BY LINDA EGENES

 

Tolerance as a State of BeingAs tensions rose in Paris and demonstrations swept Western Europe in January of 2015, people around the world wondered how to stop religious intolerance and promote peace and goodwill among all people.

Yet with racial and religious hostilities worldwide reaching a six-year high, as reported in the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, intolerance is a global issue that affects us no matter where we live.

While schools, religious groups and families can do their part in promoting racial and religious tolerance, you have to wonder if tolerance can, indeed, be taught.

The research shows yes, and no. Some researchers question whether schools can help, since educational institutions have historically reinforced racial and economic inequality. Yet one study (Henze, 2001) showed that certain pro-active approaches on the part of teachers could reduce racial and ethnic conflict. These included:

  • Multicultural or ethnic assemblies and special events
  • After-school programs and other opportunities for students to mix
  • Conflict-resolution training
  • Recruitment of diverse staff
  • Teacher-driven professional development on issues of equity
  • Teaming between classrooms, usually a bilingual class with a traditional class

I know from personal experience that parents talking to their kids about racial and religious tolerance can make a difference in their attitudes and behaviors. For instance, I was raised in Naperville, an all-white, middle-class suburb of Chicago, yet during the integration battles of the 1960s my parents made a point of telling us that if a racially diverse family wished to move into our neighborhood, they would be welcome. They taught us to never to use derogatory labels and to show respect for people of all races and all religions.

They also encouraged me to enroll as a camp counselor at a bi-racial summer camp in our town. The counselors and kids were half from our suburb and half from the inner city. It was a formative experience, and fortunately for me, paved the way for many loving friendships with people of diverse races and religions around the world.

As I write this, I’m wondering what causes us to think of another human being as “other” than ourselves in the first place?

It seems like part of the problem comes in when people try to create unity on the surface of life, to have the thought, “If only everyone had the same belief system as me, then there would be no fighting in this world.”

Unity at the surface of life and unity at the depths are two different things.

In fact, when unity is deep in a person’s psychology, when someone has a strong sense of self, a strong sense of who they are, they don’t feel threatened by another person for having a different belief, race or religion, because they experience the connectedness between all beings on a deep level. Instead they appreciate, celebrate, and exult in the differences of others.

It’s like a well-watered garden. Each type of flower is different—a rose, a dahlia, a daisy—yet at their source they consist of the same colorless sap. No one feels threatened by the diversity of flowers in the garden—in fact, that’s what makes the garden so beautiful.

Tolerance seems to have a lot to do with self-actualization, as a person who is more stable in themselves will be less likely to feel threatened by people who have different religious beliefs. And, just as you would expect, tolerance, acceptance of others and lack of prejudice are characteristics of self-actualization as found in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

So if self-actualized people are more likely to be tolerant of others, then the question remains, how do we help people to become more self-actualized? Throughout the ages, meditation has been a tool to develop the self, to become more self-actualized or enlightened, and to enjoy inner and outer peace.

Now modern research shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique helps develop self-actualization. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality in 1991 compared independent research studies and concluded that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique increased self-actualization by about three times as much as procedures of contemplation, or concentration. A 2005 follow-up study of university students, also published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, showed that university students who were practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique increased significantly on self-development (ego development) when measured after graduation, in contrast to control students at three other universities who were not participating.

After one month of practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, individuals developed a more strongly defined sense of self-concept, in comparison to matched controls. They also reported that their ‘actual’ self was closer to their ‘ideal’ self as reported in the British Journal of Psychology in 1982.

I think it’s important to recognize that TM itself is not a religion nor does it involve embracing a particular belief system. Over six million people of all different religions, races and beliefs practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. The beautiful thing is that people often report that practicing TM strengthens their understanding and belief in their own religion. Yet at the same time, as the research shows, it simultaneously promotes acceptance and tolerance of those who are different from us, who have a different religion, race or belief system.

In a 1971 interview Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, noted that as someone starts to practice the TM technique, “they start to dive deep within, they begin to feel better and the stresses are less, and life becomes easier and ‘help thy neighbor’ becomes an instinct, an inspiration to everyone. One doesn’t have to know from the teaching to know that ‘help thy neighbor’ is a good thing. It becomes a habit. So in this way one begins to live their religion. Living the religion is by developing pure consciousness. Religious life is life, which is spontaneously lived. It’s not a matter of thinking and doing good, but one is structured in doing good.”

In other words, helping our neighbor, helping other human beings, no matter what their color or economic status or religion, becomes a spontaneous action for someone who is developing pure consciousness through daily meditation. Tolerance becomes a natural state of being.

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 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

by Linda Egenes

MG_2486-1Like many young women today, Andrea Zapata enrolled in college right after completing high school. Deciding that she wanted to study environmental sciences at a university, she threw herself into researching different transfer options, but soon became discouraged.

“I grew disillusioned with universities that had great environmental programs yet did not show full integrity with the quality of food in their cafeterias or in their commitment to sustainability,” she says.

It was her mother who found a different kind of school, Maharishi University of Management (MUM), where the emphasis is on developing the inner potential of the student through a strong academic curriculum along with the practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. At the same time MUM promotes better health by serving fresh, local and organic food and culturing a balanced daily routine with time for yoga, sports, exercise, and adequate rest.

“My first reaction was that it was too good to be true,” says Andrea, who is now 22 and about to graduate from MUM with a B.A. in business administration and a minor in sustainable living. “But I came to visit and the students were not only learning and achieving at a high level, they were living the wholesome lifestyle I was looking for.”

Andrea was also impressed by the top faculty, many of whom are graduates of Ivy League schools, and found out that the school has garnered multiple academic awards. Most recently, the Sustainable Living program was ranked #4 in the country by EnvironmentalScience.org and MUM’s bachelor’s program was twice named a Sierra Club Cool School. The B.A. in business administration was named one of the Top 50 Best Value” business programs at small colleges in the United States.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who also founded the Transcendental Meditation technique, established Maharishi University of Management in 1971.

“From the start, the aim of the University was to develop the full potential of each student by developing consciousness,” says Dr. Vicki Herriott, Chair of the Department of Management at MUM.

So even though MUM is fully accredited from the BA to the PhD level and offers a standard curriculum—with degrees in business administration, computer science, education, literature, art, creative musical arts, physiology, physics, media and communications, and sustainable living—it is truly innovative at its core. While students come from diverse cultural backgrounds from the US and 85 different countries, every student is engaged in expanding his or her “container of knowledge.” In other words, they are increasing their ability to learn and achieve.

Developing Consciousness

At MUM, not only the students—but also the faculty and staff—practice the TM technique, which is a systematic and scientifically verified means of developing inner peace and wellness. This is the heart of the education at MUM.

Through this simple, natural, and effortless procedure, practiced before the first class and after the last class of the day—students enliven the most creative, powerful, and intelligent level of their own awareness, pure consciousness. As a result, students report that it’s easier to study, that grades improve, stress and fatigue diminish, creativity and leadership skills increase, health improves, and social relationships are easier. Scientific research backs up these personal experiences—as reported in more than 380 studies published in peer-reviewed journals throughout the world.“Students are under so much stress today, and simply by lessening the stress students are able to learn better,” says Dr. Herriott. “The brain also begins to function in a more orderly way. Research shows that even IQ, which was thought to be static, goes up. You could say that the practice of TM expands the ‘container of knowledge.’”

While TM benefits both male and female students, it is especially helpful to college women today, who make up 57% of the average student body, according to the Digest of Education Statistics as reported in ForbesA 2013 survey of college students showed that female students report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than their male counterparts.

“Women’s options have greatly increased over the last decades, but with the increase in options comes a pressure to ‘do it all,’” notes Dr. Herriott. “And we sometimes take on too much.  By integrating TM into their daily activity, young women learn to create balance in their lives. As women, we have to take care of ourselves first, if we want to be of maximum good to others.”

Andrea Zapata notes that due to the pressures of the media and popular culture, many young women feel lost. “I feel like it’s really difficult for girls to get to know themselves and recognize their value and their worth. Many are trying to find themselves in other people and other things.”

She says that her MUM education, and especially the TM technique, has taught her how to look for solutions inside herself, giving her a self-reliance that she never knew before.

“Coming to MUM has definitely given me more clarity towards a truth that many of us may not have realized just yet—that happiness already lies within each and every one of us. The secret is in understanding ourselves well enough to tap into our inner happiness a wholesome and nourishing way,” she says. “Over time, I’ve been able to create an actual toolkit for myself—the tools that help me cultivate happiness within myself consistently. And TM has been a powerful foundation for that. Whenever I feel low, I can tap into what I know works for me, whether it’s meditating or exercising or eating healthier or free-writing. It ultimately all is a reflective process for me that enables me to take a step back, evaluate where I am, and understand how I could grow in the direction I would love most.”

Developing Leadership Skills

For Andrea, developing leadership skills is an important part of her life. In her previous college, she enrolled in student government and co-founded a mentorship program. She currently serves as the student government ambassador for the College of Business Administration at MUM.

She’s also developing a viable business that deals with sustainability and schools. She started the project with fellow students under the auspices of the “Concept to Market” program, which is an innovative initiative spearheaded by entrepreneur and visiting faculty Cliff Rose and MUM’s Department of Management.

“Practicing the TM technique has increased my capacity to better process, understand, and assess how to strategize to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b,’” she says. “I call it a ‘bird’s eye’ point of view. This helps me engage more effectively with the group I’m leading—to guide and work with them even better.”

MUM students regularly win awards for their projects on the national level, even when competing against students from much larger schools. The MyActions website gave MUM a Silver Level Student Actions Award, which honors undergraduate schools for student demonstrated leadership, momentum, and impact of green, caring, and healthy actions. And recently MUM was named one of “Thirty great small colleges for ESTP Personality Types” by DegreeMatch.org, a designation that they describe as students who are risk-takers, leaders and energetic.”

Norah Fabek, a non-traditional student who entered MUM at age 25, says that those words describe her perfectly. “I identify with all three of those qualities very strongly, and I think most people would define me by those,” she says. “I feel like those qualities are allowed to shine at MUM, and are developed by the educational system here.”

Norah found MUM an attractive option after dropping out from another school years earlier. “I’d done some college right after high school but I wasn’t getting the kind of information I wanted,” she says. “I was looking for bigger answers and bigger foundational ideas—why people are the way they are. When I found out about MUM, it made sense and everything fell into place. It really made my education fulfilling.”

Growing Creativity In a Changing World

“TM definitely helps facilitate creativity,” says Nynke Passi, a poet and fiction writer as well as long-time creative writing faculty at MUM. “My most inspired writing comes in times when I am very inward, when I get quiet enough to listen. With students it’s the same. Meditation makes people appreciate and notice the subtle nuances of things. It enlivens sensory awareness. It opens people’s hearts and makes people feel happier inside. The feeling level in my classes at MUM is unique in every way; students are a family, they feel safe. They have a willingness to open up and explore.”

Nynke Passi says others have noticed the extraordinary creativity of MUM students. “In the past ten years, eight of my creative writing students landed in leading graduate programs in journalism or creative writing,” she says. “I think this unique atmosphere of inner exploration—not just of senses, mind, and intellect, but also feeling, personal voice, and a sense of cosmic connection, a universality you could say—has everything to do with the enormous success of MUM’s undergraduate creative writing program.”

Hannah Foster, an art major at MUM, says that TM and the MUM experience have helped her to become a more creative visual artist. “In the past, I experienced a high level of anxiety during many activities, from having to talk to people at work to completing a project,” she says.

After spending time at MUM, she started to notice significant changes in her anxiety levels. “I think the initial benefit of practicing TM was a deeper confidence and trust in who I was and the ability to complete my goals,” she says. “My anxiety has greatly lessened. I was always afraid I was making the wrong life choices for myself, or that my intuition was faulty. Through TM, I’ve been able to stabilize an inner peace I recognize as my true self. With this newly found confidence, I have little fear of making myself vulnerable in my artwork.”

Connecting All Knowledge to Your Self

Besides developing consciousness by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day, students learn to approach their studies in a new and insightful way.

“The practice of TM develops a student’s familiarity with and understanding of consciousness, the underlying field that they experience in their meditation and that connects all disciplines,” says Dr. Herriott. “By identifying principles that govern the functioning of their own growth of consciousness, but also govern the most fundamental aspects of every discipline, the student can more easily relate the principles of the discipline to themselves. The student begins to recognize these patterns and can more quickly understand new concepts based on their prior learning.”

Students thrive in this kind of atmosphere, because it makes every subject of study personally relevant. It’s turning things inside-out, so students can see how every discipline—whether it’s math or biology or literature—has its basis in the unified, universal field of intelligence and creativity that they directly experience in their TM practice.

“Classes at MUM approach everything as if it’s a subjective experience—nothing is object oriented,” says Supriya Vidic, who had served in the US Army and reached the rank of Sergeant before coming to MUM, then graduated with a BA in media and communications and is pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia University. “The ‘you’ is just as important as the ‘other’ or subject. When you take that view you really see the totality of things.”

Preparing for A Career

MUM’s focus on self-knowledge provides another advantage. “Employers are hungry for the very qualities that MUM cultivates, such as critical thinking, creativity, clarity, problem solving ability, relationship building, and collaboration,” says Steve Langerud, MUM’s career counselor.

Emily Marcus, M.D., would agree. An MUM graduate in physiology and health in 2004, she completed medical school at Johns Hopkins University to become a “hospitalist,” a medical doctor who works exclusively in hospitals—a medical career that didn’t even exist two decades ago.

“MUM helped me to become more centered,” she says. “I had a very stress-free college experience, which helped me stay focused on what I wanted to do. I was able to maintain a balanced perspective in a field that can be both mentally and physically challenging. That was really helpful to me.”

She also found that her studies at MUM gave her an edge in her current job at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell Medical Center. “At MUM, I learned a lot about nutrition, diet, and lifestyle modification for prevention and treatment of disease. Subjects like nutrition aren’t taught much in medical school, but provided me with useful tools for helping my patients.”

Dr. Herriott says, “One of the greatest joys of a teacher is to watch the growth of one’s students.  “To see our very diverse student body—who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and countries—all move in the direction of growing to be the best person that they can be is exhilarating. It’s the reason I love teaching.  Students grow in confidence in their ability to present their ideas effectively and work in teams productively.  They learn to value their skills and their unique contribution to the world. They find their niche. They also learn to value the uniqueness of their fellow students.  MUM is very much a family — a supportive family where each student is appreciated and in turn appreciates.”

YouTube Preview Image
 To find out more about degree programs at Maharishi University of Management, see www.mum.edu

 

I originally wrote this blog for TM-Women.org in April, 2016.

BY LINDA EGENES

The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of EnlightenmentAnn Purcell didn’t start out to write a book. A teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique since 1973, she taught Transcendental Meditation and advanced courses in many countries around the world. She also wrote songs about her experiences of transcending.

“My best songs are those that were totally unplanned and just suddenly, spontaneously bubbled up inside of me—the melody and the words seemed to write themselves,” she says.

Her writing also unfolded effortlessly. One evening as she drifted off to sleep, a flood of ideas washed over her, and she got up to write them down. The flood of ideas continued almost every night for a month, and by the end she had a manuscript.

That became the first edition of her book, (published under the title Let Your Soul Sing: Enlightenment is For Everyone). Soon a publisher acquired the book and issued a new edition with the new title The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment. Ann also added an intriguing new chapter called, “Mother Divine: The Divine Feminine.” Here she explains how we can access the divine feminine in our own lives.

Linda Egenes: How would you explain the “divine feminine”?
Ann Purcell:
The divine feminine is a term that refers to the creative, evolutionary force within nature itself. It is the all-nourishing power of natural law which governs all life in a progressive, evolutionary direction. Because this creative energy is not man made, we can appreciate it as divine. It is within each of us, within the silent depths of our Being and can be enjoyed as a natural part of our daily lives.

Some people call it “the goddess within.” The term is quite ancient and comes from many traditions throughout time. For example, the common term “Mother Earth” symbolizes balance, healing, renewal and restoration. The divine feminine is that aspect within every woman that reflects the qualities that are nurturing, loving, understanding, compassionate, insightful, intuitive, creative, forgiving, healing, steady, patient and wise. Men also possess this quality because it is a fundamental constituent of natural law itself. But women more readily express it in their natural tendency as the mothers of the world to nourish one and all.

Linda: How does this concept of the divine feminine relate to our busy lives here on earth?
Ann:
Women want to access more nurturing, intuitive, creative feelings that are deep inside—but unfortunately in this day and age, the stress and day-to-day activities are so overwhelming that many women have lost access to their finer feelings. Women today are busy managing their homes or jobs and trying to balance both. Most women want to be nourishing to their families, but they might get so tired that they start to disconnect from their deeper feelings and get easily angry or stressed out. They’ve lost touch with the more refined levels of feeling, where the inner qualities of the divine feminine are predominant.

Linda: So you’re saying it’s a woman’s natural state to express the finer level of feeling?
Ann:
Of course men also have a nurturing, creative side. But women were born with the capacity to give birth to a child, so they naturally have those precious instincts and that nourishing power. It’s natural for a mother, and most women have those natural instinctive qualities. It’s not that men don’t also have these qualities, but it might be a little more natural for a woman to have those tender, motherly, nourishing instincts.

Certainly a mother has to be creative in the household. You might not think of that as creativity, but a mother is always drawing on her creativity, her inner resources to meet the needs of the children, the home, the family.

And of course, women in the workplace are also solution-oriented. Recent research shows that businesses were able to raise their problem-solving ability or “collective intelligence” just by adding more women to their teams.

Linda: How is intuition an important feature of the divine feminine?
Ann:
I think it’s important to consider the question, Where does creativity come from? And where does intuition come from? We’ve all heard that creativity comes from within. Sometimes something from the outside can cause creativity to flow, but ultimately it comes from inside us.

At the source of thought of every human being is an ocean of silence. We can call this ocean of silence a field of infinite creativity, a field of creative intelligence that pervades the universe. This is the creative intelligence that I was speaking of earlier that is our divine inner essence. Tapping into this creative energy is what produces the connection to our finest feeling level.

The feeling level is closest to this ocean of silence. Most of us are aware of very subtle feelings within or flashes of intuition. That feeling level is on the border—on the junction point, on the level closest to the field of silence from which all creativity wells up. If we have a natural awareness, a quiet attunement to those feelings, our intuition is more sharp.

I think everyone has had the experience of saying, “Oh, if I’d just gone by my feeling.” They know that their feeling is right.

Parents often tell their children to learn to listen to their inner voice, to listen to their inner feeling. “Don’t go by what your friends are saying,” they might tell their kids. “Listen to your own inner voice, because that will guide you in the right direction.”

What happens is that people have that inner feeling, a flash of intuition, but don’t always go by it. Then they find themselves getting into a little trouble—in a work situation or a social situation.

Linda: How can we break this cycle of stress and express these beautiful qualities of the divine feminine in our daily lives?
Ann:
One simple way is to be more rested. I know that’s a challenge for many people. There is a growing body of research on the impact of sleep on cognitive functioning and health. Many people may have heard Arianna Huffington coming out strongly on the importance of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important for natural well-being, but being rested also helps us act from the fine feeling level. When we’re feeling happy and relaxed, there’s less noise in the mind, and we can access those fine feelings of love, understanding, compassion, insightfulness, intuition, creativity and patience. So getting more rest is one basic, fundamental way to make those finer feelings more accessible.

Another way is through the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM), which allows the system to get very deep rest. Due to the deep rest, stress released by the nervous system, and when there is less stress and fatigue, the mind is clearer. The deep rest through TM is like a broom that is sweeping away all the stress and the internal, mental noise, the chatter of “I have to pick up my kids,” or “I have to get to work”—all the worry that goes on in the mind. Research shows that with the regular practice of TM, happiness naturally grows, harmony grows, creativity grows—all those qualities of the divine feminine start to shine.

There is another important way that TM can help. The practice of Transcendental Meditation takes the mind from the surface level of thinking to finer and finer and finer levels of the thinking process until it transcends even the finest level of thinking and experiences the source of thought.

That means that the mind, through the process of transcending, becomes habituated to experiencing the finer feeling levels through the process of transcending. So not only is the stress swept away along with the noise in the mind, but you’re also accessing the finer levels of the thinking process, so more and more you’re able to pick up thoughts on that finest feeling level—including the creative thoughts, the intuitions, the tender feelings of the heart. And you’ll be able to use those creative, finer feelings and thoughts to accomplish what you need in your daily life.

Linda: That’s a beautiful point, that TM not only clears the noise from the mind, but it allows the mind to become more refined.
Ann:
And this experience creates a strong feeling of self-empowerment and self-reliance. Because everything we need, all the wisdom we need, is there inside us, in that silence. Our own inner silence is the greatest gift we can draw upon to guide us through the stormy aspects of life. And the beautiful things that happen as well—we want to be just as creative during the good times as the challenging times. We want to be able to draw on those creative, nourishing, intuitive qualities in every aspect of our lives.

Also, the more creative we are, the happier we are, the less stressed we are, the more we’re able to transform our outer environment as well. If we’re calm, our family and the people around us tend to reflect that calm. If we come up with creative solutions to the challenging situations of life, we’re better able to diffuse problems, more able to contribute to accomplishing any tasks, any jobs. So it has many many benefits in daily life.

This is the real meaning of self-reliance or self-empowerment—when we’re not dependent on anything from the outside for our power or strength or resilience. It’s all there inside. If a storm comes, and if we’re securely anchored down, we’re not going to get tossed about by the stormy waves. We’ll be very resilient, firmly established within, where nothing from the outside can shake our inner stability and inner joy and inner well of creativity.

Linda: It seems that when more and more women are experiencing their divine feminine, we could really change the world to become a more peaceful, happier place.
Ann:
Exactly. In fact, a few years ago we established an organization to specifically reach out to women, called the Global Mother Divine Organization (GMDO), which is part of the worldwide TM organization. GMDO has opened TM centers just for women, allowing women to enjoy the nourishing quality of being with all women. Many women report that the softened atmosphere allows them to completely relax and be themselves.

And that creates a situation conducive to experiencing the silence inside. Transcending is an extremely nourishing situation in itself, but when you come to group meditation with other women, it’s enhanced exponentially.

Also, GMDO has outreach programs to many different women’s groups—nursing programs, educational programs for women and girls, cultural programs, programs for women in poverty and programs for self-empowerment. I just read today that this is a worldwide trend—for women to gather together, and organizations for self-empowerment are sprouting up all over the world. What better way to empower the self than to be in the Self, which is the all-empowering field of silence, the power of bliss, the power of creativity?

And the beautiful thing is that it’s our own inner nature. It’s our own Self. If every woman can access this level, they will create a huge transformation for society through enlivening that inner silence. Real change begins within.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, May 28, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)