Linda Egenes holding her latest book

Photo by Cheryl Fusco Johnson

Oh, that magic feeling when the book you’ve worked on for 18 years is in your hands and it looks so beautiful! Big thanks to the editing and production team at Penguin Random House.

Waves of gratitude to the many, many friends who helped me along the way. To everyone who has already bought a copy, I am grateful beyond words. Over 1,000 copies have already sold, thanks to all of you!

Coming Sept 6, 2016

Pre-sales only $11.47 at Amazon.com

What people are saying about  The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy (TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House).

 “I love the story of the Ramayana and this new version is so simply and beautifully written—it will stir the soul!” David Lynch, Oscar-nominated film director

 “A luminous new rendering of an epic that remains as relevant as it is timeless.” —Craig Pearson, author of The Supreme Awakening

“This retelling of the Ramayana is an impressive compilation, beautifully narrated, mingled with thoughtful poetic expressions both original and modern. A retelling for all times, it stays true to the original Valmiki Ramayana, and its exalted execution by Egenes and Reddy sounds natural to the ear for modern readers.”Bal Ram Singh, Ph.D.,
Director, Center for Indic Studies
at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and author of Exploring Science in Ancient Indian Texts

“At last! A retelling of Valmiki’s Ramayana that understands and expresses the role of consciousness in thought, speech, and action. This elegantly written version is the one to read.” —Rhoda Orme-Johnson, Ph.D., co-author of The Flow of Consciousness

 “This vernacular prose retelling features narrative clarity, richly textured imagery, and a luminous storytelling voice that leaps off the page. This is a treasure that begs to be read out loud.” —Hertha D. Sweet Wong, Ph.D., assistant chair of the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography

 “In this wonderful newly abridged adaptation by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy, the Ramayana takes on new life.  Egenes and Reddy have given us a text that is lucid and lyrical, eminently readable, and will make a fine addition to libraries and classrooms.”  —Steven Schneider, professor of English at University of Texas-Pan American and editor of The Contemporary Narrative Poem: Critical Crosscurrents

 “The Ramayana is one of the great treasures of mankind. It tells a gripping story but it is very long and it is in Sanskrit. Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy have retold the story at manageable length in beautiful English and they have kept the dramatic tension, which makes the reader want to read on. I know the story well but I could not wait to see what came next. Well done.” Vernon Katz, Ph.D., author of Conversations with Maharishi

“This eminently readable and poetic retelling by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy captures the flavor of the ancient text, brings out philosophical and spiritual truths sometimes glossed over by modern translators, and flows so smoothly it is hard to put down.” — Jack Forem, author of Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

 “Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are resplendent in our minds and ensconced in our hearts as we traverse the beauty, tragedy, and adventure of the Ramayana in this elegant retelling of the classic.”  Saraswati Nagpal, author of Sita, Daughter of the Earth 

 “Perhaps the best modern retelling to date, this version by Egenes and Reddy is true to Valmiki’s text yet keeps you turning the pages. Will be appreciated by adults and children, Indian and Western audiences alike.”

 Chandrika Tandon, Grammy nominee and founder of Soul Chants Music

 “This lovely and sensitive adaptation of the Ramayana is easy and enjoyable to read without losing the deeper layers of insight that make the story timeless.  I heartily recommend it!” Prudence Farrow Bruns, Ph.D. in South Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley, and author of Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song.

 “In this new prose translation of the Ramayana, Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy maintain the cadence and richness of language of the original poetic epic. Sternfeld’s introduction provides a new dimension to understanding the depth and breadth of this universal story.”

Care Connet, poet and author of Diary of the White Bush Clover: A Peace Pilgrimage

“These authors portray Vedic life in its larger and deeper context, bringing out the nobility of the heroic action of the characters. It is beautifully written, suitable for all ages, and keeps the reader engaged. By the end I was moved to tears.” —Susan Andersen, Ph.D., co-author of The Flow of Consciousness

 

 

 

 

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.)

The Solitude of Self
September 16, 2015

BY LINDA EGENES

Kate BolickIn Kate Bolick’s new book Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, the author credits five writers who helped awaken her to the glories of the solitary life: Neith Boyce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton and Maeve Brennan.

Some of these writers lived during a time when choosing to remain unmarried was an unconventional lifestyle, and the solitary life was possible for only a select few women who could somehow obtain an education and earn a decent living—or who had their own means.

Yet according to Bolick, even though American women now have the same educational opportunities as men—and statistically are marrying less, marrying older and delaying or forgoing having children—a woman is still defined by the questions “whom to marry and when will it happen?”

Bolick, a single woman, wants to change that. She writes, “We like to pretend that only single people are lonely, and coupledom the cure.”

To my mind it’s a good thing if a woman who doesn’t want to get married feels that she can make that choice without feeling marginalized. As a happily married woman without children, I myself am pursuing a lifestyle that is not exactly the norm either. So I applaud the idea that every woman can follow the lifestyle that suits her best, not a one-size-fits-all prescription deemed by society as the happiest, the healthiest, the ideal.

And as Bolick eventually discovers in writing her book, we don’t really have to choose between independence and marriage anyway. She writes, “A wholesale reclamation of the word spinster is a tall order. My aim is more modest: to offer it up as a shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you’re single or coupled.”

Well, yes, I would have to applaud that aim too. It seems we women too often forget there is one thing that can help guide any women through life, whether young or old; whether married, unmarried or widowed; whether career woman, mother at home or both—and that is to embrace the part of you that is independent and self-sufficient.

This is not a new idea among great women thinkers, but it’s certainly apt for our times, when every woman needs a trusty vessel to help her navigate the ever-evolving landscape of feminism and women’s rights and the ever-increasing choices of lifestyle and career. Journalist Elliott Holt (in her Time magazine book review of Spinster) mentioned that Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a speech titled “The Solitude of Self” in 1892, when she was retiring as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at age 77.

Stanton herself was an unusual woman of her times—even though her father thought only boys should be educated, Stanton had managed to educate herself in Greek language and philosophy. As an early champion of women’s rights, she also had a successful marriage, to fellow abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton, and was the mother of three boys.

In her retirement speech she said, “No matter how many women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone.”

By “alone” I don’t think she meant “lonely.” Rather, I think she meant “self-reliant.” For me personally, this resonates. Not only in a physical sense, such as if your partner or husband dies and you are left to support yourself and the children on your own, but in a spiritual sense and a relationships sense. Surely, if there is one lesson I have learned that has contributed to my happiness in life—in my work, in my marriage, and in every single friendship and family relationship—it’s that relationships work out better when they involve two people who are already happy within themselves. Then the marriage or friendship or work relationship is a blessing, an abundance, two people overflowing in love and generosity of spirit. If instead two people are looking to the other one to fill them up, the relationship is off to a rocky start indeed.

In her speech Elizabeth Cady Stanton went on to say, “There is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self.”

This “solitude of self” is something that every woman already possesses, which never fails, which costs nothing and is not for anyone else to control or to take away. It can be developed no matter what your economic circumstances or choices in lifestyle, whether raising a family or living alone.

In fact, this solitude of self has been the inspiration for many great men and women throughout history. The Tao Te Ching says, “Where there is silence/one finds peace./ When there is silence/one finds the anchor of the universe within himself. The Buddhist Dhammapada says, “The one who has entered a solitary place/Whose mind is calm and who sees the way,/To that one comes insight and truth/And rapturous joy transcending any other.”

Sybil, the oracle of Delphi famously advised, “Know thyself.” Many great women, such as Emily Dickinson, Helen Keller, Emily Bronte, Clare Boothe Luce and Billie Jean King, reported vivid experiences of their inner silence, as described in Dr. Craig Pearson’s beautiful book The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How You Can Cultivate Them.

Here is an excerpt by Charlotte Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, from Dr. Pearson’s book:
“A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers, for short life, eternal liberty.
But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast — unuttered harmony
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.
Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels —
Its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!”

While most modern women have a sense of what the “solitude of self” means, and have had some experience of reaching deep to their inner silence to make an important decision or to stay calm in a crisis, we all need help accessing it on a daily basis. But how? Most women today live a hectic life—striving to perform at work, ferrying the kids to soccer, getting dinner on the table and squeezing in a few hours of sleep. Without help getting to the silence inside us, it could, indeed, be as “inaccessible as the ice cold mountains.”

Yet we need it now more than ever. It’s the desire to access the solitude of self that is causing thousands of women today to turn to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, to find that oasis of silence and self-sufficient happiness within themselves every day.

Research shows that when people close their eyes to practice TM, their mind experiences a state of consciousness that is different from waking, sleeping or dreaming. Scientists have identified it as a fourth state of consciousness, during which the body experiences deep rest and dissolves stress and fatigue. At the same time, the mind is experiencing a state of silent, pure wakefulness, an unbounded ocean of bliss, a unified experience of wholeness, a state of pure consciousness, in which the knower knows itself, and the mind is awake at its source, an unlimited reservoir of peace, harmony, intelligence and happiness.

With TM, this experience of inner silence is accessible to every woman, no matter how busy she is or how many demands on her day.

Soledad O’Brien, Emmy-award winning journalist and former CNN correspondent and a very busy woman, tells her experience of contacting her inner silence by practicing the TM technique: “I have a crazy schedule, I have four small children and I am always going, so the idea of calming my mind I thought, ‘not possible!’ But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind. So that’s all my own personal experience.”

Oprah Winfrey, another famously busy person, described her experience of practicing the TM technique with a group of women in Fairfield, Iowa: “I walked away feeling fuller than when I’d come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is—still—the constancy of stillness.”

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 15, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Dr. Suzanne SteinbaumCardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, is a woman on a mission. As Director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of the life-changing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life, she is teaching women a new, heart-centered way to live.

And she is succeeding. While many doctors complain that their patients don’t want to make the lifestyle changes that will truly transform their health, Dr. Steinbaum doesn’t have that problem.

You only have to talk to Dr. Steinbaum for a few minutes to find out why she calls herself a preventive cardiologist. When a patient comes to her office who has not been feeling well for a long time, Dr. Steinbaum gets the patient talking about her unhealthy food choices, her lack of exercise, and the stressors in her life. And then she motivates the patient to change.

“It seems to me that there are two options,” she says. “You can pull out your pad and write a prescription, or you can actually help them change their lives, which is something that they own forever. There is nothing more powerful than that.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s enthusiasm for transforming women’s heart health is contagious.

As a national spokesperson for the Go Red for Women campaign, as a featured guest on 20/20, Good Morning America, and major networks, and as the host of her TV show, Focus OnHealth, she is reaching out to women all over the country.

It’s not only passion for her work that fuels Dr. Steinbaum’s success; it’s authenticity. She has lived what she teaches from an early age.

Sharing Her Own Personal Family History of Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy LifeIn creating the future of women’s medicine, Dr. Steinbaum looked to her past. “When I was writing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book, I realized that it was my story that drove me to do what I do,” she says.

Her story begins with her grandfather, who, as an athletic teen, was told by his doctor he could not play high school football because of a heart murmur. “He couldn’t understand why a doctor would tell him he was sick when he felt perfectly healthy,” says Steimbaum. “So he decided to learn more about the body, driving to New York City from New Jersey to take classes in nutrition.”

Eventually he became a doctor of osteopathy, which is a more hands-on field of medicine that focuses on holistic healing, beginning a family tradition that now includes eighteen doctors of osteopathy in the Steinbaum family.

Through his research, Steinbaum’s grandfather knew that nutrition affected the heart, and favored foods that modern research has found to be heart-healthy, such as avocados and dark chocolate. “Years later, when I was in my training, I wrote an article on nutrition and prevention of heart disease,” says Steinbaum. “Then I found out my grandfather wrote almost the exact same article in the 1930s. It felt strange, almost surreal. I wondered, ‘Is this genetic?’ ”

Whether nature or nurture, Steinbaum knew she wanted to be a doctor from an early age. As a child she followed her father on his hospital rounds on the weekend, and found it great fun to “assist” her grandfather in his home office.

“I was raised with the belief system that everyone is a holistic being, and you can’t treat just one aspect of the body,” she says.

Tackling the Myths of Women’s Heart Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

“It’s important that you incorporate habits in your life that aren’t a burden. They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Like her grandfather and father, Steinbaum first trained as a doctor of osteopathy. Two things happened that altered the course of her career.

“As a student I was working in the emergency room, and a relatively young-looking women was wheeled in sweating and vomiting,” she remembers. “The doctors diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and left her to wait in the corner. She had a heart attack right there in the ER. I thought, ‘That’s what I am going to do; help women not get heart attacks.’ ”

Years later, Steinbaum ended up doing a rotation at Block Island in Rhode Island. She was shocked to see a parade of young women visiting her office complaining of heart palpitations and chest pains while on vacation with their families.

“And I thought, ‘What is this?’ ” she says. “I could see that these highly successful, but highly stressed, women needed help. These two things have stayed in my heart my entire career.”

Propelled by the desire to educate women to recognize and prevent heart disease, she went on to become board certified as an MD and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Steinbaum likes to point out that although heart disease is thought to be a man’s disease, it is actually the number one killer of women. And because the symptoms are different in women than in men, many doctors don’t recognize the early signs of heart disease—or even heart attacks—in women.

“There is an increased incidence of heart disease in women less than fifty-five years old,” she says. “Women need to start early to prevent it, especially if there is a family history.”

Dr. Steinbaum says the significance of prevention for heart disease was what drew her to the field.“It was so compelling to be able to change the outcomes of people’s lives by simply helping them to change their lifestyles,” she says. “If I could teach people how to prevent the number one killer disease, what could be better than that?”

What Every Woman Can Do to Prevent Heart Disease

When I ask her to name the three most important things women can do for their hearts, Dr. Steinbaum says, “I used to say ‘stop smoking’ first, but now most people are on that bandwagon. Now I’d say eating a really healthy diet, and exercising, which, by far, is the best medication. And having a way to reduce stress is essential.”

For stress, Dr. Steinbaum recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“I tell my patients that we have to treat this issue of overwhelming stress in their lives, and this is an evidence-based technique that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes by 48 percent,” she says. “The American Heart Association recommends it as the most effective stress management tool for reducing hypertension.”

She says she first recommended TM because she was impressed with the research. “And then I learned it myself, and thought, ‘Oh this is huge! This is a really, really big deal; something that goes far beyond the medical benefits. One of my favorite things to say is that I never thought I could sit still that long, and now I look forward to it. I also say, ‘Trust me on this one; this is going to work.’ ”

As a working mother of an eight-year-old, Dr. Steinbaum herself is no stranger to the stress of modern life. “Every day I have about twenty-five million things to do, and before I did TM it sometimes was an overwhelming, daunting task,” she says. “Now that I do TM, it doesn’t mean I have less to do; it just means that it’s easier and calmer. There’s a lack of chaotic thought, and it’s almost like everything falls in place.”

photo_steinbaum01

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about. And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

TM offers a way out of the vicious cycle of stress, notes Dr. Steinbaum. “If you can meditate regularly and slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, dilate your arteries, and decrease your blood pressure, it’s done!”

But just like exercise or changing your diet, you have to do it regularly to create the change in the physiology. “We know that the change is persistent if you make a regular, routine practice of it,” she says.

For Steinbaum, any healthy habit has to resonate with a person’s goals and lifestyle. “It’s important that you incorporate things in your life that aren’t a burden,” she says. “They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Living from the Heart

Dr. Steinbaum calls her philosophy of preventing heart disease “living from the heart.”

When she speaks, her belief in her patients’ ability to transform their lives is palpable.

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about,” she says. “And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

She advises her patients: “Live from your heart and everything else will be fine.”

To help her patients become more aware of who they are and what they need to feel healthy, Dr. Steinbaum leads them in an exercise called “journaling their lives.”

“When people get caught in the minutiae of their own existence, it’s unhealthy, so I try to get people to step outside of themselves and to understand what they are living for,” she says. “For instance, a woman might feel motivated to lose weight so she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren.”

Later on, feeling good itself is enough motivation to eat heart-healthy foods, Dr. Steinbaum explains. But in the beginning, it’s easier for people to tie their goal to something larger than themselves.

“‘I want to lose weight to look thinner’ is usually not enough motivation,” she says.

Dr. Steinbaum has clearly poured her heart into her mission of educating women and preventing heart disease, and it’s her biggest reward when she sees a patient living from her heart and feeling better.

“I feel lucky to be a part of that transformation,” she says. “It’s amazing. Simply amazing.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s Top Five Heart-Health Tips

  1. Never smoke
  2. Exercise
  3. Eat heart-healthy foods
  4. Reduce stress with Transcendental Meditation
  5. Live from your heart
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(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 23. 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

Women Transcendentalists The Supreme Awakening:Experiences of Enlightenment throughout Time—and How You Can Cultivate Them

Women Transcendentalists The Supreme Awakening:Experiences of Enlightenment throughout Time—and How You Can Cultivate Them

Emily Dickenson. Helen Keller. Emily Bronte. Clare Boothe Luce. Billie Jean King.

What do these women have in common? You might say fame, or talent or creativity, and that is true. But what underlies all of their achievements—the one thread that they all have in common?

They have all had a transcendental experience—at least one, in some cases many—that lifted them up to such heights that they were able to express profound insights in their art or music or literature.

In other words, it was the transcendental experience that illuminated their minds and helped them become the great figures in history that they were.

I’ve been reading about these women in a fascinating new book by Dr. Craig Pearson called The Supreme Awakening:Experiences of Enlightenment throughout Time—and How You Can Cultivate Them.

Full disclosure: Craig is a long-time friend of mine. We both taught the Transcendental Meditation technique in Lombard, Illinois, in the 1970s and later were graduate students at Maharishi University of Management (then MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa.

I remember seeing Craig and his wife, Melissa, sitting in the library with stacks and stacks of books. They were researching transcendental experiences. That research, started in the 1980s, became the seed for this book.

But let’s get back to the great women (and men) that he portrays in his.

Each of these women recounts beautiful inner experiences. For instance, Emily Bronte writes that “a messenger of Hope comes every night to me, and offers, for short life, eternal liberty.”

She elaborates, “But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends/The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends/Mute music soothes my breast — unuttered harmony/That I could never dream till earth was lost to me. Then dawns the invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals/My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels — its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found/Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!”

Dr. Pearson points out that this is the experience of pure awareness, which is not visible to the eye but is a tangible experience of inner calm, inner peace, is a universal experience, open to everyone.

The only problem is that until recently, there has not been a way to access it systematically. Only those rare individuals who slipped into it by accident were able to experience it. And for many, it was so remarkable that they spent their whole lives trying to repeat the experience.

All that changed when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the Transcendental Meditation technique to the world. Now millions of people are experiencing the beauty and power of the transcendental field that lies within each of us.

I think that everyone who practices the Transcendental Meditation technique can identify with the exalted experience described by Emily Bronte above. In his book, Dr. Pearson shares some of these experiences that everyday people are having in their daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, and it’s remarkable how they parallel the experiences of the great thinkers.

For example, one woman writes: “During the Transcendental Meditation technique my mind settles down, thoughts become less and then suddenly all thought activity ceases and I slip into an unbounded ocean of awareness which is pure, quiet, unexcited and infinitely extended beyond space and time. In this state, I am not aware of any thought or any thing; I am just aware of awareness, you could say, wide-awake inside but not thinking. Simultaneously my body settles down, breathing becomes less, and I feel relaxed.”

Both Emily Bronte and the 21st-century woman who practices the Transcendental Meditation technique describe their experience in similar words: eternal, infinite, calm, peaceful, quiet, unexcited. For both, the experience is a distinctly different state from the waking state.

The book includes hundreds of such exalted experiences, not only of the fourth state of consciousness, which Maharishi called Transcendental Consciousness, but higher states of consciousness as well. It’s inspiring reading, to say the least, and it explains, in concrete terms, the worlds of experience awaiting us all as we grow in enlightenment and self-awareness.

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, April 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

hunger fix 6-6lrIf you’ve been reaching for the cookie jar when you feel stressed, you might want to reconsider. Sugar and diabetes have been strongly linked in a recent study published in the journal PLoS One. Researchers studied the rate of diabetes in over 175 countries in the past decade, and found that increased sugar rates are correlated with higher rates of diabetes. The conclusion of the study: being overweight doesn’t cause diabetes—eating sugar does.

“The study demonstrates this with the same level of confidence that linked cigarettes and lung cancer in the 1960s,” Mark Bittman, author of Food, stated in his NY Times online column, The Opinionator.

And as Rob Lustig, one of the study’s authors and a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said to Bittman, “You could not enact a real-world study that would be more conclusive than this one.”

So where does this leave the average woman, who is struggling to ignore the hundreds of cues to eat sugar that bombard us as we watch TV, shop for groceries and even while we work on our computers. Not to mention trying to protect her children from the constant urge to eat sugar in all its pretty shapes and colors.

Recently I had the good fortune of interviewing Pam Peeke, M.D., a nutritionist, NIH researcher and best-selling author of The Hunger Fix and other books. She says that the main way to fight food addiction and sugar cravings is to power up your pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that reins in addiction’s three I’s: impatience, irritability, and impulsivity. Dr. Peeke says, “NIH’s Dr. Volkow also refers to the PFC as the ‘brain’s brake’ because it helps us say ‘no’ when we need to and maintains vigilance to keep us on track with healthy lifestyle choices.”

Dr. Peeke herself started practicing the TM technique when she read the research presented in Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s book Transcendence. Later she conducted her own research study on food addiction and TM.  “In my study, the TM group found it much easier to say ‘no’ when confronted with cues. Indeed, what they found was that the bliss, 
the calm, the peace became the reward. It became a healthy fix.”

Additional research studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and other journals, show that regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces the risk of diabetes.

So to help yourself and your kids “just say no” to sugar, your daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique could be just what the doctor ordered.

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

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

BY LINDA EGENES

simone delaty

Simone Delaty’s renowned slow dinners embody what great meals are all about. (Photo by Kurt Michael Friese)

The  first time I drove through the Italian heartland, I thought I’d entered heaven. Romantic medieval villages, rolling hills sculpted with vineyards and olive groves, and, of course, the food. Whether we ate in a family-owned trattoria, shopped in colorful outdoor markets, or frequented tiny frutta e vedura (fruit and vegetable shops), locally grown produce was everywhere. And it tasted amazing—the mineral-rich Italian soil yielded raspberries the size of your thumb and zucchini tasting like manna.

I remember solemnly telling my husband and friends, “You know, we could have this in Iowa.” They eyed me warily, wondering if my brain had fried in the Tuscan sun. But I didn’t mean the castles or winding roads or Renaissance art. I meant the food. Because even on that first  brief visit, I glimpsed how the small family farm was the living heart of Italy’s vibrant rural culture.

In his book A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland, Chef Kurt Michael Friese takes us on a culinary journey as delectable as any Italian countryside’s—except this particular feast for the senses is happening right here in the heartland of America.

As a national board member of Slow Food USA and co-owner of the celebrated Devotay restaurant in Iowa City, Chef Friese knows good food when he sees it. Over the course of four years, he traveled to 13 heartland states in search of people who champion Slow Food. The book is a collection of his informal essays about the various farmers, chefs, food artisans, and organizations that he encountered.

What’s Slow Food?

You can think of Slow Food as the opposite of fast food, and everything industrial, tasteless, and exploitive that fast food represents. Friese points out that eating is a political act, a moral act, and a philosophical, even religious act. He defines Slow Food in simple terms: “If the food is raised with care, prepared with passion, and served with love, then it is ‘Slow’ food no matter who makes it.”

a-cooks-journey-slow-food-in-the-heartland-kurt-frieseThe Slow Food movement started (you guessed it) in Italy, when folks protested the first MacDonald’s opening at the foot of Rome’s Spanish Steps. Unlike its name, since its beginning in 1986 Slow Food spread quickly—around the world and most enthusiastically in America, mainly along the coasts. In 1999 Friese founded the first Slow Food convivium in Iowa (today one of five). He wrote this book partly to show that Slow Food is not a coastal phenomenon—in fact, he points out, many of the world’s most cherished food traditions are from the rural centers (think Tuscany or Provence or Sichuan).

The essays are as easy to read as a chat over the back fence, seasoned with deft character sketches and sprinkled with recipes tested and tweaked by Chef Friese (making the recipes alone worth the price of the book). Infused with the consummate chef’s love for good food and good living, Friese dishes his philosophy with a spoonful of brie, so to speak, skillfully weaving the tenets of Slow Food with sensual descriptions of heat coming off a just-picked heirloom tomato or the nutty flavor of Walloon, a raw-milk goat cheese from Missouri.

In one of the Iowa vignettes, you’ll meet the French immigrant Simone Delaty, dubbed Iowa’s “Queen of Slow Food” by CBS’s Sunday Morning news crew, who raises chickens and vegetables and flowers on her bucolic farm in Wellman. Using her own vegetables and eggs, she cooks private dinners—sold out months in advance—and serves them on her screened porch. She calls her cuisine “plain and simple,” which Friese interprets as “simple farmhouse cooking made with generations of French technique.”

Preserving Variety

While there are many eye-openers in the book, the description of Seed Saver’s Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, one of the world’s largest guardians of heirloom seed diversity, hit close to home. It was sobering to read that today only 30 plant varieties feed 95 percent of the world’s population.

By collecting some 24,000 heirloom seeds from around the world and making them available to its 8,000 members around the world, Seed Savers is possibly the most biodiverse place on the planet. The orchard alone, which is open to the public, contains 700 varieties of 18th century apples. This sounds like a lot, until you read in the next sentence that in 1899 there were 8,000 apple varieties recorded.

The Quiet Revolution

One thing I like about foodies—they don’t dwell too long on problems. Although Friese touches on the bureaucratic snafus some of the organic growers have encountered, referring humorously to the “Law of Unintended Consequences,” he mainly points to the ways our heartland foodscape is rapidly changing for the better.

He talks about a quiet revolution that is taking place, noting that today Iowa has more farmers’ markets per capita than any other state. And throughout the Midwest, he observes, “Where once a restaurant might be judged by the distant and exotic sources of its ingredients, today the best restaurants are known for getting their food from just down the road.”

Friese is eclectic, featuring deer, buffalo, and mulefoot hog ranches alongside the Dragonfly Neo-V—Columbus Ohio’s world-class vegan restaurant. He is also inclusive, explaining that although not everyone featured in his book is an official member of the Slow Food movement, they are still important contributors. “So many are and don’t know it,” Friese muses. As readers, we can become part of the Slow Food movement, too, he reassures us, just by planting a garden, shopping at a farmers’ market, or visiting a farm.

“As I have so often said, if you think about the very best times in your life, I’ll bet that most of them were spent around a table with great food in front of you and the people you love all around,” Friese writes. “If the Slow Food Movement is about anything, it is about making many of those moments possible.”

Reading this book is like sitting down to a home-cooked feast with new friends and old—the best kind of food for the soul.

(I originally wrote this article for The Iowa Source, September 2008. 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

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

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with Jack Forem 1975

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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