BY LINDA EGENES

 

Megan FairchildBeing a professional ballerina can be hard on your health, mentally and physically.

For Megan Fairchild, age 30, a principal at the New York City Ballet who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in PBS’ telecast of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, stress almost derailed her career. On the fast track since joining the corps de ballet at age eighteen, becoming a soloist at nineteen and a principal by age twenty, she was suffering from debilitating panic attacks that put her out of work for days at a time.

“Life would get stressful, and one little thing like going to get a shot at the doctor’s office would trigger my whole system to shut down,” she says. “I would have panic attacks where I would pass out and be rushed to the emergency room.”

Megan says the panic attacks started at age eighteen, but were manageable because they happened only once every two years.

Then it started happening more often, just six months apart. “I had to miss some performances,” she says. “So I thought, ‘OK, this isn’t cool. This is affecting my job. I need to figure out how to manage my life in a way that is going to be a little more relaxing.’”

Fortunately for Megan, one of her ballet masters at NYCB, who did the Transcendental Meditation technique, suggested that she try it.

“She was the consummate professional and always in the moment and ready to get her job done,” says Megan. “I felt like, well, if she does it, and she swears by it, then I’m going to try it.”

Since starting TM, Megan has not had a single panic attack. She says, “There have been moments that, in the past, would have caused me to get light-headed and possibly go into an episode, but now I watch the moment pass by without any big event.”

As Megan explains it, “My level of pushing my body was up so high that, basically, a fuse would blow. With TM I turn my stress dial back a little bit every day instead of letting it constantly turn up and build on itself.”

She also attributes meditation to giving her the courage to make a bold career move. Just five months after starting TM, Megan got a text from the casting director of the Broadway musical On the Town, wondering if she wanted to audition for a lead role.

“At first I was like, ‘I am not a Broadway performer. This is crazy,’” she says. “I laughed about it for a day, and then something happened. The next morning I woke up and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Looking back, I think it’s no coincidence that my little opportunity happened after I learned Transcendental Meditation.”

Says Megan, “That was a really important moment for me. Normally I would have been too shy, or would have thought no, that is not me and stayed in my little bubble. Instead, I was thinking that I am at a point in my career where I am ready to try new and different things, and this could be an exercise in jumping out of my comfort zone. I honestly believe that TM had something to do with that decision.”

She ended up taking a year’s leave from the New York City Ballet and received rave reviews from critics and fans alike for her starring role as “Miss Turnstiles” in the popular revival of On the Town.

Megan notices other benefits from TM. “I think TM helps you be a little more fearless. Before, I would hold on to trying to be really perfect and also was kind of obsessed with certain technical steps. Now, it’s more of a bigger picture. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.”

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 26, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

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BY LINDA EGENES

Flavia Finnegan and her FamilyWhen you meet someone as happy and radiant as Flavia Finnegan, wife, mother and career woman, it’s hard to imagine that she ever felt fear or trauma. Yet traumatic events can happen to anyone.

Flavia, now 40, grew up in Brazil and as part of her undergraduate work as an international business major, she spent a year studying in Stockholm. “I felt safe and protected there,” she says. “I loved learning in a completely new environment, experiencing different food and colors and weather. I felt blessed to have those experiences.”

Riding a wave of achievement and on a fast-paced career track, her next stop was an internship in the financial district of New York City. She arrived in 2000—just in time for the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

“I was living and working close to the World Trade Center and it was a very frightening experience. I saw people afraid to open their mailbox for fear of a bomb being inside. I went from living in a safe environment to that time in history. It was a big shock and in terms of interacting with others I became fragile, afraid of what could happen the next day. I felt so vulnerable.”

Two years later, she returned to Brazil. But even living in her home country didn’t make her feel safe. “I wasn’t the same me anymore,” Flavia says. “I had anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I started looking for a different type of lifestyle that would give me the inner strength and stability to deal with my fears of the outside environment.”

In her quest to change her life, Flavia began practicing yoga and eating healthy foods. She had heard about the Transcendental Meditation technique and knew that many prominent people practiced it, but, as she puts it, “the message had never reached my heart.” Then she heard a famous surfer from Brazil share how the practice of TM had made him feel more connected with his environment, with nature.

“It had a big impact on me,” she says. “I could see that he had to be deeply connected with his surroundings to swim into the middle of the sea, amidst sharks and other predators, and to survive five- or six-story-high waves. I could feel that he felt safe and secure inside, and his story touched me at a deep level.”

Flavia continues, “I realized immediately that this was what I was looking for: a different type of connection with my environment. I knew I had to get over my fear and anxiety of living in big cities, where you don’t know if the next person you meet is going to make your day shine or affect your life in a negative way.”

After getting in touch with the TM Center in Sao Paulo, Flavia learned to practice TM. “TM came to me as a gift,” she says. “Learning to meditate took me to another level. I’m very grateful. I started to experience an untroubled state of mind, an inner security and freedom from anxiety. I started to feel that whatever happened each day, the big and the small, I could be happy for being alive and experiencing the sun and wind and the people around me that contributed to that moment. TM gave me the inner calm to enjoy every moment.”

Flavia also credits TM with giving her the courage to become a mother. She says that before she started meditating, even though she was married to a wonderful man, she didn’t think she wanted to raise a child in this world.

She says, “Practicing TM gave me the confidence to see the future with more optimism. It helped me to center myself, to embrace myself and others with a full heart, with openness again. When you experience your divine source within you, you begin to see other human beings as you are—a body full of high energy with a perfect being inside. After all, we all have a body that can self-heal; we all have a mind that is infinitely creative. Once you have that awareness, you see a reflection of yourself in everyone. I walked many miles to cross that bridge to motherhood and TM helped me with that.”

Flavia practiced meditation regularly during her pregnancy, which she says helped her to enjoy the many changes taking place inside her. “When you’re pregnant for the first time, your mind and body go through a lot of change. Nature takes the time to prepare you. It’s a cosmic journey but with all the ups and downs in hormones and transformations, it can be challenging. TM had such a great impact on me—it helped me rest deeply and made me feel so tranquil.”

Flavia feels that practicing TM also had a calming effect on her daughter, now 18 months. “Every time I meditated when she was in the womb, I could feel her becoming very peaceful. Since birth she has been contented and likes to smile and loves music,” she says. “She’s a bubble of happiness.”

Today Flavia is enjoying her role as a mother, wife and career woman. After years of working as a financial manager for Citigroup in Miami, she now is studying part-time to be a CPA. Flavia no longer has a fear of her environment or the people around her. She notes that once she started practicing TM, she started attracting more positive people and experiences into her life.

“Once you experience inner peace in your life, you start to radiate joy and everyone wants to be closer to you,” she says. “You naturally attract more love into your life and your relationships become even more loving. Either you are helping someone or they are helping you. With meditation, somehow there is more joy inside you and more joy for everyone around you. This is true for professional connections, for better friendships, for better health, for better family life. It’s a beautiful path, to have TM enriching all the moments of my life.”

She also says she is no longer afraid of the challenges her child will face in the world, as she was before she started TM. Her fear of others has transformed into love.

“I went from being very insecure to being much stronger and more confident inside, and I started experiencing unconditional love toward everyone and everything, all creatures on earth,” she says. “It’s my perception more and more that we all come from the same divine source. Wishing love for my daughter and husband becomes unconditional love for all. It becomes so unbounded and extends to all the children I see on the street. And I want my daughter to experience the best of everything—to gain knowledge, to travel, to experience new people and to love those around her.”

Flavia says, “I hope my story will reach someone who is in pain or in fear for some reason. Once you start TM you can face the world with a much better attitude. TM gives you that time you need to recharge, open up your eyes and express your love again. If there is someone who has been stressed to such a level that she has lost her base, lost her hope—like me, she can strengthen her base. I hope my story touches someone who is looking for a way to reach that inner peace, that inner life.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive  (TarcherPerigee, a division of Penguin Random House), co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, April 23, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Sharon Isbin by J. Henry Fair

Sharon Isbin by J. Henry Fair

When you hear a musician play who stirs your soul and at the same time is so in command of her craft that she makes it look simple, you know you are in the presence of a true artist.

Sharon Isbin has made the intricate art of performing classical guitar look simple. Considered the leading classical guitarist of our time, she was named “Best Classical Guitarist” by Guitar Player magazine and is the first guitarist in over 43 years to receive two classical GRAMMY Awards (in 2001 and 2010). A former student of Andrès Segovia and a graduate of Yale University, she has played at the White House and Carnegie Hall. Her rise to stardom as a woman playing an instrument that is usually played by men was chronicled in Sharon Isbin: Troubador, a recent documentary on her creative performances and collaborations with artists in a variety of genres that was released last fall by American Public Television.

She has also expanded the repertoire of classical guitar, persuading leading composers such as John Corigliano to create classical guitar music for her to play with their orchestras. Called the “Monet of Classical Guitar,” she is known for her ability to express different colors or emotions through her music.

For Isbin, it’s all about expressing her feelings in her work. “I love to be expressive on the guitar with lyricism, dynamic contrasts, nuances, phrasing, articulation, and a panoply of colors and timbres,” she says. “I cultivate these techniques to serve the music and to communicate it with feeling and emotion. For example, I can make the guitar sound like a human voice by connecting notes of a melody with nuances of sound while shaping the contour of the line as a vocalist would do. This also creates a three-dimensional quality and depth.”

Isbin likens her creative process to being a director of a play. “I choose music that I love and which speaks to me, and that makes it easy to be expressive. The more I play a new work, the more I discover in it. My goal is to enter the mind of the composer, while feeling and expressing the emotion from within. In a way, I explore different characters of a piece much like actors do with a script. And when choosing dynamics and shadings to delineate the different layers and levels of voicing, architecture, and structure within a work, it’s much like a director staging and guiding actors in the foreground, middle, background, etc.”

As head of the guitar department at the Aspen Music Festival and The Juilliard School, Isbin has developed an original technique for teaching classical guitar. Yet she doesn’t limit herself to classical music—she has embraced a musical palette that ranges from bossa-nova to jazz to folk, collaborating with other guitarists and musicians in new ways.

“I explore a variety of genres, from my home base in classical, to unusual collaborations in jazz, bossa-nova, folk, country, rock, and even film music such as performing on Scorsese’s The Departed,” she says. “But most important to me and to listeners is the emotion, lyricism, sensuality and passion.”

For instance, her 2010 GRAMMY award-winning Journey to the New World is an exploration of folk music beginning in the 16th century British Isles, Ireland and Scotland, and crossing the ocean with the immigrants to the New World.

“Its centerpiece ‘Joan Baez Suite’ was written for me by John Duarte and inspired by music Baez made famous in the early part of her career. When Joan heard it, she offered to sing on the album, and performs beautiful renditions of “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Go ‘Way from my Window”. Virtuoso country fiddler Mark O’Connor concludes the journey joining me in the folk suite he wrote for us.” At 58, Isbin is not slowing down. How does she have the energy to continually expand her repertoire and explore new ground by collaborating with so many other top artists?

It turns out she has a secret.

“I have done Transcendental Meditation since I was 17 years old,” she said in a recent NY Times interview. “I do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon. I really believe it has helped make me the person that I am. Because it is an extraordinary way to release stress and allow it to dissolve, so that you can focus on what you want to focus on, and have your energy towards very positive things.”

When she performs, Isbin says she enters a state similar to the “zone” that top athletes report. “It puts me in touch with my innermost creative core and enables its expression through music,” she says. “Most importantly, it facilitates instant access to a state of ‘cosmic’ immersion, of being in the flow or in ‘the zone’ when performing, a state of being very similar to one I enter daily when practicing TM. It’s a sense of communion with the energy of the universe, the audience, the composer and the music, without ego or interference. It’s a feeling of unity between the listeners and me, a sense of “oneness” in which we are all experiencing the beauty of the music together. That sensation is one of the reasons live performances can be so powerful—everyone is focused and transported, the experience is unique and in the moment, never to be replicated.”

For Isbin, TM helps with all of the creative aspects of her work. “Because TM is so effective at eliminating stress and distraction, it encourages laser sharp focus and concentration for any task,” she says. “Practicing TM has inspired heights of creativity for me on many levels: as a musician, arranger, educator, writer, and artistic director.”

See a trailer of Sharon Isbin: Troubadour

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 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda

Spring flowers, ragweed, dust, mold or pet dander can cause your immune system to overreact to harmless natural substances.

Instead of reserving its immune response for viruses and bacteria, your body sounds a false alarm when exposed to a certain food, pet dander, pollen, or even a blade of grass — and tells the immune system to attack. Sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes; indigestion; swelling; or skin rashes — these are some of the all-too-familiar results.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, accumulated toxins (ama) prevent your immune system from functioning normally and cause the overreaction. Ayurveda suggests a multi-faceted approach — adjustments in lifestyle and diet and specific ayurvedic herbal supplements.

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda – Herbs for Spring Immunity

Ayurveda has deep regard for the intelligence of the immune system, and offers a sophisticated in-depth body of botanical knowledge and lifestyle tips, centuries old, supporting it. For example, certain ayurvedic herbs will help support your body’s natural immunity to allergens by helping to eliminate existing toxins and, at the same time, promote a healthy response to harmless allergens. The herbs also work to support the healthy functioning of your liver. As your body’s natural filtration system, your liver filters toxins and chemicals from the food you eat and the water you drink.

In this way these herbs offer a natural, long-term approach to allergens. The product containing these herbs is called Aller-Defense.

Uphold Immune Strength

Supporting the body’s immune system to combat allergens is exactly what Maharishi Ayurveda suggests as the long-term, effective solution to a healthy response to allergens. Herbs can play a helping role in this.

In the spring, impurities (called ama) that have been stored in tissues of the body, including your largest organ, the skin, tend to dissolve due to the rising temperature in the environment. These toxins can build up in the microchannels of the body (the shrotas), blocking them. When the microchannels are blocked, nutrients are not delivered properly to the cells, and the body’s immune system becomes weakened. Then, in the spring, as plants bloom, they fill the air with pollen (allergens) at the very same time the body’s defenses are being challenged with a flood of melting ama. This is the reason that, according to the ayurvedic model of health, our reaction to allergens spikes in the spring.

The Spring Flood of Ama

Traditional ayurvedic experts view the body’s overreaction to respiratory allergens as a problem occurring in a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, called Shleshaka Kapha. This sub-dosha is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract.

As the digestive impurities (ama) in the body start dissolving, they combine with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma, which starts to fill the respiratory tract and sinus cavities. The entire respiratory system, as a result, becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and health imbalances. This is the reason why allergen sensitivity can become a sinus or respiratory issue. This is also why a Kapha-reducing diet of lighter foods that are easier to digest is recommended. These kinds of foods are easier on the body and help flush ama out.

Strengthening the Body’s Defense Systems

If one has to choose one product to remove ama from the system and support digestion and elimination (the underlying basis for all health…digestion), one should take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama. It also allows the system to metabolize foods and other herbals more effectively. It is the supercharger for good digestion and assimilation. One can eat the best foods available and take the best herbs to be found, but without strong digestion, they are being wasted.

The long-term solution is to delve into the root cause of allergen sensitivity and support the body’s immune system. The Aller-Defense herbal formulation from Maharishi Ayurveda helps remove toxins from the body and strengthen immunity. Aller-Defense helps block toxic reactions by improving digestion, and reduces sensitivity to allergens by nourishing and purifying the liver. This herbal formulation enhances the body’s overall capability to fight allergens.

What about diet?

Researchers have found that a diet that includes regular intake of certain spices can reduce vulnerability to plant allergens. These spices contain natural chemicals that include flavonoids and phenols. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to support a healthy inflammatory response. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin and coriander are some other spices that are known to help with allergen resistance. Sautéing a combination of ground turmeric, cumin and coriander in ghee and using the mixture to season vegetables is a way of incorporating some of these ayurvedic herbs/spices into your diet.

From the ayurvedic perspective, it is important to follow a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet if one is prone to an allergen response. When the body mistakenly attacks harmless allergens, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals. So it is considered essential to pacify Pitta, because Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body. Drinking Organic Pitta Tea or using the Organic Cooling Pitta Spice Mix (food seasoning) is a convenient way of doing this. It is also important to pacify Kapha to counteract sluggish digestion and congestion. This is especially true in the Kapha season (spring). One of the most effective ways to pacify Kapha is to take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama.

Taking products that relieve allergen symptoms provides only temporary relief and does not address the root cause of allergen response — the body overreacting and mistaking harmless natural substances as dangerous.

Herbal Help in Spring

Sniffle Free — Cold weather can compromise your body’s ability to handle cold temperatures that can put out your digestive fire and weaken the body. Sniffle Free supports natural digestive fire, which is often compromised by colder weather. This formula also aids your resistance to the cold, helps lubricate the lungs and helps restore your body’s balance of moisture and mucus.

Elim-Tox — helps cleanse toxins and purify the body. It feels good to clean house and get rid of old junk in your life. It feels even better to clear old impurities from your body. Elim-Tox helps purify toxins from your whole body — down to the cells. You’ll feel healthy, clear and light. And let’s face it. Modern life is full of toxic input. There are chemicals and preservatives in your food supply, toxins in the air and water, and digestive impurities that build up due to poor eating habits, not to mention the toxic build-up that results from mental, physical and emotional stress.

In Maharishi Ayurveda, these impurities are called ama. They disturb digestion, overall metabolism, liver functioning and the healthy breakdown of fats, leading to weight and cholesterol problems. They interrupt circulation, leading to poor nutritional input to the cells. They block elimination, causing digestive disturbances. They interrupt the immune system, leading to allergen resistance issues and health problems. Do you feel groggy after eating? Are your joints feeling stiff? These are signs of toxic build-up. Other signs include an unpleasant body odor, a heavy feeling in your body, or a coated tongue in the morning. Toxins mask the sophisticated intelligence of your body, creating health issues and discomfort instead of health. Yet toxic build-up is virtually unavoidable in today’s fast-paced world. Stressful jobs, environmental pollution and fast-food diets contribute to toxic waste in the body. And no matter how pure the food you eat, if your digestion is out of balance, your own body will create digestive toxins.

Elim-Tox-O is a gentle formula that helps cleanse your body’s natural purification systems without forcing, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, occasional heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of “fire” in their physiology.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI],June 4,2014. Reprinted with permission.) 

 

The Journey of Enlightenment by Ann Purcell

The Journey of Enlightenment by Ann Purcell

By Ann Purcell, guest blogger

Many artists get asked the question, “What is your creative process?” I think most artists would say that it just happens and that they don’t have a particular process. Why some people are artists, musicians, writers etc. and others are athletes, business people, social workers etc. is a magical mystery.

I never considered myself a creative person, nor did I grow up in an artistic atmosphere. I was raised near the ocean where outdoor sports was the way of life. I played tennis; my parents were golfers and my brothers surfers. In school, I excelled in sports and did not pursue writing, music or art. Artistic pursuits weren’t even a consideration.

In 1972 I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique. One of the first things I noticed as a result of the practice was that I had all this extra energy, which needed to be directed into some channel. I took up cooking. After about two years I started to hear words and phrases in my head. I began a journal to write down what I was hearing. Sometimes I would write prose and on occasion I wrote a poem. In time poems, or the first couple of lines, began to sound inside my mind.

Soon I started to hear melodies as well. I did not consider myself to be musical. I never even thought of trying out for the school singing groups as I did not have a strong voice. However, I had a passion for listening to music and alone in the car, I would sing away to the songs on the radio. I also listened to my records for hours in my room.

 

What Unleashed My Creativity?

What was happening inside me? Why was I starting to hear and write songs and poems? During my meditations, I experienced a deep level of silence. It was like a crystal, still pond that I could also visually see. I realized I was accessing the source of all sounds, words, and music — the field of infinite creativity. Also, the surface noise in my head — anxiety, pressure from work, to do lists, etc. — was dissolving as stress was released due to the deep rest I gained during TM.

Accessing this field of pure silence twenty minutes twice daily in my TM practice unleashed this flood of creativity. Being clearer headed was allowing me to perceive the stream of creativity that was rising from this very still level within.

 

The Source of All Creativity

In his book, Catching the Big Fish, the great filmmaker David Lynch describes this creative process:

“Here’s how it works: Inside every human being is an ocean of pure, vibrant consciousness. When you “transcend” in Transcendental Meditation you dive down into that ocean of pure consciousness. You splash into it. And it’s bliss. You can vibrate with this bliss. Experiencing pure consciousness enlivens it, expands it. It starts to unfold and grow . . . . You can catch ideas at a deeper level. And creativity really flows. It makes life more like a fantastic game.”

Many artists and musicians describe this effortless experience of creativity in which they feel they are not doing anything and the process of creation is happening by itself.

The following poem called “Am I the Poet?” expresses this effortless flow of creativity.

 

Am I The Poet?

 Am I the poet of this poem

of each expression rising from within?

Silence stirred, an impulse heard

beyond all meter, beyond all word . . .

 

Am I the writer of these lines?

Each phrase appearing on my screen

is just a seed sown for silence to flow

in any way the wind blows . . .

 

Am I the composer of this song

of the sounds of silence singing?

Wholeness bent, on self-intent

for me to be silence’s instrument . . .

Some people are naturally born with specific creative abilities and also seem to have a deep connection to the spring of creativity within themselves. However, I know now first-hand that anyone can develop their creativity if they first tap into the field of silence and infinite creativity by practicing TM.

 

All Life is Creative

Creativity is not just limited to the arts. Mothers have to be resourceful every day in raising children. In business, creativity is the name of the game. Every act of life can be a creative endeavor. The flow of creativity is intensely joyful. If you want to unleash the waves of creativity in your life, dive into the depths of your consciousness to the infinite source of all creativity and you will soon enjoy the effortless flow of a more creative, happier, and fulfilling life.

Ann Purcell is the author of the book The Transcendental Meditation technique and the Journey of Enlightenment. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. In addition she is a singer-songwriter and has produced many CDs including her recent release, You’re a Hero— Songs for Children.

 

 

BY LINDA EGENES

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, March 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

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.)

resolutionI have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions. On the one hand, they’re a good excuse to set goals and get my life back on track. My resolutions tend to center on health, mainly because that’s a big focus in my life. But I can’t help but notice they’re all about changing things that are wrong with me. Like “I will stop eating sugar.” “I will lift weights three times a week.” “I will get to bed by 10.”

Each of these resolutions implies that I am lacking in some way—like I am currently eating way too much sugar, not building my muscles and not getting enough sleep.

I was thinking about how to make my resolutions stick, and a thought popped into my head: Perhaps these kinds of resolutions fail because they make us face the new year feeling less than inspired.

It occurred to me that maybe if they were a tad more positive and fun, I might actually stick to them. And who knows? They may have a better effect on my life than all the grimly disciplined “to dos” of my normal list.

This idea gained momentum for me when I read about Shonda Rhime’s new book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.

If you’re like me and the name Shonda Rhimes doesn’t ring a bell, never mind—her accomplishments will. As the creator, head scriptwriter and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and other TV shows, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, she calls herself a typical Type A personality. And until recently she was living a spectacular life on the job, but less so at home.

What spurred her to write the book, she says, was a sharp wake-up call from her sister. “You never say ‘yes’ to anything,” her sister said. This made Rhimes decide to not only say yes more often, but to seek out the very things she was prone to say ‘no’ to, the very things that scared her. And she ended up standing in the sun and dancing it out, as the book title shares.

I liked this idea of saying yes and immediately started making a list. Instead of focusing on things that scared me, I decided to focus on things that I want to continue doing because they are working for me. And on things I don’t allow myself to do because (as I tell myself), I don’t have time, don’t have money, don’t have the talent, etc.

Here’s my list so far:

1.) Taking a cue from Rhimes, I say yes to dancing. I’ve been taking a class in Indian classical dance that has been truly fun and has lots of health benefits too (when you slap your bare feet on the floor, all the nerve endings in your whole body wake up, stimulating your organs and hormones in a really good way). Plus it’s an all-women’s class, so that’s part of the fun. Yet lately, when I moved up to a more advanced class and couldn’t keep up with the practice time, I let it go. Yet in thinking it over, even if I practiced 10 short minutes a day, I could return to the class and not fall behind.

And why not say yes to this chance to dance? Why not twirl and swirl ten minutes a day? It’s worth a try.

2.) I say yes to taking time to engaging in unstructured play for an hour every week—to spending time in nature, wandering without a schedule, to journal or to play with my water colors and colored pencils.

Playing is so so so important, especially if you’re in a profession that relies on a fresh, creative mind. For me, playing not only rejuvenates my spirit but gives me new ideas that help me in my work. It’s a win-win, so why not say YES to play?

3.) I say yes to getting enough rest. Usually I feel tired by around 9:30 at night. I say yes to the needs of my body and mind. I say yes to paying them more attention. And I say yes to continuing to make time in my day for my twice daily practice of Transcendental Meditation. TM helps me feel happy. It helps me feel rested. It helps my mind think more clearly. And it keeps me grounded to my essential nature, so I stay connected to my best self even when the circumstances around me get challenging or crazy. So I say YES to giving myself this gift even if I’m traveling or with relatives or friends who don’t practice meditation.

4.) I say yes to continuing a great exercise routine. Full disclosure—I spent the money I received from my mom for Christmas on a Fitbit HR, and that has shown me that I’m doing well in the exercise realm. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk each morning with my husband in the early morning sunlight sets me up for the day—with just a little more exercise, my daily running around the apartment brings me to the recommended 10,000 steps most days without strain. And the three times a week weight training is making me feel so enlivened and happy. I say yes to continuing all that and more.

In writing these ideas down, in my mind saying yes started to converge with feeling gratitude for the things that are going right in my life. In some ways, I realized, gratitude is a way to find the yes in every experience.

And that is a good thing. I sometimes find myself—when I get stressed or have too many deadlines—wishing my computer didn’t take so long to boot up, that I didn’t have to wait in line, that there weren’t so many mundane tasks to do in a day. If I’m really stressed, I start feeling agitated by other people’s lack of speed or efficiency. Or my own lack of whatever.

This is not something I’m proud of. It’s a way of wishing life—and myself and the people in my life—were different. And when you start doing that, you can’t enjoy the great people and things that are right in front of you.

So now, when I’m waiting in line at the post office or at the grocery store, I’m using the time to think of things and people I’m grateful for, including the clerk who is so graciously serving me at that very moment. I also am starting each day thinking of three things I’m happy about, and ending the day that way too.

In Part II of this post I’ll explore the power of gratitude, its influence on brain functioning, and the latest findings on the Transcendental Meditation technique and its impact on happiness and well-being.

Happy New Year!

 

Let’s Dance in the New Year (Part II)
Does Gratitude Work?

Expressing gratitude is certainly not a new idea (prayer is a form of gratitude, after all), and lots of people have written about the power of gratitude in recent years. What is new is the increasing evidence that positive emotions, such as gratitude, have a positive effect on brain functioning.

The brain produces an astonishing 100,000 chemical and hormonal reactions every second. These can have good or bad effects. For instance, when we are stressed, the stress hormone cortisol courses through our body, contributing to aging, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Conversely, other chemical messengers have a positive effect on our minds and bodies—and are released when we are feeling balanced and happy.

Our brain’s neuronal connections also respond to our experiences and our emotions. In fact, the more we experience positive things in our lives, the more we give our attention to happiness, the more our brain gets wired to default to happiness, and the easier it gets to perceive our world in a positive light.

As brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor wrote in her gripping memoir, My Stroke of Insight, “Scientists are well aware that the brain has tremendous ability to change its connections based upon its incoming stimulation. This ‘plasticity’ of the brain underlies its ability to recover lost function.”

Basically, she explains, the neuronal pathways strengthen to reflect the stimulation the brain is receiving. If you make it a habit to think about positive things, in other words, your mind will tend to repeat those neuronal loops instead of the negative ones. It’s kind of like building a muscle—you use the same thought patterns in your brain enough, and those neuronal circuits get stronger and stronger.

A Dance Between Spontaneity and Intention

Yet there’s a problem here. Unless you’re genuinely feeling happy, it’s hard to keep up the positive thinking for very long. It works fine for a while, but if you get tired, or rushed, or stressed, then all good intentions fly out the window. Finding yourself in a negative thought loop, you may say or do things that you later regret.

And, let’s face it, trying to be positive can be a strain. If you’re not actually feeling so happy, plastering a smile on your face is not going to change your inner reality a whole lot (research does say that the act of moving the muscles on your face does lift mood a little). But ask anyone who is depressed how it feels to try to smile and be happy, and they will tell you it is a tremendous strain.

In fact, constantly monitoring your thoughts, forcing any kind of feeling (even positive ones) can divide your mind and add tension and strain to your life.

When you genuinely feel happy, on the other hand, then it’s so easy to respond in a positive way to everyone around you. Then your gratitude is a natural expression of happiness, a spontaneous result of feeling happy.

I think this word “spontaneous” is really important. It’s one of the things that attracted me to the Transcendental Meditation technique in the first place. I really liked the idea that you could spend time meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, diving deep into that reservoir of intelligence, energy and happiness inside you, and then when you’re outside of meditation, spontaneously act. I liked the idea that I didn’t have to try to remember to be happy or make a mood of being happy—the results would come naturally as a result of the experience of pure happiness in meditation, my teacher said.

And that’s pretty much what happened. As I found myself growing in happiness, I naturally started having a more positive viewpoint on my life and the people around me. Basically, it’s become my default mode to feel gratitude—and if I sometimes fall into an impatient mode, it’s not that hard to shift back.

This is a common experience among people who practice TM, I’ve found out. People often find that when they begin the practice, others ask them, “What’s different about you? You seem so happy!”

Rewiring the Brain for Happiness

And yes, there is research that supports this experience of greater happiness. For instance, people practicing the TM technique score higher on tests of well-being and happiness, and higher levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin are measured in the brains of TM practitioners. Research has also shown a significant decrease in stress, anxiety and depression in TM practitioners.

Dr. Fred Travis, the brilliant neuroscientist who has studied the effect of meditation on the neuroplasticity of the brain, explains that the experience of transcendence and inner happiness during Transcendental Meditation actually rewires the brain in a lasting way.

In his book, Your Brain is a River, Not a Rock, he explains that 70 percent of brain connections change every single day, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity.

“The circuits in the brain are continuously sculpted by experience,” he says. “If we are constantly under stress, then the part of the brain that triggers the fight-or-flight response grows thicker, and we find ourselves reacting to small stresses as if they are life-threatening.”

Dr. Travis goes on to say, “But—and this is the take-home point—if we add the experience of transcending to our daily routine, then brain connections that support the experience of pure consciousness are strengthened. This is the reality of growth to enlightenment. It happens every day with every session of the Transcendental Meditation technique.”

In other words, because in our quiet moments of meditation our minds experience the field of pure happiness inside us, that style of functioning of the brain becomes more dominant. Over time as we meditate regularly and go about our daily activities, the mind becomes more and more habituated to staying in that state of pure happiness, or bliss, even outside of meditation.

I love this idea of spontaneously growing in the ability to embrace more of life, of saying yes to the beautiful world around us. This is really what enlightenment is—experiencing everyone and everything as being as dear to us as our own self—our senses expanding to drink in the sounds, tastes, smells, textures and sights of our beautiful world. And from there, to embrace with love all our fellow creatures on this earth—whether family, friend or stranger across the world.

These are a few of my thoughts for the New Year—what are yours?

I wrote originally wrote this post for TM-Women.org. See www.tm-women.org

An Interview with Thomas Egenes, PhD

Questions and Answers on the Origins of the Origins of TM

TM originates from the Vedic tradition of knowledge of ancient India. This broad-based tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth and encompasses a wide diversity of areas including Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).

Perhaps you’ve been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for several months and have enjoyed greater happiness and calm in your life. Now you want to know more about its origins and what distinguishes it from other practices. Recently Enlightenment asked Dr. Thomas Egenes, an associate professor at Maharishi University of Management and a Certified Teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique, to answer your questions.

Q: Where does TM come from?

Dr. Egenes: The Transcendental Meditation technique comes from India, from a deep, profound source called the Vedic tradition, which is thousands of years old. The word “Veda” means knowledge. The Vedic tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth, maintained continuously and passed down from teacher to student. It is a broad-based tradition of knowledge encompassing a wide diversity of areas. Just to name a few, it is the origin of Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).

To maintain this age-old tradition, four seats of knowledge were established in India by the great Vedic scholar, Shankara, thousands of years ago. Maharishi is part of this ancient heritage, having studied with the leading custodian of Vedic wisdom (Shankaracharya) from the northern seat of knowledge. Maharishi first brought this knowledge to the West in 1959 when he started his first of several world tours teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Q: Since Transcendental Meditation and the knowledge of transcending was contained in this original expression of knowledge—the Vedas—does that mean it is connected to a religion such as Buddhism or Hinduism?

the Vedic tradition of knowledge of ancient India.

The ancient wisdom of transcending through the TM technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.

Dr. Egenes: Actually, the Vedas predate these religions. The rich, profound knowledge contained in the Vedic literature has been drawn upon for inspiration by literally hundreds of schools, religions, and philosophers on every continent throughout history. Today, people from all religions and cultures around the world practice the TM technique to experience inner peace and happiness, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, or aetheists.

This ancient wisdom of transcending through the Transcendental Meditation technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.

Q: What are some personal experiences of transcending?

Dr. Egenes: You may notice when you sit to meditate that your breath becomes softer, or there may be a brief period of time when there are no thoughts and also no mantra. You know you are awake, because if someone walked into the room, you would hear it. However, you may experience that you are awake toawareness itself, without thoughts. Or you may notice that your mind and body are completely settled. As one person described it, “During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the silence became very deep, and I experienced a vast sea of peace within.”

After meditating, you may find that you are spontaneously happier and healthier, and life is more fulfilling. Millions of people have reported similar experiences—that after meditation their mind is more calm, their body healthier, their emotions more positive, and behavior more harmonious since starting the TM technique.

Q: How is this subtle experience of transcending validated by scientific research?

Dr. Egenes: When Maharishi introduced TM to the West, long before anyone had conceived of a mind-body connection, he encouraged researchers to study the effects of meditation on mind and body. Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.

The first physiological study on the TM technique was conducted at UCLA by Dr. Keith Wallace and published inScientific American and other journals in 1972. By studying EEG, breath rate, and heart rate of subjects while they practiced the TM technique, Dr. Wallace found physiological evidence of this fourth state of consciousness, which could also be called a state of “restful alertness”—“restful,” because the physiology is in a deep state of rest, and “alertness,” because the mind is wide awake.

Groundbreaking research by Dr. Wallac

Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.

This groundbreaking research by Dr. Wallace, and subsequent research on increased EEG coherence (orderliness) of brain activity, shows us how the fourth state of consciousness experienced during the TM technique is a unique state of consciousness, as evidenced by Alpha1 waves observed throughout the brain during Transcendental Meditation, with the highest concentration in the pre-frontal cortex. The brain waves become synchronous, which means that the brain is more coherent and integrated, with the different parts working together like a symphony orchestra. This results in better memory, increased creativity, increased intelligence, and emotional stability as shown by research.

In subsequent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and top research universities, we’ve seen that the practice of the TM technique results in decreased anxiety, decreased cortisol (the stress hormone), decreased blood pressure, decreased insulin resistance, decreased insomnia, and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. At the same time, research shows an increase in happiness, well-being, productivity, efficiency, and success.

Q: Can you explain how transcending is validated by the ancient Vedic texts?

Dr. Egenes: The literature from the Vedic tradition, called Vedic literature, is a vast body of knowledge. Here are examples from three ancient texts that Maharishi often quoted in his lectures.

From the Yoga Sutras: “Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.” This key phrase is perhaps the classic definition of Yoga, or union. While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well. In the literature on Yoga, this state is referred to as Samadhi, a state of pure awareness, or Transcendental Consciousness. It is pure wakefulness, devoid of any content such as thoughts, feelings, or perceptions.

The Bhagavad-Gita, also considered to be a text of Yoga, has many passages that describe how the mind settles during meditation. The verse “. . . having established the mind in the Self, let him not think at all,” describes how the mind becomes established in the Self, or pure awareness. This is awareness, but not awareness with an object of attention. Rather, it is awareness aware of itself. In this state, the person meditating has gone beyond thinking. There are no thoughts, no mantra, and no other object of attention. The mind is in a simple, settled state, calmly aware of awareness itself. In this state, the Bhagavad-Gita describes a person as being “freed from duality, ever firm in purity, independent of possessions, possessed of the Self.”

The Upanishads describe the fourth state of consciousness at great length and as different from waking, dreaming, and sleeping. In the Upanishads this state is called Turiya Chetana, or the fourth state of consciousness, often referred to as the Self (with a capital S, to denote the universal Self). For example, in this passage “The peaceful, the blissful, the undivided is thought to be the fourth; that is the Self. That is to be known,” specific characteristics are given for this fourth state of consciousness: it is peaceful, it is blissful, and it is undivided, meaning that it is an experience of unity. There is no object of attention, just the Self knowing itself.

While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well

While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research
studies as well

It’s important to note that the experience of the fourth state of consciousness happens innocently during meditation, often without us even noticing it. It’s not a matter of trying to be calm, or trying to feel relaxed. This is one of the major differences between TM and other techniques—there is no conscious effort required because the natural tendency of the mind is to transcend. Without effort, you experience a deep state of pure consciousness during meditation and naturally enjoy its many benefits throughout the day. Effortlessness in meditation and spontaneity of benefits are two of the key principles of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: Does the Vedic literature discuss benefits experienced outside of meditation?

Dr. Egenes: The Vedic literature gives ample knowledge about the benefits of experiencing the fourth state of consciousness. For example, the Bhagavad-Gita states, “Supreme happiness comes to the yogi whose mind is deep in peace.” And it makes the point: “Even here, in this life, the universe is conquered by those whose mind is established in equanimity.”

This brings up a theme that is found throughout the Vedic literature—the fulfillment of desire is a natural consequence of knowing the Self. It has been everyone’s experience that when we are anxious or fearful, it becomes more difficult to achieve what we want to achieve. Maharishi has been very clear about this—when one has the ability to desire from the Self, from the settled state of the mind, then the desire easily finds fulfillment. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Maharishi says: “It brings a realized man to a state where, by virtue of a high development of mental strength and harmony with the laws of nature, he finds that his thoughts naturally become fulfilled without much effort on his part.”

The Upanishads place great importance on the experience of inner happiness and inner peace, because as meditators around the world have experienced, the calmness of mind experienced during meditation carries over into activity. Even from the first days of learning to meditate, people report that they feel calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed. This was described in the Chhandogya Upanishad, which says, “Established in the Self, one overcomes sorrows and suffering.”

The Upanishads eloquently express how desires are fulfilled by contact with one’s own Self:

Whatever world a man of purified nature sees clearly
in his mind, and whatever desires he desires,
that world and those desires he wins.

Q: What about regularity? Do the Vedic texts discuss the value of experiencing this fourth state of consciousness on a daily basis?

Dr. Egenes: Yes. They are very clear about this point. The daily experience of pure awareness, or Yoga, is emphasized in the literature. For example, the Yoga Sutras say, “Yoga becomes an established state when it has been respectfully and uninterruptedly cultivated for a long time.”

We all know that the benefits of exercise depend upon doing it as a regular habit. Similarly, the benefits of meditation depend upon regular practice. The Bhagavad-Gita gives similar advice: “This Yoga should be practiced with firm resolve.”

All of the benefits described in the Vedic literature and confirmed by modern scientific research result from regularity of practice. And the rewards are great.

Oprah Winfrey recently stated that at 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. her entire company, Harpo Studios, sits down to meditate because, as she described it, being still, coming back to the center, is more important than whatever work her staff is doing. “TM teachers have taught everyone in my company who wanted to learn how to meditate,” she said. “The results have been awesome: better sleep, improved relationships with spouses, children, coworkers. Some people who once suffered migraines don’t anymore. Greater productivity and creativity all around.”

Thomas Egenes, PhD, is an associate professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management and author of seven books, including The Upanishads: A New Translation, co-authored with Dr. Vernon Katz, Tarcher/Penguin, 2015.

(This interview originally appeared in  Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 24. Reprinted with permission.)

Gladys Kimtai

“TM changed everything. It brought in the light. The conflicting thoughts that had plagued me all my life were gone. It claimed my mind and gave me peace.” –Gladys Kimtai

BY GLADYS KIMTAI

I was born in Kapkoi, a small village in Kenya, to a Roman Catholic family. My parents died when I was two, so my grandparents raised my sister and brothers and me. My grandparents both passed away by the time I was twelve. At that point my three brothers, who were not much older than me, had to quit school and take over the farm, raising livestock and growing beans and corn.

When we had food, we ate. Otherwise, we didn’t. We slept on cowhides by the open fire in the kitchen, underneath quilts my grandmother made out of old clothes. We had no soap, washed in the river, and drank from that same river.

I don’t know how it happened, but after my parents died, a prosperous doctor and his family from our village offered to provide an education to the youngest child. That was me. So when I was only three years old, they enrolled me in a boarding school near their home in Eldoret, which was a three-hour drive in a matatu, a kind of public bus, from my home.

I can’t describe how unusual it was in my village for a girl to receive an education. Usually if a family had resources, they would send their boys to school. If there was money left over, they would send the girls. But that almost never happened.

Although I am very grateful for my education, it was also very difficult. In the city I had three meals a day, hot, running water and nice clothes, yet I felt deeply confused about why I was being given all these gifts while my family struggled so. I didn’t feel like I belonged there.

Gladys Kimtai

Most international students struggle with homesickness and adjusting to a new culture. My struggle was not about the culture. It was something inside me, my conflicted feelings over the good things that kept happening to me.

I didn’t feel like I belonged at home, either. I spent most of my school holidays with the doctor’s family in Eldoret. At school I spoke Swahili and English, so when I did get to return to my village, I found I was losing my ability to understand and speak Kalenjin, my tribal language. It became difficult to talk to my grandparents when they were still alive, and because none of my siblings understood what I was going through, I found it difficult to confide in them.

As a teenager, I boarded at a Catholic secondary school nearer to my village. Most of the students spoke Kalenjin, so I was able to relearn my language. I no longer wanted the doctor’s family to support me, yet I knew that my mind was quick and that my education was the one thing I had control over. So when my friend heard that a Kenyan student had earned a running scholarship to an America college, I thought, “This is for me.”

I’d never done any running before, so my friend literally held my hand and ran with me for a week so that I could learn how. We recruited other friends to run together and write letters to colleges asking for scholarships. It was such a random thing. A few colleges wrote back asking us questions like, “What is your SAT score?” So then we took the SATs, and fortunately we all scored high.

The colleges wanted to know what kind of running we did and how fast we ran. We didn’t know the answers to these questions, but we knew that we’d have to do some serious training. We couldn’t train in our villages, because people would think we were trying to compete with the professional athletes that Eldoret is famous for and would discourage us, especially the girls.

So we moved to a training camp in an old, abandoned building about an hour from my village and lived there for ten months. We slept on the floor, half the building for the girls and half for the boys. We brought cooking pots, grains, and vegetables from home.

Gladys Kimtai

Like so many other important events in my life, TM came to me as a gift.

At one point I had three offers—and two were full academic scholarships. I wasn’t able to accept those because the 2007-2008 election riots made it too dangerous to travel to the embassy in Nairobi to get my visa. But in the fall of 2008, I accepted a cross country and track scholarship at Harding University, a Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas. I majored in pre-med because I wanted to become a doctor and help the people in my village.

Most international students struggle with homesickness and adjusting to a new culture. My struggle was not about the culture. It was something inside me, my conflicted feelings over the good things that kept happening to me. Even though I was working on campus after class and during the summers so I could send money home to my brothers, I would cry at night because I couldn’t stop thinking, “No, no, no. This should be for my family, not me.”

Like so many other important events in my life, TM came to me as a gift. In my senior year, a group of friends and I traveled to Little Rock to take qualifying tests to join the US Army, which was offering international students the opportunity to serve in return for citizenship and an income. By chance, we met a family from Fairfield, Iowa, who told us about the benefits of TM.

I called the Little Rock TM Center right away, but I didn’t have the money to start. After graduation, I worked as an aide in a hospital in Searcy, but by now I knew that I could not become a doctor because the suffering of the patients made me feel too emotional. At the same time the opportunity to serve in the US Army fell through.

Then in spring of 2013, when I thought I would have to return to Kenya without any real skills to offer the people there, the Little Rock TM Center called and said, “A donor has paid for you to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique.” The donor turned out to be the family I had met in Little Rock!

Gladys Kimtai

I also hope that I can be a role model for women and girls, because in my village everyone knows that I have gone to college, and they want to see what I can do. I’d like to help girls from Kenya become educated and find a way to support themselves.

TM changed everything. It brought in the light. The conflicting thoughts that had plagued me all my life were gone. It calmed my mind and gave me peace.

The first thing that lifted was the burden of guilt I’d carried so long. I realized that my brothers had supported me out of love, and that they weren’t expecting me to repay them with money, especially while I was still a student. I realized that there were many other ways that I could help them.

I also stopped feeling guilty for all the unasked-for gifts in my life. Now I understand that it was “support of nature” and that I should enjoy the amazing opportunities that came my way, since life is meant to be easy, not a struggle.

At the TM Center, I found out about Maharishi University of Management, where I’m currently enrolled as an MA student. Now I have a strong desire to take the TM Teacher Training Course so I can bring this experience of inner peace to my family—to my three brothers and sister, to my three stepbrothers, and to the doctor’s family who helped me get an education.

I also hope that I can be a role model for women and girls, because in my village everyone knows that I have gone to college, and they want to see what I can do. I’d like to help girls from Kenya become educated and find a way to support themselves.

I think learning TM will help them to achieve what they want in life. That’s something I can give, something valuable that I can bring back to my family and my village.

(I originally helped Gladys write her story for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 21. Reprinted with permission.)

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