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.”

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 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.

Developing Full Potential of Students at Rajapark Institute in Thailand

(Part three of a three-part series)

by Linda Egenes

Gail Connellee didn’t expect to go back to school in her 60s. She already had a BA in education and worked as a counselor. But when she heard about the opportunity to earn an MA degree at the Rajapark Institute in Bangkok, Thailand, she decided to return to the classroom.

“The difference at this school is that we all practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, and this is what made me even consider going back to school at this late stage in life,” says Gail. “Meditating has given me the confidence and ability to manage my studies. Learning comes easily—in some ways better than ever before. I feel young again. I attribute that to the TM technique—the rest it provides, the orderliness of thinking, and the ability to enjoy and experience the bliss of learning.”

Chen Au Teo, 24, whom the other students at Rajapark Institute call “Angel,” also finds that the addition of the Transcendental Meditation technique is a perfect complement to learning. “Back home in Malaysia, I used to only enjoy studying art, but now I enjoy studying physics, astronomy, history, economy — just about everything,” she says. “Because I am exploring my own consciousness, which is also the basis for every field of study, I feel connected with the knowledge, and that is fulfilling. This connection with knowledge brings me joy while learning.”

Gail is unique not only because her fellow students are much younger, but also because she is the only American to study at Rajapark Institute, which has 4,000 students (mostly from Thailand) at the main campus in Bangkok and in seven satellite campuses around the country. They are earning graduate degrees in four areas: Engineering, Management, Education, Political Science and the Science of Creative Intelligence for Management.

It is this last major that Gail chose. “I was interested in learning how to teach this unique subject, which studies the field of intelligence and creativity that underlies all disciplines and can be directly experienced through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. With my background as an elementary school teacher and counselor, I immediately recognized that the addition of the TM technique to education could help in developing full student potential.”

Indeed, research published in peer-reviewed journals has shown that students who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique significantly improve in academic achievement, cognitive functioning, logical thinking, focus and even IQ. Other benefits to education include reduced teacher burnout, improved teacher-student relationships, higher levels of moral reasoning, and better health for teachers and students.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing the president of this unique university, Dr. RajaVikram Charoen-Rajapark, who founded Rajapark as a college in 1996 with less than 100 students. He was inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, to start a university to offer ideal education, to develop full potential for the students, and to establish a large group of students to practice TM and the more advanced TM-Sidhi program together to create peace and harmony for Thailand. In addition the Rajapark Institute currently donates most, if not all, of its profits to support large groups of people practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program together to create world peace.

Based on positive government assessments, the college was able to upgrade its status to “institute” in 2008.

“The government sends teams to assess our programs on a routine basis, and they are very supportive,” says Dr. RajaVikram. “They not only support us in using the Transcendental Meditation technique to expand the students’ learning and earning potential, but they encourage us to emphasize it as our strong point. ‘Base your reputation on the TM program in your curriculum,’ they advised us.”

I found out that the “raja” in “Rajapark” means “administrator or king.” Dr. RajaVikram’s family has served the royal family in Thailand for three generations. His maternal grandfather, a top-ranking administrator, was the Chief of Justice of the judges under the King of Thailand, and the beautiful campus, which is graced with tropical gardens and trees, is built on land that his mother purchased for her family.

I get the feeling from Dr. RajaVikram that here is an extraordinarily compassionate man who, with his wife, Varaporn Charoen-Rajapark, feels responsible for the well-being of people in Thailand and the whole world, not just his own family.

“We feel that our students are creating an atmosphere of peace for the whole country through their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique,” he says. “And the Science of Creative Intelligence for Management Master degree program was inspired by recent visits from the representatives from the Ministry of Educationthat emphasize the importance of full human development, creating a happy society, and protecting the environment.”

For the students of Rajapark Institute, daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique has far-reaching benefits. Man Yin Chen, a student from Hong Kong, says, “Every morning and evening I attend a group meditation. It gives me the support I need for my research. When I get stuck, somehow after meditation the answer comes to me. Sometimes the quote that I’m looking for is right there in the next book I open. I also feel that with the help of the Transcendental Meditation technique I can expand my consciousness and explore my inner self, to know my true self.”

Man Yin also feels that the benefits of the TM technique extend beyond the classroom, to the rest of her life. “Practicing TM not only helps me with my studies, but to be a better person as a whole. I feel nourished by the beautiful experience of transcending, and then I can nourish my friends and classmates.”

Gail Connellee agrees. “TM allows you to manage your time efficiently and allows you to handle challenges without stress,” she says. “You enjoy your life more.”

For more information about the BA in the Science of Creative Intelligence for Management and ELL (English Language Learners) programs offered at Rajapark Institute in 2015, please contact asianthmd@yahoo.com.

Read Part One of this three-part series here

Watch video: Women and Girls Tell what Transcendental Meditation does for them

Photo credits: Tina McQuiston. Used with permission.

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.

BY LINDA EGENES

Transcendental Meditation and At-Risk Girls in ThailandThe Story of Two Students

(Part two of a three-part series)

The word “education” comes from the Latin verb “educere” which means “to lead out.” For children in many parts of the world, an education is a way to lead their families from poverty to prosperity. In Thailand, education for girls means earning a higher degree or learning a respected trade. Without an education, girls growing up in poverty often end up being trafficked into prostitution and living on the street.

At the Dhammajarini Witthaya School, the only free boarding school for at-risk girls in Thailand, girls are not only being given a safe haven and a quality education, but have the opportunity to develop their mental, emotional and physical potential by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. They are literally being “led out” to a better life.

While visiting Thailand recently, I had the pleasure to interview two students at the Dhammajarinnee Witthaya School, where 500 children preschool to age 12 meditate together. The school is located on 11 acres of gardens, lakes and shady lanes.

Outside the beautiful administration building, smiling girls in crisp uniforms stop to greet me, saying in perfect English, “How are you?” I talk to them for a moment. English and Chinese are part of the curriculum here, which includes computer science and other college-prep courses, as well as instruction in traditional Thai crafts.

Aytittaya, age 16, tells me, through a Thai interpreter, that she is in grade 10. She is wearing a blue polo shirt and sweat pants, the attire for after-school chores and sports. While we talk inside Acharn Yai’s comfortable office, we can hear the happy sounds of children playing outdoors.

Girls at the Dhammarjarinee Witthaya schoolAytittaya smiles when she explains that her family is from Bangkok. Unlike many of the girls, she is not here due to poverty, but rather because her parents divorced when she was two years old. “I lived with my mom and brother and grandmother in Bangkok, but my mother had to travel for her work,” she explains. “So she put me in a boarding school in Bangkok.”

Then in grade six, her great grandmother, who is a Buddhist nun, found out about the Dhammarjarinee Witthaya school and her mother brought her here.

“The students in the previous school were not so disciplined,” she says. “Here we learn Buddhist values. In the previous school there is a gap between the student and the teacher, but here the teacher is like the mother.”

Another difference is that the students meditate longer here. In her previous school, they spent five minutes doing Buddhist meditation before school each morning, as has been mandated by the King of Thailand for every school in the country. “Here we practice the TM technique and meditate for a longer time twice a day and I really like that. I feel much more protected, more happy here.”

Aytittya smiles again when she describes how naughty she used to behave. “At my other school, I didn’t listen to my mother and listened to my friends instead,” she says. “I’ve changed a lot.” She is more focused on her studies, and she’s proud that she just won the province-wide competition for Buddhist chanting. And her team just won second place for the national Mind Map competition.

Girls at the Dhammarjarinee Witthaya schoolApinya, also sixteen years old in grade 10, has a different story. She comes from a very poor family in Ratchaburi province. When she was only eight, her parents divorced and her mother left her with her father and two older sisters. Her father had a difficult time making a living, and took his anger out on Apinya. Eventually, her teachers removed her from her abusive home environment and placed her first in a foster home, and then brought her to the Dhammajarinee School.

Apinya not only feels safe here, but happier. “The nuns and teachers take good care of us, just like a family.” She also confides, “Before I didn’t dare to express myself. If I saw a stranger, I was afraid. Now, after practicing Transcendental Meditation, I have more confidence. I’m not afraid to express myself.”

Apinya also was on the secondary school team that won second prize in the national Mind Map contest, and later this month she will compete in the national Memory Competition.

I ask the girls if they mind doing chores for the school. Aytittya says that her job is to help clean the buildings, take care of the grounds and cut the grass.

She smiles widely and says, “I don’t mind because the physical work helps me stay in shape. And I want to help the school.”

Aditya says that she likes helping in the kitchen. “Before I didn’t know how to cook,” she says. “Now I know how to cook for myself and for others.”

Awards at the Dhammarjarinee Witthaya school“From the beginning, from when I first started to meditate, I have felt that this is very good for me,” says Aditya. “When I feel tired or stressed, I just do my evening meditation, and all the stress is gone. I feel happy.”

Aditya enjoys learning Chinese and English as part of her studies. She would like to go to college and study Chinese and become an interpreter, while Aytittya wants to become an air hostess so she can travel to see her mother, who now works in Norway.

Or, they both mention, after college they may come back to teach here, at the Dhammajarinee Witthaya school, to give back to others the same extraordinary education that they have received.

New Fundraising video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JoS32IKA1c

Full 13 minute video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCHFb_2Q_5U

During the past two years, Acharn Yai and supporters have raised funds and completed a new classroom building. Now the school are raising funds for a new dormitory building that will allow the school to expand from 500 to 750 students. Tax-deductible donations for the school can be made athttp://www.seedsofheaven.org/donate.htmlWhen donating, be sure to click the button for Dhammarjarinee Wittayah school in Thailand. Or you may donate directly to the school here: http://www.buddhistgirls.org/eng/donate.html

Photos by Tina McQuiston, reprinted with permission.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, October 16, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Acharn Yai (Aunampai Passakchai), Buddhist Nun, Talks About Meditation, Academics and Peace

(Part one of a three-part series)

All photos courtesy of Tina McQuiston

I was deeply moved while writing two previous blog posts about the Dhammajarinee Witthaya School, which provides 500 at-risk girls in Thailand a free education. So when I took a short trip to Bangkok last month, at the top of my wish list was a side trip to Ratchaburi Province to tour the school and meet Acharn Yai, the extraordinary Buddhist nun who is the headmaster of the school.

At the Dhammajarinee Witthaya School, 400 students practice the Transcendental Meditation technique together each day. For Acharn Yai (translated as “headmaster teacher”), TM is not only a way to help girls with a history of extreme poverty, broken homes and domestic violence to find their way to a successful and happy life, but it’s a way to create peace for the entire country.

Visiting the school in person was much more impressive than writing about it from a distance. The buildings and grounds were light-filled, clean, spacious. We were greeted by several teachers with a traditional Thai greeting of “Swasdeeka” and trays of Thai sweets artfully wrapped in banana leaves. After refreshments, we were invited into an air-conditioned office where Acharn Yai took time from her busy day to answer questions. I was deeply moved by Acharn Yai’s warmth, her beautiful heart and her love and compassion for the girls at the school.

Acharn Yai Buddhist nun who practices Transcendental Meditation Linda Egenes: How has the TM technique helped girls to learn?

Acharn Yai: What has helped these girls the most is growing in consciousness. Normally people focus on physical development, development of the body, and they forget consciousness, the inner life.

In order to grow in wholeness, a full life, the students need to develop both the consciousness and the body together. For growth of consciousness, they learn the TM technique.


Linda Egenes: What do you do to help the children grow strong physically?

Acharn Yai: For the body, we give them proper food of all five food groups, with plenty of vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats. We also make sure they have time to exercise every day. We provide a safe, secure and beautiful environment for them to live in.

Every morning the nuns who live here go out to the village to beg for food. This is not the traditional way for nuns in Thailand to find food to eat, but we need extra food to feed the growing girls.

Yet there is not enough food from begging to feed all the girls! So we have a kitchen and a cook to prepare meals for the students. We buy some food, such as chicken and fish, and the girls grow organic vegetables and mushrooms and harvest the fruits from the banana and coconut trees. Other girls help cook, and others keep the lawn mowed and the grounds and buildings tidy. Each girl has a job in addition to their academic studies.

Linda Egenes: How have the children changed since they started meditating at the school in 2009?

Acharn Yai: Most of the girls have come from a rough or problematic background. Their families were unable to care for them properly, due to divorce, extreme poverty, domestic violence, or neglect. So these children are so delicate in heart and mind. After they begin the practice of meditation, their minds become stronger. When they are more strong and stable inside, whatever they do will be more successful. TM is just like a medicine to cure and nourish and uplift them and help them become better students and people.

Linda Egenes: Have the students grown in academic achievement since you introduced the TM technique to the school?

Acharn Yai: In the first years of the school, before we introduced Transcendental Meditation, the teachers never took the girls to competitions with other schools because they were not ready. Some girls were so tough they would make the teachers cry, made their friends cry. We had to replace the teachers every month because they did not want to stay.

Now, since adding TM to the curriculum in 2009, the girls not only attend all government competitions, but they win prizes.

Last week some of the girls attended a Mind Map Competition—a national competition for creative thinking and drawing skills. One of our students won first prize for the primary level (Grades 4, 5 and 6) for the entire nation. They were asked to draw “My Happiness.” She drew the parts of her day that made her happy—such as taking a shower and eating sweets. The judges felt that she expressed her inner feelings, and that’s why she won the first prize.

For the secondary school level (Grades 7, 8, 9), a team of our students won the second prize for Mind Map Competition and also second prize for the Memory Competition.

In fact, out of all the public government-run schools in this province, our school is now considered the top school for academics of all kinds. This has only been possible since we started teaching the girls the Transcendental Meditation technique and the advanced TM-Sidhi program.

Linda Egenes: I know that you were adding on grades as the children grew up, and now for two years you have offered all 12 grades. How many of your graduates are going on to higher education?

Acharn Yai: Out of the 25 who finished grade 12 last year, 22 continued on to college and three went back to their villages to work. A donor has contributed to a special fund so the students can receive scholarships if they wish to go to college.

Linda Egenes: How does TM help the intellectual development of students?

Acharn Yai: Transcendental Meditation helps the children become more calm, more peaceful, more intelligent, and more focused on their studies.

As Maharishi said, there is so much knowledge to learn, it is infinite. What students need is to develop their consciousness by practicing TM. Then they expand their minds, the container of knowledge, and expand their capacity to learn more and more.

Linda Egenes: And moral development—does that also grow?

Acharn Yai: When the students practice TM, their consciousness become more pure, more good. Naturally their behavior, whatever they do, is good. That’s the direct consequence of meditating.

Because of their backgrounds, most of the girls, when they first come, are angry and sad. This gets expressed in rough behavior. They may fight the other girls or act aggressive. After they start meditating, they become more soft, more kind. After they meditate they become happy and find life is more fun.

Linda Egenes: How does the TM technique fit in with Buddhist education?

Acharn Yai: By practicing TM, it makes us understand the Buddhist religion more deeply. Between TM and Buddhism there is no conflict. Lord Buddha taught us to do good, to not do non-good, and to make our hearts and minds pure. Doing TM, your consciousness becomes more pure so it’s very much in accord with what Lord Buddha taught so there’s no conflict at all. And when the students meditate more and more, they are more and more peaceful so they can understand the teaching of Lord Buddha better. It’s easier for them to be good.

When you meditate you contact pure consciousness, then naturally your thinking, your action and speech are good and you don’t do any harm to anyone. You don’t have to force yourself. When you have good consciousness it would hard for you to do anything that is not good. When you have a pure heart then non-good will not happen.

Linda Egenes: What do you see as the future for your school and what is it that you need to reach that future?

Acharn Yai: I would like to have 1000 students meditating together and doing the advanced meditation program of the TM-Sidhis together. That will create peace and happiness not only for these students, but for all of Thailand. That’s why we are building a bigger dormitory, so we can enroll more students.

Linda Egenes: Why do you feel that education is important for every mother, every woman in Thailand and the world?

Acharn Yai: Education is the root of life. Through education you can have the knowledge to support yourself and your family in this world, to earn a living. But even more, real education provides the proper knowledge to live a full life. It helps you to develop your inner consciousness so you can bring peace and happiness to yourself and everyone around you.

Linda Egenes: How do you feel that the TM technique can help women around the globe, to realize their full potential?

Acharn Yai: If we practice Transcendental Meditation we will have inner happiness. We will have more strength. We will be more calm and peaceful.

When we are more peaceful we have clear vision. Then if a problem arises in life, we can see clearly what is the cause and how to solve the problem properly.

If you don’t meditate, when a problem arises, you tend to keep repeating the problem, and you can’t solve the problem as easily. Some people will run away from a problem and continue to run. But if you don’t solve the problem it will just keep following you!

That’s why it’s important to have a peaceful mind so you can see the source of the problem and solve it properly.

Read Part Two of this three-part series here

During the past two years, Acharn Yai and supporters have raised funds and completed a new classroom building. Now the school is raising funds for a new dormitory building that will allow the school to expand from 500 to 1000 students. Tax-deductible donations for the school can be made at http://www.seedsofheaven.org/donate.html. When donating, be sure to click the button for Dhammajarinee Witthaya School in Thailand. Or you may donate directly to the school here: http://www.buddhistgirls.org/eng/donate.html

New Fundraising video 

Full 13 minute video

Photos by Tina McQuiston, reprinted with permission.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, October 16, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Does Gender Specific EducationIn most developing countries, the education of girls lags far behind that of boys. Yet because educated girls are better able to care for their families, universal education for girls is considered a major way to lead developing countries out of poverty. Helping all girls and boys receive an education is the mission of UNGEI, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative.

The good news is that in America, the education of girls is on the rise. In fact, some researchers think that it’s not the girls who now need help, it’s the boys.

Since 2006, the gap is widening between boys’ and girls’ achievement. A recent NY Times article by David Leonhardt: “A Link Between Fidgety Boys and A Sputtering Economy” cites a paper by Diprete and Buchmann from Third Way, a Washington research group, which found getting As and Bs in middle school is a predictor for success in college. Girls significantly out-performed boys in academic grades (48% of the girls earned As and Bs while only 31% of the boys scored that high). Girls also out-performed boys in social behaviors that lead to success such as attentiveness, persistence, flexibility, independence, and “behaving.”

When I scrolled through the 635 comments on this article, I was struck by how many parents and educators felt that boys need a different kind of education.

One possible reason is the current emphasis on standardized testing. In an effort to raise test scores to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools across the country have cancelled art, music, PE and even recess to allow more time for kids to focus on academics. This cerebral, non-kinesthetic approach does not serve any student, but it hits boys the hardest, because they mature at a slower pace and often find it harder to sit still for hours at a desk.

Some experts point to gender specific education as a key to help both boys and girls learn. While in the past girls-only educational settings have been found to benefit girls more than boys (especially in closing the gender gap in math and science achievement), it seems that boys may also thrive in all-boys classrooms that favor a more engaging, active learning style.

One thing is clear: girls and boys alike are struggling with stress today, and stress can make it hard to focus. Some schools are helping their students experience academic success without stress by introducing the Transcendental Meditation technique. By meditating for a few minutes at the beginning and end of the school day, many children — along with their parents and teachers — are reporting a wide range of positive benefits due to their meditation sessions, from better grades to better behavior to feeling happier.

Even kids with ADHD—which affects more boys than girls—can be helped by meditating. Here are some comments from kids with ADHD:

“TM helped me with my schoolwork, I’m not getting as frustrated with friends, doing my homework better, not getting in as many fights at school, stuff like that.”

“It’s easier to focus and work on one thing instead of fidgeting. It makes me more confident.”

“I’m more calm, less hyper and more mature than I was before. Now all my friends want me to come over to their house.”

And the research backs up these positive reports. A random-assignment controlled study published in 2012 in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1) found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of ADHD in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. The paper, ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice, is the second published study demonstrating TM’s ability to help students with attention-related difficulties.

“The Transcendental Meditation technique increases blood flow to the brain,” says Dr. Sarina Grosswald, the principal investigator of the study. “That’s important because one of the physiological correlates of ADHD is reduced blood flow in the brain. Practice of the TM technique also results in a dramatic reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression.” Dr. Grosswald’s study also found that organization, memory and strategizing skills significantly improved.

If boys and girls alike increased their learning ability and academic achievement by practicing the TM technique twice a day, perhaps there really could be a time when no child — or gender — fell behind. In fact, perhaps all students’ progress would leap ahead.

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

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, June 16, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Educating Girls in UgandaUganda, like most countries in Africa, has experienced drought, famine, war, political instability, human rights violations, an AIDS epidemic, and extreme poverty. Providing higher education for Ugandan girls is especially critical, as research has shown that when young girls and women are educated, they are able to care better for their children and lead their families out of poverty.

The evidence is so striking that it can be boiled down to one sentence: If you want to change the world, invest in the education of girls.

According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, 46.5% of girls in Uganda get married and have children before reaching the age of 18. The literacy rate of girls lags behind that of boys, and even though the primary school population is evenly divided between boys and girls, girls comprise only 46% of secondary students and 38% of college students.

In order to provide a high school education to girls in an area of Uganda where there are no opportunities for a non-sectarian higher education, Maharishi Secondary School for Girls is the first non-sectarian boarding school for girls in the eastern edge of Uganda. It started with a small group of 30 girls in 2009 in Mbale, Uganda. The next year it doubled to 60 and kept growing. Now with new buildings in progress, they are aiming for 600.

The school has been successful in helping children who have been rejected from other schools for behavioral problems or for being HIV positive. Grant Lusimbo, the amiable director who helped found the school says, “Our students are now performing better than the schools who take only the cream. This is a great joy to us. Now we get the students that the others say, “We can’t touch this one. We say, OK, we will take her, we have a method.’”

The method he refers to is the Transcendental Meditation technique, which the students practice twice a day together as a group in addition to taking a rigorous course of academics.

Director Lusimbo explains that the TM technique allows the thinking mind to settle down and experience the source of creativity, silence and calmness within. At the same time the body experiences deep rest and releases stress. This stress relief is especially important for Ugandan students, because even though the political situation is more stable now, the decades of stressful events have left large segments of the population, including the young people, suffering from depression and PTSD.

Lusimbo recounts what happened the first time he introduced the TM technique to students in another Ugandan school in 1983. He explains that in Uganda, corporal punishment is a common way to discipline students. “All of a sudden after introducing TM the behavior was so good,” he says. “So all corporal punishment was abolished.”

Now he likens the Maharishi Secondary School to a hospital that cures a patient who was considered incurable by doctors. “The other schools are saying, ‘No, we can’t teach you.’ We say, ‘Bring her to us and we’ll resurrect her.’ ”

The teachers, who also practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, are equally enthusiastic. Headmistress Kalyebbi Felistus says that she has taught in all types of schools, with girls alone, boys alone and mixed, but finds that these girls are more disciplined and eager to learn. History Teacher Zemei Beth says that the students are lively but “We don’t experience misbehaviors.”

Peer-reviewed research shows that the daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique not only improves social behavior by calming anxiety and anger, but it improves focus and clarity of thinking, helping students to effortlessly increase their learning capacity. One student reported, “After morning lessons, I come out with my mind tired. But after meditating, my mind has become fresh and I can pick up on whatever they are teaching and understand hard subjects like biology, chemistry and physics.”

Science teacher Opado Joel says, “Our school has now improved in the level of academics simply because of one thing, and that’s meditation.”

One student who is HIV positive and had suffered from the stress and isolation that accompanies this condition, reported, “Since I started meditation, I have seen my health improving. I used to have body aches and terrible headaches, but these days I am happy to be healthy. I don’t experience aches. I understand myself—who I am. And my friends have started supporting me because they are also meditators.”

Visit the school’s website and watch their video here.

Watch the video of the dormitory in progress at the Maharishi Secondary School for Girls in Uganda here.

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

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, March 3, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

(Part two of a two-part series)

The Personal Journey of Acharn Yai, Buddhist NunAcharn Yai is not a typical Buddhist nun. For one thing, she drives a car, uses a cell phone, and is committed to employing the best of modern technology to help the school thrive, even creating her own videos for fundraising.

She is also the founder of a unique school in Thailand. In 2003, Acharn Yai founded Dhammajarinee Witthaya School, the first and only free Buddhist boarding school for Thai girls who are at risk due to poverty, abandonment, or abuse. The school now has 530 in-residence students from preschool through grade 12, taught by 41 teachers. In order to accommodate 500 more girls who wish to attend the school, a new classroom building is already under construction.

The story of one woman uplifting thousands of girls from poverty is inspiring, to say the least. These girls not only receive safe haven and a free education—they are being transformed in ways that no one could have predicted or imagined. Under Acharn Yai’s leadership, they practice the Transcendental Meditatio technique twice a day, which she credits as the turning point for the school—since the girls started meditation, they now win top academic awards, live in harmony together and have learned skills to succeed in a culture that would otherwise exploit them.

It would be hard to imagine anyone as suited to the job of leading the school as Acharn Yai. As she walks through the peaceful campus, the sounds of Buddhist chanting mingle with birdsong. The younger girls flock around her as she walks. It’s obvious that she is not only revered by them, but dearly loved.

“She is a universal mother, so compassionate,” says Anarbha Supaneedis, a teacher of the Transcendental Mediation technique who helps teach the new students who come each year. “I feel my heart melting when I see how much she loves these girls and wants to take care of them and nourish them in every possible way.”

Outsiders also have recognized Acharn Yai’s gifts. In 2012 she received the Enlightened Leadership award from the Global Mother Divine Organization in Vlodrop, Holland. And for her service in providing a free education to thousands of girls in poverty, she was honored with a service award for her leadership in Ratchaburi province, where the school is located.

It was Acharn Yai who made the decision to introduce the TM technique to the school’s staff and students in May 2008, having heard about the educational benefits. Yet she herself preferred to remain a cautious observer and even went into hiding while the TM instruction was taking place so she would not get pulled into learning!

A few months later it became clear to her that the atmosphere of the school had already transformed. “Everyone seemed to be happier and more harmonious, unlike before,” she says. “I heard no complaints about any difficulty or headaches from the TM practice even among the youngest students. This was a surprise to me because I had experienced complaints in the past from teaching Buddhist meditation to the girls.”

She became curious about why this simple and easy technique could make such a dramatic change in her school. To find the answer firsthand, she finally decided to learn Transcendental Meditation in December 2008.

Ever humble and honest, Acharn Yai says she has experienced positive changes from practicing the TM technique for five years. “It benefits my life as a whole—making me healthier and calmer. The most obvious change in me is my emotions. I usually was a hot-tempered and impatient person. But after practicing TM, I became more peaceful, modest and careful. I am able to understand other people better than before.”

Acharn Yai also feels that the practice of Transcendental Meditation supports traditional Buddhist values.

“When we practice TM, we go to the source of pure consciousness and purify stress, and when we come out of meditation we naturally think good, speak good, and act good. It’s completely effortless and natural. When we have less stress, we don’t have to force ourselves, we don’t have to try to be good. We naturally live the teaching of Lord Buddha—to think good, to speak good and to act good. So TM and Buddhism are very related.”

Based on her own experience, Acharn Yai became the first Buddhist nun to become a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

The construction of a large building is now underway to accommodate the 500 additional girls. A significant portion of money has come from the government and private donors, but the school still needs to quickly raise $95,000 to finish this large building in 2014.

This dynamic woman is thinking beyond the individual lives of these students, to ways they can become a force for good for the entire country. If she realizes her goal of providing room for 1000 students, then more than 800 students and teachers will be practicing the TM program together.

Noting research on the positive changes that take place for the community and nation when large groups of people practice the Transcendental Meditation program together, Acharn Yai aims to create nothing less than national coherence for Thailand. And that will be the greatest transformation of all.

Watch the video

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 BlogFebruary 20, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

(Part one of a two-part series)

Helping At-Risk Girls in Thailand SucceedThey come from all over Thailand, speaking many different dialects. Some are orphans, some from families destroyed by divorce. Others, members of the hill tribes huddled at Thailand’s northern borders, suffer from extreme destitution. Some have been abandoned to the streets. Often their parents are young and ill-equipped for raising a child. One young mother dropped off her preschool girls because her new boyfriend didn’t want them around.

One thing these girls have in common: they have learned to fight to survive. Yet these at-risk girls are living in harmony together at Dhammajarinee Witthaya School, the first and only free Buddhist boarding school for Thai girls. The students consistently win top awards in every school competition imaginable from speaking English to Thai language skills to PowerPoint presentations. In fact, this year they have won more awards than any other school in their province. At the heart of these students’ transformation from illiteracy to academic leadership, the teachers say, is the students’ daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Acharn Yai, the Buddhist nun who spearheaded the founding of the school in 2003 with other nuns of her order, tells about a fourteen-year-old girl who was sentenced to prison, but the judge sent her to Dhammajarinee Witthaya School instead. “In the beginning she quarreled with everyone—with teachers, with friends. She was rebellious and not interested in studying,” says Acharn Yai. “After this girl learned TM, her behavior completely changed. She is much softer and more humble with other girls. Now she is a leader.”

One of the school’s teachers, Acharn Chakriya, remembers a girl who was sent by UNESCO as a last resort because she had been kicked out of every other school. “She was so big and combative that even the teachers were afraid of her,” says Acharn Chakriya with a laugh. “After she learned TM, she started helping the other students and made it her job to sweep the floor for the younger girls to sit on when they meditate. And just today she won the first prize in singing for the whole province! She said she meditated before the competition.” Acharn Yai says that she sees this pattern over and over—the girls come in fighting, but with the TM program, the aggression goes away. “The students become more calm and settled,” says Acharn Yai. “Their aggressive behavior decreases, their grades go up; they pay more attention to whatever we teach them. When they have inner happiness, they soak up whatever knowledge we give, unlike before. Because of their TM practice, the school is doing better and better.” Before the school introduced the TM technique in 2008, it was much harder to teach the girls, says Acharn Chakriya. “The teachers never even tried to send the girls to competitions because the girls weren’t ready.” The teachers also benefit, enjoying greater energy and better focus with TM. One teacher found relief from chronic headaches.

Besides learning the Transcendental Meditation technique, the girls take courses in Buddhist studies and an academic curriculum that allows them to pursue a higher education if they choose. Learning how to use the Internet, make PowerPoint presentations, and create basic computer programming is also an important part of the curriculum. The students also receive vocational training in baking, growing organic vegetables, creating traditional Thai handicrafts, performing basic accounting, arranging flowers, crocheting, weaving baskets and creating Thai flower garlands. This training is critical for those not attending college, as it gives them a way to make a living when they graduate. And in keeping with Buddhist principles, the students spend time every day performing service: keeping the buildings orderly and tending the beautiful gardens. So the day is full from dawn to dusk. (to be continued . . . ) See the video To make tax-deductible donations to support the classroom building project, please visit Seeds of Heaven. Click on “Donate” and find Dhammajarinee Witthaya Girls’ School, Thailand. 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,  February 13, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

Here’s the compete video and transcript of Jim Carrey’s fantastic graduation speech at Maharishi University of Management, May 24, 2014. The Golden Dome at MUM was packed and the crowd cheered throughout the talk.

May 26, 2014 at 4:54pm

 

Jim Carrey at #MUM Graduation

Jim Carrey at #MUM Graduation
Photo by Linda Egenes

Thank you Bevan, thank you all!

I brought one of my paintings to show you today. Hope you guys are gonna be able see it okay. It’s not one of my bigger pieces. You might wanna move down front — to get a good look at it. (kidding)

Faculty, Parents, Friends, Dignitaries… Graduating Class of 2014, and all the dead baseball players coming out of the corn to be with us today. (laughter) After the harvest there’s no place to hide — the fields are empty — there is no cover there! (laughter)

I am here to plant a seed that will inspire you to move forward in life with enthusiastic hearts and a clear sense of wholeness. The question is, will that seed have a chance to take root, or will I be sued by Monsanto and forced to use their seed, which may not be totally “Ayurvedic.” (laughter)

Excuse me if I seem a little low energy tonight — today — whatever this is. I slept with my head to the North last night. (laughter) Oh man! Oh man! You know how that is, right kids? Woke up right in the middle of Pitta and couldn’t get back to sleep till Vata rolled around, but I didn’t freak out. I used that time to eat a large meal and connect with someone special on Tinder. (laughter)

Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. How do I know this? I don’t, but I’m making sound, and that’s the important thing. That’s what I’m here to do. Sometimes, I think that’s one of the only things that are important. Just letting each other know we’re here, reminding each other that we are part of a larger self. I used to think Jim Carrey is all that I was…

Just a flickering light

A dancing shadow

The great nothing masquerading as something you can name

Dwelling in forts and castles made of witches – wishes! Sorry, a Freudian slip there

Seeking shelter in caves and foxholes, dug out hastily

An archer searching for his target in the mirror

Wounded only by my own arrows

Begging to be enslaved

Pleading for my chains

Blinded by longing and tripping over paradise – can I get an “Amen”?! (applause)

You didn’t think I could be serious did ya’? I don’t think you understand who you’re dealing with! I have no limits! I cannot be contained because I’m the container. You can’t contain the container, man! You can’t contain the container! (laughter)

I used to believe that who I was ended at the edge of my skin, that I had been given this little vehicle called a body from which to experience creation, and though I couldn’t have asked for a sportier model, (laughter) it was after all a loaner and would have to be returned. Then, I learned that everything outside the vehicle was a part of me, too, and now I drive a convertible. Top down wind in my hair! (laughter)

I am elated and truly, truly, truly excited to be present and fully connected to you at this important moment in your journey. I hope you’re ready to open the roof and take it all in?! (audience doesn’t react) Okay, four more years then! (laughter)

I want to thank the Trustees, Administrators and Faculty of MUM for creating an institution worthy of Maharishi’s ideals of education. A place that teaches the knowledge and experience necessary to be productive in life, as well as enabling the students, through Transcendental Meditation and ancient Vedic knowledge to slack off twice a day for an hour and a half!! (laughter) — don’t think you’re fooling me!!! — (applause) but, I guess it has some benefits. It does allow you to separate who you truly are and what’s real, from the stories that run through your head.

You have given them the ability to walk behind the mind’s elaborate set decoration, and to see that there is a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that’s going to eat you. (laughter) That may sound like no big deal, but many never learn that distinction and spend a great deal of their lives living in fight or flight response.

I’d like to acknowledge all you wonderful parents — way to go for the fantastic job you’ve done — for your tireless dedication, your love, your support, and most of all, for the attention you’ve paid to your children. I have a saying, “Beware the unloved,” because they will eventually hurt themselves… or me! (laughter)

But when I look at this group here today, I feel really safe! I do! I’m just going to say it — my room is not locked! My room is not locked! (laughter) No doubt some of you will turn out to be crooks! But white-collar stuff — Wall St. ya’ know, that type of thing — crimes committed by people with self-esteem! Stuff a parent can still be proud of in a weird way. (laughter)

And to the graduating class of 2017 — minus 3! You didn’t let me finish! (laughter) — Congratulations! (applause) Yes, give yourselves a round of applause, please. You are the vanguard of knowledge and consciousness; a new wave in a vast ocean of possibilities. On the other side of that door, there is a world starving for new leadership, new ideas.

I’ve been out there for 30 years! She’s a wild cat! (laughter) Oh, she’ll rub up against your leg and purr until you pick her up and start pettin’ her, and out of nowhere she’ll swat you in the face. Sure it’s rough sometimes but that’s OK, ‘cause they’ve got soft serve ice cream with sprinkles! (laughter) I guess that’s what I’m really here to say; sometimes it’s okay to eat your feelings! (laughter)

#JimCarrey at #MUMgraduation

Jim Carrey at MUM Graduation

Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. (applause)

That’s not the only thing he taught me though: I watched the effect my father’s love and humor had on the world around me, and I thought, “That’s something to do, that’s something worth my time.”

It wasn’t long before I started acting up. People would come over to my house and they would be greeted by a 7 yr old throwing himself down a large flight of stairs. (laughter) They would say, “What happened?” And I would say, “I don’t know — let’s check the replay.” And I would go back to the top of the stairs and come back down in slow motion. (Jim reenacts coming down the stairs in slow-mo) It was a very strange household. (laughter)

My father used to brag that I wasn’t a ham — I was the whole pig. And he treated my talent as if it was his second chance. When I was about 28, after a decade as a professional comedian, I realized one night in LA that the purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern, like my dad. When I realized this, I dubbed my new devotion, “The Church of Freedom From Concern” — “The Church of FFC”— and I dedicated myself to that ministry.

What’s yours? How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out. As someone who has done what you are about to go do, I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. (applause)

Everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart, and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart. My choosing to free people from concern got me to the top of a mountain. Look where I am — look what I get to do! Everywhere I go – and I’m going to get emotional because when I tap into this, it really is extraordinary to me — I did something that makes people present their best selves to me wherever I go. (applause) I am at the top of the mountain and the only one I hadn’t freed was myself and that’s when my search for identity deepened.

I wondered who I’d be without my fame. Who would I be if I said things that people didn’t want to hear, or if I defied their expectations of me? What if I showed up to the party without my Mardi Gras mask and I refused to flash my breasts for a handful of beads? (laughter) I’ll give you a moment to wipe that image out of your mind. (laughter)

But you guys are way ahead of the game. You already know who you are and that peace, that peace that we’re after, lies somewhere beyond personality, beyond the perception of others, beyond invention and disguise, even beyond effort itself. You can join the game, fight the wars, play with form all you want, but to find real peace, you have to let the armor fall. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory. (A sheet drops and reveals Jim’s painting. Applause.)

#JimCarrey at #MUMgraduation

Jim Carrey reveals his two-story masterpiece in all its glory

(Re: the painting) It’s not big enough! (kidding) This painting is big for a reason. This painting is called “High Visibility.” (laughter) It’s about picking up the light and daring to be seen. Here’s the tricky part. Everyone is attracted to the light. The party host up in the corner (refers to painting) who thinks unconsciousness is bliss and is always offering a drink from the bottles that empty you; Misery, below her, who despises the light — can’t stand when you’re doing well — and wishes you nothing but the worst; The Queen of Diamonds who needs a King to build her house of cards; And the Hollow One, who clings to your leg and begs, “Please don’t leave me behind for I have abandoned myself.”

Even those who are closest to you and most in love with you; the people you love most in the world can find clarity confronting at times. This painting took me thousands of hours to complete and — (applause) thank you — yes, thousands of hours that I’ll never get back, I’ll never get them back (kidding) — I worked on this for so long, for weeks and weeks, like a mad man alone on a scaffolding — and when I was finished one of my friends said, “This would be a cool black light painting.” (laughter)

#Jim Carrey's masterpiece at #MUMgraduation

Jim Carrey’s masterpiece in black light

So I started over. (All the lights go off in the Dome and the painting is showered with black light.) Whooooo! Welcome to Burning Man! (applause) Some pretty crazy characters right? Better up there than in here. (points to head) Painting is one of the ways I free myself from concern, a way to stop the world through total mental, spiritual and physical involvement.

But even with that, comes a feeling of divine dissatisfaction. Because ultimately, we’re not the avatars we create. We’re not the pictures on the film stock. We are the light that shines through it. All else is just smoke and mirrors. Distracting, but not truly compelling.

I’ve often said that I wished people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame so they could see that it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion. Like many of you, I was concerned about going out in the world and doing something bigger than myself, until someone smarter than myself made me realize that there is nothing bigger than myself! (laughter)

My soul is not contained within the limits of my body. My body is contained within the limitlessness of my soul — one unified field of nothing dancing for no particular reason, except maybe to comfort and entertain itself. (applause) As that shift happens in you, you won’t be feeling the world you’ll be felt by it — you will be embraced by it. Now, I’m always at the beginning. I have a reset button called presence and I ride that button constantly.

Once that button is functional in your life, there’s no story the mind could create that will be as compelling. The imagination is always manufacturing scenarios — both good and bad — and the ego tries to keep you trapped in the multiplex of the mind. Our eyes are not only viewers, but also projectors that are running a second story over the picture we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script and the working title is, ‘I’ll never be enough.’

You look at a person like me and say, (kidding) “How could we ever hope to reach those kinds of heights, Jim? How can I make a painting that’s too big for any reasonable home? How do you fly so high without a special breathing apparatus?” (laughter)

This is the voice of your ego. If you listen to it, there will always be someone who seems to be doing better than you. No matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the earth, until you’ve achieved immortality. How tricky is the ego that it would tempt us with the promise of something we already possess.

So I just want you to relax—that’s my job—relax and dream up a good life! (applause) I had a substitute teacher from Ireland in the second grade that told my class during Morning Prayer that when she wants something, anything at all, she prays for it, and promises something in return and she always gets it. I’m sitting at the back of the classroom, thinking that my family can’t afford a bike, so I went home and I prayed for one, and promised I would recite the rosary every night in exchange. Broke it—broke that promise. (laughter)

Two weeks later, I got home from school to find a brand new mustang bike with a banana seat and easy rider handlebars — from fool to cool! My family informed me that I had won the bike in a raffle that a friend of mine had entered my name in, without my knowledge. That type of thing has been happening ever since, and as far as I can tell, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it while letting go of how it might come to pass. (applause)

Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head and when the doors open in real life, just walk through it. Don’t worry if you miss your cue. There will always be another door opening. They keep opening.

And when I say, “life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.” I really don’t know if that’s true. I’m just making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way. You’ll come up with your own style, that’s part of the fun!

Oh, and why not take a chance on faith as well? Take a chance on faith — not religion, but faith. Not hope, but faith. I don’t believe in hope. Hope is a beggar. Hope walks through the fire. Faith leaps over it.

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.

Thank you. Jai Guru Dev. I’m so honored. Thank you.

BY LINDA EGENES

chesnutt winer, MSAE studentsCarol and Paul Chesnutt-Winer lived the American dream—Paul had a good job as a business consultant, they lived near extended family, were active in their church. Their two children, Evelyn Chase, 6, and Philip, 9, attended one of Atlanta’s best schools.

Yet Carol was unhappy with the tense atmosphere at the school. “The children were learning in an environment that was significantly stressed, where the teachers, though truly excellent, were under tremendous pressure to produce high test scores,” Carol says.

The pressures extended to their son Philip, who participated in a gifted program, yet suffered from nightmares and felt less and less motivated to keep up with the extra work. Then the Chesnutt-Winers visited the Maharishi School in the summer of 2007. “When we saw the children, how relaxed yet focused they were, I thought, ‘This is the answer to my prayers,’ ” Carol says.

By the end of September, Paul located a consulting job that would allow him to be based in Fairfield, and Carol, who had a consulting and engineering background, was offered a job teaching personal finance and business math at the upper school. Within two weeks, they had bought a house, pulled up stakes, and moved to Fairfield.

In another part of the country, in Cleveland, Ohio, Lisa Rizer was on a search. A recently divorced mother, she was looking for a loving, caring educational environment for her two school-aged children, Matthew, 8, and Autumn, 5. At one point, she felt the only alternative was to start her own school.

“I had put my two older children through public school, but I was constantly looking for something better, where my kids could learn without the stress of ridiculous amounts of homework being piled on them,” she says. “For me personally, it was the biggest ‘aha’ when I found out about Maharishi School. I found myself not searching anymore. It was just a matter of moving to the place where that education was.”

What is it about this school that causes people to literally pull up stakes overnight and start over in a small Iowa town?

Stress-free Learning

Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE), founded in 1981, is a K-12 private school located in Fairfield. It’s a school with an open-admissions policy, yet upper school students consistently score in the top 1 percent on standardized tests, 95 percent of its graduates are accepted to four-year universities, and students on all levels regularly garner state and national awards in everything from science fairs to state drama competitions. During the past seven years alone, this small school has produced more than 10 times the national average of National Merit Scholar finalists.

One cold December day, I find myself sitting in Dr. Richard Beall’s office on the second floor of the light-filled Maharishi School building. Dr. Beall, although one of the founding faculty of the school, is himself a recent transplant, having spent the last five years running a charter school in Charlotte, NC.

“Kids everywhere know stress, whether they are high achievers or low-performing students,” he says in his quiet, authoritative voice. “To see a school that offers a college-prep curriculum and yet the kids become less stressed as they learn—that’s not a common formula in education.”

The main difference is something called Consciousness-Based education, Dr. Beall explains. “Consciousness-Based education acknowledges that learning depends on how conscious or awake we are, so every part of the curriculum develops the awareness of the student, waking up the total brain functioning.”

Dr. Beall notes that this is primarily achieved when the students practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at the beginning and end of each school day. The technique has been shown in peer-reviewed research studies to significantly reduce stress, improve health, and boost academic performance. Dr. Beall also points out that every influence during the school day—from daily yoga to eating organic lunches to the design of the building—is specifically designed to develop the full potential of the student.

“You see the differences in so many ways,” Carol Chesnutt-Winer says. In Atlanta, her children had six hours of pure academics, she says. At MSAE, they start school an hour later, with only five hours of academic instruction, plus meditation, physical education, art, and music.

Recent research concurs that a later school starting time boosts grades. Notes Lisa Rizer, “Children need more sleep; their biological clocks don’t work the same as ours. My child can wake up naturally, have breakfast with me. It’s not so rush-rush.”

“There’s a balance of rest and activity,” Carol adds. “The school lives what they talk about. There’s very little homework in the lower school. Of course, that jumps up dramatically when the children are older, but for the younger kids, they’re trying to set the tone that learning is non-stressful, a joyful event.”

She feels this is critical for learning. “In the Atlanta schools, the primary purpose was to teach the kids from a basic curriculum, to teach to the standardized tests,” she says. “The emphasis at MSAE is on the whole child, and that brings about a stark change in the classroom. The children here are achieving as much but at the same time are remarkably calm, focused, comfortable with themselves, and ready to learn. It’s very striking when you’ve experienced both worlds.”

Lisa agrees. “The proof is in the children, how they are. They look you in the eye, there’s an open affection and kindness between them. They have a different quality—it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

A Green Curriculum

One of the big draws for both the Chesnutt-Winers and Lisa Rizer was the sustainability curriculum at the school. With a four-season greenhouse and edible landscaping that allows children to snack on raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, and  herbs while passing through the courtyard, the school offers one of the top sustainability programs in the country.

“The sustainability curriculum, like the rest of our school, is all about making connections,” says Dr. Beall. “When you connect to deeper values of yourself, then it’s easier to see the connection between yourself and your environment.”

The students are taught a “seed to plate” concept, where they grow lettuce and other vegetables in the greenhouse and then sample them.

Carol appreciates the emphasis on growing and eating healthy food. She says, “After harvesting greens he had helped grow, my son, Philip, said, ‘Mom, the bok choy in the salad tasted so good!’ Of course, I had been trying to get him to eat salad for years without success.”

Carol also likes the fact that there’s a full hour for lunch, and parents are encouraged to eat with their children at home or in the cafeteria, which serves organically grown and local food.

“In Atlanta, we were always swimming uphill when it came to food,” says Carol. “The cafeteria menu there included no fresh vegetables because they were considered too expensive.”

Last fall the school’s sustainability coordinator, Diana Krystofiak, helped students build cold frames out of locally milled lumber, cook with solar ovens, plant trees, transplant seeds, and participate in other community-wide projects. Students have also installed a solar-powered drip-line system that pumps rainwater to the plants, and they handle the school’s recycling and composting.

Expansion Plans

The school plans to expand its green curriculum, institute a boarding school option for the upper school, and recruit more international students.

That’s good news to Byung-jun Park, a 14-year-old South Korean student who enrolled in the eighth grade at MSAE last November. Brendan, as he is called in America, followed a typical schedule in Korea, attending his public school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., then taking a subway for further study at a private academy each afternoon. There he studied English, Korean, math, and science until 10:30 or 12:00 at night, arriving home as late as 2:00 a.m. when preparing for exams.

“When I was nine or ten, I was a top student,” he says. “But then I started to feel stressed and started to gain a lot of weight. My grades went down.” After one of his teachers recommended the Transcendental Meditation technique in March 2007, he says he lost the excess weight and felt less sleepy when studying at night.

“The first time I heard about MSAE, I knew I wanted to go there,” he says. He started the application and visa process over a year ago. With the encouragement of his parents, he traveled to the U.S., and now boards with his science teacher and family while attending the school.

He misses his family and friends but so far is happy with his decision. “This school is better because it doesn’t serve junk food, because I can go to bed early and practice TM, and when my friends here have free time, they want to play basketball instead of addicting and stressful video games.”

Establishing Quiet Time  in More Schools

In 2005, the film director David Lynch started a foundation to fund students, teachers, and parents to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique as part of a “Quiet Time” program during the school day. During the past two years, the David Lynch Foundation has funded more than 3,000 students and faculty in 20 U.S. and Canadian schools to start the Quiet Time/TM program, with hundreds of schools awaiting funding. Over 60,000 students in 19 Latin-American countries have also been funded. These schools (many in high-stress urban areas) have reported a dramatic decrease in violence, improvements in test scores, and a reduction in symptoms such as ADHD.

The basis for this rapid expansion is the continued success of the Maharishi School. Because it is the model school for all Consciousness-Based schools, it is continually working to improve its curriculum and develop new programs for similar schools around the world. It depends on fundraisers to support its expansion programs.

The David Lynch Foundation’s efforts to bring the Quiet Time/TM program to every child has recently gained support from Paul McCartney and other world-class entertainers, who will headline an April 4 benefit concert in New York City.

As Carmen N’Namdi, a principal who has instituted the Quiet Time/TM program in her school in Detroit, Michigan, says, “In students, we have seen the TM program enhance study skills, academic performance, critical thinking skills, interpersonal and social skills—all because of the deep rest that the body is receiving. We are looking forward to the years to come when more and more schools and work environments will realize that not much gets done until the stress is out of the way.

(I originally wrote this article for The Iowa Source, February 2009. Reprinted with permission. Photo by Lin Mullenneaux)

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