BY LINDA EGENES

IMG_2333In the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock decided to eat a steady diet of fast food for 30 days to see how it would affect his health. Although he and his doctors expected some changes, they were shocked by how quickly his skin turned sallow, his cholesterol levels and blood pressure skyrocketed and his weight shot up 27 pounds. Worse, his mood changed from one of vibrancy to depression. Below are ten ayurvedic digestion secrets, but first let’s explore why a smooth digestion is central to health.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, there is not only a direct connection between the food you eat and your health, but food affects your emotions, your happiness, as well. You could even say that health and happiness have a common source found in a single product of digestion called ojas.

“Ojas is the finest and most refined product of digestion and metabolism,” explains Mark Toomey, Ph.D., the director of Maharishi Ayurveda programs and health practitioner at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center and Spa. “Ojas production depends directly on how we digest and metabolize our food.”

Another interesting point is that, according to ayurveda, we metabolize the experience of all five senses in our environment and our own thoughts. This is why we are so profoundly affected by stress and its effect upon our emotions. Emotions affect our ability to digest food properly, and the digestion of food affects our emotions. Both feed one another.

Ojas is the physical equivalent of both bliss and immunity. It is what causes the eyes to sparkle, the skin to look radiant and the immunity to be strong. And it’s directly related to digestion.

There is a lot written about ojas in the ayurvedic texts. Ojas is said to be slightly yellow in color, to reside in the heart and to also continually circulate throughout the body. It is cool, soft, sweet, stable, viscous, clear, and pure, and when lively in the body, these qualities can be felt in the pulse during an ayurvedic consultation.

“Ojas is also much related to strong Kapha dosha, called bal kapha,” says Dr. Toomey. “A person with good ojas has a solid build, enthusiasm, strength, knowledge and wisdom.”

Digestion in ayurveda is known as agni, which means fire, and that agni has to be operating perfectly in order to transform food into the most refined product, ojas. Ojas is responsible for all lively energy in our awareness and body.

So how do you keep your digestion running perfectly and your ojas at a high level?

“One of the main factors for strong immunity and ojas is to keep the srotas, the micro communication channels of our body, clear. With clear srotas, information can flow freely through the body,” says Dr. Toomey. “This is why it’s so important to keep the digestion running smoothly, to keep impurities from building up and blocking the srotas.”

Ten Ayurvedic Digestion Secrets from Maharishi Ayurveda

  1. Eat a balanced, well-cooked and wholesome diet in timely fashion.
  2. Eat one’s main meal at lunch.
  3. Eat a light breakfast and light dinner. (Doing so not only helps with better digestion, but results in deeper, more restful sleep.
  4. Go to bed by 10 p.m. each night and wake with the sunrise.
  5. Follow the ayurvedic daily and seasonal routines, in tune with the laws of nature, going to bed on time, and eating at the same time every day.
  6. Practice Transcendental Meditation® or the meditation technique of your choice daily to release stress.
  7. Take traditional ayurvedic herbal formulas that nourish the body and mind and develop higher states of consciousness.
  8. Practice behavioral rasayanas. These are the behavioral guidelines that help govern behavior and action in life:
    • Be truthful
    • Free from anger
    • Nonviolent
    • Not exerting to the point of exhaustion
    • Practice calmness
    • Be sweet-spoken
    • Aspire to be stable and steady
    • Practice meditation
    • Engage in cleanliness
    • Be perseverant
    • Observe charity
    • Practice spirituality or the religion of your choosing
    • Be devoted to love and compassion
    • Be balanced in sleep and wakefulness
    • Behave with propriety according to the time and place
    • Be humble in life’s activities
    • Keep the company of elders
    • Hold a positive outlook
    • Practice self-control
    • Do not indulge in alcohol or drugs
    • Be respectful toward teachers and elders
  9. Include foods in your diet that increase ojas. Well-cooked organic vegetables and fresh fruits taken according to one’s prakriti (dosha makeup) are always considered best. Whole organic milk, boiled and flavored with ghee or Organic Vata Tea, is a wonderful addition and supports ojas production.
  10. Certain activities may diminish the production of ojas. They are as follows:
  • Excessive physical exertion (to the point of exhaustion)
  • Rough or inadequate digestion
  • Excessive exposure to wind and sun
  • Staying up late (inadequate rest)
  • Physical or emotional trauma
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive loss of dhatu (blood, mucus or semen)
  • Intake of toxic substances (including exposure to environmental pollution)
  • Stress overloadBy cultivating a strong digestion, a balanced lifestyle and strong ojas, we can improve our health, happiness and immunity. It is never too late to start feeling good. Visit www.mapi.com for more tips on how to live a balanced lifestyle.Remember, it is all about balance…

 

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], March 1,2014. Reprinted with permission.) 

 

BY LINDA EGENES

My dad holding me at 6 months old

Growing up, I was taught that creativity was a highly prized commodity. My father was a product engineer for International Harvester, designing plows and farm equipment, and earned 22 patents. When he retired from that, he and his brother designed a nifty cable-laying machine that laid wires in the ground while leaving behind only a tiny slit—and is still popular 40 years later. His most amazing creative achievement, though, was a passive-solar home that he designed in 1959 and built out of all-natural materials with his own hands. Our family dearly loved the magical and beautiful home he built for us.

My dad taught us that anyone can be creative. You didn’t have to be a famous scientist like Madame Curie or a famous dancer like Isadora Duncan to be highly creative in your everyday life, he said. He pointed out that the world is filled with people who create amazing things every day.

Yet even as a child it was clear to me that some people come by the creative gene more easily than others. So I was interested to read a new study on creativity by Fred Travis, Ph.D., and Yvonne Lagrosen, Ph.D., published recently in Creativity Research Journal. The researchers found that brain integration is a common feature among highly creative people.

“It’s a simple fact that some people stand out as creative, and we’re trying to tease out why,” Dr. Travis says. “We hypothesized that something must be different about the way their brains work, and that’s what we’re finding.”

Dr. Travis has developed a measure that he calls “brain integration.” He analyzes EEG patterns to assess brain wave coherence (connectedness) in the frontal brain. He also assessed alpha power, a measure of inner directedness of attention, and the brain’s preparation response, which measures how efficiently the brain responds to a stimulus.

In this study, Dr. Travis and Dr. Lagrosen studied 21 Swedish product engineers—who, like my dad, were designing new products as part of their jobs. The researchers found that those with the highest brain integration scored the highest in creativity as measured by standardized Torrance measures — as well as other characteristics of highly creative people such as speed of processing information, speed of executive decision-making and a factor called “Sense-of-Coherence,” which means a sense of being in control of one’s situation.

In previous studies in collaboration with Dr. Harald Harang, Dr. Travis had found greater brain integration in world-class athletes, top managers and professional musicians. In other words, he is finding that brain integration may be the underlying factor that leads to success in many different areas.

Dr. Travis says, “While there’s a common notion that 10,000 hours of practice is necessary for high achievement, some people put in long hours and do not excel. This new research and previous studies suggest that brain integration may be the inner factor that leads to outer success.”

So the next question is—can a person develop greater brain integration, and thus increase their creativity and ability to succeed?

As Dr. Travis points out, the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique has been found to increase levels of brain integration and to increase creativity in many randomized controlled, peer-reviewed studies.

There are other ways that the TM technique heightens mental abilities. For instance, it helps relieve the mental fatigue that can stand in the way of creativity. For instance, when women are tired or stressed, they can’t be as clear, present or creative as they would like to be.

I found my own creativity soaring when I started to practice TM at age 19. Gone was the writer’s block, the struggle with realizing my inner vision on paper. And as I was able to express my true self in my writing, I felt happier and more self-confident in other areas of life as well.

It is my belief that creativity is an essential part of being a woman—after all, we have the ability to create the miracle of human life. So a practice that allows us to come in contact with our inner source of creativity, happiness, and power is something that can benefit every woman.

So if you want to give your creativity a boost, consider learning the Transcendental Meditation technique and seeing the effect of regular transcending on inner happiness and outer success.

I think that Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time, says it so well: “But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint or clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”

Here’s a video by my friend Cheryl Fusco Johnson where I talk about my creative process. Check out other videos of writers talking about their writing on Cheryl Fusco Johnson’s YouTube channel. 

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, May 12, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

No More Teacher Burnout
August 22, 2014

BY LINDA EGENES

No more teacher burnoutRecently I’ve been wishing I could thank my favorite elementary school teacher, Mrs. Hartman, for inspiring me to become a writer. A white-haired, dignified woman with tons of energy and enthusiasm, she knew precisely how to cultivate creativity in her students and keep them orderly and focused at the same time. She brought a near-religious zeal to her teaching of seventh grade language arts, permanently embedding in my mind the rules of grammar that I refer to every day as a writer. And I can still remember the laughter as we read our creative writing aloud to each other each week in her class, fueling my love of sharing stories.

Alas, the Mrs. Hartmans of the world are becoming hard to find. Not because there aren’t dedicated and talented teachers—there are plenty of those—but because few teachers are able to stay in the profession long enough to become seasoned veterans. Half of new teachers bow out after just five years on the job, says the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. This is especially a problem in urban schools, where an even higher turnover rate results in a higher percentage of under-qualified teachers. And the yearly cost to constantly replace teachers nationwide is a staggering $5.8 billion.

While teachers are paid less than people in comparable professions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it’s not the low pay, but teacher burnout that is causing teachers to flee. And teacher burnout is on the rise.

And what is the cause of burnout? Poor working conditions, threat of layoffs, long hours, lack of support from administrators, isolation, the pressures created by the emphasis on standardized tests, fear of safety in an increasingly violent school environment, and the placement of new teachers in the most distressed schools are a few of the issues cited.It’s not just America’s teachers who are experiencing burnout from stressful classroom conditions. A recent survey conducted by Monash University in Victoria, Australia, showed that 27% of new teachers were already suffering from emotional exhaustion akin to burnout and PTSD.

In a profession dominated by women, who according to research are more vulnerable to stress than men, the high stress levels can contribute to depression, anxiety, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

While educational reform could take years, something needs to be done now to end teacher burnout. Some teachers are reducing stress and increasing job satisfaction by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. A recent research study published in the Permanente Journal conducted at the Bennington School in Vermont, a special in-residence school for students with behavioral problems, found that teachers’ perceived levels of stress were significantly lowered after learning to meditate.

“The results of this randomized controlled trial are very striking and demonstrate the utility of introducing a stress reduction program for teachers and other public and private employees,” says Dr. Charles Elder, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and a Senior Physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

“The take-home message is that teachers can reduce stress and emotional exhaustion associated with burnout through the practice of Transcendental Meditation,” said Sanford Nidich, Ed.D., the study’s principal investigator who is also a professor of education and a research psychologist at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

“Even though the study was conducted over several months, the participants informally reported feeling less stressed and more energetic within a few days,” said Nidich.

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 40 men and women to participate in either the TM program or serve as “waitlist” controls and eventually learn TM. At the end of the four-month study, those on the waitlist also learned TM.

In the TM group, the strongest effect was found on a measurement of stress, called the “perceived stress scale,” with an effect size of 0.94 (showing a large effect of the TM program on stress).

“The four-month study found significant and clinically important decreases in perceived stress, emotional exhaustion associated with teacher burnout, and depressive symptoms in those practicing the TM program compared to a wait-list control group,” says Dr. Eider.

And teacher burnout is not the only benefit of practicing meditation. Recent published studies have shown a positive impact of the Transcendental Meditation technique on student graduation rates, academic achievement, and psychological distress.

When students practice Transcendental Meditation in schools, it has a positive effect on teachers as well. Ugandan geography teacher Nadunga Rebecca, who teaches in a girls school in Uganda where all the students practice TM, says, “In the school where I used to be, the students used to give me a hard time and I was thinking of getting another occupation. But now I will never leave teaching.”

View a video about one teacher’s experience of Transcendental Meditation here.

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, March 10, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Does Positive Thinking WorkMy mom and I have a nightly ritual. Before I fall asleep I call her from Iowa, where I live, and chat with her in California, where she lives in an assisted living near my sister and her family.

Because of the different time zones, and because she goes to bed early these days, we are both saying our goodnights to each other at the same moment.

I ask about her day, and she asks how my husband, Tom, and I are doing. She loves Tom. “He’s such a nice young man,” she says. “And you are so happy together.

”Sometimes she gives me advice. “Always be nice to each other. Don’t be angry. Try to stay positive,” she counsels.

“You’re really positive, Mom,” I say. “You’re my hero, because you’re choosing to be happy every single day.”And it’s true. Here is a woman who has lost everything — her home, her husband, her short-term memory and her ability to walk and use her right arm due to strokes — yet every day she is choosing to look at the positives. She doesn’t just like it at her assisted living facility, she loves it there. (“Everyone here is so nice.”)

She often talks about my father and how much she misses him, but then she stops and says, “but I can’t dwell on it. I have to go on. Sometimes I look in the mirror and laugh. Even just putting your mouth in a smile makes you feel better. And people wonder—why is she laughing?”

And then she laughs.

What she said is true. There is research that the act of smiling itself can make you feel happier. Russian researchers are also discovering that the sound of positive words has a healing effect on the body, and can even heal the DNA.

In the book, My Stroke of Insight by the Harvard-trained brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., the author talks from her own experience about the emotional and neurological effects of having a major stroke. She relates that one of the positive effects of her stroke was losing memories of stress and patterns of negativity. When she started to regain her memory, these patterns started coming back. So she worked hard to create new patterns. “The brain is like a muscle, she explained, actually becoming larger in the areas that are used more. The more you make a habit of reaching for the positive thought, the more your brain will automatically go there.

Yet even though there is a huge self-help industry based on this concept—that thinking positively is important for our relationships and our mental, physical and emotional health—we also know that in times of pressure or stress, all the good intentions and positive thinking can fly out the window.

We also know that straining to think positively when you don’t feel it inside can create a disconnect. Probably we’ve all met people who are trying so hard to be positive, but somehow it doesn’t match who they really are.

The strain of trying to be someone you aren’t can actually cause stress to your own body and create discord in the environment. I think this is especially true for women — many of us try too hard to harmonize and be nice and sometimes end up feeling resentful, used, and exhausted. And then there are people like the Meryl Streep character in The Devil Wears Prada — someone who plasters a smile on her face even while acting maliciously can be downright scary.

So is there a way to naturally feel more positive, to actually change your physiology so you lose the stresses and strains that cloud a sunny outlook in the first place? (And we’re talking about a way that doesn’t involve a major stroke here.)

Because I feel more negative when I’m stressed and tired, doing Transcendental Meditation twice a day — which gives me deep rest and eliminates my stress and fatigue — naturally allows me to be more clear and positive in all my relationships. When you are dissolving stress in your meditations every day, you find your mind naturally thinking more positive thoughts about others, about yourself, about the future.

At the same time, I do feel my mom is right too — most of us can benefit from leaning toward the positive in our lives.

Maharishi talks about this phenomenon in the Science of Being and Art of Living. He writes,“Therefore we must so cultivate our minds that we think and act naturally in a manner which is elevating and beneficial. In this way we will benefit ourselves and others.”

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to live. And thanks to Maharishi for this beautiful technique that allows me to dissolve stress in my meditations instead of taking out my frustrations on the people I love.

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, June 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

In comic strips a light bulb turning on inside a character’s head indicates a brilliant idea. For Dutch artist Jeroen Stok, a light bulb was the idea that set him on his career path as a sculptor and installation artist. Trained as a painter at the Royal Academy of the Arts at the Hague, he spent a year studying art and consciousness at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa (then MIU).

“My dorm room had only one overhead light and I needed a desk lamp,” he remembers with a laugh. “I took a yogurt cup, stuck a light bulb in it, and created wooden base.” From there he started making lighting fixtures from tubes and other found materials that attached to the walls. “In the end I exhibited them in a student show of about 30 lighted wall pieces,” he remembers. “The painting I had studied became three-dimensional.”

Back in the Netherlands, he took a step further into the realm of sculpture. “The pieces that I’d designed for the wall suddenly were standing by themselves,” he says.

Fast forward 20 years, and Jeroen Stok, now 54, is a sculptor in demand, having created dozens of commissioned stainless steel sculptures for cities, villages, and universities, from Amsterdam to the California wine country. Using the medium of stainless steel, his designs evoke the beauty of nature, ranging from flowers to animals to the abstract, from one foot high to 20 feet reaching to the sky.

Sculpting Steel into Art

In his early, uncertain days as an artist, Stok’s sculptures were made of bamboo and paper. Stok recalls a friend advising him, “Why are you working with such unstable materials? You should work with something like steel.” The idea resonated with Stok—his father owned a steel factory. Soon he had learned how to weld and bend the steel to match the images in his mind.

A quiet man with a willowy build, Jeroen says that while working with steel, he has imbibed some of its power and strength.

“In the art world I meet a lot of different people, and I can’t help but notice that artists tend to reflect the quality of the materials they work with,” he says. “People who work with wood are a little softer than people who work with steel. Working with copper can make you feel warm and solid.”

Stok finds that his concepts usually take place around a story, and end up with many levels of meaning. “When I designed a sculpture for Vrije University in Amsterdam, it had a kind of feather shape. It wasn’t until I finished it that I realized that it was an abstract depiction of the wing of the gryphon—the logo for the university. Other people see it as a staircase, the academic ladder in which one scholar stands on the shoulders of the scholar before him or her.”

For Stok, who has been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique since 1979, conceiving the design is the easy part. “When you start to design something it’s a process of silence, you’re in silence,” he says. “There’s an effortless flow. That’s one side of the coin. The other side—you go into the realm of realizing the art, making it physical, and that is hard labor. You have to bend the steel to your will.”

Going with the Flow

While stainless steel is a rigid medium, in his own life Stok is known for “going with the flow.” He credits his flexibility to practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.

As an installation artist working with government and civic committees, Stok has to create a design that will satisfy the disparate desires of the committee members, become a symbol of the organization or city, and appeal to the public for generations to come.

This requires a certain understanding of psychology, he says. “You have to first identify who the gatekeeper is, the one who is making the decisions, and then figure out what he wants, what is of interest to him.”

For instance, in creating the three-story steel tulip design for the Netherlands township of Avenhorn, Stok realized that it was the mayor who was driving the project in the last months of his term. Jeroen had the insight that the mayor wanted above all to leave a lasting legacy and therefore would give him greater monetary and creative leeway in designing the project.

“When you meditate, you have a clearer view of what someone is really wanting or meaning,” he says. “Often people have hidden agendas.”

After the committee approves the design and budget, craftsmen cut, weld and shape the raw steel into a refined sculpture. This stage also involves working with craftsmen who may have never fashioned steel into something this complicated before. Stok takes care to meet the workers and their families in their homes, and further motivates and befriends them by posting pictures of the project’s progress on a website.

“Sometimes their families never see the work that they create in the factory, so when they see the sculpture developing on the website, it becomes something they can share, a source of pride for the craftsman,” says Stok.

In the many months it takes to realize the massive sculpture, there is a point where the workers get frustrated and tempers flare. “When you meditate you have less of a tendency to give way to your negative emotions,” he says. “And you can clearly see when someone else is in the grip of negative emotions. You realize that he is not himself at the moment, so you can stay calm and wait until that ends. Then you can talk again.”

A Personal Journey

Despite working with others to create public works for generations to come, in the end, Stok’s art is deeply personal.

“Practicing TM is not only good for my art, it’s good for me,” he says. “I don’t really see my art as separate from my personal life.”

Stok notes that even if you try differently, you end up expressing your own inner state in your art. “What happens in art has everything to do with what happens to you. If you’re in a troubled period, you can see that in your art. If you’re in a blissful period, that’s what is reflected.”

As an example, Stok and his wife were expecting their son when he designed the Avenhorn tulip sculpture. “It was about the blossoming of life,” he says.

Today their son is ten years old, and loves to climb on the public sculptures in town centers, gardens, and malls that his father has created. Living in Lelystad, a village in the Netherlands created for people who live together and practice Transcendental Meditation and the advanced TM-Sidhi program in a central meditation hall, the Stoks find that meditation also helps them to lead a more balanced family life.

In recent years, Stok has received commissions from the U.S., such as two giant steel tulips for the city of Temecula, CA. They were looking for a tulip for their Duck Pond and Veterans Memorial park and found his work on the Internet. Stok attended the unveiling ceremony last September.

In addition to his commissioned sculptures, Stok has also directed a considerable amount of his artistic talent to create better living conditions for handicapped people, and to urban developmental planning.

“Art is a way of giving,” he says. “It’s not about glorifying your ego. It’s a way to touch the hearts of people, to create a good feeling, to make people happy.”

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 17. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Book Review

Laozi, the Buddha, Plato, St. Teresa of Avila, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Black Elk, Einstein—throughout history, great men and women have described sublime experiences of extraordinary wakefulness, freedom, and bliss, as different from our ordinary waking experience as waking is from dreaming. 

In his new book, The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How to Cultivate Them, Craig Pearson, PhD, shares transcendent experiences representing a wide range of times, cultures, and religions. The book is one of the most comprehensive anthologies of such experiences ever assembled.

But Dr. Pearson goes further. He explains how they can be understood and categorized using Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s model of seven states of consciousness. And he shows how anyone can cultivate the same kinds of sublime experiences celebrated by some of history’s great geniuses simply by practicing the effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation.

Dr. Pearson is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management and the author of The Complete Book of Yogic Flying. Here he talks about what inspired him to write The Supreme Awakening and his experience along the way.

archive18-stories_02Linda Egenes: What inspired you to write this book?

Dr. Pearson: I’ve always been fascinated by people’s experiences of higher states of consciousness. Early in my meditating career, I came across a passage from Wordsworth describing a transcendental experience and found that quite remarkable. I started looking for more, and I found them. I began putting a few of these in University publications—and saw that other people found this interesting too.

I soon realized that there is a scientific hypothesis in this, namely that the capacity to experience higher states of consciousness is universal. If this is true, it should be possible to find descriptions in the writings of great people of different cultures. I pursued it more seriously, and eventually it became the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation and now a book.

Linda Egenes: What was your research method? How did you find the writings of more obscure people such as Dov Baer of Mezericht from the Ukraine, for instance?

Dr. Craig Pearson: It was like panning for gold, sifting through lots of gravel to occasionally find a gold nugget. I’ve lost track of the countless books I’ve combed through to find these experiences.

I found ways of narrowing the search. For example, there’s the whole field of mystical and religious experience, which includes experiences of the kind I was looking for. Books on this topic yielded more frequent nuggets. Books on the creative process turned up a few.

Other times I would just have a hunch. For instance, I hadn’t seen references to Helen Keller in my research, but I thought about the unique life she led, blind and deaf from the age of two, yet rising to become one of the most important people of the 20th century. I read all of her books and found some really beautiful experiences of transcendence. In reading the books by and about these people, and especially reading how they describe these intimate experiences, I felt like they became my friends.

Sometimes I felt that their experiences were trying to find me. I was browsing through a Lands’ End catalog, reading a photo essay in the center about the Kashmir goats in Mongolia that provide the wool for the company’s sweaters—and suddenly found the writer describing a beautiful experience of a higher state of consciousness. I ended up corresponding with him.

Another time, close to publication, I was walking through the Fairfield Public Library and chanced to pick up a book on a display shelf. I opened to a random page—and there was a statement from Jesus, from the New Testament, clearly describing the experience of a higher state of consciousness. I thought, “How could I have missed this?” I felt as if this passage did not want to be omitted.

Linda Egenes: One interesting theme came through in your book, that these transcendental experiences are beyond words.

Dr. Pearson: A number of people said this—even after expressing their experience in the most beautiful, poetic words. The French playwright Eugene Ionesco wrote, “Words can only disfigure” the experience.

Imagine being color-blind in a color-blind world, then suddenly, for a few moments, glimpsing color. How can you describe color to someone who hasn’t yet experienced it? And how much more difficult it must be to describe a different state of consciousness. Higher states of consciousness entail a completely different mode of experiencing one’s self and one’s environment.

So while the words of Ionesco and Wordsworth and so many others are glorious, we should not imagine we understand the experience of higher states of consciousness just by reading these words. You have to have the experience.

Linda Egenes: Was this an elusive experience for most people—something they spent the rest of their lives searching for?

Dr. Craig Pearson: I believe that some people in the book—Laozi and Shankara come to mind—were well established in higher states of consciousness. Maharishi has made the point that there have been enlightened people in every age. But most people in the book seemed only to glimpse these states. Many wondered where the experience came from and how they could get it back.

Linda Egenes: This brings us to Maharishi’s contribution.

Dr. Craig Pearson: Yes. First of all, Maharishi has given us the Transcendental Meditation technique, which is a simple, natural, effortless procedure for cultivating these experiences. This is an incredible gift, because until now these experiences have been extremely rare, fleeting, and unpredictable. Now anyone can systematically develop them.

Second, Maharishi has given us a new model of human development that includes seven states of consciousness altogether—four higher states beyond the three familiar states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. This gives us a powerful way of understanding and categorizing these experiences.

And finally, we have all the scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, which Maharishi strongly encouraged from the first. Research on the TM technique really means research on higher states of consciousness, higher human development. The findings here have been unprecedented.

And what comes out of the research is that higher states of consciousness are not a matter of some mood or dream or poetic flight of fancy. They are real experiences, contingent on achieving certain thresholds of integration and purification of the brain and body. They have a unique physiological basis.

Linda Egenes: Can you say a little more about higher states of consciousness and enlightenment?

Dr. Craig Pearson: By higher states of consciousness, we mean more expanded creativity, expanded intelligence, and even more important, expanded experience of the Self and the universe around us—far beyond anything we experience in the ordinary waking state, even on a good day.

Maharishi named these four higher states Transcendental Consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness, and Unity Consciousness. Each higher state is a progressive stage of enlightenment. The fourth state, Transcendental Consciousness, is what we experience during our daily Transcendental Meditation practice. The fifth state, Cosmic Consciousness, is what we are cultivating day by day through our daily TM practice. The sixth and seventh states grow naturally out of these.

Each higher state of consciousness is as different from the waking state as waking is from sleeping or dreaming. Maharishi refers to “the seven worlds of the seven states of consciousness.” That drives home the point that each state of consciousness, starting with waking, sleeping, and dreaming, presents us with an utterly different world of experience from the others. At the same time, each one is completely natural and normal, a quantum expansion of our unlimited potential.

This is a developmental model. Maharishi has described the dynamics of how each higher state builds on the previous one. We now have a clear and detailed picture of how human development progresses beyond the adult waking state.

Linda Egenes: So reading this book could be a great way for people who already meditate to understand their own experiences better?

Dr. Craig Pearson: Also a great way to introduce people to the Transcendental Meditation technique. It’s important for people to see that the TM technique offers far more than relief from stress and anxiety, or lowering high blood pressure, as important as those things are. Those things are early stepping stones on the way to fulfilling our highest potential as human beings. The ultimate goal is enlightenment.

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 18. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

PF-baby-2_1376795cThere are many times in a woman’s life when she needs extra support, but seldom as urgently as when she is pregnant and during the first year after giving birth. In many traditional cultures, the vulnerability of a mother is well known. The pregnant mother is fussed over and pampered, her cravings are satisfied and the extended family surrounds her with love and support.

In the traditional healthcare system of India, and in many homes in modern India today, by the time the mother gives birth, she has been relieved of her work and household responsibilities by her family members.

After giving birth, she is given a massage on a daily basis, fed special foods and herbs to help her recover her strength and mental balance, and surrounded with love and support the first six weeks so she can establish a strong bond with her baby—and recover her strength and mental and physical balance.

Our modern American mother tends to face a different world. Increasingly, mothers work until the last month of pregnancy, and when they leave the hospital a day after giving birth, they have little support, facing the challenge of feeling mentally and physically exhausted yet also responsible for the needs of a newborn. And with over 50 percent of birth mothers now also single mothers, the challenges are even greater without a partner to help.

No wonder maternal mental illness is on the rise. According to the two-part series in the NY Times, “A Mother’s Mind,” the range and duration of maternal mental illness is more extensive than previously thought, causing heart-breaking mood swings in some mothers that directly impacts the child’s safety and development.

Research now shows that postpartum depression can start earlier (during pregnancy) or later (after the baby is 4 months old—any time during the first year). It can be associated with a wide range of mental disorders, including anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, bi-polar disorder, and intrusive thoughts of doing harm to the baby.

The causes are complex. Some women are genetically wired to react more to the dramatic hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, when hormonal activity increases by more than 100 times and then plummets to zero after giving birth, a phenomenon that Dr. Margaret Spinelli, the director of the Women’s Program in Columbia University’s psychiatric department calls “A roller-coaster ride that disrupts brain chemistry.”

Other women succumb to the stresses of financial insecurity, family dysfunction, exhaustion from childbirth and parenting itself, causing scientists to refer to maternal mental illness as “a complex interplay of genes, stress and hormones.”

While maternal mental illness is not new—reports exist in the literature since the time of Hippocrates—the added stress and isolation of the modern mother can’t be helping.

Yet there are mothers who are finding needed rest and stress relief by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. “Particularly in the postpartum period, the woman’s first act of being a mother—and all subsequent acts—will be to give,” says Rebecca Douglas, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician. “As mothers we can only give from what we have. And if what we have is exhaustion, then we’ll have less of a basis from which to give. If, on the other hand, we have a methodology to rest and rejuvenate and give rest to ourselves, then we’ll have that much more to give.”

Available at http://www.mumpress.com/health-maharishi-vedic-approach-to-health/c12.html.

Available at http://www.mumpress.com/health-maharishi-vedic-approach-to-health/c12.html.

My co-authors Dr. Kumuda Reddy, M.D., Margaret Mullins, MSN and nurse practitioner, and I wrote in the book For a Blissful Baby, which describes natural ways to help mothers regain their mental and physical balance after childbirth, “Practicing the Transcendental Meditation program is the most important recommendation to help both husband and wife reduce mental, emotional and physical stress. This simple technique helps develop the healthiest and happiest state of mind and emotions.”

If the mother is practicing the TM technique, she has an opportunity to recover much more quickly from the stress of childbirth. Research on TM also reports faster recovery from depression, anxiety, emotional numbness and insomnia after stressful experiences.

“People who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique experience less depression, because they are able to gain deep rest (both during meditation and at night) and release stress,” says Dr. Reddy. “Many of my patients report that the deep rest experienced during the TM technique helps them recover more quickly from the extreme fatigue after giving birth, and replaces it with more bliss and balance.”

Somehow as a society we need to think of how we can give more support to new mothers. In reading the 504 comments that readers posted online for the NY Times two-part Mother’s Mind series, I was struck by how many mothers cited social isolation as a major cause of maternal depression. As one mother wrote, “It is so, so important for people to check in on new moms, to let them talk about their feelings, to not judge them and to help them with cooking, cleaning, and with the babies. That help will never be forgotten.”

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, July 28, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

America has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Researchers cite the increase in chronic disease as a major cause of escalating costs and predict a 42 percent rise in chronic disease by 2023, adding $4.2 trillion in treatment costs. The good news is that chronic disease is preventable, since many chronic conditions are linked to stress and unhealthy lifestyles.

Robert E. Herron, Ph.D., is an independent researcher, writer, speaker, and consultant in medical cost reduction and economic policy, and he is currently the director of the Center for Holistic Systems Analysis in Fairfield, Iowa. Dr. Herron’s new book, New Knowledge For New Results, presents a comprehensive strategy to reduce rising medical costs. While other researchers focus mainly on financial issues, Dr. Herron re-examines the underlying foundations of modern medicine.

Here Dr. Herron talks about our current healthcare crisis and how the Transcendental Meditation technique can help prevent chronic disease and lower costs.

Linda Egenes: As a nation, how can preventive measures help us to lower healthcare costs?

Dr. Robert Herron: To say it in one sentence, by providing preventive treatment modalities to the people who consistently incur the greatest expenses, we could leverage the greatest reductions in overall medical expenses and end up with the lowest treatment cost for everyone.

In most populations, a small fraction of people account for the majority of healthcare costs. In the U.S., for instance, the 10 percent of the population with the highest expenses incurred 60-70 percent of our total medical expenditures annually. In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5 percent incurred 43 percent of total Medicare costs, and 25 percent of seniors accounted for 85 percent of total expenses.

Research shows that high-cost people typically have chronic conditions, which are affected by excessive stress. As we know, stress degrades the immune system and other physiological systems, such as the cardiovascular system and contributes to a wide range of physical and mental disorders.

Prolonged stress also contributes to the unhealthy lifestyles that cause most chronic conditions—such as smoking, drinking, and abuse of drugs—which account for approximately 80 percent of national medical expenditures. Clearly, stress reduction will help reduce high medical costs.

Because chronic stress is a leading driver of high medical expenses, if health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid started covering the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, the most effective stress-reduction method as shown by research, it would be possible to greatly reduce skyrocketing national healthcare expenditures without cutting benefits, increasing premiums, or raising taxes.

Linda Egenes: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress?

Dr. Robert Herron: When you meditate, your body experiences a unique state of physical and mental rest that eliminates stress and helps to balance and normalize all your bodily systems. The TM technique also makes the mind and body more resilient so you don’t accumulate excessive stress in the future. This improves health and reduces costs.

In addition to stress release, however, there are other beneficial activities that occur during the TM technique. For instance, during TM sessions many researchers have found that brain functioning is enhanced, resulting in greater brain orderliness and coherence, which also increases intelligence and creativity.

Disease is a state of disorder or imbalance in both mind and body. Because the brain controls most systems in our physiology, if we make the brain more orderly, then the entire body also becomes more orderly and healthy, including the heart. That is why the research shows that when we improve health with the TM technique, there are corresponding declines in all disease categories and medical costs.

Linda Egenes: I understand that you’ve published a number of research studies on healthcare costs. Can you talk about your research?

Dr. Robert Herron: The most recent study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2011. The results indicated that people with consistently high doctors’ bills experienced a 28 percent cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years of TM practice. Even after the first year of meditation, the TM group’s physicians’ bills declined by 11 percent.

What did these findings mean? First of all, the research demonstrated that the largest and quickest reductions in medical costs could be achieved by providing the TM program to people with consistently high healthcare costs—the very people who are driving up the costs of healthcare today.

Secondly, it showed that a nonmedical intervention, the Transcendental Meditation technique, resulted in a statistically significant decline in healthcare usage that persisted for five years. In other words, with the group that practiced TM, the number of times they visited the doctor was less at the end of the five-year study than it had been at the start of the study.

This kind of decline in healthcare usage had never been shown before. Prior to this research, health economists and leaders hoped that someday the best interventions might be able to, at best, slow down the rate of increase in medical expenses.

Thus leaders in the field of healthcare had never even imagined that a decline in healthcare usage would be possible for this group of chronically ill patients. Yet because the TM technique has such a powerful health-enhancing effect, the impossible has become the common experience of people who meditate regularly.

Linda Egenes: That’s an extraordinary finding. Are there any other studies that indicate the Transcendental Meditation technique can create a decrease in healthcare utilization over a long period of time?

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes, several other studies also suggest this. For instance, a study by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 1987, examined five years of health insurance data to assess the medical usage of 2,000 TM practitioners compared with controls. When compared with norms (everyone else in the health insurance plan of the same age and gender) and other groups of similar profession, the TM subjects had 50 percent lower inpatient and outpatient medical visits. This trend held across all age groups and disease categories. According to the clinically significant findings, there was 87 percent less hospitalization than norms for heart disease, and 55 percent less hospitalization than norms for cancer.

This study and others demonstrating reduced healthcare utilization through the TM technique were published in peer-reviewed journals, and over 242 additional studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that the TM technique improves a wide range of mental and physical health disorders. Many of these studies were randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Several randomized clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the TM technique decreases high blood pressure, improves heart function, reduces cardiovascular mortality, and decreases all-cause death rates.

The body of research is strong. To me, it implies that we should make policy changes at all levels of the healthcare system to make this life-saving methodology of the TM technique available to everyone. Then we could begin to halt the epidemic of stress-related diseases that are causing unnecessary suffering and driving healthcare costs higher.

Linda Egenes: I understand that the TM technique has also been shown to be a cost-effective way to treat mental disorders such as chronic anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes. Three research studies that evaluated the impact of TM practice on veterans who suffer from PTSD found dramatic declines in negative tendencies, as well as increases in happiness, harmony, positive attitudes, and wholesome, productive lifestyles. The numerous testimonials from these veterans indicate that the TM technique completely changed their lives and, in many cases, saved them from suicide. These early studies are now being repeated in other settings with many more veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.

Linda Egenes: Based on your research and knowledge of the healthcare system, what would it take to get a preventive program such as the Transcendental Meditation technique widely adopted?

Dr. Robert Herron: For a preventive program such as the TM technique to become widely adopted, the federal and state governments and health insurance organizations simply need to examine the entire body of TM research that verifies its health benefits. Then, in the best interests of their constituents and consumers, they could provide full insurance coverage for starting the TM technique as soon as possible. Governments would save large amounts of money and would be able to balance their budgets more easily.

So the solution is simple: just add a TM benefit. If the TM technique were made available to the entire population, it could become a powerful means to prevent disease and enhance happiness and progress in all areas of life.

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 18. Reprinted with permission.)