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

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.)