Back to SchoolWith kids back at colleges and schools across the nation, everyone is wondering how to avoid getting the flu this fall. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 25 to 50 million cases of the flu are currently reported each year—leading to 150,000 hospitalizations and 30,000 to 40,000 deaths yearly. And while health authorities race to develop a flu vaccine for specific strains, they can only advise us to avoid traveling to affected areas and to wash our hands frequently to avoid the spread of germs.

Yet there is so much more that we can do to boost the immune system. In fact, the ancient science of Maharishi Ayurveda specializes in just this area: strengthening the body’s natural defenses. Even now, with this new virus testing our immune systems, there’s time to brush up on flu prevention.

If your body is filled with toxins, infection will find fertile ground for spreading disease, just as land that is fertile will sprout many seeds. Symptoms of the sticky, obstructive toxins that result from undigested food are stiff joints, sluggish digestion, dullness or headaches, and fatigue. If your digestion is strong and there is lightness and strength in your body, then the seeds of infection will not be able to take hold.

Here are five natural flu remedies and tips to boost your immune system.

1. Schedule a fall cleanse. Fall is a season of change—when the warm, humid days of summer are changing to the cool, dry, windy weather of autumn. This fluctuating weather can make our digestion weaker and cause us to fall sick with colds and flu in the fall.

The flu prevention antidote? Avert the danger with a cleanse during the few weeks when the weather is making its transition from summer to fall. Fall cleansing serves two purposes. First, it clears the toxins that have built up in the summer. And because digestive strength tends to fluctuate when the seasons are changing, eating lighter during this transition can actually boost your immunity and help avoid sickness.

Cleansing doesn’t mean that you have to fast for two weeks. It just means eating fresh, easy-to-digest foods that give your digestion a break and help it to process and eliminate toxins. Eat warm, cooked organic vegetables seasoned with spices, rice or whole grains such as quinoa and bulgar wheat, and for proteins favor soupy split-mung dal or other soups made from lentils or small legumes. Light dairy products, such as ghee (clarified butter), whole milk, and lassi (a probiotic digestion-enhancing drink made with water and freshly made yogurt) improve digestion and enhance immunity. Avoid eating cold foods and drinks, fried foods, hard cheeses, and meat during this time. And drink plenty of hot fluids between meals, such as hot water with lemon or herbal, uncaffeinated teas.

Eating lighter will fire up your digestion, eliminate toxins, and raise your immunity quotient. Maharishi Ayurveda also recommends taking a mild herbal laxative, such as senna tea, at night during this two-week cleanse.

2. Flavor your foods with an immune-boosting spice mixture. Mild spices actually boost digestive power and prevent toxins from building up. Here’s a mixture you can make at home.

6 parts turmeric
3 parts ground cumin
3 parts ground coriander
6 parts ground fennel
1 part powdered dry ginger
1 part ground black pepper
1/4 part ground cinnamon

When cooking, measure one teaspoon of the spice mixture in one tablespoon of ghee and heat until aroma is released. Apply this to cooked rice, vegetables, or other dishes. These spices will support your immune system and digestion.

3. Take herbs to assist a cleanse and boost the immune system. Look for herbal formulas that will enhance a deep, gentle detoxification program.

4. Geting plenty of rest is a natural flu remedy. Lifestyle also impacts immunity. Staying up late, working at night, eating at irregular times, and sleeping during the day can all affect the digestion and body rhythms—and thus compromise the immune system. That’s why it’s important to follow the Ayurvedic daily routine, arising early in the morning, before 6 a.m., and retiring before 10:00 p.m. Using essential aroma oils such as lavender and sweet orange can create a calming, peaceful atmosphere conducive to sleep.

5. If you do fall sick, consult your doctor! Stay home, drink plenty of hot liquids, get plenty of bed rest, and follow all of the tips mentioned above to help strengthen you through illness faster with more comfort.

(I originally wrote this article for The Iowa Source, October 2009. Reprinted with permission.)


When Keelan Dimick was three years old, he started tinkering on the piano. At first he taught himself to play by ear, then took two years of instruction in classical piano. But it wasn’t until he switched to jazz that great things started to happen.

Transcendental Meditation with Pianist Keelan Dimick

At age 13, just four months after taking his first jazz piano lesson, he won first place in the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, junior division. Two years later, he won first place at the senior division and was recruited by top music schools.

It turns out that Keelan had a secret weapon that set him apart from other contestants: his practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“It’s easier to get into the zone when you do your meditation regularly,” he says. “It also balances the whole system, calms you down so it’s easier to let go. That’s the main thing when playing jazz, to let go. Then the music will play itself.”

Keelan, who recently graduated from the Manhattan School of Music, says that with regular meditation, composing music is easier too. “You plant a seed and then let the music write itself. Meditation helps you stay on the feeling level. The more intellect you put into your music, the less moving it’s going to be to an audience.”

Right now he’s excited about opportunities that are popping up, including a New Year’s Eve gig in Santa Barbara with a big jazz band that will be playing Keelan’s own compositions. And he’s taking two months to help set up a jazz music program and train faculty at a Filipino university this fall.

Keelan is one of thousands of young people who are turning to the TM technique not only to give them a cutting edge as students, but also to help them launch their careers in the competitive field of the arts.

Transcendental Meditation helps Overcome Dyslexia Anxiety Depression Dana FarleyOvercoming Dyslexia, Anxiety, and Depression

Take Dana Farley, age 22, a Long Island native who credits the Transcendental Meditation technique with helping her to overcome the challenges of dyslexia as well as teenage anxiety and depression. A chance meeting with director David Lynch started her on the path to TM and filmmaking.

“I was a sophomore in high school, and my mom asked me, ‘Do you want to go to the city and meet a director?’ I was really into film, so I hate to admit that I didn’t know who David Lynch was at the time. But I went to the meeting where he showed us a video of kids in an inner city school who, because of the David Lynch Foundation, started practicing TM. They sat quietly and meditated twice a day, there was no more school violence, and the kids did better in school. After hearing that, I was interested in learning the technique and seeing what it could do for me.”

Having struggled with severe dyslexia since childhood, Dana says, “I had a lot of insecurities when it came to school. Since starting TM I’m not putting myself down all the time. The negative thoughts just don’t appear. Instead of thinking, ‘I can’t do this’ I’m thinking ‘Why not?’”

Aware of the high stress levels and a troubling rise in suicide rates and depression in American teenagers, Dana had the idea to create a documentary about her own TM experience. She started making the film in high school, and continued working on it even while an undergraduate at Bucknell University. Even though Dana majored in English, she joined a film club to get more practice behind the camera.

Dana’s perseverance paid off. While still a junior in college her documentary Beyond the Noise: My Transcendental Meditation Journey, which featured David Lynch and Dana, was released and received a favorable response at the Marbella International Film Festival.

In the film, Dana talks about how TM practice can help young people deal with stress. “Instead of running away from or avoiding the problems and hassles you have by taking drugs or fooling around in other ways, TM practice helps bring a sense of inner freedom, of being ‘high’ in a completely natural way. It gives you a lift in your spirits—a freedom from the stress you are feeling and the sense of burden you are feeling.”

Since the film came out in 2011, Dana has created another documentary, completed internships with Howard Stern radio, and graduated from college. She is currently pursuing work in documentary film and the nonprofit sector. She says, “I think of where I want to be in ten years, and it would be nice to in some way make a difference, to help people, to leave the world a little bit better than it was before.”

Transcendental Meditation helps women model Tanell Pretorius

Looking For Something More

Tanell Pretorius of South Africa has taken a different route—postponing college to pursue a glamorous London modeling career that included TV commercials for Sony PlayStation, catalogue work for Marks and Spencer, and shoots with Rankin, the legendary British photographer.

“The TV work was really fun,” she says. “You’d arrive at five a.m. and see hundreds of lighting people, gaffers, and set designers running around, and often you’d be the hero of the whole thing.”

But the long hours (one shoot started at 3:00 in the afternoon and lasted until 9:00 a.m.) and the pressure of constant self-scrutiny started to take their toll.

“In modeling your body is your product,” Tanell says. “Like most models, I started to develop weird habits with food. I was working out too much and injured myself. That’s when I found meditation.”

Tanell says that all her life, she had been looking for something more, even after becoming a top model. “When I started the TM technique, I immediately felt that this is the missing part of life, this is the thing that makes life complete, that makes it full and amazing. I started to feel so deeply in touch with myself, a lot more connected to my body and my needs. It even healed my sports injuries.”

At that point Tanell decided to leave full-time modeling and explore her love of learning at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. A media and communications major, she is also earning certification as a Maharishi Ayurveda wellness consultant. She plans to use her skills in writing to share what she’s learned about health, yoga, and fitness with other women.

“I’d love to help women to get more in touch with themselves, to work out and choose what to eat from an intuitive level rather than from what a magazine or an article is telling them to do,” she says.

As an undergraduate, Tanell is already writing for a regional magazine on health and fitness topics. She says that TM practice helps writers because “the fog of stress goes away and you’re able to experience life more richly. With the TM technique, you get more in touch with the universal truths of life. That’s what makes any art powerful—whether it’s writing or film or music. TM practice allows the writer to feel and experience those truths more deeply, and so the audience can also feel more deeply.”

These three creative twenty-somethings have one thing in common—they all highly recommend the TM technique to other young people.

“When you’re a student, it’s easy to float around and get lost, defeating the purpose of going to college—which is to get grounded and to learn, not to party all the time,” says Keelan. “Meditation helps you to prioritize and puts you automatically on the right path.”

Tanell agrees. “It’s helped me to not be so confused by the little things, moment to moment,” she says. “The great thing about the TM technique, you’re not just talking about the bigger picture, you’re experiencing it. And it’s so freeing, so liberating, to feel the largeness of life, how big you really are as a person, within yourself. Then you don’t get lost in the small things.”

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 14. Reprinted with permission.)