As summer ends and kids go back to school, it’s a good time to boost your brain power. Here are six ways to get back on track.

IMG_44821. Eat Fruits and Vegetables for Brain Food

It has long been known that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for you.  In recent years, research has focused on phytochemicals, the biologically active compounds naturally found in plants that have a positive impact on your health.

Foods that boost memory are walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, turmeric, and blueberries, to name a few.  Walnuts contain polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the brain and have been shown to aid brain development in infants.

Researchers at UCLA found that curcumin in turmeric protects the brain against plaques in the synapses of rats, indicating the plaques found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients also respond to turmeric.  Interestingly enough, India, a country where turmeric is widely used, has very little Alzheimer’s disease.

IMG_0108Black pepper has also been shown to enhance the power of memory.  An easy way to include these spices in your diet is to sauté Worry Free Spice Mixture or Vata, Pitta or Kapha Churna in ghee and add it to your cooked vegetables.

A 1999 Tufts University study of 40 fruits and vegetables found that raw blueberries contained the highest level of antioxidants. Animals fed a blueberry extract diet outperformed other animals in memory tests, and showed less degeneration of motor skills due to aging.

To gain the most memory power from food, eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, along with healthy proteins such as walnuts, almonds, milk, panir (a fresh cheese made from milk) and split beans and pulses.

2. Enliven Memory with Herbs

Phytochemicals are even more concentrated in herbs. Ayurvedic herbs that are traditionally known to improve memory are Brahmi and Gotu Kola.  Brahmi and Gotu Kola are medhya herbs, which means that they improve the coordination between dhi (learning), dhriti (retention) and smriti (long-term memory).  Shankapushpi is another medhya herb that is revered in the ayurvedic tradition.

Worry Free and Stress Free Mind both contain these herbs.  Worry Free helps reduce mental anxiety while at the same time making the mind clearer.  This is an extraordinary combination–to simultaneously relax the mind and sharpen the memory.  Stress Free Mind has a similar effect as Worry Free, only stronger. If you are experiencing some unusual mental stress, such as exams or starting a new job, or if you have tried Worry Free but need even more support, try Stress Free Mind.

While modern researchers usually extract the active ingredients from plants and put them in pill form, recent studies show that the whole plants contain a synergistic combination of phytochemicals. For instance, a study reported in Nature found that eating 100 grams of fresh apple with skins provided the total antioxidant activity equal to 1,500 milligrams of isolated vitamin C.  A single carrot contains more than 100 phytochemicals, which would not be available in a pill that only contained isolated beta-carotene.

This finding verifies what Maharishi Ayurveda has known for thousands of years–the benefit comes from using the whole plant, not just an isolated ingredient.  By including the whole herb or fruit, M.A.P.I. herbal formulas are safer and much more effective.

3. Say Yes to Good Fats

In the past 20 years we have been told over and over that fat is bad for you.  Not only is this fat-free diet impossible to sustain for more than a week, it is actually damaging to the brain and body. Fat is necessary for memory to function.

It is important is to eat high-quality fats.  The brain can only use the most intelligent of foods.  Maharishi Ayurveda recommends ghee, which contains brain-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and other good fats.  It is not only medhya, nourishing to the mind and memory, but is called smritida, which means memory-giving.

Olive oil is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also nourishing to the brain. Olive oil should never be heated to high temperatures, as that destroys its beneficial qualities.

Fats to avoid:  hydrogenated fats, which raise bad cholesterol, are found in most packaged foods today and are not digestible by the body; polyunsaturated fats such as corn oil or safflower oil as these are unstable and create excessive free radicals; and canola oil, which is often genetically engineered and should only be eaten if organic.

4. Be Sure to Get Your Zzzzzs

Exciting new research shows that sleep improves memory. In fact, it is while the brain is sleeping that it works the hardest–rehearing newly learned information, storing memory files, converting information to long-term memory.

In one Canada study, students who slept the night before the exam significantly out-performed students who stayed awake and crammed.  So important is sleep that researchers at Harvard Medical School now suggest that after learning a new skill, it’s best to sleep on it.  Sleeping for six to eight hours after learning apparently helps the brain transfer new skills and information to its permanent memory banks.

5. Exercise and Breathe Deeply

While a good night’s sleep helps us retain what we learn, it’s equally important to get physical exercise during the day. Exercise oxygenates the brain and sharpens memory. If you’ve ever sat around for a day or two with very little activity, you’ve probably noticed that your brain turns into a wet noodle.

Exercise also helps us to breathe deeply, which is another way to oxygenate brain cells and flush out toxins. You can stop and take deep breaths throughout the day, or practice Vedic breathing exercises called Pranayama to re-charge your memory.

Like all recommendations from Maharishi Ayurveda, how much exercise you do depends on your constitution and imbalances.  Kapha types, especially, need more intense exercise than others to keep their mind and body at peak performance. For most people, a brisk walk once a day is a good place to start.  Breathe through your nose to direct the oxygen to your brain.  Always stay in your comfort zone, stopping or slowing down when you feel the need to breathe through your mouth, or start to sweat on your forehead or tip of your nose.

Yoga asanas are an excellent way to tone the memory. These gentle stretches direct the blood to the brain and cleanse the organs and channels of toxins, helping to increase communication between the mind and body.

6. Exercise Your Mind, Too

We all know that when it comes to muscles, you have to use it or lose it.  This is equally true of the brain.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, there are three causes of memory problems:  overuse (such as working too long hours), misuse (such as doing mental work that is too difficult, or that we feel is morally wrong), and underuse.  Underuse means never stimulating your mind with meaningful activities.

If your job doesn’t involve much mental work, or is boring to you, it’s especially important that you spend some of your free time each day exercising your memory and brain. Take a course at your local college, read a good book, write in your journal, practice memorizing poetry or your favorite sayings, practice playing a musical instrument or learn to sing some new songs.

By stimulating new areas of the brain, you’ll enliven new brain connections and spark your memory skills. And you just might prolong your life, as well.  It turns out that people who are mentally active live longer and enjoy life more, too.

Photos by Linda Egenes

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.)

BY LINDA EGENES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY CRAIG PEARSON, PHD
Executive Vice-President, Maharishi University of Management
Author of The Complete Book of Yogic Flying and The Supreme Awakening

Today, the Transcendental Meditation technique is widely accepted as an exceptionally effective way to reduce stress and anxiety, gain inner calm and clarity, and improve health and brain function. Remarkable as these benefits are, there is another benefit that comes as a spontaneous by-product of Transcendental Meditation practice—a healthier, happier, safer, and more peaceful world.

Create World PeaceHow is this possible?

You might first think that, sure, if we can get everyone in the world to meditate, then we’d begin to see a world like this—but getting everyone in the world to meditate could take generations. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut.

The 1% Formula

In the early 1960s, Maharishi predicted that if just 1% of the world’s population practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique, this would be sufficient to create increasing peace for everyone. Maharishi’s prediction was confirmed in the early 1970s.

By 1973, the number of people who had learned the Transcendental Meditation technique had reached 1% of the population in a number of US cities. Studies found that as soon as these cities reached the 1% threshold, crime trends decreased significantly—while in matched control cities, crime continued climbing. The decline could not be attributed to other factors known to influence crime rate. Another study found drops in automobile accidents and suicides.

rime, accidents, and suicides are all expressions of social disorder. So when all of these variables drop simultaneously, we are seeing an underlying effect of increased orderliness in society. Indices of economic health and growth also improved.

These were astonishing findings. In cities around the United States, a few hundred people meditating twice daily in their homes were reducing crime and improving quality of life city-wide, without even knowing it. Scientists named this phenomenon the Maharishi Effect.

Coherence Is More Powerful Than Incoherence

When we practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, our brain functioning becomes markedly more orderly, more integrated and coherent. This increased coherence in brain functioning radiates into the environment around us. The result: People around us behave in more orderly, life-nourishing ways.

The principle at work here is that coherence is stronger than incoherence. We see this phenomenon in nature. In your heart, a small number of cells, called pacemaker cells, induce the whole heart to function in an orderly way. In an iron bar, when the spins of a small percentage of the electrons become aligned, all other electrons come into alignment, creating a magnet. In ordinary light, if just a small number of the photons, approximately the square root of the total, are stimulated to move in phase with one another, then a new type of collective behavior emerges—laser light, with all its extraordinary properties.

In other words, when just a small percentage of the elements in a physical system begin to function coherently, the whole system undergoes a dramatic shift toward more coherent functioning. And now we see this same phenomenon at work in human society.

Suppose you live in a city of 100,000 people—like South Bend, Indiana, or Erie, Pennsylvania. According to the 1% formula, all these cities need is 1% of their populations—just 1,000 people—to be practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for the city to experience reduced crime, accident, and suicide rates. These cities could achieve this number if all the students in a few schools or all the employees in a few businesses would learn the Transcendental Meditation technique. The schools and businesses would be transformed, and they would lift up the whole city as a spontaneous byproduct.

But even with this, there’s another shortcut.

The Square Root of 1% Formula

In the late 1970s, Maharishi brought out an advanced meditation program that he said would accelerate the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique. He called it the TM-Sidhi program. This program consists of a set of procedures that are every bit as simple, natural, and effortless as the Transcendental Meditation program.

How does this powerful advanced program work?

The Transcendental Meditation technique enables the mind to settle inward, beyond thoughts and perceptions. This process culminates in the experience of pure consciousness—the field of pure awareness at the source of thought, an infinite reservoir of creativity and intelligence. The TM-Sidhi program trains the mind to think and act from this powerful level. This gives us the ability to fulfill our desires with greater ease.

One of the procedures of the TM-Sidhi program is called Yogic Flying. Studies of brain functioning have found that during practice of this technique, there is a dramatic upsurge of coherence in brain functioning. The effect of this increased coherence is so powerful that Maharishi predicted even a small number of people—the square root of 1% practicing together in one place—could create a measurable effect in the surrounding society.

This means that South Bend and Erie no longer need to find 1,000 students or employees to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. Now they just need the square root of 1,000—about 33 people—practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi programs, including Yogic Flying, together in one place twice each day. This is a very manageable number.

Maharishi EffectNo Approach to Peace Is More Effective

Over the past 35 years, this approach to peace has been tested all over the world, at every scale of society. “Yogic Flying groups” have been assembled that have been large enough to measurably improve the quality of life for cities, states, whole countries, regional groups of countries, and for the whole world. These groups have assembled in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and the Far East. In many cases, the predicted results were announced publicly in advance of the gathering. And the predicted results have been demonstrated in every case.

Some 50 studies on the Maharishi Effect have been conducted to date. In each of these studies, the evidence consists of open, publicly gathered statistics that anyone can verify. The Maharishi Effect has been confirmed to a degree of certainty unprecedented in the social sciences, and even the physical sciences.

Social science research has shown that war has its origin in rising social tension and stress. If you can reduce collective tension, you can neutralize the possibility of war. This is what the Maharishi Effect does. Assembling a sufficiently large group of Yogic Flyers is like switching on a light for the whole society—the quality of life improves almost immediately.

You Are A Peace Creator

No other approach to peace has ever succeeded in creating permanent peace—not peace treaties, political negotiations, military interventions. This is because we have not addressed the root of the problem. The key to solving social problems is to create coherence in collective consciousness, and this is easily accomplished. We now have a technology not only of enlightenment, but of peace.

Every time you close your eyes to practice Transcendental Meditation, you are helping create coherence and peace in the population around you. If you learn the TM-Sidhi program, including Yogic Flying, you will create an even more powerful effect. If you practice these programs in a large group, the effect becomes incredibly powerful.

Since the late 1970s, there has been a large group of Yogic Flyers in Fairfield, Iowa, at the campus of Maharishi University of Management. This group aims to create coherence for all of North America. The square root of 1% of the population of North America is around 2,000. We have achieved that number on a few occasions, but we need to make it permanent—2,000 people practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs twice a day in the Golden Domes in Fairfield.

We warmly invite you to come and join us. As the scientific research studies abundantly demonstrate, the best thing you can do for yourself is also the best thing you can do for the world.

Just close your eyes—and create world peace.

(This article by Dr. Pearson originally appeared in Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 16. Reprinted with permission.)