My dad holding me at 6 months old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, May 12, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

jacketI just heard a great TED talk “Why 30 Is Not the New 20,” by Meg Jay, Ph.D. Dr. Jay, who is a clinical psychologist and author of the book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now, believes it’s a huge mistake for young adults in their twenties to think that they have all the time in the world to start their real lives. The decade that seems to be all about postponing careers, postponing marriage and postponing childbearing is evolving into an extension of childhood, yet according to Dr. Jay, the twenties are not only the pivotal decade of a person’s life, but claiming your 20s “is one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world.”

Why are the twenties the pivotal decade of a young woman’s life? Dr. Jay gives the following research statistics: eight out of ten “aha” moments that make your life what it is have happened by the time you’re 35. More than half of Americans are married or are dating their future partner by 30. The first ten years of a career has an exponential impact on how much money you’re going to earn. Female fertility peaks at age 28 and things get tricky after age 35. She concludes, “So your 20s are the time to educate yourself about your body and your options.”

As in all things, there were parts of the talk that I agreed with and parts that I disagreed with. For instance, when she says, “We know that the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires itself for adulthood,” I beg to differ. Brain research on the Transcendental Meditation technique shows that IQ continues to grow even in adults who are practicing the TM technique. Learning is truly a lifelong endeavor, with the brain changing, adapting, and growing new neuronal connections, and women who meditate can actually pick up more creativity and smarts as they age.

And it also occurs to me that maybe it’s not such a bad thing that young women are spending more time living at home after graduating from college. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex—the CEO of the brain, the part that is involved with decision-making—does not fully come online until age 25. So maybe young people need to be more dependent on their parents until then. And then there are the statistics on divorce. Women who marry early, in their teens and early twenties, have much higher divorce rates than people who marry later, according to the 2008 American Community Survey. Getting an education and postponing marriage until the late twenties is statistically a safer way to choose a partner who will last for life.

Of course, I’m three decades past my own twenties, and things have changed dramatically since the 1970s, when I was young. I have friends with twenty-something children who are college graduates and are having trouble kick-starting their careers. With the economy making it difficult to find jobs, many twentysomethings are cycling back home to live. That was the last thing my friends and I wanted to do when we were in our twenties, and we didn’t have to. There were jobs for college graduates, and most people I knew didn’t have much trouble getting started in a career.

However, I was a person who postponed my “real” career of teaching children to learn how to teach meditation instead. My parents were terribly worried that I was throwing my life away. I remember my father asking, “How are you going to support yourself? And where are you going to meet a husband who is a vegetarian and likes to meditate?” He had a point—there weren’t that many people who were interested in those pursuits back in the 1970s.

But all along, I was developing skills that helped me to become a healthier and more balanced person. In my late 20s I earned a master’s degree and a position on the faculty of Maharishi University of Management, a fully accredited university where the staff, faculty and students improve their learning potential by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique twice a day. Thus my two teaching careers merged, and I met my husband while a graduate student as well (and he liked to meditate and eat healthy foods, just like me). So sometimes those detours take you where you actually want to end up in life. Sometimes the wrong train can take you to the right station (to quote a character in a fabulous movie I just saw called The Lunchbox).

And I think ultimately that’s what Dr. Jay was talking about—figure out what you want in life and start taking steps toward it.

So I agree with Dr. Jay—it’s better not to think that any part of your life is a throwaway, a holding station, a place to mark time until real life begins. This human life is a precious thing. Having been given such a remarkable gift, we should do everything we can to develop our minds, our bodies and our spirits for our own happiness and to make the world a better place. That’s a practical plan for any age.

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

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