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

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.)