able to live life more effectively and successfully, without suffering from the deleterious effects of stress. It allows students to live life in a state of evenness and wholeness rather than in anxiety and stress.

Enlightenment: Does the TM technique work with people who have learning challenges such as ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Dr. Travis: Yes, we found that the TM technique had a positive effect on children diagnosed with ADHD in a 2011 study published in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. Sarina Grosswald and Dr. William Stixrud were coauthors on this research. In this study, 18 children aged 10-14 years, who attended a special private school for learning disorders, were randomly assigned to either learn the TM technique immediately or to continue their normal academic activities and learn after three months.

Three months of TM practice significantly affected brain functioning and performance on a test of letter fluency. ADHD is marked by a pattern of brain waves in which there is high theta (4-8 Hz) EEG activity. The brain naturally generates theta activity to block out irrelevant information during any task, for instance, during memory tasks. Children with ADHD have higher levels of theta activity than normal, which has the effect of blocking out relevant as well as irrelevant activity. If you call their name, they do not respond because they don’t hear it.

Also, children with ADHD have too little of a second frequency, called beta activity, which is involved in thinking and executive functioning. A child with ADHD has too much theta and too little beta. Their brain is blocking things out, and it’s hard for them to focus. The ratio of theta to beta activity (dividing one by the other) is used to quantify the severity of ADHD symptoms.

At pretest, the theta/beta ratios of all of the students were three times above the normal range. Three months later, the theta/beta ratio of the TM group moved closer to the normal range. And after six months of practice, the TM group was at the upper end of normal brain functioning.

In just six months, the brain functioning of the meditating students had moved from being solidly within clinical ADHD symptoms to just within normal brain functioning. What that means in practical terms is that they will be able to start self-regulating both physical and mental impulses. So, for example, they’ll be able to remember to raise their hand before speaking.

We also looked at a second EEG measure, called coherence, which reflects how the different parts of the brain are working together. From the baseline to six-month posttest, we saw significant increases in coherence in all parts of the brain in four frequency bands: theta (focused inner attention), alpha (sense of self), beta (processing), and gamma (focused outer attention). Higher coherence in all frequencies implies that the parts of the brain involved in these different processes were coordinated together—the children could regulate their behavior. The brain is ceasing to function as isolated modules and is beginning to function more as a whole.

Greater integration of brain functioning was reflected in their cognitive functioning. The TM group also improved in letter fluency, which measures the ability of the frontal lobes to generate many new ideas.

Consciousness, and Cognition

Our brain is constantly changing; 70% of synaptic connections change each day. The brain is a river, not a rock.

Enlightenment: Thank you for discussing the latest TM research on the brain. Is there anything else that we should know about how the brain functions to help us live a more successful, stress-free life?

Dr. Travis: All of your readers should know that every experience changes the brain. Research shows that 70% of brain connections change every single day. This is called neuroplasticity.

On the cellular level, when two neurons fire together they get wired together. When two neurons fire, proteins in the cells support growth of more input and output fibers, the axons get larger in diameter, and the two cells become primed to fire again, which is called long-term potentiation.

If 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.

It’s a constant cortical dance. Our brain is a river and not a rock. Every time you experience something in your life, it creates a pattern of activation over the brain that gives us experience. At the same time, it’s leaving its mark in the connections between neurons. Maharishi has said that what we put our attention on grows stronger in our life. This is happening on the material level of brain connections.

For instance, in violin players, because the left hand is responsible for playing the notes, the part of the brain that corresponds to the left hand is more complex than the part of the brain that corresponds to the right hand, which is holding the bow. Another study looked at expert taxicab drivers in London and found bigger brain structures underlying the thinking processes that generated routes, identified landmarks, and determined how to change a route when road construction blocked the highway.

If 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.

But—and this is the take-home point—if 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.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment MagazineIssue number 4. Reprinted with permission.)

UnknownI was listening to an NPR interview of a woman writer explaining how she keeps her muse happy by talking to it. After a while I realized the woman being interviewed was Eat Pray Love’s author Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I consider to be a writer’s writer, one of my favorites because she crafts her words so beautifully.

I loved this notion, that you need to talk nicely to your muse or it might not treat you so nice in return. In the interview Gilbert (or should I call her “Liz” as she referred to herself in the interview?) explains how she talks to a book if she’s going to be away from a project a while. “I talk to it every day,” she says. “I say, ‘Listen, in April I will be with you. I want you to stay. Don’t let me wake up and read in the New York Times that someone else wrote you.’”

This is another idea I resonate with—that ideas are there to catch, and if you’re open you can catch them and run. But if you don’t act on them, but let them wither in the dust, they might just pick themselves up and turn to another, more alert writer.

These are all reasons for a professional writer like me to sit down at my computer and write every day, to treat my job with respect, to keep slogging through the dry spells as well as flying with the highs. Because you never know when your muse is going to give you a perfect ending to your story, or a great idea.

It’s also a reason to cultivate your mind to catch the big ideas, to be open to your muse, as filmmaker David Lynch says in his book, Catching the Big Fish. For me, the most effective way I know to heighten my receptivity to the cauldron of creative ideas that bubble up from within, is to experience the silence of my own mind through daily meditation. Lynch, too, recommends Transcendental Meditation—it’s such an important part of his creative life that he’s never skipped it for 40 years.

And I guess that’s a different way to look at your muse—as a part of yourself that needs to be nourished and cared for. As my mentor Kristi Holl writes in Writer’s First Aid, when you’re a writer, your own mind and body are your tools. So you need to take care of yourself. And you know how to do that—eat well, sleep well and stay fit—to keep your creative mind at its peak.

So either way—whether you believe your muse is outside you or inside you—this Valentine’s Day, give your muse a hug.

Listen to NPR’s Radiolab interview of Elizabeth Gilbert and Oliver Sachs, Me, Myself, and Muse, here. The Elizabeth Gilbert part starts about two minutes in. 

Listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius here.

AHA-2I’ll never forget Maggie, one of the first women I taught to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. As a young TM teacher in the 1970s, I was feeling less stressed and happier with daily meditation, yet the dramatic improvements in other people sometimes startled me. Maggie tearfully told me in the interview before instruction that she suffered from such high blood pressure that her life was in danger, and she was so nervous and restless she could barely sit still. Her husband had recommended that she start TM, since research indicated it could lower stress. Within one month of practice, her face looked completely different. All smiles, she told me that her doctor had already reduced her medication. Better yet, the stress reduction she experienced as a result of meditating was helping her emotionally, socially and on the job—a positive effect that went far beyond what medication could provide.

Since the 1970s, hypertension has become a prominent women’s issue, especially as we age. By the time you are 60, half of the women your age will have hypertension, and by age 75, hypertension will affect 80 percent of your female peers. In fact, hypertension is the most common condition for which women seek medical treatment, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

While hypertension can be effectively treated with medication, many women today are reluctant to take pharmaceuticals due to the harmful side effects. Other women, like Maggie, are looking for lifestyle changes that will reduce the stress that is the cause of hypertension in the first place.

Luckily, doctors are now recommending a way to treat hypertension that is effective in reducing stress and at the same time is free of harmful side effects. On April 22, 2013, the American Heart Association released a statement recommending that doctors adopt the Transcendental Meditation technique for the prevention and treatment for hypertension, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

The purpose of the report originally published in the journal Hypertension, entitled “Beyond Medications and Diet — Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association,” is to inform physicians which alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure have been shown by research to be effective.

After considering meta-analyses and the latest clinical trials on different types of meditation, the report stated that while Transcendental Meditation is recommended to lower BP, there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend other meditation or relaxation techniques.

Robert-Schneider“This is an important breakthrough in the evolution of medical practice, since it is the first time that the Transcendental Meditation technique has been recognized and recommended for consideration by a national medical organization that provides professional practice guidelines to physicians, health care payers, and policymakers,” said Robert Schneider, MD, FACC, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention who has been the principal investigator for several research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique and cardiovascular disease. “This type of guideline statement has been what health insurance companies have been requesting for many years.”

Part of the impetus for this statement from the AHA came from the patients themselves, who are sometimes reluctant to take medication. “A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ said Robert Brook, M.D., chair of the expert panel that authored the report. “We wanted to provide some direction.”

The report also recognized that Transcendental Meditation is generally considered safe and without harmful side effects. As an additional advantage, the statement noted that many of the reviewed alternative therapies, such as meditation, may provide a range of health or psychological benefits beyond BP lowering or cardiovascular risk reduction.

For example, recent research funded by the NIH shows that African-Americans who regularly practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique lowered their risk of death, heart attack and stroke by 48%. That’s an amazing statistic—a result far greater than what any medication can provide. And, as Maggie found, regular practice of the TM technique can improve many other areas of your life as well.

Linda Egenes is a health writer, blogger and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for the Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, July 1 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

James Meredith is not your typical classical musician. For one thing, he’s had a multifaceted career. As an accompanist he is a musical partner with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and dramatic soprano Olivia Strapp.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 10.45.35 AMHe is the founding director of the celebrated Sonos Handbell Ensemble, which has brought audiences to their feet twice on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” show; given sold-out performances in multiple tours of the U.S., Asia, and Europe; and is widely acclaimed by music critics as the top handbell ensemble in the nation.

He dons a third hat when he creates arrangements and original compositions for the group—all while maintaining a roster of piano and vocal students, 10 of them gifted students from the Young Musicians program at UC Berkeley, where he is a faculty member.

Being accomplished in so many areas is not the only unusual thing about him. He is famous for handling the pressure of performance with grace, humility, and ease.

Meredith says his secret is, ironically, the hours that he spends away from his music, closing his eyes to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“Being a concert musician touring and performing is highly stressful,” acknowledges Meredith. “Just to be able to get some rest when going through those stressful experiences was the first benefit I noticed after I started the Transcendental Meditation technique as a young musician. And now my colleagues notice that after years of performing, they are tired, while I’m still going strong. I can’t imagine having the career I’m having without it.”

Searching for Transcendence

While talking to Jim in his cozy Oakland home, I get the feeling that his life is composed of many moments of being in the right place at the right time.

As luck would have it, his Greenville, North Carolina grade school was located in a college town and near the hall where the state orchestra performed, so he heard many concerts and had lessons from master musicians as part of his early education.

He recalls his first performance experience as a class when his fourth-grade music teacher rolled a piano into the room and asked someone to volunteer to sing a solo stanza. “I raised my hand, and it was one of those thrillingly exciting yet petrifying moments,” he says. “I sat down and immediately wanted to do it again.”

Meredith started playing clarinet that same year, and inspired by a seventh-grade school friend, soon was teaching himself piano. Noting his gifts, his parents eventually agreed to pay for piano lessons and, lucky again, he was able to study with a gifted teacher who was a graduate of the music conservatory in Riga, Latvia.

In college, he majored in piano at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and took his master’s in piano at Tulane University, both on scholarships.

It was during his undergraduate recital at Chapel Hill that he had his first transcendental experience. “Everybody in music seeks for those experiences that are transcendent, when you are out of your limitations, when you’re completely in the moment,” he says. “I remember sitting at the piano to play the fiendishly difficult second movement of Alberto Ginastera’s ‘Sonata for Piano’ and thinking ‘Oh God,’ and somewhere between those two words I performed the entire piece.”

After graduation in 1969 he was drafted and found himself playing the clarinet in an army band in Germany. As luck would have it, a fellow piano player mentioned that he did something called Transcendental Meditation.

It wasn’t long before Jim was instructed in the TM®technique. He noticed that he not only had more energy for performance, but he was able to understand the music at a deeper level.

“Musicians have to constantly be digging deeper and deeper into the music,” he says. “With great composers, there is something in their music that transcends everyday life, and that’s why we listen to it today. Practicing meditation helped me to find more of that universal experience in the music and bring it out when I play.”

Drawn to the transcendental experience, Meredith became a teacher of the TM technique and taught full-time in Birmingham, Heidelberg (Germany), New Orleans, and Berkeley for 10 years.

“I still performed some, and I always knew my music profession was on the back burner,” he said. But with a musician’s skill in timing, he wanted to wait until the desire “bubbled up more and more.”

It wasn’t until 1983 that Meredith decided to return to music as a full-time profession, teaching private students and master classes at universities, performing as a solo pianist and accompanist, conducting the Oakland Symphony Chorus, and becoming chorus master of the Festival Opera. His work has taken him to Europe and Asia, and has brought him into contact with such artists as Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century.

A Gift for Synchrony

Then in 1990, he became the founding artistic director of the Sonos Handbell Ensemble. “I knew from the start that I wanted it to be professional musicians playing classical music, with the tours and performances handled professionally,” he said.

Sonos Handbell Ensemble

Playing the beautiful, flowing music of handbells is an exercise in synchronicity. Using over 56 bells, the twelve musicians of Sonos Handbell Ensemble have to create the sound of one instrument. As Meredith says, “Instead of one pianist with ten fingers sitting at the piano, it’s as if you had ten pianists, each playing only one finger at a time, trying to play a Bach fugue.”

Such syncronicity requires intense rehearsal. “It’s a collective effort. There’s a lot more group rehearsal than with other ensembles,” notes Meredith. “You have to coalesce as a group. The individual ego has to get out of the way.”

Jim is known in the profession as someone who doesn’t allow his ego to get in the way. Instead, he bends and flows with the harmonies around him.

“Particularly while accompanying a vocalist, you have to anticipate what is going wrong,” he says. “You have to be in total synchrony with that person. There are many performances where a performer has skipped a bar or jumped from the first to the second line. Often times it’s not even conscious on my part, but just a split second before they skip that bar, I feel that they’re going to go there, so I move with them. And it happens so automatically, so spontaneously, no one knows that it happened.”

Meredith says that later, the singer might ask, ‘Did we skip a bar?’ and in Meredith’s unassuming style, he’ll say, “I think so. It happened so automatically, I’m not really sure.”

It is this humility and skill that endears him to his fellow musicians. “I cannot assemble enough kudos to do justice to our beloved Jim,” says the world-famous mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

“He has a heart as big as California, great talent and a generosity of spirit and caring that shines light on everyone that knows him. He has truly mastered the art of making music and, more importantly, sharing it with everyone he knows. His enthusiasm and humor enrich every situation on and off stage.”

Intuition and Creativity

Growth in intuition is something Meredith attributes to his years of Transcendental Meditation practice. He also feels it has opened up his creativity, making it possible to compose music.

“I was never trained in composing—I never felt I could compose a fugue like Bach or a sonata like Beethoven,” he says. “But after I started Sonos, the handbell ensemble, it was obvious that the kind of music I wanted to perform had not yet been created. Then we were asked to perform a contemporary piece at an important concert in Spokane, and I felt we had to jolt the handbell world out of its safe style. We didn’t have the money to pay anyone to compose a piece, so I said I’d write it. I can only attribute the courage and desire to do that to all these years of meditating.”

Since then Meredith has become a published composer, riveting audiences with his handbell pieces performed by the Sonos Handbell Ensemble internationally and on several DVDs. He also arranges most of the music the group performs.

Sonos Handbell Ensemble

Meredith notices that his intuition functions in a similar way in both teaching and composing. “I find the experience of having the right response to a student come increasingly more from intuitive levels,” he says. “In the same way, I used to have to consciously think about how to approach a problem in composition, and over the years the right approach seems to come more spontaneously. It surprises me sometimes and I often ask of myself, ‘Where did that come from?’”

He finds this ability to be comforting. “I remember composing a work that went very smoothly until the end. I was just not sure how to end the piece. It had to be right or it would negate all that was good before it. After a few days the solution just popped up. I look back at it now and I can’t remember how it happened. It’s as if ‘I’ didn’t do it.”

Noting that it is through repeated experience in meditation that one gets one acquainted with these more subtle levels, Meredith says with typical humility, “I have not had many memorable experiences in meditation, but the results in activity have become welcome friends.”

Giving Back to the Community

It’s late afternoon when we finish our interview and Alisa knocks on Jim’s door. A tall girl for just 13, she’s part of the Young Musicians Program, which gives gifted high school and elementary school children whose families could never afford it the opportunity to study with professional musicians in the San Francisco Bay area. For 15 years Meredith has taught, coached, and accompanied vocal students with remarkable results—all have attended top music colleges and conservatories, many on scholarships.

“You seem quiet today,” Meredith says. She nods and says she is tired. Like every good teacher, he notices things about his students. Then he sits down at his Mason & Hamlin, a grand piano sitting beside a Bechstein grand that he once hauled across the country in a trailer along with a collection of potted plants, and starts to play scales while Alisa sings. After warm-ups, he reads a summary of Clair de Lune, a French love-song by Gabriel Fauré, and starts to play.

Alisa opens her mouth and sings like a lark. It’s astonishing to hear such sophisticated music coming from a thirteen-year-old.

As the lesson progresses to an Italian song by Rossini, Meredith asks her to assess her own singing. She says her voice is not as clear today, and he reminds her of certain breathing techniques, explaining how a performance musician would address a problem like that. When he asks her what some of the French words mean so she can create the proper feeling she’s right there with him.

At one point he stops to talk to her. “You’re talented. You can move people with your voice. You must know this. And how does that make you feel?” he asks.

“Good,” the girl says and smiles. She’s quiet and shy. Yet there is no doubt that at 13 she is already, thanks to Meredith, thinking of herself as a pro.

You can listen to the music of Sonos Handbell Ensemble, conducted by James Meredith, at http://sonos.org/

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 9. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

IMG_0136As Valentine’s Day rolls around, we naturally get involved in matters of the heart. Yet when it comes to strengthening the emotional heart the rest of the year, many of us haven’t a clue.

Maharishi Ayurveda offers a unique view of the emotional heart. Just as there is a digestive fire in the stomach that metabolizes food, there is a similar function that metabolizes emotions. When this metabolic function, known as Sadhaka Pitta, is set too high, it can cause explosive emotions and irrational behavior. When it’s set too low, the person takes a long time to process negative emotions, making it impossible to let go and move on.

The secret to emotional health, then, is to balance the metabolic functions of the heart so you can relate to those around you in a loving, calm, and positive way. And because the emotions affect the body, balancing emotional stress is essential for keeping the physical heart healthy, too.

Here are ten ways to reduce emotional stress the ayurvedic way.

1. When you feel emotionally stirred up, drink a cup of rose petal herbal tea with milk.Roses have long been used to alleviate depression, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. Milk also has a soothing effect on the emotions, but it’s easier to digest if you heat it to the boiling point first. Add cooling flavor with a pinch of cardamom or a teaspoon of rose petal jam, and let the milk cool before drinking.

2. Eat foods that are especially nourishing to the heart, including mature pomegranate fruit or juice; asparagus; sweet, juicy, seasonal fruits; rose petal jam; sweet yogurt drinks (lassi); avocado; and leafy greens. In general, eat more sweet, bitter, and astringent foods. Rather than eating a lot of seafood or red meat (which increase heat in the body), meet some of your protein requirements with soups made of small legumes, such as lentils or split mung beans.

3. Avoid excessively spicy and acidic foods such as chilies and tomatoes. Use cooling spices to flavor your food, like the Heart Healthy Spice Mixture:

  • 1 part ground turmeric
  • 2 parts ground cumin
  • 3 parts ground coriander
  • 4 parts ground fennel

Mix the spices and store airtight. When it is time to cook the meal, steam the vegetables. Melt a small amount of ghee in the pan and add enough spices to flavor the amount of vegetables you are cooking. Sauté the spices until the flavor is released. Add the vegetables, sauté lightly, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Both the weather and the foods you eat can quickly cause an imbalance in your physiology. When it’s hot outside, eat sweet, cooling foods.

4. Exercise every day. This helps keep digestion and elimination regular, cleanses toxins from the body, and releases endorphins, the hormones that are associated with a happy mood. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, it’s better to schedule half an hour of exercise every day rather than overdoing it three times a week. You can vary the intensity and type of exercise depending on your body type and strength. For people who are of slight build and tend to have trouble gaining weight, it’s better to start with gentle exercise such as yoga or walking. For people who are more competitive, team sports will be more appealing. And those with a sturdier build may need to increase the speed and intensity in order to stimulate their slower metabolism and stay in balance.

5. No matter what your body type, avoid overexertion of all kinds—both mental and physical. Working too hard, either physically or mentally, can cause the emotions to go out of balance. Plan leisure time every day, time for pure enjoyment. Listen to music, chat with your friends, take a moonlight stroll. Taking the time to appreciate the tranquil beauty of nature calms the heart.

6. Avoid skipping or delaying meals. This is so important for people who have a high digestive fire and may suddenly feel emotional when they are hungry. One of the best ways to avoid squabbles among the kids on family outings is to simply plan to eat regular meals. Schedule your main meal at noon, when your digestive fire is at its brightest and can metabolize food more efficiently.

7. Massage yourself every day with a cooling oil such as coconut oil. Ayurvedic oil massage releases toxins, improves blood circulation, and can help restore balance to body and mind.

8. Create a home environment that is pleasing and restful to the senses. Avoid watching too much TV at night, especially violent movies or shows. Rose aroma oil creates a soothing atmosphere and a cooling effect on the emotions.

9. Get your rest. Research shows that stress levels (and heart disease) soars among people who habitually stay up late. The body’s metabolic functions naturally shut down around 10 p.m.—so if you stay up and snack it disturbs the heart’s need to rest, recuperate, and cleanse. Try sleeping early two nights in a row and you’ll not only rest deeper, you’ll feel more emotionally balanced, too.

10. Nourish your emotional heart. Make it a point to tell your loved ones  why they are special to you. Practice gratitude and respect with your family and it will soon become a habit, generating the positive hormones and neuro-chemical reactions that create health instead of disease. Remember, your heart health depends more on the feelings you project rather than the feelings you receive.

And remember to take care of your physical heart, too. After all, it’s hard to overflow with love if you are ill. And to protect your heart, make sure your cholesterol levels are healthy, with a proper balance of good and bad cholesterol. February is National Heart Month—a reminder to schedule a checkup. You owe it to yourself and the people you love.

(I originally wrote this article for The Iowa Source, February 2010. Reprinted with permission.)

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