BY LINDA EGENES

Maharishi Institute of South AfricaWhen apartheid ended in 1991, people all over the world rejoiced as South Africa stepped into an era of equality and progress. Yet nearly twenty years later, the majority of South Africans are still living in high-density shack communities and squatter camps, many without running water or electricity. Three out of four youth are unemployed, spending their days roaming the streets of the townships without hope of a higher education or a job.

One bright light is the Maharishi Invincible Institute (MII) in Johannesburg, which serves students who normally would not receive a higher education. Every student is instructed in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-SidhiSM program  as part of the curriculum, and every student receives free access to a university education.

Taddy Blecher speaks at Maharishi Institute of South AfricaDr. Taddy Blecher, Dr. Richard Peycha, and Dr. John de Jager are the founders of Maharishi Institute, an umbrella organization that runs the school. These three visionaries have spent their lives teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique to disadvantaged youth in South Africa, and have pioneered the free post-secondary education movement through the free universities that they’ve established.

“In 95 percent of the cases, our students are the first in their family to attend college,” says Dr. Blecher, who was a 2005 World Economic Forum “Young Global Leader of the World” recipient. He was also named a Skoll Global Social Entrepreneur, winning a $1 million prize for his university.

The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Through MII and earlier universities the three founded, students who otherwise would have remained in hopeless poverty have gained new skills and found jobs. More than 5,500 graduates are earning a combined $32 million per year, much of which goes back to disadvantaged communities and families. Hundreds of graduates now work in the banking industry, and over 2,000 graduates work in the IT sector as programmers and network engineers. Others work in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in the government, or have started their own companies.

“It’s literally night and day what happens in their lives and the lives of their families after they receive a Consciousness-Based education,” says Dr. Blecher.  “Our graduates can earn enough money in two years to buy and build a house with water and electricity, and over time can support their extended families. It’s a source of tremendous pride for someone with no hope for the future to become someone who is highly respected in their community.”

 Maharishi Institute of South Africa - Khayelitsha Township Cape TownA Foundation in Consciousness

Started in 2007, MII has 450 students and offers certificates in business in partnership with Regenesys University, the top business school in the country. It recently added an undergraduate degree in business by Maharishi University of Management, with the first class graduating in June 2013.

Before students begin a degree or certificate program, they take a minimum of four months in foundational courses, including math, computer skills, and the Transcendental Meditation technique. This allows them to make up for gaps in their education and to develop their ability to concentrate and solve problems.

“Our students are successful because of the support programs we offer,” says Dr. Blecher’s wife, Annie, who is the director of marketing and fundraising. The dynamic couple met when Annie joined Maharishi Institute in 2008 as part of her graduate work at Maharishi University of Management.

“A textbook is a textbook, but it’s the Consciousness-Based education, the mentorship, and the loving environment that is different from any other university in South Africa,” she says.

At MII, students not only receive zero-interest study loans (bursaries) to cover tuition, they receive free instruction in the TM and TM-Sidhi program, a daily lunch, free clothing, and leadership training weekends at the University’s sister school in Ezemvelo Nature Reserve.

“We work with students who suffer from such low levels of self-esteem and high levels of self-loathing, hopelessness, depression, anger, and fear,” says Dr. Blecher. “This Consciousness-Based educational system not only develops a student’s full potential, but transforms each student from poverty and hopelessness to affluence, intelligence, and high levels of competence.”

Although the school days are long and the students work hard, they are enthusiastic. “I love the education system because it’s all about Consciousness-Based education, says student Thabang Msomi. “I don’t feel a lot of pressure because everything is simple. ”

Maharishi Invincible Institute positive change in South Africa

A Sustainable Future

The school building, which is large enough for 2,000 students to attend in shifts, was donated by Anglo American, the largest mining company in South Africa. While the school still depends on generous grants and donations from the Kellogg Foundation and others, it was founded on a unique vision to become self-supporting. As part of their day, the students who have graduated from their foundation work in the Invincible Outsourcing call center on the university campus or in a university staff position.

“The money they receive in this ‘Learn and Earn’ program goes toward paying back their student loan or to support another student in a pay-it-forward plan,” says Dr. Blecher.

The advantages of this program are many. Not only do the students gain valuable work experience while they study—improving their job prospects—but they grow in self-confidence and pride by supporting themselves and others.

“I feel very special getting a business degree which will enable me to apply all the skills and knowledge to bring positive change in South Africa and the economy,” says Mamiki Motaung, a third-year student.

With the work-study model, the school is on track to become self-supporting in another year. “We’re trying to create the first self-funding university in the world where the students don’t pay any money, the government doesn’t pay any money, and the students earn money and pay their own fees while going to school,” Annie explains.

“And because MI has its own self-funding mechanism, we will be able to realize Maharishi’s vision to replicate the school in every province in South Africa and every country in the continent.”

Outreach to the Townships

Another unique aspect of the school is its outreach program. On holidays and weekends, the students return to their own high school to teach short courses in financial literacy, math, computer skills, and healthy living (HIV and AIDS prevention).

“The students at Maharishi Institute of South Africa become tremendous role models,” Dr. Blecher says. “They can say, ‘I came from this exact high school where you are sitting, and if you study hard you, too, can go to college.’”

The Blechers seem to have boundless energy, spending fourteen-hour days on campus. Twice a day they replenish themselves by joining the students in a large group for the TM and TM-Sidhi program. And they gain tremendous energy and fulfillment from their work.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous how these programs can take entire families out of poverty in one generation,” says Dr. Blecher. “That’s the reason I get up every morning and feel a rush of excitement, because we have a methodology that works. There’s nothing more fulfilling that we could be doing with our lives.”

Linda Egenes is co-editor of Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation® Magazine. She is the author of five books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 12. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Slow the Aging Process - Alarik Arenander, Ph.D., is Director of the Brain Research InstituteAlarik Arenander, Ph.D., is Director of the Brain Research Institute and an expert in the neurobiology of brain development and mind-body health. He has conducted pioneering research at the University of California at Los Angeles, Penn State University at Hershey, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Maharishi University of Management in Iowa. Here Enlightenment asks him to share his knowledge about brain physiology and how to keep our brains healthy as we age.

Enlightenment: Is there a relationship between stress and aging?

Dr. Alarik Arenander: Yes. Stress is a major source of disorder in brain functioning. In particular, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is very sensitive to stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and substance abuse—all of which severely reduce its ability to function properly. Stress and fatigue cause the prefrontal cortex to go “offline.”

This is important because the prefrontal cortex is considered the “CEO” of the brain. It regulates judgment, planning, problem solving, decision making, moral reasoning, and sense of self—really important functions! And guess what? Research reveals that this key orchestrator of brain function increasingly goes offline with age, especially in people with Alzheimer’s.

So, yes, stress is a factor in aging and definitely impacts in a negative way the brain’s main control unit, the prefrontal cortex. And as we know, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to reduce stress better than any other stress-reduction technique available, in part by creating remarkably high levels of brain coherence in this region and across the whole brain.

Enlightenment: How would you define aging, and when does it start?

Dr. Alarik Arenander: Aging is a progressive disconnect or loss of order within the body and mind. What people don’t realize is that the key markers for aging start as early as the third decade of life. By the time a person in their 60s or 70s approaches their doctor to discuss a concern about memory and thinking, the underlying aging process may have already been going on for 40 or 50 years.

So aging is a process that starts even in 20- or 30-year-olds, that accumulates with time, and morphs into disorders of the body, mind, and behavior.

Enlightenment: Are there known causes of dementia or Alzheimer’s?

Dr. Arenander: Age is the biggest risk factor or determinant for dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type of dementia. By the time a person reaches 80 years of age, they have a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This is not a good outlook.

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s

Other risk factors include genetics, the quality of education, their work environment, diet, chronic disease, environmental toxins, and substance abuse. And let’s not forget how many times you’ve hit your head. Brain trauma is an important cause of Alzheimer’s later in life. That’s why it is so important to wear a helmet when you ride your bicycle. You only get one brain, and all these risk factors add up to build a case for or against whether you get dementia or Alzheimer’s.

One important note here is that with the exception of age, most known risk factors are things we actually have control over. In fact, it’s possible to be 80, 90, or even 100 years of age, and to function as well as a college student. Research suggests that the brains of these highly functional elderly people are more orderly than less functional elderly individuals. The famous Alzheimer’s study of nuns documented that those with more complex cognitive functioning, or orderliness, early in their life had a better quality of life later on.

As we age, we need to create more order in the brain. Order refers to the intelligent flow of information. You could think of disorder as “noise” in the brain, and order as the “signal” in the brain. So, when the ratio of signal-to-noise decreases as a part of the aging process, thinking can become confused and memory fails. So we want to strengthen the signal, the order, while doing what we can to reduce the noise or disorder.

Most risk factors introduce disorder into the physiology, and this is something we can try to prevent or reduce. Unfortunately, very few people introduce order into their lives in an effective way. Most people’s diet and lifestyle, for example, do not add order. In fact, they actually decrease order.

With more order in the brain system, the impact of risk factors for aging and Alzheimer’s are greatly reduced. If you have a way to instill more order in your brain, you can hold off, prevent, or even fix cognitive loss, which correlates with loss of brain functioning. That’s where the practice of the TM®technique becomes very helpful.

Enlightenment: What does science tell us are the main ways to create and maintain orderliness in the brain as we approach our 50s and 60s? Is there any research on this?

Dr. Arenander: Most research focuses on introducing various forms of orderliness into the brain physiology and the body. For example, easily walking a few miles each day can have a positive effect on brain function in aging individuals. Also, exercising our mental functions such as memory and sensory and motor activities can lead to improved performance in these specific areas. Software is available that has some good effects. Challenging cognitive activity can be helpful as well—taking on new projects, taking classes, doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, etc.

Since aging is associated with increased inflammation, foods that offer anti-inflammatory phytonutrients are an important part of an anti-aging diet. These foods include most fruits and vegetables of color. Who doesn’t like blueberries or strawberries? Most blue, purple, and red foods yield significant antioxidant activity, besides tasting good. Of course, one needs to buy them organically. Otherwise, these same foods can carry high loads of toxic agricultural chemicals.

You can also exercise your emotions by staying socially active. Higher levels of social engagement appear to have some protective effect.

Research on the TM program show decreased biological aging and extended length of life

But science would argue that the most important category is rest—that is, some means of naturally bringing about greater degrees of orderliness. With age, sleep can become shortened and fragmented. Most individuals are sleep deprived from an early age and never allow the brain to benefit from the nourishing value of a full night’s sleep. Adequate nighttime sleep is important.

Research supports the idea that even sleep is not enough. We need to experience a more concentrated and enlivening form of rest. That’s why I recommend that individuals who wish to optimize the aging process begin to meditate. Decades of research on the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique indicate that every risk factor, perhaps even the main risk factor of age itself, can be positively influenced by the practice of this simple, enjoyable meditation.

For example, the twice-daily routine of meditation can significantly lower one’s biological age. You could be 60 years old but play tennis like a 45-year-old. Research also shows that individuals who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique live longer on average and have less chronic illness—that is, they experience a longer and better quality of life than individuals who do not practice the technique.

Enlightenment: How can Transcendental Meditation practice accomplish all these benefits for the aging process?

Dr. Arenander: A key finding of brain research is that with age, the orderliness of brain functioning is progressively lost. Brain orderliness, as measured by coherence of the electrical waves in the brain, is a powerful indicator of how orderly the brain’s 100 billion cells are. When different parts of the brain start to function in better alignment, or in phase with each other, it is possible to quantify the level of integration in rhythmic, orderly wave patterns. This is called brainwave coherence, and it correlates strongly with improved mental functioning and improved aging.

Dr. Alarik Arenander Alarik Arenander Brain Research Institute Expert in the Neurobiology of brain development and mind-body health

A number of good studies have shown that meditation, specifically the TM practice, can create remarkable levels of brain wave coherence. My own research shows that brainwave coherence increases quickly when one learns this simple technique—and continues to develop in the brain even during dynamic activity. This finding is important for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, research shows that with a tool like the TM technique, we don’t have to lead a life of mental deterioration. The brain has flexibility and growth opportunities at any age. Just because we are getting older doesn’t mean we have to move in the direction of senility or dementia; the research clearly indicates that there are ways to generate more orderly functioning in the brain.

More importantly, the increase in brainwave coherence duringTM practice extends into waking activity—that is, after meditation—indicating that this form of meditation leads to profound, enduring changes in brain orderliness with regular practice. These changes support a long and healthy life.

These findings of increased brainwave coherence are consistent with hundreds of studies showing that orderliness increases in the mind, body, emotions, and behavior as a result of Transcendental Meditation practice.

For example, research on the TM program shows a reduction in most chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, such as hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and substance abuse. Studies also indicate that decreased biological aging and extended length of life result from the regular practice of the TM technique.

Finally, the research shows a reduction of risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia. These findings are all symptoms of increased orderliness in mind and body.

Seven ways to increase orderliness in brain functioning

  1. The most important category is rest. Getting a good night’s sleep is important.
  2. You can also benefit from a more concentrated and orderly form of rest. As a researcher and neuroscientist, I can say that the TM program is far and away the most effective and well-researched program for accomplishing this.
  3. Walking easily a few miles a day can have a positive effect on your brain functioning.
  4. Exercising your mind, such as memory and sensory and motor activities, can lead to improved performance in these areas.
  5. Exercise your emotions by staying socially active. Higher levels of social engagement appear to have some protective effect.
  6. Challenging cognitive activity can be helpful—take on new projects or classes, do crossword puzzles, learn a new language, etc.
  7. Take advantage of foods that offer anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. An anti-aging diet can include most fruits and vegetables of color.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment MagazineIssue number 9. Reprinted with permission.)

An Interview with Craig Pearson, Ph.D.

BY LINDA EGENES

Craig Pearson, Ph.D., is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IowaCraig Pearson, Ph.D., is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, and the author of the forthcoming book, The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness—Cultivating the Infinite Potential Within. Dr. Pearson has spent many years researching the expression of higher states of consciousness in the writings of great philosophers, saints, scientists, artists, and writers. Here Dr. Pearson speaks about humanity’s age-old quest for enlightenment.

 

Enlightenment: What is the relationship of enlightenment and human potential?

Dr. Pearson: Enlightenment is a term that has been used for thousands of years, in traditions east and west, to refer to the most fully developed expression of human potential, far beyond the ordinary.

Enlightenment: How common is it?

Dr. Pearson: Although this extraordinary experience has been described by individuals in different cultures over the millennia and is celebrated in the world’s spiritual traditions, it seems to be exceedingly rare. But obviously it lies within the realm of human potential.

Enlightenment : What has Maharishi contributed to the understanding of enlightenment?

Dr. Pearson: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is often credited with reintroducing the concept of enlightenment in a systematic manner in our modern age. He has put forward a comprehensive understanding of enlightenment that embraces the great traditions and thinkers who have described this experience across time. Maharishi was also the first to promote scientific investigation into enlightenment, bringing the phenomenon of spiritual development into the arena of modern science.

Enlightenment: How does Maharishi describe enlightenment?

Dr. Pearson: For Maharishi, enlightenment is the ultimate development of one’s inner potential as a human being. It means being established in the highest state of human consciousness.

Enlightenment begins with experiencing the reality of your innermost Self as unbounded and eternal and being established at that level. This means the consciousness of an enlightened person is no longer subject to the ups and downs of emotions, mind, and body but steadfast, anchored in inner silence.

Enlightenment brings the ultimate unfoldment of one’s creativity and intelligence. It means living in harmony with all the laws of nature and easily fulfilling your desires. It means being of maximum use to yourself and others and creating a powerfully nourishing effect in one’s environment.

At the highest stage, enlightenment means experiencing the universe as the expression of your unbounded Self. It is a state of perpetual freedom and bliss, supreme fulfillment.

Enlightenment: Can we relate this in any way to our day-to-day experience?

Dr. Pearson: Although this vision of human development may seem idealistic, we have all had experiences in this direction. Some days we just feel happier inside, more appreciative of others—life is easier, fuller, richer, and more rewarding. We may have moments of enhanced mental clarity or heightened levels of creativity, when we surprise ourselves with how quickly the solution to a problem may come. Athletes sometimes experience the zone—periods of peak performance that are effortless and euphoric.

Dr. Pearson reads an experience of higher states of consciousness by the Nobel laureate poet, writer, and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore

At these times we are using a bit more of our potential. But enlightenment is far, far more than this. It goes far beyond just having a good day. People who have had experiences of enlightenment report that words simply cannot capture the sublimity of the experience.

Enlightenment: You have researched how individuals from different historical epochs and different parts of the world have shared this same experience. Can you talk about that?

Dr. Pearson: In traditions throughout time we find remarkably similar descriptions of this extraordinary experience of human life lived to its fullest—in the writings of great philosophers, religious figures, artists, scientists, and writers, as well as in the great religious traditions of the world. The terminology may vary from tradition to tradition and age to age. But when you have the clear and precise description of enlightenment provided by Maharishi, it becomes easy to appreciate what these people are talking about.

Enlightenment: So the experience is universal?

Dr. Pearson: Yes. And the recognition that many have shared this experience throughout history is not new either. Some scholars have called it the perennial philosophy or theprimordial tradition. The perennial philosophy holds that although various spiritual and philosophical traditions appear different on the surface, at their core all traditions share common, universal principles.

Enlightenment: What are these universal principles?

Dr. Pearson: The perennial philosophy has three basic tenets: (1) Underlying the diversity of the world is a field of unity. (2) We can subjectively experience this field of unity deep within us. (3) The purpose of life is ultimately to experience and live this inner, divine reality of life.

This inner field goes by different names. Laozi called it the Tao. Plato called it the Good, the One, and the Beautiful.Aristotle called it Being. The Greek-Roman philosopher Plotinus called it the Infinite. In Judaism it is called Ein Sof, in Christianity the kingdom of heaven within. In more modern times, Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the Oversoul.

These different names are not referring to mere philosophical or spiritual ideals. They point to the inner reality of life—a reality that can be experienced directly and, when experienced, brings fulfillment beyond words.

Enlightenment: How does Maharishi talk about this inner field?

Dr. Pearson: Maharishi characterizes it as an unbounded field of pure consciousness, an all-pervading ocean of creativity, intelligence, and bliss, beyond space and time. Maharishi asserts, moreover, that this field of pure consciousness is identical with the unified field of natural law that modern physics describes mathematically. Thus the inner field that gives rise to all our thoughts and feelings is the same field that gives rise to the entire universe.

Enlightenment: And we can experience this inner field of pure consciousness?

Dr. Pearson: Every human being has the natural ability to experience this field. It simply requires “diving within,” allowing the mind to settle inward, beyond the thinking process. This is calledtranscending.

People throughout history have described and celebrated this experience. It is a simple and natural experience—but by most accounts seems to be rare and fleeting. People have lacked a technique for experiencing it systematically. This is the gift Maharishi has given us—the Transcendental Meditation technique, a simple, natural, effortless procedure by which anyone can dive within at will.

Until Maharishi started teaching in the West, the understanding of how to transcend had for the most part been lost. The Transcendental Meditation technique, which has its origin in the ancient Vedic tradition, provides direct experience of pure consciousness. It is easy to learn and practice, validated by hundreds of scientific research studies, and practiced by millions of people throughout the world.

Enlightenment: What happens in the process of transcending?

Dr. Pearson: Maharishi compares the mind to an ocean. Like the ocean, the mind is normally “wavy,” filled with perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. But like the ocean, the mind can become still, while remaining alert.

During Transcendental Meditation practice, our attention settles inward, beyond the noise of perceptions, thoughts, feelings. When this happens, consciousness is left to experience itself alone, in its pure form—silent, serene, wide awake within itself—unbounded pure awareness, the unified field. This is the true nature of consciousness, our inmost Self.

Simultaneously the body becomes deeply restful while brain functioning becomes integrated, suggesting the total brain is awake. In this deeply relaxed state, the body dissolves stress, strain, and fatigue with maximum efficiency—which is crucial, because stress is what inhibits the natural expression of our full, enlightened potential.

This experience during meditation may be fleeting at first, or so natural and subtle that one is scarcely aware of it. But in every case the mind becomes as inwardly settled as the physiology will allow.

Enlightenment: How does the experience of transcending differ from normal waking, dreaming, and sleeping?

All human beings have the natural ability to transcend, to dive within and experience the infinite sea of pure consciousness deep inside—and from there to rise to higher states of consciousness, to enlightenment, and realize their full potential.

Dr. Pearson: Waking, dreaming, and sleeping are the three states of consciousness we are all familiar with. With the very first research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique, it became clear that people were experiencing something quite different. Their bodies were deeply relaxed, and their minds were settled yet alert. Scientists recognized that this was a fourth major state of consciousness. Maharishi calls it Transcendental Consciousness and describes it as a state of restful alertness.

Enlightenment: What role does the experience of transcending play in growth to enlightenment?

Dr. Pearson: Every human being has the natural ability to experience this field. It simply requires “diving within,” allowing the mind to settle inward, beyond the thinking process. This is called transcending.

With regular, repeated experience of Transcendental Consciousness, the mind and body become accustomed to this restfully alert style of functioning—one maintains unbounded awareness, the fully expanded state of mind, at all times, along with waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The physiology is now free of stress, and brain functioning remains integrated throughout the day.

This stage of development represents a fifth state of consciousness, which Maharishi calls Cosmic Consciousness. With consciousness now fully expanded and open to the unified field, you live in accord with natural law—your actions are spontaneously life-nourishing, and you fulfill your desires without strain.

But growth of enlightenment does not stop here. Maharishi describes the full range of human development as encompassing seven distinctly different states of consciousness altogether. This model of higher human development—seven states of consciousness—is another of Maharishi’s great contributions. (See Enlightenment, Issue 6, forthcoming.)

Enlightenment: And you find experiences of these stages of higher human development described in literature throughout the world?

Dr. Pearson: Yes. With Maharishi’s framework of human development in mind, we can look back at records of human history, at the writings of saints and poets and philosophers and the texts of different religious traditions, and we recognize and more clearly understand these exalted experiences.

Enlightenment: Can you give some examples?

Lord Tennyson

Dr. Pearson: The great English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892),
seems to have had experiences of transcending, the fourth state of
consciousness, starting from boyhood and lasting throughout his life.
For example, he describes:

When I have been all alone… all at once, as it were, out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state, but the clearest, the surest of the sure … utterly beyond words…. It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder, associated with absolute clearness of mind. [1]

Hakuin Zenji

This next experience comes from Hakuin Zenji, also known as Hakuin Ekaku(1685–1769), one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. Hakuin describes a state in which the silent calm of unbounded pure consciousness (which he calls “the spirit of the Way”) is maintained at all times, even while one is involved in dynamic activity—reminding us of the fifth state of consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness:

The spirit of the Way is never to be lost even for a single moment…. What is of absolute importance, is that the two states—activity and calm … must have the pure, unmixed, complete, and whole truth in the forefront. It must be such, indeed, that so that even if one were surrounded by a thousand or ten thousand people one would be as if one were dwelling alone in a wide open space of thousands of miles…. [2]

Peace PilgrimPeace Pilgrim

One last experience I’d like to share suggests Maharishi’s final stage of human development, Unity Consciousness. This experience was described by a woman who dropped her given name and became known as Peace Pilgrim (1908–1981), devoting the last decades of her life to speaking on the need for peace, crisscrossing America on foot seven times. She wrote:

I was out walking in the early morning. All of a sudden I felt very uplifted, more uplifted than I had ever been. I remember I knew timelessness and spacelessness and lightness…. The most important part of it was not the phenomena: the important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation. Not only all human beings—I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates and binds all together and gives life to all…. [3]

I could give many more examples of such experiences of higher states of consciousness. The point is that experiences of these exalted levels of human development are natural and universal—and they can now be systematically cultivated through the technologies of consciousness Maharishi has brought to light from the ancient Vedic tradition.

Enlightenment: So Maharishi’s vision is that enlightenment doesn’t belong only to the great seers, it can be experienced by every person?

Dr. Pearson: Yes. All human beings have the natural ability to transcend, to dive within and experience the infinite sea of pure consciousness deep inside—and from there to rise to higher states of consciousness, to enlightenment, and realize their full potential. This, Maharishi emphasized, is the birthright of every human being, the destiny of everyone. And this is why he brought the Transcendental Meditation technique out of the Himalayas and made it available to everyone on earth.

Watch the video  

REFERENCES

1.  Hallam Tennyson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by his Son, Volume I (London: Macmillan, 1897), 320.

2.  The Embossed Tea Kettle: Orate Gama and Other Works of Hakuin Zenji, trans. R.D.M. Shaw (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1963), 82.

3.  Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, compiled by Friends of Peace Pilgrim (Santa Fe: Ocean Tree Books, 1983), 21–22.


You can read more about higher states of consciousness, as well Maharishi’s advanced program for enlightenment and world peace, the TM-Sidhi® program, in Dr. Pearson’s newest book, The Supreme Awakening:Experiences of Enlightenment throughout Time—and How You Can Cultivate Them.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 5. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

dreamstimefree_245507Last spring a friend told me about an inexpensive new treatment called Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems. “It feels like you’re bathing in light,” she said. Exhausted from travel and a stint of late nights caretaking my aging parents, I thought bathing in light would be just the ticket.

A warm light spread throughout my body, washing over me in waves. It was not coming from the outside, but from within me. When the treatment was over, I didn’t move for 40 minutes, sunk in a blissful state. I felt sparkly and bright inside, like a diamond.

Later that week I found myself at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda® Health Center in Fairfield, Iowa, where a practitioner showed me thirteen light beamers that looked like large silver pens. She explained that each beamer shines soft light through a different precious gem, and she would first assess which gems would create the best results for me.

Maharishi Light Therapy with GemsI closed my eyes as she tested my reactions. After a while, I felt so settled that I could barely speak. Then she said in a soft voice, “Now the treatment is ready to begin.”

She arranged the instruments in a rack above me so that many gems were shining on my body. If the diagnosis had been so peaceful, what would the treatment feel like? A warm light spread throughout my body, washing over me in waves. It was not coming from the outside, but from within me. When the treatment was over, I didn’t move for 40 minutes, sunk in a blissful state. I felt sparkly and bright inside, like a diamond.

Yet it was the long-lasting results that were more striking. It was as if the light had washed away the toxins and tiredness. Nine months later I still have more energy than before. How did this work, exactly?

The Healing Power of Gems

Rubies. Sapphires. Emeralds. The oldest and most refined members of the mineral kingdom, gems have long been used for their healing qualities. And while few of us can afford our own gem collection, Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems (MLG) is an affordable way to experience the orderly and healing qualities of precious gems.

Lexington Peace Palace

The light frequencies act as a carrier for the orderly structure of the gems. They resonate with subtle frequencies of our physiology and trigger profound self-healing and self-repair.

“MLG treatments transform the mind, body, and emotions from a state of disrepair or disorder to a more natural state of order, strength, and integrity by acting as a catalyst for self-healing mechanisms already inherent within everyone,” says Dr. Keith Wegman, a practitioner of MLG at The Raj.

He adds, ”The light frequencies act as a carrier for the orderly structure of the gems. They resonate with subtle frequencies of our physiology and trigger profound self-healing and self-repair.”

A Wide Range of Health Benefits

It seems that the results are different for each person, depending on their complaints.

Jim Fairchild, a college professor in his late sixties, had lived with constant pain in his neck ever since a car ran over him when he was three years old. Over the years he consulted chiropractors and massage therapists, but nothing worked.

Then he tried Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems. At first, Jim found that light and gem therapy treatments simply made him feel more relaxed. Then, to his surprise, he felt a profound shift in his level of pain.

“I came out of a session feeling almost no discomfort in the back of my neck,” he says. “I quietly waited for the inevitable. But the pain didn’t return. My neck isn’t perfect, but the difference is profound. The amazing thing is that during the session I didn’t feel anything extraordinary in my physiology. Yet somehow relief came to me, without my even asking.”

I came out of a session feeling almost no discomfort in the back of my neck. I quietly waited for the inevitable. But the pain didn’t return.

A woman from Montreal found relief from asthma, while Adile Esen from Turkey writes, “The feeling of nourishment and balance coupled with calmness and clarity that I experienced increasingly during and after my treatments have continued,” she says. “In addition to becoming more aware, open, and clear, I realize that even in very difficult situations that could have made me doubt and tremble, I have remained calm like the pearl at the bottom of the ocean.” Others find that their experiences both in and out of meditation become more profound and filled with light.

Mark Olson from Rhode Island said that the treatment is “remarkable and I feel much lighter, almost with a sense of transparency and expanded well-being.”

Eva Bergmann, who travels the U.S. administering MLG treatments, says, “For many people who try Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems, it is an experience they never forget. That experience allows us to remember our original state of bliss and connectedness with the whole universe. And even that memory, as Maharishi has emphasized, can have an effect—it can change a person’s life.’”

MLG practitioners Jeffery and Mary Murphy

Jeffry and Mary Murphy, practitioners of MLG
from Lexington, Kentucky

Well over 2,000 treatments in the past year have provided strong evidence of the long-term benefits of this approach, says Dr. Wegman. “Individuals have reported relief from chronic disorders, such as decreased anxiety and improved emotional stability; decreased joint, muscle, and bone problems; improved sleep; and expanded self-development,” he says.

Now a six-month research study is being conducted to quantify the long-term effects of the treatment.

Combining the Ancient with the Modern

To give a little background, this unique treatment has been developed over a period of 30 years by Dr. Joachim Roller, a German Gemologist, under the direct guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded the Transcendental Meditation technique. Dr. Roller, with his wife, Iris, started training the first practitioners in September 2008 at Maharishi European Research University in Holland.

Besides bringing a profound level of comprehensiveness and effectiveness to the treatment, Maharishi also guided Dr. Roller in the creation of larger, more powerful instruments, affectionately called “Big Beamers.” The thirteen Big Beamers contain not just one precious gem per beamer, but twelve—with a total of 145 gems to create a magnified effect.

Since I didn’t have the Big Beamer treatment, I asked Dr. Wegman to explain the difference.

“The Big Beamers are distinguished by their ability to transform any rigidity or obstruction to the flow of energy in the physiology,” he says. “The transformation is more significant than with the regular beamers.  All the frequencies in the physiology adjust to that more amplified frequency and are reorganized.”

MLG practitioner Eva Bergman

Traveling MLG practitioner Eva Bergmann:
“Maharishi has talked about the light of consciousness and how our body is a much greater miracle than we can fathom, and many experi-
ence during Maharishi light therapy with Gems that they are created of light, intelligence, warmth, and love.”

He adds, “The more powerful orderliness of the large beamers takes over any disorder, restoring balance in previously weak or compromised areas of functioning.”

Did I miss out, not having the big beamers? Dr. Wegman smiles reassuringly. “If an individual already has a good flow of energy and no physical disorders, then the regular beamers are sufficient to bring about this reorganization.”

But now I’m curious. I’ll have to try it. Like many people who now schedule regular treatments of Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems, I’m reaching for the light.

Trained practitioners offer Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems treatments daily using either small or large beamers at The Raj Maharishi Ayurvedic Health Spa in Fairfield, Iowa, and at the Maharishi Peace Palace in Lexington, Kentucky. For more information or to schedule treatments, please contact:

  • The Raj Maharishi Ayurvedic Health Spa in Fairfield, Iowa, (800) 864-8714 x5300
  • The Maharishi Peace Palace in Lexington, Kentucky, (859) 269-3803

MLG practitioners also travel with the small beamers to various TM Center locations throughout North America and to Maharishi Academies around the world.

  • For the tour schedule in the Western U.S. and in New York and New England, contact Eva Bergmann atgemlight@tm.org, call (917) 740-0878, or seewww.gemlight.dk
  • For tours in all other states, contact Jeffry and Mary Murphy at MLG@tm.org or call (859) 269-3803.

This article has been revised/updated, and reprinted with permission from The Iowa SourceMarch 2010 and Enlightenment Magazine, Issue 7. Reprinted with permission.)

Photo by Jodielee used with permission from Dreamstime.com.

BY LINDA EGENES

Last summer I had the opportunity to hear Pearl Means, the wife of the Indian activist and artist Russell Means, speak at an event sponsored by the Global Mother Divine Organization in Fairfield, Iowa. Pearl, who is carrying on the legacy her husband started, believes that matriarchy is the main difference between indigenous cultures and modern cultures.

She says that historically it is the women elders who are most respected in her Lakota nation. Even today, she says, “they are the last to speak, and when they speak, everyone else listens,” she says.

Hearing her speak about the matriarchal Lakota nation, I remembered that a few years ago when I visited the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, which has been lived in continuously for over 4,000 years, a woman tribal member told our visiting group that originally the kiva, or space for worship, was under the women’s leadership. It was only after conquest by the Spanish that the kiva became restricted to men and boys.

“We have no trouble with gender roles,” Pearl Means told us. “The men tribal members understand that they must come into harmony with the female energy, just as all humans must come into harmony with the Earth Mother.”

This hidden role of women brings a new perspective to gender balance that is perhaps old, in that indigenous cultures have long understood it. Russell Means writes in his book, If You’ve Forgotten the Names of the Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way:

The Universe, which controls all life, has a female and a male balance that is prevalent throughout our Sacred Grandmother, the Earth. This balance has to be acknowledged and become the determining factor in all of one’s decisions, be they spiritual, social, healthful, educational or economic.”

What would that look like, to maintain a greater balance between feminine and masculine values in our world as a whole? Would there be more respect for our mother earth, more balance in the economy? Recent studies have shown that as more feminine energy is brought into corporations (in the form of bringing more women into decision-making roles), the corporations prosper. Women leaders also tend to bring a more compassionate viewpoint to the discussion.

As Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects and a member of the 50×50 Leadership Circle of the Women in Public Service Project, wrote on the Women in Public Service blog this fall, “Women voices bring a different perspective to the table in the public sector. Esther Duflo’s research shows that women are more likely to invest in public infrastructure projects—like safe drinking water—and are less likely to feed into corruption than their male counterparts. For example, at the local-level, women-led village councils approved 60 percent more drinking water projects than those led by men. This correlation between women’s leadership and development outcomes is clear.”

Personally, I feel that questions of gender balance will resolve as individuals come more into balance with their innermost natures. Some people notice that after practicing the TM technique regularly for a while, they experience a better balance of masculine and feminine qualities within themselves. Women often report that because they are less stressed and more rested, their ability to nurture others has increased. At the same time they may find themselves becoming more assertive. Research shows that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to greater balance in mind, body, behavior and emotions.

And since a society is only as balanced as the individuals in it, starting with inner balance seems like a good idea.

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 20, 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

qm2According to the American Pain Foundation, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from persistent pain each year. Second only to the common cold as a cause for sick leave, it is said to be the most expensive health problem today, with costs estimated at higher than $100 billion. A hallmark of many chronic conditions, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

While pain killers might offer relief, many have been taken off the market due to harmful side effects. Worse, pain medications don’t fix the problem that caused the pain in the first place. In fact, research shows that at least half of those who suffer from chronic pain do not find relief with medication. No wonder Americans are turning in droves to alternative therapies to deal with chronic pain. Some have found relief with a treatment known as Maharishi Vedic Vibration TechnologySM (MVVT), a non-medical approach for enlivening the body’s inner intelligence to heal chronic pain and underlying chronic disorders.

Take Michael Yankaus. The surf-industry graphic designer suffered a whiplash injury when another driver didn’t notice a stop sign and rammed his car from the rear. “It caused severe headaches, and restricted neck rotation over the next 9 years, and even though I went through physical therapy and used extensive Yoga practice to help heal it, nothing really helped,” he says.

The headaches and neck pain continued until Michael signed on for three MVVT treatments (for headache, whiplash, and a frozen shoulder resulting from surfing in cold-water wetsuits over a period of years).

“During the treatment, the pain in my shoulder evaporated,” he said. “Within three weeks, my posture had changed, and I noticed a tremendous fluidity and youthfulness in my upper body.”

Soon the headaches and neck pain disappeared. Within six months, Michael’s nine-year injury ordeal was over. “I actually felt better than I did prior to the injury,” he says.

Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology -MVVT

Your Body Is a Wave Function

Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology is a healing modality from the Vedic tradition, which is described as the oldest system of knowledge in the world.

Brought to light by Maharishi in recent years, it can be thought of as both ancient and modern, because it comes from an ancient tradition yet can be understood from the perspective of modern quantum field theory. For example, in quantum field theory, all matter, including the human body, is understood to be a complex waveform, the sum total of many smaller waves or vibrations. And all fluctuations and frequencies in creation—including the human body—have their basis in one fundamental field, which physicists call the unified field.

Similarly, the Vedic tradition describes all phenomena as vibrations of an underlying field of unity. You could say that from both these perspectives, health is a state in which the waveforms that comprise the individual are in balance. Conversely, disease is an aberration in those fundamental frequencies.

This gets to the heart of the matter. The MVVT treatment uses traditional Vedic sounds to restore normal wave functioning to frequencies that are out of balance. Deep in the cultured silence of their own conscious awareness, the Vedic experts quietly whisper Vedic sounds traditionally used for a specific complaint. They then apply the vibration to the person by gently blowing on the involved area. The wave function of the imbalanced area returns to normal, and the pain or disease disappears.

With this simple technique, thousands of people have received significant and lasting relief from health problems ranging from chronic back pain to asthma to migraine headaches. The Vedic sounds awaken the body’s self-repair mechanisms, often bringing relief to the disease and its symptoms on the spot. The program has been equally effective with emotional disorders.

And because Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology alleviates chronic pain and disease by enlivening the experience of wholeness, which is at the basis of both good health and enlightenment, it offers something to healthy people as well. They can take advantage of special MVVT techniques to enhance experiences during meditation, or to create a greater sense of calm even when facing great responsibilities, thus speeding them on their spiritual path.

Preliminary Research

All of this would sound like interesting theory, except for the anecdotal evidence of thousands of people who have found relief through MVVT—and the findings of preliminary research.

The first research, a double-blind randomized controlled study conducted in Germany, Holland, and France, tested the effectiveness of a single session of MVVT in 176 individuals with peripheral arthritis, spinal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In the group receiving the MVVT technique, one third of the patients experienced 100 percent relief from pain, one third had greater than 60 percent relief, and one third reported less than 60 percent relief. In addition, more than half the patients experienced 60 percent improvement in range of motion.

These results were published in the journal Frontiers of Bioscience. Since then, researcher David Scharf, Ph.D., has collected and analyzed 30,000 patient self-reports from MVVT participants who have found relief for a wide range of chronic disorders, ranging from chronic pain to insomnia to depression. These findings indicate that patients experienced more than 45 percent relief in just three sessions for chronic disorders that had lasted an average of 14 years. Two-thirds of the patients reported from 25 to 100 percent relief, including 6 percent who reported 100 percent relief. The average improvement for all disorders was about 44 percent. These are impressive results by any standards.

Recommended by Doctors

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., a practitioner of holistic, integrative medicine and author of The Ageless Woman,regularly recommends MVVT to her patients. “With the recent discovery that common pain medications can increase heart risk, there is a real need for pain relief without toxic side effects,” says Dr. Lonsdorf. “MVVT works at a deep level of mind-body connection to relieve pain and correct the underlying imbalances that cause it. MVVT rebalances the body by strengthening its own healing ability in a natural way. In a sense it’s erasing the memory of pain.”

One of Dr. Lonsdorf’s patients complained of back pain from an accident six years earlier. She had tried surgery, medication, and physical therapy—as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage—all without relief. Then she came to The Raj Ayurveda Clinic, and Dr. Lonsdorf recommended MVVT. “By the end of her treatment, she experienced 80–90 percent relief,” says Dr. Lonsdorf. “This kind of dramatic and lasting improvement can seem miraculous, but it does happen.”

Thousands of people have reported relief not only from pain but also from a wide range of chronic diseases. One woman suffered from such debilitating allergies that she couldn’t work for several weeks each spring. Since her MVVT treatments, she is allergy-free. Another woman found that her blood pressure, which had averaged 150/90, fell to 120/80 on a daily basis.

Dr. Lonsdorf cautions that, as with any treatment, results are not the same for everyone, but as a clinician she feels that MVVT is definitely worth trying.

“Even though you can’t predict who will receive the greatest results, most participants experience a noticeable improvement in their symptoms,” she says, “and unlike surgery or medication, there are no negative side effects. When something this simple and effortless works, it’s wonderful.”

For more information on Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology (MVVT), go to www.vedicvibration.com or call 1-800-431-9680.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 6. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Transcendental Meditation Practice Offers a New Life to the Street Children of ColombiaIt’s hard to imagine a single child living on the streets. Still harder to imagine thousands of children, abandoned by their impoverished parents—unwanted, forgotten, falling prey to prostitution, drug use, and other abuses. Yet that is the reality in cities throughout Colombia, where cocaine drug trafficking has spawned social problems so deep that no ordinary person could figure out a way to help.

Fortunately, one extraordinary man, Father Gabriel Mejia, a Catholic priest who has been called the “Saint of Colombia,” reached out to the street children that others call “the disposable ones.” In 1984 in Medellín, Colombia, he opened a single home, a sanctuary where children could come for a good meal and a safe place to sleep. As word of his successful Fundacion Hogares Claret spread, the number of orphan shelters under Father Mejia’s care grew.

While Father Mejia traveled the globe raising funds for his centers, he was introduced to the Transcendental Meditation technique and began its practice in the late 1980s. He immediately recognized that this technique could empower the children who were the most powerless in the world—helping them to overcome the stress and trauma of the street and begin new lives.

Father Mejia has now incorporated the Transcendental Meditation technique into his 60 foundation homes, which are spread throughout Columbia and South America and serve 5,000 orphans and young offenders at one time.

To tell the world the story of Father Mejia and these remarkable children, David Lynch Foundation Television (DLF.TV), recently produced a documentary called Saving the Disposable Ones. Thousands of people from around the world attended the film’s openings in cities throughout Colombia. The film’s professional quality and emotionally moving story have inspired and galvanized audiences at TM® Centers and other venues throughout the U.S.

Saving the Disposable Ones is a great documentary showing the genius, love, and unbounded humanity of Father Gabriel Mejia of Colombia and how he uses his beautiful gifts to save the children,” says David Lynch.

Behind the Scenes with Father Mejia

The David Lynch Foundation’s video production team included producer Joanna Plafsky, a former owner and partner of Radiance Films, New Image Films, and Millenium Films, all of which produced and distributed many successful movies worldwide. The director was Stuart Tanner, an acclaimed producer and director of documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel and professor at Maharishi University of Management’s Media and Communications department. Together with assistant producers Amine Kouider and Cullen Thomas, they traveled through the streets of Medellín and visited several of Father Mejia’s centers to document this remarkable story.

Saving the Disposable Ones Transcendental Meditation technique offered to Children of Colombia

Saving the Disposable Ones draws a powerful contrast between the life of the children on the streets and their transformation as they begin to live at the centers and are taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, Maharishi YogaSM asanas, and the advanced TM-Sidhi® program. More than 24,000 children have received a traditional education through these centers, have graduated, and are now living productive lives.

“It was amazing to see children off the street who were hungry and lost and abused, and two years later to see those same children one-hundred percent transformed to light and joy and hope for the future,” says Plafsky.

In the film, the children themselves describe how their lives have changed as a result of practicing the TM technique. One child says, “It feels good. Your body feels relaxed. It gets rid of negativity and anger. You forgive people. I have changed a lot. I haven’t stolen again. I haven’t got into trouble.”

Another child relates, “I’m discovering what I didn’t know about myself, who I really am. I feel good here. It’s a very special experience because you feel good and happy when you meditate. It’s helped me realize that I don’t deserve that former life, that I deserve to have a job, to have a family, to get ahead in life, and to be a good person.”

Tanner says that it’s heartening to see that the children recognize the benefits they receive from practicing the TM technique. “They once felt hopeless and lost, and now they express positivity about their futures and have ambitions,” he says. “This is such a great achievement when one considers the very tough circumstances they have been through.”

Saving the Disposable OnesThe Therapy of Love

For Tanner, the highlight of directing the film was witnessing Father Mejia’s compassion as he interacted with the children at his foundation centers. “These children have lost their trust in adults completely. Yet it was quite remarkable how the responded when Father Mejia walked into a room. You could see an instant bond of trust and joy in his presence. The children would be very open with him and there was a deep level of communication.”

As the film points out, Father Mejia has learned through his work that the desire for the children to move away from their life of the streets must come from within the children themselves. Yet, he himself is part of that awakening, because he radiates pure compassion and love.

“To rebuild that trust with a child takes a man like Father Mejia, and all the other great people around him, who do such loving and wise work with the children,” says Tanner.

“Father Gabriel Mejia is a living example of what one man can do to transform millions,” says Plafsky. “He’s very connected to Maharishi and has blessed Colombia with this powerful knowledge.”

In the film, Father Mejia explains his philosophy for rehabilitating the children. “The basic therapy is love,” says Father Mejia. “Love is the imperial medicine for any illness or disorder. When a child closes his eyes and begins to meditate they open themselves to the field of all possibilities, as Maharishi says. The world opens for the child. And then the child discovers their essential nature, which is love.”

For Father Mejia, every child is precious, and no child is “disposable.”

“I’m convinced that a child is not a problem,” he says. “A child is an opportunity. A child has infinite potential. A child is like a shrine. A child is like a dance of creation. We know a child accepts help because of what we call resilience, the capacity of man to be reborn, continuously.”

A Life-Changing ExperienceA Life-Changing Experience

The filming itself was a life-changing experience. “Just being around Father Mejia was life-transforming because he is so full of love and giving,” says Plafsky. “You don’t want to leave—you feel a divine love, you feel protected and happy to be around him.”

Plafsky says that producing this film has changed her own career direction. “I realized that I wanted to be producing films about people who, like Father Mejia, are changing the world for the better.”

As Father Mejia says in the film, it is up to each of us to transform the world that we live in. “We have to leave a better world than the one we found. I believe the solution is within every person. Within each one of us there is a sanctuary. Whenever we need to we can enter it. We must globalize love.”

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

(I originally wrote this article for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 11. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Shel Pink is a lifestyle futurist and founder of the cutting-edge SpaRitual, a vegan nail, body, and lifestyle brand. Now at the forefront of the Slow Beauty movement, Shel sees the green movement transitioning towards a discussion of slow ideals in direct response to a lifestyle that has become too fast.

With a background in art, business, ecology, Ayurveda and meditation, she also participates in think-tanks and nonprofits to improve the environment. Here Shel takes time from her busy life as an entrepreneur, activist, wife, and mother of two to speak to Enlightenment.

Ecology Beauty and Consciousness with Shel Pink

 

Q: You created a cosmetics company that was vegan, organic, and good for the environment long before “eco” became a trend. What were some of the influences that contributed to that vision?

Shel Pink: My entire life I’ve been making connections and noticing socio-cultural patterns. In college I studied art history, social movements, and social trends. I saw something bubbling under.

I knew that there were more consumers, like me, who wanted healthier beauty products. I called them “enlightened consumers.” At that time they were marginalized, but I knew their voices were going to get louder. People said, “No way. This is going to be a trend but it’s going to be fleeting.” But as we’ve seen, the eco, vegan, and organic trend just got stronger and it’s affected all aspects of our lives.

Q: What is “slow beauty” and why do you feel it’s important in our stressed world?

Shel Pink: It’s about expanding your concept of beauty to include health and wellness, and embarking on a slower path to beauty. For the past 150 years the beauty industry has been product centered —and very much about external beauty and this concept of “anti-aging.”

I feel we need to open up new dialogue and stop trying to “anti” age because we’re not against ourselves—when you buy into that you’re internalizing a tyrannical approach to your beauty and your health and your wellness.

We use the Slow Beauty blog as an educational tool to engage readers to develop and sustain a personal Slow Beauty practice. Slowbeauty.com is a resource for those looking for examples of how to get off the fast track.

Q: How does meditation and consciousness fit into slow beauty?

Shel Pink. I talk about seven “Outposts” or paths to slow beauty (spa tradition, rituals, renewal, self-expression, meditation, nourished mind, and mindful consumption). Once you decide to embark on a slower path to beauty, the Outposts serve as places, spaces, and experiences to support your decision.

Transcendental Meditation is a holistic approach to beauty health and wellness

Although all Outposts are essential, meditation is an important one that people need to explore right now. I see that meditation will explode in interest in much the same way yoga did a decade ago. Research on TM shows that it slows down the aging process. It’s a more pleasurable way to approach aging, versus punitive ways such as botox and plastic surgery. It’s a more holistic approach to beauty, health, and wellness as opposed to the fragmented approach that we’ve been buying into for all these years.

Consciousness is the future. People are getting burned out, tired of checking multiple voice mails and emails and being engaged 24/7. If you’re racing, you aren’t experiencing quality of life; you aren’t really productive at the end of the day. Slow beauty is about connecting with your authentic self—about raising your consciousness and putting that out into the world.

Q: What are the most important benefits that you receive from your daily meditation?

Shel Pink: It’s reduced my stress levels. After working all day, you can feel parts of your body hold onto the stress. When I do the TM I literally can feel that part of my body relaxing and stress melting away.

I also have moments during flu season when people around me are getting sick, and I feel I have this extra protection from it. Stress compromises the immune system, but because stress is melting away with TM, I’m less prone to catching people’s colds and flu.

I think it’s increased my focus and stillness. And it’s created more awareness. We go through life being reactive to situations. I feel that meditation practice helps you be more still, so when a curve ball is thrown at you—and every day we have curve balls thrown at us—you’re less reactive. You are more thoughtful about your responses instead of being automatically reactive or emotional about it.

Q: As a mother and entrepreneur, how do you manage to fit meditation into your busy schedule?

Shel Pink: I fit it in the morning because if I don’t do it I feel 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. I’m lucky because we have a training theatre in our office and it’s soundproof. It really refreshes me and helps me get through the rest of the day.

I usually get home from work from around 4:30-5:00—although I’ll continue to work on things after kids go to bed. I try to be balanced about work and family. My husband, Ran, is a music producer, and he learned TM two years ago. And that’s been really great, to have my husband doing TM as well, because we protect each other’s meditation space on the weekends.

Ayurveda and meditation with Shel Pink

In fact, we have made meditation a part of our family philosophy. I love that we are teaching our children to be aware of the benefits of meditation at an early age.

Q: What advice can you give for someone who wants to start a business today?

Shel Pink: Do a lot of research. And I’m a big believer in concept writing. The most important thing about starting a business is to have the insight, to know what is the need—and that you’re putting something out there that is going to help solve an issue or a real need.

I’d also like to say, believe in your ideas. Sometimes people will push back. I’ve learned now that if some people say “no” or react in a very strong way, negatively—that there’s something there, that you’ve hit a nerve. So keep pushing forward with what you believe in and develop your intuition and inner voice. Listen to that even if it’s very quiet. Make it stronger and louder because that’s what’s going to guide you through all phases of starting a business.

Linda Egenes is co-editor of Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation® Magazine. She is the author of five books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 12. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

pin-hikers-By-Padraic.When spring rolls around, it’s a relief to shed winter hats, boots and coats. But for most of us, it’s not so easy to shed the extra pounds that we may have put on over the winter.

Yet spring is the perfect time to detox and lighten up. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the wet, cool weather of spring is called Kapha Season, associated with the cool, heavy, slow Kapha dosha.

If you stay sedentary and continue eating the heavier foods of winter, you could be headed for the kinds of Kapha disorders prevalent in spring — respiratory issues, allergen reactions, sluggishness, dullness of mind and weight gain.

Try this invigorating daily routine to help shed pounds and toxins in spring.

Kapha Season: 5 Ways to Lighten Up in Spring:

1.      Get Moving

One of the best ways to counter the slow, sluggish feeling of Kapha imbalance is to get moving, and then get moving faster. Research shows that aerobic activities such as swimming, running, and hiking are good for the brain as well as the body.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, it’s better to exercise for half an hour every day rather than an hour three times a week. When you exercise every day, your digestion stays on and the pounds stay off.

2.     Get to Bed Early

If you climb into bed well before 10:00 p.m., during the Kapha time of night, your sleep will be deep and restful. New research shows that people who get a balanced amount of sleep have more control over their weight.

3.     Wake Up with the Birds

Have you ever slept late in the morning, only to wake up feeling duller and more exhausted than before? Sleeping during the Kapha time of the morning (6 a.m.–10 a.m.) can result in all kinds of Kapha disorders, including respiratory issues and weight gain. If you rise before 6:00, when the air is light and the more active Vata dosha predominates, you’ll carry these energetic qualities with you all day long.

4.     Eat Three Warm (but not huge) Meals a Day

You may think that if you skip breakfast, you’ll lose weight — but eating a light, warm breakfast will actually improve your digestion and help you lose weight. Try cooked apples with cardamom for a light, satisfying first meal.

Eat your main meal at noon, when digestion is strongest. In spring, choose warm, soupy foods and freshly-cooked vegetables, whole grains, and pulses (lentils or dhal) or light dairy products for protein. End the day with a light dinner early enough in the evening so you can digest it before you go to bed.

5.     Spice it Up

Add more spice to your food to power up digestion. Try cooking with fresh ginger, cumin, peppercorns and fennel — or Organic Kapha Churna.

Spice up your daily routine a little too. Try a new activity — meet new people to stimulate your brain and your spirits. And because one of the qualities of Kapha is stability, the healthy habits you form this spring can stick with you all year ’round.

Ayurveda and Long-Term Wellness

Three key principles to long-term balance and wellness in Ayurveda are broadly summed up in three lifestyle tactics: 1) Reducing ama (toxins), 2) Balancing/strengthening digestion (agni) and 3) Significantly lowering stress. Each of these plays a powerful role in supporting long-term, life-changing wellness, according to Ayurveda. To accomplish these three targets, Ayurveda offers you lots of enjoyable options. Each of these choices has the power, in the Ayurvedic model, to gradually, naturally support and restore Ayurvedic balance in mind and body. These lifestyle choices include changes to diet; stress reduction practices like yoga, exercise and meditation; and traditional Ayurvedic herbals.

The Ayurvedic herbals listed below are core herbal products supporting important areas of Ayurvedic wellness.

Digestion is a central long-term, priority focus of Ayurveda. Great emphasis is placed on keeping digestion (agni) balanced. In this sense, ‘balance’ means functioning at its absolute optimum. That’s because digestion (agni) is the engine of transformation and assimilation. This transformation ‘engine’ isn’t found just in the stomach — it is found in every cell in the body. It is an extremely intelligent engine, too. It transforms and metabolizes food nutrients and food intelligence into you, and selects out that which isn’t useful to the body and mind. Depending on the strength of agni, the ‘transformation engine,’ either toxins (ama) or ojas (the beneficial biochemical of balance) will get created. Ojas is the finest and most-valued by-product of digestion in Ayurveda, supporting immunity, happiness, the feeling of connectivity (union or yoga) and emotional stability.

Triphala: Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) from Maharishi Ayurveda — This blend of herbs is a powerful tonic for the digestive system. If you are feeling occasionally sluggish, dull or constipated, chances are that toxins are building up in your body. Toxins accumulate when your digestion — and elimination — are out of balance, which can lead to skin breakouts, menstrual cramps, fatigue, feelings of sadness and many other health issues. Triphala, available in Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus), is the every-night overnight detox and digestion balancer, supporting assimilation, balanced agni and ojas. This is the traditional Ayurvedic every-day, overnight detox. This is Maharishi Ayurveda’s number 1 selling digestion herbal.

Aci-Balance from Maharishi Ayurveda — This is a digestion-supporting (agni-balancing) herbal formulation. Occasional acid indigestion is a sign of a Pitta imbalance, according to Ayurveda. Too many hot, spicy foods can spark excess digestive fire and too much stomach acid. Over time, this can push digestion out of balance and lead to a variety of health problems.

The Ayurvedic herbs in this formulation help maintain proper balance of ‘agni,’ the intelligent digestive fire. The herbs help balance occasional excess acid and digestive fire; support overall digestion; and help the body preserve the purity and vitality of nutrients from foods you eat.

Sleep: Deep Rest from Maharishi Ayurveda — The herbs in this formula support sleeping deeply through the night and waking up feeling refreshed. Specifically, the formula is for those who have difficulty staying asleep and wake up in the middle of the night. It also helps those who have difficulty falling asleep and those who awaken early, after less than six hours of sleep.

Sleep: Blissful Sleep from Maharishi Ayurveda — The inability to fall asleep naturally, according to Maharishi Ayurveda, is largely due to stress, frustration, heavy food and sensory overload. If you’re worried or agitated before bed, your mind stays connected to the senses, keeping them active. When that happens you may have trouble falling asleep — or if you do fall asleep, you may notice that your sleep is light and restless. When your mind is relaxed, and disconnects from the senses, that sleep is sound and deep.

The Ayurvedic herbs in the formula produce a calming, balancing effect on the body, mind and emotions. Sleep becomes deeper and more restful. For published research on Blissful Sleep, please see this page.

Emotional Balance: Worry Free from Maharishi Ayurveda — This traditional formula helps you step up to the challenge of modern life. It simultaneously calms the nervous system while supporting mental acuity. These herbs help you sail through the same situations that used to cause a meltdown. It’s not about having a different attitude — it’s about changing the automatic and immediate emotional reaction you have to stress and supporting a healthy emotional response to stress. For published research, please see this page.

Organic Stress Free Emotions supports natural resistance to emotional stress and fatigue. Diet, daily habits and ongoing stress are key factors that can contribute to imbalances in mind and body, leading to feelings of sadness and physical fatigue. The herbs promote self-confidence, positive thinking and feelings of fulfillment by balancing the subdosha of Pitta that governs emotional health (Sadhaka Pitta).

Immunity: Bio-Immune from Maharishi Ayurveda — This traditional formulation combines purifying herbs with nourishing minerals, including mica. The herbs and minerals help eliminate digestive impurities and toxins that can affect natural immunity. This aids healthy liver function and helps purify the blood. The herbs also promote a healthy resistance to stress and aid in the assimilation and metabolism of nutrients. Finally, they support communication between cells, an Ayurvedic key to healthy immunity. It takes over six months to prepare these herbs for use. Bio-Immune, in combination with Organic Premium Amla Berry and Organic Digest Tone, is a powerhouse for supporting immunity.

Energy: Organic Premium Amla Berry from Maharishi Ayurveda — Our Amla is prepared according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts — a 21-step process at a temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the potency.

Gram for gram, Amla has 20 times the Vitamin C content of an orange. Good nutrition requires a balance of the six Ayurvedic tastes — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Amla is one of just a handful of herbs that contain five of the six taste categories — all except salty. Such balanced nutrition means that Amla helps balance all three of the basic operating principles (doshas) of mind and body — Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Amla produces total health benefits. It helps strengthen the mind, eyes, heart, skin, and digestion, boosts cellular regeneration; and promotes a positive nitrogen balance for improved growth of muscle tissue.

Mind and Memory: Organic Youthful Mind from Maharishi Ayurveda — The Ayurvedic herbs in this formulationhelp remove the toxins that can block mental abilities. They also promote a healthy response to mental stress — regardless of age. The herbs in Organic Youthful Mindsupport innate learning ability, clarity and recall, mental energy and alertness levels, the growth of consciousness and full mental potential.

Heart: Cardio Support from Maharishi Ayurveda — The Ayurvedic herbs in this formula help maintain normal and clear arterial walls. They do this by aiding healthy digestion and supporting balanced fat metabolism. These herbs nourish the blood, muscles and functioning of the heart, to help keep the heart healthy as you age. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the heart is the seat of ojas, the substance that maintains life and promotes bliss and longevity.

Prostate Health: Prostate Protection from Maharishi Ayurveda — From the Maharishi Ayurveda perspective, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of proper nutrients and urine retention can impact prostate health. The traditional Ayurvedic herbs in this formula deliver nutritional support over a broad range of targeted areas. They help balance testosterone levels and support vitality, promote healthy prostate size and function, purify the urinary tract, and support the body’s natural immune system. This blend of Ayurvedic ingredients helps cleanse genitourinary tract impurities caused by unhealthy dietary habits and exposure to environmental toxins. They also:

  • Support natural immunity in the genitourinary tract
  • Promote healthy urinary flow rate
  • Rejuvenate the reproductive system
  • Help maintain healthy prostate size and function
  • Enhance the reproductive fluid
  • Support tissue health in the prostate gland
  • Support healthy reproductive fluid
  • Support healthy libido

(Cover Photo By Quiltsalad, Flickr Creative Commons)

(Hiker photo By Padraic. Flickr Creative Commons)

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], March 25,2012. Reprinted with permission.) 

Categories: ayurveda, healthy living

Overcoming PTSD
March 12, 2014

BY LINDA EGENES


Colonel Brian M Rees -MDColonel Brian M. Rees, M.D., is a member of the Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserve, and has over 37 years of commissioned military service. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College and veteran of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is a board-certified family physician who received his medical degree and master’s degree in public health from Tulane University. Currently Colonel Rees is the Command Surgeon for the 63rd Regional Support Command, Moffett Field, California, and a physician at the Veterans Administration clinic in San Luis Obispo, California.

Research shows that 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this interview, Colonel Rees answers common questions he hears from military veterans wanting more information on PTSD.

Q: I came back from service in Afghanistan, and I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. Can Transcendental Meditation help me?

COL Rees: While each case is unique to the individual, available evidence would indicate that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique could help you. Controlled studies have shown improvement in combat veterans and in civilian refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress. Many other studies have shown improvement in a host of symptoms related to PTSD.

Q: I’m on a lot of medication for PTSD. Can the Transcendental Meditation technique help me to reduce my meds?

COL Rees: While we cannot yet say that the TM technique can help reduce the amount of medication one takes for PTSD, available data show that it reduces symptoms associated with PTSD. We anticipate that as health grows and symptoms decrease, your need for medication should lessen.

photo_ptsd02Q: How does TM reduce stress? Can it really help with something as severe as PTSD? Is there any research?

COL Rees: TM is the best in the realm of relaxation and stress-busting techniques. It produces a deep, healing state of rest in the body and mind. There are literally hundreds of studies on TM from dozens of leading institutions published in peer-reviewed journals. We have evidence that TM gives a break to the part of the brain that had been “permanently switched-on” by traumatic events, thus enhancing sleep, decreasing hypervigilance, and helping restore healthy relationships.

Q: PTSD involves a huge range of symptoms. How can one technique help with so many physical, emotional, and psychological areas of dysfunction?

COL Rees: That’s an excellent question. Unlike medications or techniques that dull or mask symptoms, TM produces a deep state of rest in the body by allowing the mind to experience its own silent inner nature. This experience is healing and rejuvenating. By promoting health at this fundamental level of life, all aspects of mind and body are enlivened and supported.

Q: How can I tell whether I have PTSD or not?

COL Rees: If you’re a combat vet, your post-deployment health questionnaire should have identified whether you are suffering from PTSD or not. If you’re not sure, there are simple questionnaires available from your military branch website or from the VA. If you have any question, you should seek care.

Q: Is it only people who have been to war that experience PTSD?

COL Reese: PTSD is not limited to combat. Any traumatic stressful event, such as an assault, natural disaster, or accident, can cause PTSD symptoms. Children who witness or are victims of violence can also experience PTSD. Reducing stress and trauma through TM can help people of any age to overcome PTSD.

U.S. Department of Defense Research Project

New research on active duty U.S. military personnel at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, who suffered from the effects of post-traumatic stress, found the twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique markedly reduced symptoms of PTSD. This research, published in the July 2013 issue of Military Medicine, is the third research study to show TM’s significant benefits for those with PTSD.

More recent studies, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that Congolese refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress had markedly reduced symptoms within ten days of learning TM, and were non-symptomatic within 30 days.

These new findings follow the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense that it will provide a $2.4 million grant to study the effect of the TM technique on PTSD among veterans at the San Diego VA Hospital.

The need for evidence-based, alternative approaches for reducing PTSD is enormous, says Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. Dr. Rosenthal co-authored a study on Afghanistan and Iraq veterans that found a 40 to 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, including depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and insomnia; and reduced stress levels and quicker recovery from stress. Dr. Rosenthal also found decreased smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 15. Reprinted with permission.)

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