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.)

SaveSave

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.)

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.)

The Solitude of Self
September 16, 2015

BY LINDA EGENES

Kate BolickIn Kate Bolick’s new book Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, the author credits five writers who helped awaken her to the glories of the solitary life: Neith Boyce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton and Maeve Brennan.

Some of these writers lived during a time when choosing to remain unmarried was an unconventional lifestyle, and the solitary life was possible for only a select few women who could somehow obtain an education and earn a decent living—or who had their own means.

Yet according to Bolick, even though American women now have the same educational opportunities as men—and statistically are marrying less, marrying older and delaying or forgoing having children—a woman is still defined by the questions “whom to marry and when will it happen?”

Bolick, a single woman, wants to change that. She writes, “We like to pretend that only single people are lonely, and coupledom the cure.”

To my mind it’s a good thing if a woman who doesn’t want to get married feels that she can make that choice without feeling marginalized. As a happily married woman without children, I myself am pursuing a lifestyle that is not exactly the norm either. So I applaud the idea that every woman can follow the lifestyle that suits her best, not a one-size-fits-all prescription deemed by society as the happiest, the healthiest, the ideal.

And as Bolick eventually discovers in writing her book, we don’t really have to choose between independence and marriage anyway. She writes, “A wholesale reclamation of the word spinster is a tall order. My aim is more modest: to offer it up as a shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you’re single or coupled.”

Well, yes, I would have to applaud that aim too. It seems we women too often forget there is one thing that can help guide any women through life, whether young or old; whether married, unmarried or widowed; whether career woman, mother at home or both—and that is to embrace the part of you that is independent and self-sufficient.

This is not a new idea among great women thinkers, but it’s certainly apt for our times, when every woman needs a trusty vessel to help her navigate the ever-evolving landscape of feminism and women’s rights and the ever-increasing choices of lifestyle and career. Journalist Elliott Holt (in her Time magazine book review of Spinster) mentioned that Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a speech titled “The Solitude of Self” in 1892, when she was retiring as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at age 77.

Stanton herself was an unusual woman of her times—even though her father thought only boys should be educated, Stanton had managed to educate herself in Greek language and philosophy. As an early champion of women’s rights, she also had a successful marriage, to fellow abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton, and was the mother of three boys.

In her retirement speech she said, “No matter how many women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone.”

By “alone” I don’t think she meant “lonely.” Rather, I think she meant “self-reliant.” For me personally, this resonates. Not only in a physical sense, such as if your partner or husband dies and you are left to support yourself and the children on your own, but in a spiritual sense and a relationships sense. Surely, if there is one lesson I have learned that has contributed to my happiness in life—in my work, in my marriage, and in every single friendship and family relationship—it’s that relationships work out better when they involve two people who are already happy within themselves. Then the marriage or friendship or work relationship is a blessing, an abundance, two people overflowing in love and generosity of spirit. If instead two people are looking to the other one to fill them up, the relationship is off to a rocky start indeed.

In her speech Elizabeth Cady Stanton went on to say, “There is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self.”

This “solitude of self” is something that every woman already possesses, which never fails, which costs nothing and is not for anyone else to control or to take away. It can be developed no matter what your economic circumstances or choices in lifestyle, whether raising a family or living alone.

In fact, this solitude of self has been the inspiration for many great men and women throughout history. The Tao Te Ching says, “Where there is silence/one finds peace./ When there is silence/one finds the anchor of the universe within himself. The Buddhist Dhammapada says, “The one who has entered a solitary place/Whose mind is calm and who sees the way,/To that one comes insight and truth/And rapturous joy transcending any other.”

Sybil, the oracle of Delphi famously advised, “Know thyself.” Many great women, such as Emily Dickinson, Helen Keller, Emily Bronte, Clare Boothe Luce and Billie Jean King, reported vivid experiences of their inner silence, as described in Dr. Craig Pearson’s beautiful book The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How You Can Cultivate Them.

Here is an excerpt by Charlotte Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, from Dr. Pearson’s book:
“A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers, for short life, eternal liberty.
But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast — unuttered harmony
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.
Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels —
Its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!”

While most modern women have a sense of what the “solitude of self” means, and have had some experience of reaching deep to their inner silence to make an important decision or to stay calm in a crisis, we all need help accessing it on a daily basis. But how? Most women today live a hectic life—striving to perform at work, ferrying the kids to soccer, getting dinner on the table and squeezing in a few hours of sleep. Without help getting to the silence inside us, it could, indeed, be as “inaccessible as the ice cold mountains.”

Yet we need it now more than ever. It’s the desire to access the solitude of self that is causing thousands of women today to turn to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, to find that oasis of silence and self-sufficient happiness within themselves every day.

Research shows that when people close their eyes to practice TM, their mind experiences a state of consciousness that is different from waking, sleeping or dreaming. Scientists have identified it as a fourth state of consciousness, during which the body experiences deep rest and dissolves stress and fatigue. At the same time, the mind is experiencing a state of silent, pure wakefulness, an unbounded ocean of bliss, a unified experience of wholeness, a state of pure consciousness, in which the knower knows itself, and the mind is awake at its source, an unlimited reservoir of peace, harmony, intelligence and happiness.

With TM, this experience of inner silence is accessible to every woman, no matter how busy she is or how many demands on her day.

Soledad O’Brien, Emmy-award winning journalist and former CNN correspondent and a very busy woman, tells her experience of contacting her inner silence by practicing the TM technique: “I have a crazy schedule, I have four small children and I am always going, so the idea of calming my mind I thought, ‘not possible!’ But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind. So that’s all my own personal experience.”

Oprah Winfrey, another famously busy person, described her experience of practicing the TM technique with a group of women in Fairfield, Iowa: “I walked away feeling fuller than when I’d come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is—still—the constancy of stillness.”

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 15, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

An Interview with A NYC Ballet Star

BY LINDA EGENES

Megan Fairchild

“What makes a great performance is when you are free to dance to the music in a way that feels fresh and spontaneous and isn’t contrived. You are in the moment and reacting to the music as the orchestra plays it.” –Megan Fairchild

It’s not often that a fifteen-year-old girl from Salt Lake City finds herself auditioning for the School of American Ballet. And even less likely that the aspiring ballerina gets accepted, graduates, joins the New York City Ballet corps de ballet at age eighteen, becomes a soloist by the time she’s nineteen, and a principal by age twenty. Rarer still for this talented dancer to take the leap from ballet to Broadway star, dazzling crowds and critics alike.

It doesn’t sound real, yet this is the life of Megan Fairchild, age thirty, who is starring in the current revival of the Broadway musical On the Town to great acclaim.

Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post writes, “The bell-bottomed boys traditionally dominate this show, but the brightest star in this new revival isn’t one of them: It’s Megan Fairchild, a New York City Ballet principal now making her Broadway debut. That she’s graceful and strikes breathtakingly beautiful lines was a given.…But it turns out the elfin ballerina’s also a nimble, effortlessly funny comedienne. The show explodes with unfettered joy every time she’s onstage.”

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.

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.

When I mention the rave reviews to Megan, she says modestly, “Yes, it’s been crazy.”

Megan has agreed to an interview one morning after performing the evening before. Here she talks about technique, artistry, and her life as a ballet dancer and Broadway star.

Linda Egenes: What made you take a year off from your successful career with the New York City Ballet (NYCB)?

Megan Fairchild: I think it’s no coincidence that my little opportunity happened after I learned Transcendental Meditation almost a year ago. Just five months after starting TM, I got a text from the casting director of On the Town, wondering if I’d be interested in auditioning.

And I’m like, “I am not a Broadway performer. This is crazy.” I laughed about it for a day, and then something happened. The next morning I woke up and I thought, “Why not?”

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.

Linda Egenes: How is performing on Broadway different from ballet?

Megan Fairchild: It’s more fun than I expected. Not that there isn’t pressure on Broadway, but there is a little bit more of an “it’s just entertainment” kind of attitude, as opposed to ballet where everything has an ideal or perfect line that you are trying to create. There’s a lot more freedom when dancing on Broadway.

Linda Egenes: Would you say it’s less stressful? I mean, there’s a popular perception that ballet is a stressful profession.

Megan Fairchild: I love my job at the NYCB because I love the people I go to work with. I love the jokes that we share and the sense of community. It’s a loyal company, as they only hire graduates of the School of American Ballet, so there are people that I have known since I was fifteen. It’s like family.

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.

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.

But now that I’m stepping away from ballet for a year, I see how much pressure we are all under. We are never done working on being perfect. It’s never, “Oh, that’s great.” It’s always, “Oh, you need to get your leg higher; I need you to turn around one more time in that pirouette; or, wouldn’t it be better if your feet were pointed more?” It’s endless.

Also, the ballet has a deeper meaning, and there is a lot of stress for the ballet dancer to uphold this legacy that is weighing on you every time you step on stage.

Linda Egenes: I understand that it was stress that brought you to TM in the first place.

Megan Fairchild: I would have panic attacks where I would pass out and be rushed to the emergency room. They were so intense that, literally, when I was regaining consciousness, I heard someone screaming, and it was me.

This happened every two years since I was eighteen. 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. Then it started happening more often, just six months apart. I had to miss some performances. 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.”

One of my ballet masters at NYCB, who did TM, suggested that I try it. She was the consummate professional and always in the moment and ready to get her job done. I felt like, well, if she does it, and she swears by it, then I’m going to try it.

Linda Egenes: So these episodes have subsided?

Megan Fairchild: Yes. The last one was before I started TM. 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. 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.

Linda Egenes: How do you reconcile your own creative interpretation with the way the dances have been done in the past?

Megan Fairchild: Even if you get to a point artistically where you are feeling free with your technique, you are also trying to uphold the tradition while you put your stamp on it. I am lucky to work with wonderful ballet masters who are supportive in making me feel like I am the artist here and now, and it’s OK if what I do is a little different from the way ten other really special ballerinas have done it in the past to great fame. My ballet masters tell me the steps, and I feel how my body wants to do it and what feels true to me.

Linda Egenes: Does transcending in your daily TM practice help with balancing artistry with technique?

Megan Fairchild: I think it 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, being completely in the moment of each step as it’s happening instead of worrying about that technical step coming up. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.

Megan Fairchild

I used to feel that things would stick to me like Velcro, and now, things just roll off. I still recognize moments happening that would normally frustrate me, but they just don’t irritate me as much as they used to. I am more able to deal with the stresses that come with my job.

I think what makes a great performance is when you are free to dance to the music in a way that feels fresh and spontaneous and isn’t contrived. You are in the moment and reacting to the music as the orchestra plays it.

In general, I have more patience with myself.

Linda Egenes: In what ways?

Megan Fairchild: Say I do a bad turn or I don’t feel my best that day, or maybe I don’t feel like always being in a leotard or something. TM helps me to let the little stresses that come with being a ballet dancer just roll off a little easier. I am a lot more resilient. I am not getting obsessed over the difficulties of working with this partner or that. It’s just a little easier.

I used to feel that things would stick to me like Velcro, and now, things just roll off. I still recognize moments happening that would normally frustrate me, but they just don’t irritate me as much as they used to. I am more able to deal with the stresses that come with my job.

Linda Egenes: I understand that your brother is also a ballet dancer and is also taking a year off to star in the forthcoming Broadway musical, American in Paris?

Megan Fairchild: Yes, my brother, Robert Fairchild, is three years younger than me, and he is in the NYCB and so is his wife. And I am married to a principal at the company, Andrew Veyette. So we have a little family.

Linda Egenes: So your brother, Robert Fairchild, is following in your footsteps?

Megan Fairchild: Actually, in terms of Broadway, I am kind of following in his footsteps. He was always more into tap and jazz than I was. I got him to do ballet to work on his technique. He ended up in the NYCB and loves it. But he also loves the musicals, and he’s a great singer, actually. Who knew? [Writer’s note: After this interview, Robert Fairchild was nominated for a Tony for his leading role in American in Paris.]

Linda Egenes: I’m curious about the influences that made you and your brother both become professional ballet dancers?

Megan Fairchild: My mom always liked musicals, and because I was dancing around the house, she took me to tap class when I was growing up. There was never any pressure to become a dancer. I’d be thinking, “Oh, wow! I like this!” Then “I like ballet,” so I would be in the Nutcracker; and then “Oh, this is going well. I am going to do ballet full time.” So it was always, “Oh, I enjoy this. Let’s go to the next level.” It was never a grand plan.

 

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 22. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Dr. Suzanne SteinbaumCardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, is a woman on a mission. As Director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of the life-changing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life, she is teaching women a new, heart-centered way to live.

And she is succeeding. While many doctors complain that their patients don’t want to make the lifestyle changes that will truly transform their health, Dr. Steinbaum doesn’t have that problem.

You only have to talk to Dr. Steinbaum for a few minutes to find out why she calls herself a preventive cardiologist. When a patient comes to her office who has not been feeling well for a long time, Dr. Steinbaum gets the patient talking about her unhealthy food choices, her lack of exercise, and the stressors in her life. And then she motivates the patient to change.

“It seems to me that there are two options,” she says. “You can pull out your pad and write a prescription, or you can actually help them change their lives, which is something that they own forever. There is nothing more powerful than that.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s enthusiasm for transforming women’s heart health is contagious.

As a national spokesperson for the Go Red for Women campaign, as a featured guest on 20/20, Good Morning America, and major networks, and as the host of her TV show, Focus OnHealth, she is reaching out to women all over the country.

It’s not only passion for her work that fuels Dr. Steinbaum’s success; it’s authenticity. She has lived what she teaches from an early age.

Sharing Her Own Personal Family History of Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy LifeIn creating the future of women’s medicine, Dr. Steinbaum looked to her past. “When I was writing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book, I realized that it was my story that drove me to do what I do,” she says.

Her story begins with her grandfather, who, as an athletic teen, was told by his doctor he could not play high school football because of a heart murmur. “He couldn’t understand why a doctor would tell him he was sick when he felt perfectly healthy,” says Steimbaum. “So he decided to learn more about the body, driving to New York City from New Jersey to take classes in nutrition.”

Eventually he became a doctor of osteopathy, which is a more hands-on field of medicine that focuses on holistic healing, beginning a family tradition that now includes eighteen doctors of osteopathy in the Steinbaum family.

Through his research, Steinbaum’s grandfather knew that nutrition affected the heart, and favored foods that modern research has found to be heart-healthy, such as avocados and dark chocolate. “Years later, when I was in my training, I wrote an article on nutrition and prevention of heart disease,” says Steinbaum. “Then I found out my grandfather wrote almost the exact same article in the 1930s. It felt strange, almost surreal. I wondered, ‘Is this genetic?’ ”

Whether nature or nurture, Steinbaum knew she wanted to be a doctor from an early age. As a child she followed her father on his hospital rounds on the weekend, and found it great fun to “assist” her grandfather in his home office.

“I was raised with the belief system that everyone is a holistic being, and you can’t treat just one aspect of the body,” she says.

Tackling the Myths of Women’s Heart Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

“It’s important that you incorporate habits in your life that aren’t a burden. They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Like her grandfather and father, Steinbaum first trained as a doctor of osteopathy. Two things happened that altered the course of her career.

“As a student I was working in the emergency room, and a relatively young-looking women was wheeled in sweating and vomiting,” she remembers. “The doctors diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and left her to wait in the corner. She had a heart attack right there in the ER. I thought, ‘That’s what I am going to do; help women not get heart attacks.’ ”

Years later, Steinbaum ended up doing a rotation at Block Island in Rhode Island. She was shocked to see a parade of young women visiting her office complaining of heart palpitations and chest pains while on vacation with their families.

“And I thought, ‘What is this?’ ” she says. “I could see that these highly successful, but highly stressed, women needed help. These two things have stayed in my heart my entire career.”

Propelled by the desire to educate women to recognize and prevent heart disease, she went on to become board certified as an MD and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Steinbaum likes to point out that although heart disease is thought to be a man’s disease, it is actually the number one killer of women. And because the symptoms are different in women than in men, many doctors don’t recognize the early signs of heart disease—or even heart attacks—in women.

“There is an increased incidence of heart disease in women less than fifty-five years old,” she says. “Women need to start early to prevent it, especially if there is a family history.”

Dr. Steinbaum says the significance of prevention for heart disease was what drew her to the field.“It was so compelling to be able to change the outcomes of people’s lives by simply helping them to change their lifestyles,” she says. “If I could teach people how to prevent the number one killer disease, what could be better than that?”

What Every Woman Can Do to Prevent Heart Disease

When I ask her to name the three most important things women can do for their hearts, Dr. Steinbaum says, “I used to say ‘stop smoking’ first, but now most people are on that bandwagon. Now I’d say eating a really healthy diet, and exercising, which, by far, is the best medication. And having a way to reduce stress is essential.”

For stress, Dr. Steinbaum recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“I tell my patients that we have to treat this issue of overwhelming stress in their lives, and this is an evidence-based technique that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes by 48 percent,” she says. “The American Heart Association recommends it as the most effective stress management tool for reducing hypertension.”

She says she first recommended TM because she was impressed with the research. “And then I learned it myself, and thought, ‘Oh this is huge! This is a really, really big deal; something that goes far beyond the medical benefits. One of my favorite things to say is that I never thought I could sit still that long, and now I look forward to it. I also say, ‘Trust me on this one; this is going to work.’ ”

As a working mother of an eight-year-old, Dr. Steinbaum herself is no stranger to the stress of modern life. “Every day I have about twenty-five million things to do, and before I did TM it sometimes was an overwhelming, daunting task,” she says. “Now that I do TM, it doesn’t mean I have less to do; it just means that it’s easier and calmer. There’s a lack of chaotic thought, and it’s almost like everything falls in place.”

photo_steinbaum01

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about. And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

TM offers a way out of the vicious cycle of stress, notes Dr. Steinbaum. “If you can meditate regularly and slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, dilate your arteries, and decrease your blood pressure, it’s done!”

But just like exercise or changing your diet, you have to do it regularly to create the change in the physiology. “We know that the change is persistent if you make a regular, routine practice of it,” she says.

For Steinbaum, any healthy habit has to resonate with a person’s goals and lifestyle. “It’s important that you incorporate things in your life that aren’t a burden,” she says. “They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Living from the Heart

Dr. Steinbaum calls her philosophy of preventing heart disease “living from the heart.”

When she speaks, her belief in her patients’ ability to transform their lives is palpable.

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about,” she says. “And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

She advises her patients: “Live from your heart and everything else will be fine.”

To help her patients become more aware of who they are and what they need to feel healthy, Dr. Steinbaum leads them in an exercise called “journaling their lives.”

“When people get caught in the minutiae of their own existence, it’s unhealthy, so I try to get people to step outside of themselves and to understand what they are living for,” she says. “For instance, a woman might feel motivated to lose weight so she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren.”

Later on, feeling good itself is enough motivation to eat heart-healthy foods, Dr. Steinbaum explains. But in the beginning, it’s easier for people to tie their goal to something larger than themselves.

“‘I want to lose weight to look thinner’ is usually not enough motivation,” she says.

Dr. Steinbaum has clearly poured her heart into her mission of educating women and preventing heart disease, and it’s her biggest reward when she sees a patient living from her heart and feeling better.

“I feel lucky to be a part of that transformation,” she says. “It’s amazing. Simply amazing.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s Top Five Heart-Health Tips

  1. Never smoke
  2. Exercise
  3. Eat heart-healthy foods
  4. Reduce stress with Transcendental Meditation
  5. Live from your heart
YouTube Preview Image

 

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 23. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES
Living From Your Heart: Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum Shares Her Passion for Women’s Heart HealthI don’t know about you, but it seems to me that there is a shift in medicine taking place—not only because patients are demanding more natural, preventive approaches, but because a new generation of doctors is leading the way.No one embodies this new paradigm of medicine more than Suzanne Steinbaum in her incredibly readable book Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life. As an MD, a cardiologist, the Director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Women campaign—Dr. Steinbaum has the credentials. And because she speaks with the authentic voice of experience about how to live a healthy life—in her book, on her website and blog, as a columnist for Huffington Post, as a featured guest on 20/20, Good Morning America, and major networks, and as the host of her TV show, Focus OnHealth—women are listening.I sincerely think all women can benefit from reading this book, not only because any woman could be at risk for heart disease, but also for the experience of having a doctor talk to you about your health in a way that lets you know she GETS it. She understands how a woman’s physiology is different from a man’s, how stress and emotions can affect us so deeply, how women are often misdiagnosed, how clinical trials don’t reflect the way women react to treatment because most trials are done on men.Dr. Steinbaum was first inspired to become a cardiologist when she was a student observing in an ER. “I was the kind of student who wrote down everything the doctor said,” she says. “A relatively young-looking women was wheeled in sweating and vomiting. The doctors diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and left her to wait in the corner. She ended up having a heart attack. I thought, ‘That’s what I am going to do, help women not get heart attacks.’”Dr. Steinbaum likes to point out that although heart disease is thought to be a men’s disease, it is actually the number one killer of women. And because the symptoms are different in women than in men, many doctors don’t recognize the early signs of heart disease—or even heart attacks—in women.

“There is an increased incidence of heart disease in women less than 55 years old,” she says. “Women need to start early to prevent it, especially if there is a family history.”

Living from Your Heart

Dr. Steinbaum calls her philosophy of preventing heart disease “living from your heart.” When she speaks, her belief in her patients’ ability to transform their lives is palpable.

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about,” she says. “And ultimately that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

She advises her patients, “Live from your heart and everything else will be fine.”

To help her patients become more aware of who they are and what they need to feel healthy, Dr. Steinbaum leads them in an exercise called “journaling their lives.”

“When people get caught in a minutia of their own existence, it’s unhealthy, so I try to get people to step outside of themselves and to understand what they are living for,” she says. “For instance, a woman might feel motivated to lose weight so she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren.”

Later on, feeling good itself is enough motivation to eat heart-healthy foods, Dr. Steinbaum explains. But in the beginning, it’s easier for people to tie their goal to something larger than themselves.

“‘I want to lose weight to look thinner’ is usually not enough motivation,” she says.

Preventing Stress from Turning Into A Heart Attack

When I ask her to name the three most important things women can do for their hearts, Dr. Steinbaum says, “I used to say ‘stop smoking’ but now most people are on that bandwagon. Now I’d say eating a really healthy diet, and exercising, which by far is the best medication. And having a way to reduce stress is essential.”

For reducing stress, Dr. Steinbaum recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“I tell my patients that we have to treat this issue of overwhelming stress in their lives, and this is an evidence-based technique that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes by 48 percent,” she says. “The American Heart Association recommends it as the most effective stress management tool for reducing hypertension.”

She says she first recommended TM because she was impressed with the research. “And then I learned it myself, and thought, ‘Oh this is huge! This is a really, really big deal, something that goes far beyond the medical benefits. One of my favorite things to say is that I never thought I could sit still that long, and now I look forward to it. I also say, ‘Trust me on this one, this is going to work.’”

As a working mother of an eight-year-old, Dr. Steinbaum herself is no stranger to the stress of modern life. “Every day I have about 25 million things to do, and before I did TM it sometimes was an overwhelming, daunting task,” she says. “Now that I do TM, it doesn’t mean I have less to do, it just means that it’s easier and calmer. There’s a lack of chaotic thought, and it’s almost like everything falls into place.”

TM offers a way out of the vicious cycle of stress, notes Dr. Steinbaum. “If you can meditate regularly and slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, dilate your arteries and decrease your blood pressure, it’s done!”

But just like exercise or changing your diet, you have to do it regularly to create the change in the physiology. “We know that the change is persistent if you make a regular, routine practice of it,” she says.

Dr. Steinbaum has clearly poured her heart into her mission of educating women and preventing heart disease, and it’s her biggest reward when she sees a patient living from her heart and feeling better.

“I feel lucky to be a part of that transformation,” she says. “It’s amazing. Simply amazing.”

YouTube Preview Image

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, April 30, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Resilient to StressYesterday I was shopping at the mall and overheard a conversation between a salesperson and a grandfather pushing a beautiful 18-month-old girl in a stroller while her mother tried on clothes.

“You won’t find many kids like this one,” the proud grandfather was saying as we all watched the healthy infant smile and coo and stretch her feet and clap her hands. She was the picture of contentment and ease even though there were now three strangers (including me) gathered around her. She wasn’t just performing, either. She was looking me straight in the eye with pure love and delight.

“She’s always like this,” said the grandfather. “Even if she’s sick or teething, she’s happy.”

To me, that’s what resilience is—the ability to thrive no matter what the circumstances. Last week I wrote about a new study that showed resilient children tend to do well in life even in adverse conditions.

This got me thinking about how lacking in resilience I was as a child. Back then, you could look at me the wrong way and I’d burst into tears.

Yet as an adult, I have become much more resilient to stress with each passing year. Rather than growing in stress as I’ve aged, I feel like I’m letting more and more of it go. Not a small part of that growth in resilience has come by practicing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.

Twice a day, every day, I’ve been letting my mind and body settle down to a deep state of rest, much deep as sleep, and that refreshing state has allowed deep-rooted stress and fatigue to be released.

A meta-analysis of twenty programs of stress reduction shows that the TM technique is the most effective stress-reduction technique available. A number of studies published in peer-reviewed journals have found that the TM technique has a multi-faceted effect in reducing stress: it significantly lowers levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreases trait anxiety, and reduces sensitivity to stress. At the same time, TM practitioners show increased sense of security and Emotional Basic Trust (EBT)and increased serotonin levels (associated with relaxation and reduced stress).

Another three-month prospective study evaluated the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on stress reduction, health and employee development in a large manufacturing plant of a Fortune 100 corporation and a small distribution sales company. Employees who learned TM were compared to controls similar in worksite, job position, demographic, and pretest characteristics. Regular meditators improved significantly more than controls (with irregular meditators scoring in between) on multiple measures of stress and employee development, including: reduced physiological arousal (measured by skin conductance levels) during and outside TM practice; decreased trait anxiety, job tension, insomnia and fatigue, cigarette and hard liquor use; improved general health (and fewer health complaints); and enhanced employee effectiveness, job satisfaction, and work/personal relationships.

Getting rid of stress allows your mind and body to function normally, to heal itself if you are sick. And there’s this added advantage: the more stress-free you are, the more resilient you are to new stress coming in.

You could think of stress as a line being chiseled in stone. Something traumatic happens to you as a child, say your teacher wrongly accuses you of cheating and you are too shy to defend yourself. That stress is stored in your nervous system, in the chemistry of your body or in its structure. Maybe even a health problem has started from that traumatic stress, or maybe you stop trusting people in authority.

Then you start to practice Transcendental Meditation, to achieve a deep state of rest on a daily basis. That stress dissolves a little bit more during each meditation, or perhaps in one deeply restful session, it’s completely gone. You feel lighter, you don’t react when your boss unjustly criticizes you—you are able to defend yourself calmly, without stirring up the old feelings of disempowerment and shame. The same stressors are there in your environment, but you’re feeling stronger—it just doesn’t affect you anymore.

Instead of making such a deep impression on the physiology like a line chiseled in stone, stress becomes more like a line in water—you react for a moment, but because you are already functioning in a less stressed state, you’re more quickly free of it. The stress has been released.

It’s even possible, as you continue to dissolve stress through regular meditation, to become so established in a state of equanimity and bliss that nothing can shake you out of it. The traffic jam on the way to your child’s school, the difficult co-worker, the challenging hours your husband works—somehow you’re able to maintain that connection with the wholeness of life throughout it all. The ups and downs don’t shake you—you start seeing them as new opportunities for growth and enjoyment.

I think it’s important to note that we’re not talking about stepping away from our responsibilities in any way. We’re talking about strengthening ourselves so that whatever life brings us, we can react with calm, grace and ease. Stressors are there—modern life is stressful no matter where you live or what you do—but if you are resilient to stress, they roll off you like Teflon. It’s more like a line drawn on air—they don’t stress you at all.

And this doesn’t take years to happen. As Megan Fairchild, a principal with the New York City Ballet noticed six months after learning the TM technique, “I used to feel that things would stick to me like Velcro, and now, things just roll off. I still recognize moments happening that would normally frustrate me, but they just don’t irritate me as much as they used to. I am more able to deal with the stresses that come with my job.”

I’d also like to clarify that I’m not talking about an emotionally detached, disembodied state of being here. I’m talking about being more connected to your children and other loved ones, more loving, more fully engaged in life.

After all, when you are anxious, stressed and angry, how much help are you to those around you? A lightbulb must be fully lit to give light.

What brings in the light is the direct experience of joy, happiness—and, yes, bliss—that is already deep inside each of us. Bliss is our natural state, only it gets covered by stress. That’s why, when stress is reduced through TM—and we can directly experience that reservoir of bliss, energy, intelligence and creativity inside us all—so many aspects of life suddenly get better. We’ve removed the roadblocks and the bliss and happiness can flow. Health gets better, because with less stress, the body can heal itself more effectively. Relationships get better because the stress that came between us is starting to dissipate. Mental health improves as the anxiety, depression and anger recede.

It’s the experience of bliss that stabilizes the mind. It’s not that we infuse bliss into the mind. The mind already has bliss. It’s like a farmer who is having trouble getting water to his crops because there’s a big logjam in the irrigation canal. As soon as he removes the obstacles, the water can flow. In the same way, by removing stress, what is left is the natural state of the mind, the original state of the mind, which is bliss.

Like the beautiful, peaceful baby I met at the mall, we can tap into our own reservoir of bliss and creativity every day—it’s there waiting for us to enjoy.

Watch Video: http://www.tm-women.org/videos.html#video=VhepgxkAdDY

Additional References:

ALEXANDER CN et al. 1991 Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6:189-247

EPPLEY, K.R., ABRAMS, A.I., AND SHEAR, J. 1989. Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45(6), 957-974.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, January 25, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Trinity College Squash Team of 2010

Trinity College Squash Team of 2010

When the women’s squash team at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, began practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique in 2010, they were hoping to make their team experience less stressful and more enjoyable. Little did they know that it would also lead them to the top of their game, finishing the 2010 season as number three in the nation, an amazing feat for a small school. In 2013 and 2014, the team captured the number one spot, edging out much larger schools like Harvard and Penn State.

It all started when Dr. Randy Lee, associate professor of psychology and assistant coach, who was already doing some work with the students to help them reduce stress and improve focus, read the research on TM.

“I’m a scientist and I wanted to see the data,” said Dr. Lee. “There were 700 research studies, and I looked a lot of them up. It occurred to me that TM, given what I’d seen in the research, might be a perfect mesh with what we were already doing,” he said.

The team, who practiced TM together as a group, noticed right away that it made them calmer. Team member Tehani Guruge from Shri Lanka said, “TM helped calm me down. I used to get really angry on court. After TM the anger went away.”

Head coach Wendy Bartlett also noticed the difference. “In general we’re certainly a calmer team,” she said. “We’ve had just as many challenges this year as we’ve had any other year, but we were able to handle them better.”

Some students even found that it helped them reach the “zone,” that coveted space of mental calm and peak performance that many top athletes experience.

“Before I wasn’t able to focus completely on the game and was distracted by external factors like the audience,” says “Nour Bahgat, a student-athlete from Egypt. “TM really helped me to get into the zone. Being in the zone is very important to an athlete because that’s the point where you can perform at your best level, so it was a great thing to learn.”

Alicia Rodriguez, a student from Mexico, reported a similar experience. “Whenever I meditated before a match, my body was so relaxed and my mind so calm. I was thinking on nothing. You already know how to play, so if your mind is calm your body will respond automatically.”

TM also helped the students with their studies. Emily Paton from Canada reported, “This year, especially, we got into a really good routine and schedule. It helped doing TM. Everyone said that after TM we’re so much more relieved and have more energy to go and do our studies afterwards. That’s not usually the case after playing hard.”

McCrea Davison from the US went on to say, “I notice that with the appropriate amount of study, every time I meditate before a major test I haven’t gotten below a 90. I think it’s because I’m more relaxed going into the test, and we learned in our class on the brain that when you’re stressed out your pre-frontal cortex shuts down so you’re not making good judgments and you can’t recall things as well.”

Research on people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique shows that academic performance improves in students who practice TM. And in addition, reaction time is faster, energy increases, and the mind becomes calmer and more focused. All of these qualities come into play when performing sports.

Emily Lindon, a psychology major at Trinity College, studied the effects of the TM technique in promoting self-efficacy for her senior thesis. Self-efficacy is one’s belief in their ability to accomplish a certain task. According to research, someone who thinks more highly of herselftends to perform at a higher level.

“One of the groups that we studied was the Trinity College women’s squash team. We definitely found an increase in self-efficacy among the pre- and post-tests for those girls.”

Dr. Randy Lee thinks this makes sense. “The most important squash is played on the six-inch court between their ears,” he says. “And I think that is true for most sports. There is that mental peace. Our women are able to say, ‘OK, I can do this. I don’t need to worry about the scores, or what’s happening. I can make this happen.’ ”

With professional athletes like two-time World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito practicing the TM technique, it may just be a matter of time before other athletes discover its performance-enhancing and life-enhancing effects.

“With TM we have a whole new technique to begin to explore more to improve performance for almost any sport,” says Dr. Lee. “I can’t think of a sport I would exclude. It seems to me it can only bring positive outcomes.”

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, August 4, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

Older Posts »