IMG_4482We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” To most people this means simply that the vitamins, carbs, and proteins in food build the cells, blood and bones of your body.

But according to Maharishi Ayurveda, “You are what you eat” means something far more subtle and powerful. Food is known to directly influence your consciousness and feelings. It can create bliss or anger, contentment or restlessness, thoughts of the sacred or the profane. In Ayurvedic diet, the quality of the food you eat literally creates your state of mind, emotions and consciousness.

 Prepare Food for Happiness

Foods that are whole and unadulterated contain more of the intelligence of nature, and thus create more vitality, alertness and happiness when you eat them.

Just think of this example: if you eat an ayurvedic meal composed of fresh, organic vegetables, whole grains and dhal (lentils) lovingly cooked in delicious spices and garnished with panir (fresh cheese) and fresh-fruit chutney, how will you feel afterwards? Contented and satisfied. Now consider how you’d feel after eating a meal consisting of canned vegetables, processed foods, or food fried in unhealthy oils—or food served at a fast-food restaurant. The result might be dullness or a feeling of lack of wellness.

Ayurveda gives a name—tamasic—to such foods that create dullness, disease and even aggressive behavior in the people who make a steady diet of them. Tamasic foods may include leftovers; packaged, frozen, canned and processed foods; vinegar; red meat; alcohol; and any old, spoiled or rancid foods. Tamasic foods are anti-ojas (ojas is the finest and most refined product of digestion). They result in dull thinking, depressed emotions, and physical imbalances.

The foods you want to favor are the foods that have and create positive, spiritual qualities—they are called sattvic foods. Sattvic foods are wholesome, create bliss, heighten alertness, and are easy to digest. Sattvic foods include oranges; almonds; unheated honey; amalaki; rice and whole grains; milk; fresh, organic vegetables; and organic, sweet, juicy fruits such as mango, papaya and pear.

A diet consisting of easy-to-digest, sattvic foods is recommended for almost anyone desiring good health and is especially recommended for people who have chosen a spiritual path in life. These foods convert rapidly into ojas, the product of perfect digestion that in turn creates a glow in the skin, sparkle in the eye, and mental, emotional and physical balance.

Eat Food Cooked with Love

When you cook for your friends or family, it’s important to be in a happy frame of mind. Since ancient times, the ayurvedic texts have pointed out that the emotional state of the cook affects the quality of the food. This is why it’s ideal, in the ayurvedic view, to serve home-cooked meals whenever possible, because food cooked in a restaurant by strangers is unlikely to match the positive energy of a meal cooked by someone who loves you. It’s especially important to cook often for children. There is nothing to replace a mother’s (or father’s) love—a key ingredient in a child’s food.

When cooking, to the extent you are able to easily control your environment, focus on the food and make it a settled, conscious event rather than something thrown together under pressure. Turn off the TV, shoo the kids and pets out of the kitchen, and give yourself time to enjoy the simple act of smelling the spices, feeling the textures of the foods, playing with the colors, and having fun. Or, if your kids, friends or spouse like to help, get them involved, too. However it works for you, make meal preparation a happy time. Your positive thoughts and feelings make a meal a life supporting, sattvic act.

Eat in a Settled Environment

Finally, it’s important to eat your food in a settled, happy, and sattvic environment. This is actually a technique of ayurveda—creatively managing your environment. Make food and table arrangements attractive to the eye, and make sure the dining area is clean, pleasant and sunny, and the air is fresh. These things influence digestion.

Eating with family or good friends is ideal, while enjoying light, quiet conversation. Avoid intense discussions or arguments at the table, as this can interfere with proper digestion. Eating in silence if you are alone allows one to focus on the flavors of the food and the blessing and nourishment that it offers. The natural result will be better digestion. Resist the impulse to switch on the TV or radio. You will feel better and more settled when you create a more sacred, calm atmosphere around the act of eating.

Taking a few moments to give thanks for your food before eating is a universal practice. It’s a chance to remember that food is a living part of creation, and when you eat you are absorbing the infinite energy and intelligence of nature. Saying a prayer or giving thanks also gives you a chance to settle down after a busy day at the office, to give your digestion a chance to create ojas from your food. Ojas is the master ayurvedic biochemical that supports connectivity with nature and with others. Ultimately, eating is a sacred act—a privilege of that divine intelligence that sustains your every action. Preparing and eating food in this manner offers homage to that which is responsible for giving us life and sustaining our lives.

Finally, after the meal is finished, don’t rush off right away. Linger a few minutes at the table to help digestion begin properly and enjoy the opportunity to savor the satisfaction of sharing a delicious meal with those you love.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 21,2012. Reprinted with permission.) 


2010_11_SLCdrawingWith U.S. buildings consuming 77 percent of our electricity and creating over half our country’s greenhouse gas emissions, most major architecture firms have adopted the Architecture 2030 challenge to bring their buildings’ carbon footprints to zero by the year 2030.

Yet many experts wonder if we couldn’t be moving faster. Now a building under construction atMaharishi University of Management is about to show that we don’t have to wait until 2030 for zero carbon—anyone can do it right here, right now.

A Building Like No Other

The Sustainable Living Center is a 7,000-square-foot classroom and office building that combines so many features of sustainability and meets so many standards of ecological building that it is being widely heralded by architects and builders around the world.

“This building will be completely off the grid in electricity, heating, cooling, water supply, and waste disposal,” says David Fisher, Ph.D., the intrepid head of the Sustainable Living department at MUM, who, with his wife, Mabel Scaroni-Fisher, spearheaded the building’s development from its inception. Fisher has seen his department grow from six students in 2003 to 80 today, making it one of the largest sustainable living programs in the U.S.

“We wanted to create a building that walked our talk, that demonstrated sustainability and self-sufficiency as a teaching model for our students,” he says. “And for the public too—to show that we can live sustainably.”

When it’s done, the SLC will create more energy than it uses—enough to supply itself and provide power to the university’s nearby library. And it’s doing all this using off-the-shelf technologies that are available to anyone—at a fraction of the cost of other energy-efficient buildings.

As if that weren’t enough to put it on the cutting edge, the building also demonstrates four philosophies of sustainability—something that has never been combined in one building anywhere on the planet.

First of all, it is designed to earn the LEED Platinum certification, the highest award from the internationally known green building certification system. Second, it meets the more rigorous criteria of the Living Building Challenge. When complete, it will be one of the select few buildings in the world to achieve this demanding building standard, which calls for new structures to produce all of their own energy, use only water that falls on-site, rely on sustainably sourced materials that come from within a 250-mile radius, and avoid a “red list” of toxic materials including asbestos, mercury, and PVC.

Third, the building will also demonstrate the 25 nontoxic principles of Building Biology (known in Germany as Bau Biologie).

Finally, it is designed in accord with Maharishi Vastu architecture, a complete system of natural-law-based architecture, which creates wholly nourishing influences on the occupants.

“By having all those certifications, it’s a way of conveying to our students and the world how you can combine the ancient wisdom of Maharishi Vastu architecture with the modern visions of LEED, Living Building Challenge, and Bau Biologie,” says David Fisher.  “It’s a kind of ancient-meets-present and an east-meets-west kind of building.”

Peace and Harmony

The first thing I notice when I enter the building is the trees.  It turns out that even a soft wood has tremendous strength when left intact, and in this building 16 whole aspen trunks support the entire structure like Atlas holding up the heavens. Stripped of their bark and burnished in golden sunlight that floods every corner of this building, they give the feeling of a living forest.

These trees were sustainably harvested near La Crosse, Wisconsin, from a forest managed by the Forest Stewardship Council. The trees meet the Sustainable Building Challenge guidelines to source all materials within a 250-mile radius.

“Aspen trees have no commercial value,” says Dal Loiselle, the affable developer and construction manager for the project. Dal’s been constructing eco buildings since 1989, and like David Fisher and architect Jon Lipman, he’s been researching systems for the project for five years, donating thousands of hours before the project got off the ground.

“They’re softer than softwood trees like pine and fir that we typically use in dimensional lumber,” he continues. “But when you take a whole tree, it has double the strength. ”

The next thing I notice are the compressed earth blocks, stacked like bricks, forming the inner layer of the envelope of the building. It feels calm and peaceful here even with the typical construction sounds of buzzing saws and thwacking hammers. The blocks are made of local earth that was harvested when the neighboring Argiro Center’s parking lot was excavated.

“Soren Pearson, a student in the Sustainable Living program, researched the feasibility of using rammed earth,” says Dal. “We rented a machine and the students themselves produced the 26,000 blocks.” Many other students, including Dal’s own daughter Nelina, helped with the fundraising, the research, and the testing for the building’s systems.

It’s hard to convey the degree of sheer intelligence and hours of research that have gone into this project. Dal points out the double wall that forms the outer envelope of the building. “The outer wall is a 2×8 stud wall with sheathing on both sides, filled with cellulose (recycled newspaper) for insulation. There’s a two-inch gap, and then there’s the layer of earth blocks for thermal mass. The insulating layer keeps heat or cold out and the thermal mass layer stores heat or cool. The gap prevents thermal bridging.”

Dal says one of the reasons they used earth blocks is because that’s the way the Native Americans and early pioneers built here—out of earth and out of wood. “Earth also has a nice quality,” he says. “It’s cooling in summer and it grounds you, so you feel good. You feel settled.”

Earth breathes and absorbs moisture. “It’s what you call hydroscopic,” he says. “In summer when it’s humid it will take some of that moisture and absorb it. In the winter when it’s dry it will give that moisture back. So it maintains a relative humidity. Earth does that, and the whole trees will do the same.”

Dal takes me up on the roof where there’s a glorious view of the campus. The roof will serve as an outdoor space for classes and social events. On the southern edge stand 10 solar tube panels lined up in two rows. Water circulates through a manifold and is heated by the solar tubes. Once heated, it’s stored in a 4,800-gallon stainless-steel insulated tank and then circulated under the floor as radiant heat. The building has five kinds of solar power—in the form of passive heat, solar thermal tubes, photovoltaic panels, film, and shingles. The roof’s membrane also reflects the sun to help heat the solar tubes.

“The tank is insulated and large enough so that even if the weather is cloudy and there is no wind for a while, we’ll still have enough hot water to heat the building,” says Dal.

Solar energy is also used to cool the building—as moist air is drawn over a liquid desiccant and the warm, moist air is extracted by heat from the solar tubes and pushed outside, reducing the humidity in the building. Cooling is also achieved through “night flushing” by an air well that draws in cool night air in summer, resetting the earth block walls that radiate the cool during the day.

Covered with a TPO membrane, which is free of toxic PVC, the roof is slightly sloped to catch rainwater in six drains. The rainwater is purified with an ultraviolet filter and stored in a cistern underground.

“It only takes one inch of rainfall to fill our 6,000-gallon cistern,” says Dal.

Below us we can see the area where the peat-moss-based sewage treatment system will be built. “This is a system that prevents nitrogen and other toxic nutrients from entering our waterways and contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Dal. “It’s also a way for municipalities to help their overworked waste management systems.”

Dal points out the utility cottage below that contains the equipment to convert wind and solar energy to AC electricity. It was one of the first structures built on the site, and has 12 solar panels of its own, which generate the electricity needed for construction. All construction waste is also being recycled, making the building non-polluting from day one.

Preparing for the Public

“According to Mike Nicklas,” says David Fisher, referring to the architect and green building expert, “ there are now several hundred building professionals who know about this building and are watching and waiting to see how it performs.”

The first thing the visitors will see as they climb off their bus (yes, there’s a tour bus parking plan) is a charming bridge over a waterfall and stream meandering through a garden of edible and native habitat plants that not only look beautiful, but capture storm water and purify it, preventing toxic runoff and flooding of nearby buildings.

The building will feature 12 exhibit bays to explain its unique features. Environmental monitors around the building will record and archive the performance of the building in real time on a website, so anyone anywhere in the world can see  how the building is performing.

With so many sustainable features packed into one building, the project has attracted national media attention. At a press conference that marked the use of solar panels to produce the energy to build the building, Iowa State Representative Curt Hanson said, “Let’s use this as a learning tool and learn from the experiments that are taking place in this building and perhaps get more of us off the power grid, more of us off the foreign oil, more of us energy efficient.

Read more about the team of experts and volunteers that came together to make this building happen: “Sustainable Living Center: It Takes a Team to Go Green.”

For more information, see MUM Sustainable Living Center.

Linda Egenes is a Fairfield-based freelancer who writes about green and healthy living. Visit her blog at

If you would like to be part of this remarkable adventure in sustainability, contact Dal Loiselle at (319) 217-2179.

(I originally wrote this article for The Iowa Source, November 2010. Reprinted with permission.)


Fairfield Iowa Mayor Ed MalloyImagine a small town where homes are powered by the city’s own wind farm, and energy consumption city-wide has dropped by 60%. Accessible pathways lace the town, making it easy for people to bike or walk to work. One-fourth of the produce offered in the town’s supermarkets is locally grown, raised on thriving farms that surround the town. Tourists boost city revenues by flocking to the fully functioning sustainable living center. Needless to say, the economy of this small town is booming, stimulated by tax cuts and energy savings, with ample jobs created from innovative, eco-friendly enterprises.

This is the sort of future the town of Fairfield, population 9,650, envisions for itself. And to ensure that this happens, the town fathers have recently ratified the Fairfield Green Strategic Plan—a coordinated effort to become a sustainable, green community within ten years.

It all started with an idea that Mayor Ed Malloy had been turning over in his mind for a couple of years, to develop an integrated plan to move Fairfield toward a green future.

“When the energy crisis hit, it seemed like the right time to float this idea,” the 50-something mayor says. “To me, being sustainable means helping the planet, but it also means sustaining our community’s economic viability in the face of global climate change, population growth and the current economic crisis.”

In February 2008, Mayor Malloy formed a commission to research and write the Fairfield Green Strategic Plan, appointing 20-plus members from all walks of life. “We included small business owners, bankers, manufacturers, educators, and experts in waste management and soil and water conservation,” says Malloy. “The idea was to involve every sector of the community.”

A few short months later, in November 2008, the city council unanimously ratified the 28-page green strategic plan.  At the same time, the planners garnered tremendous support from the Iowa Power Commission, which awarded the city of Fairfield a $80,000 grant to assess current energy efficiency and create detailed strategies for moving forward.

A Community-Wide Effort

Connie Boyer, CFO of Iowa State Financial Services Corporation and the co-chair of Fairfield’s green planning commission, says,  “There are three main legs to the plan: 1) creating a sustainability culture—including education and raising awareness; 2) economic development—which includes opportunities for new businesses and jobs in the area of sustainability as well as ways to adopt green solutions and save money, and 3) sustainable community design and public policy and infrastructure—which is about decisions the city can make to create a green future.”

The plan’s wide range of objectives include reducing non-renewable energy consumption and increasing energy generation; conserving water, protecting the air, and transforming wastes into useful resources; designing buildings and landscapes for efficiency and human well-being; and supporting a prosperous and sustainable local farm economy.

“Now that the Fairfield Green Strategic Plan has been approved by the city council, the commission has moved to the next step and are meeting with various community leaders to ask them to take responsibility for different sections of the plan,” says Malloy.

For example, one goal is to create an organization to develop local food production and processing. The community organizations that are being asked to take responsibility for that part of the plan are Hometown Harvest, Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development, and, as secondary leaders, the Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association and Maharishi University of Management.

“We’re saying, this is one of the plan’s goals, and can you take responsibility for making that happen,” says Boyer. “As we talk to these various community leaders, it also gives them the chance to give us feedback and help us take a different direction if necessary. Ultimately, that will make the Fairfield Green Strategic Plan even stronger.”

The real genius of the plan is the way it involves every member of the community, from school children to housewives to factory workers.

“From the very beginning the idea was that different people have different ideas of what will happen in the future and what it means to go green,” says Boyer. “So this plan is about the things that everyone can agree on—how to save money and make our planet a better place.”

One of the first steps is to galvanize the citizens of Fairfield to reduce their own energy usage—whether that means wrapping their hot-water pipes with insulation or installing solar panels or riding bikes to work. This will be done through creating and distributing a household guide, and through an educational campaign using all available media, says Mayor Malloy.

Another important step is to hire a community sustainability coordinator by March 2009, who will coordinate the efforts of various community sectors and keep the plan moving forward.

Helping Other Towns Go Green

As possibly the first small community in the nation to adopt a comprehensive green plan, Fairfield is planning to take a leadership role. One of the major objectives of its strategic plan is to help other communities go green.

“We want to create a model community, a virtual template that other small towns can adopt to create the same results,” says Mayor Malloy.

He points out that Fairfield already has many of the resources to move forward. Fairfield is the home of Maharishi University of Management, for instance, which offers the first Sustainable Living major in the country. The students and faculty there have spearheaded the construction of a revolutionary 7000-square-foot Sustainable Living Center and classroom building on campus, using wind-and-solar power, earth block construction, rainwater catchment systems, and geothermal heating and cooling systems, now under construction. University farms already grow organic food in gardens and greenhouses, supplying the university cafeteria and nearby groceries with local food year-round.

“Many of the sustainable living department’s faculty and graduates have donated their consulting services to help the commission create Fairfield’s Green Strategic Plan, and we’re hoping they will continue to lend their expertise to various projects over the years,” says Malloy.

Malloy points to the city’s strong entrepreneurial sector, which he predicts will rise to the occasion and provide many of the services that will be needed to turn the town green.

Fairfield also has many existing demonstration projects, which serve as models for sustainable living. Malloy cites Abundance Ecovillage, a Fairfield development with off-the-grid homes powered by wind and solar, rain catchment and retaining ponds, and recycled sewage. Downtown, KRUU 100.1 FM, Fairfield’s local radio station, has installed solar panels to run its services completely off the grid.

One of the grander aspects of the plan is to build a sustainability center on the south edge of Abundance Ecovillage. The center will include classrooms, workshop space and dormitory rooms for hosting educational seminars and courses. In this way, the city hopes to become a nationally known center for sustainability. 

Already, notes Boyer, the city has been accepted in an incentive program offered by Alliant Energy to switch to LED traffic lights, which are brighter, use less energy, and last years longer than the current incandescent bulbs. The estimated savings in energy usage and personnel: $18,000 a year.

On a personal note, Boyer and her husband have asked a group of sustainable living students from the university to assess their historic bed-and-breakfast to recommend ways to make it more energy efficient.

It is individual actions like this, multiplied many times, that will make the plan a success.

Mayor Malloy predicts that the plan will pay for itself in energy savings. “The nice thing is that the savings can be rolled into the future budget.”

Even with such a daunting task ahead of him, Malloy is relaxed and confident that Fairfield can reach its far-reaching goals to become one of the first sustainable, green communities in America. “I don’t feel any pressure,” he says. “I see it as an opportunity to engage in big thinking, for our community to join together in accomplishing a big task in a way that is fun and light-hearted.”

(I originally wrote this article for Radish Magazine, January 2009. Reprinted with permission.)

Categories: green living, Iowa


Dirt. Mud. Clay. Cob. Cob building is an ancient way to build with earth, used most famously in England to create picturesque cottages with thatched roofs. There are many advantages to cob building—it can be warm in winter and cool in summer, it’s natural, nontoxic and beautiful, and it costs very little.


Lin Mullenneaux works on the cob house in progress. For more photos and updates, see

Just ask Hap and Lin Mullenneaux, a Fairfield couple in their 50’s who recently sculpted their own cob home with the help of friends and family.

The total cost for their modest 14×18’ two-storey cottage? Just $7000. And half of that was for the green metal roof and sturdy Pella windows.

Labor of Love

It all started in the summer of 2007, when the Mullenneauxs attended a workshop at Cob Cottage Company in Oregon with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley, who have promoted cob building around the globe through workshops and their book, The Hand-Sculpted House.

After their trip to Oregon, Hap and Lin traveled to England, where they met the young British cob builders, Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce.  Adam, who grew up in Iowa City, met Katy while studying documentary filmmaking in London.  They also learned cob building in Oregon and have gone on to win awards for their work in England.

Back home in Iowa last fall, Hap and Lin purchased a $700 camper on eBay, parked it on their land near Fairfield’s Abundance Eco Village, and moved in. They planted trees, built a hoop greenhouse that serves as an open-air garden in summer, constructed the three-sided rustic wood shed that serves as their outdoor kitchen, shower and workshop.

When spring came they started constructing the cob cottage, with the help of over 50 volunteers.

I was one of those volunteers, helping Lin mix the cob on tarps, using buckets of clay substrata dug from their own land, buckets of sand, water and straw. We mashed it with our feet, formed it into lumps with our hands, and tossed it fire-bucket-brigade style to Hap, who slapped it on the wall to meld with other cobs into a solid earthen mass.

An Experiment in Sustainability

A few months later, on a cold November day, I visit Hap and Lin in their completed cottage. They’ve covered the cob walls with a water-resistant render made of cow dung, earth, and straw and white-washed that with lime. It’s a fairytale place, with a limestone foundation, a green metal roof to catch rainwater, and a periwinkle blue door. It sits comfortably on the land, like it grew there.

Winds are gusting up to 35 mph, but the 18” earthen walls keep the cottage snug and warm, even without the wood stove going, their only source of heat.

It’s the first time I’ve seen the finished interior, and I feel like I’m being hugged by nature. Plaster walls—made by Lin from a mixture of kaolin clay, sand, straw, wheat paste and cattail fiber—are smooth and curvy, like sculpted stone. Sturdy benches carved out of cob, beams of round pine logs that Hap cleared as deadwood from the local forest, and a winding slate staircase to the sleeping loft add rustic charm. Coat hooks are made of tree branches.

Hap has built a kitchen counter out of old planks, stained golden with the dark brown grain making an intricate pattern. A friend gave him some walnut boards that had been sitting outside for seven years and Hap made them into shelves that hold Mason jars of beans and grains. Cast iron pans and bunches of dried garlic and fennel from Lin’s garden hang from the rafters.

Lin offers me a seat on one of the sculpted cob benches, shaped like a couch and covered with sheepskins. Hap sits in his rocking chair next to the built-in walnut book shelves and computer shelf. A wire to power the computer is the only electricity in the home, and eventually that will be powered by solar panels.

“Do you want to see the cowboy bathtub we’re looking for?” he asks. It’s a small galvanized tin tub with curved sides like an upside down cowboy hat. It will fit in the sleeping loft, and an Amish pump will supply water — heated on their wood stove — through a copper pipe.

“This is an experiment in sustainability,” says Hap.

Hap and Lin hope to inspire and teach others to build their own homes with natural materials. Hap is the treasurer of the Sustainable Living Coalition, which is creating a campus adjacent to the Mullenneaux homestead and Abundance Eco Village. It will include a center for sustainable living and courses on permaculture and natural building. Already, some of the volunteers on the Mullenneaux house are starting their own cob building projects in Fairfield.

Built by Nature

Hap notes that their home’s interior, with its rounded niches and undulating walls, is a result of the flowing nature of cob building.

“It’s a comforting space,” says Lin, who feels that what’s missing in modern architecture is the curved line—the feminine element, the comfort of the mother.

“When you use uniform materials, straight boards and sheet rock, the result is something straight and rigid,” says Hap. “With cob building, it’s easier to be round than straight, and you naturally create more curved, gentle shapes. Every cob home is unique. You’re never going to feel that oppressive uniformity in a cob home”.

Hap has also thought a lot about the difference between natural building and green building.

“’Green’ is a term that is getting over-used and abused these days.” he says.  “I’d define ‘natural’ building as using unprocessed materials as much as possible.”

He lists what he feels to be natural, unprocessed materials: round wood, clay soil, stone, sand, straw. “When you use materials in the form that nature made them, you have to work cooperatively with nature. They start to shape the creation—they design the home.”

“It’s like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle,” adds Lin. “You can’t decide it all ahead of time.”

“You find the stone and see where it belongs,” says Hap. “For the builder, it’s a 180º change. Instead of a fixed design, your evolving design takes shape based on the materials at hand—the round trees you cut down for your beams, the old boards your friend gives you for your kitchen shelves, or a limestone outcropping that becomes your foundation.”

“Or the window you find behind your friend’s barn,” says Lin, gesturing above Hap’s head, where purple and blue-tinted clouds float in a rectangular window frame, making me think of Georgia O’Keefe’s spectacular painting, “Sky Above the Clouds.”

“The house comes into being as a co-creation with nature,” says Hap. “It’s much more of an artistic process.”

Hap and Lin say they had two goals when they started: to build a sustainable home that allowed them to spend most of their time outdoors, and to avoid going to the bank for a mortgage. And they were able to achieve both.

“I get it,” I say as I say good-bye. “This is like playing house, like not having to be a being a grown-up.”

Hap and Lin laugh and say in unison, “That’s it exactly.”

To see Hap and Lin’s Cob House Journal, go to

(I originally wrote this article for Radish Magazine, January 2009. Reprinted with permission. For more photos and updates, see


Buy Visits with The Amish on Amazon Market

The Amish love to farm. “I think I wouldn’t want to be living if I weren’t on a farm,” an Amish teenager once told me. “It’s exciting — there’s always something happening.”

Farming is also a way to keep the family together. When the father works at home, he can take an active role in raising the children, training them in the Amish way of life. 

The Amish believe that farmers live closest to God. “On a farm, you can see that God is in all things that are alive and growing,” explains Leah Peachy, an Amish woman I met in North Carolina.

They are also known to be excellent farmers. Centuries ago, while still in Europe, the Amish were often banned from land ownership and were forced to farm land so poor that no one else wanted it. In order to survive, they experimented with new methods, such as crop rotation. The Old Order Amish today still practice a four-year crop rotation system in Iowa and other states, planting corn for two years, oats for one year, and a hay crop the fourth year.

The Amish feel that they are not the owners of their land. Rather, they are caretakers, entrusted with the use of the soil. they carefully nourish their fields — preferring organic fertilizers such as manure — so that when they retire, the land is as healthy as when they began. If any Amish man damages the soil, he is considered to b3 as sinful as a thief. As a result, Amish farms are extremely fertile and productive.


Golden sunlight stretches wide over the Iowa hayfields in early September. At the Yoder farm near Bloomfield, a girl waves a hearty hello.

This is Regina, age 15. Besides household chores, she and her older sister Annie milk their family’s cows and drive a team of horses in the fields.

The girls laugh merrily when they talk. “Some people think we are twins, especially when we dress the sa
me,” says Annie with a laugh. Today they wear identical raspberry-colored dresses, white aprons, and royal blue scarves tied under their chins.

Both say they’d rather spend their day in the fields than inside the house. “I think it’s great fun to work out,” says Regina.

“I feel more free outside,” agrees Annie in her mild way. “Farm-work doesn’t have to be done so fine and neat as needlework.”

Their day starts at 6 a.m., when their father wakes up the eight children who still live at home. Before breakfast, the girls feed the cows while their father and 22-year-old brother, Dan, feed the horses. All four help with the milking, then Dan goes off to work as a carpenter.

The 12 black-and-white spotted Holsteins all look identical to me, but the girls befriended Jody, Joline, Vera, Abby, Shirley, Tina, Sheila, Fannie, and Pam when they were calves and call each one by name. Honey Lou and Sunny Sue, two fawn-colored Jerseys munching on hay in the corner, complete their herd.

Do the cows ever kick?

“Some people’s cows do kick, but ours don’t,” says Regina. “If they start to kick, we give them a little slap and they learn they can’t do that.” Hobbles — clamps that gently draw the cow’s hind legs together just above the knee — keep the cows quiet during milking.

Sometimes the girls do get stepped on, which is not too serious. “It hurts for about five minutes, and that’s all there is to it,” says Regina.

Inside the barn I meet two colts, Dawn and Beauty. Regina pats Beauty on the lips, who bares her teeth in a jack-o’-lantern smile. “I like to tease her,” says Regina mischievously. “She bit me the other day, just to be playful. Boy, did that hurt.”

An immense black stallion stands in the stall across from the colts. “He’s gentle,” Regina reassures me as she strokes his forehead between soft black eyes. “He helps us clean the barn in winter by pulling the manure spreader while we pile it up.”

Suddenly three wide-eyed children appear. Robert, David and Grace, aged seven, 10 and 12, just drove home from their one-room school in an open pony cart. They show me how to hitch it up. Like a well-trained team, Robert and David pull the cart out of the shed while Grace slips the bridle on Midnight, their pony, and backs her in between the cart’s shafts. In one minute, thanks to team – work, it’s ready to go.

Annie takes me for a ride. The wind blows in our faces. Annie likes riding in a cart better than a buggy, she says, “because it’s more open, more free.” We pass the grassy pasture where the Yoders’ cows and horses graze peacefully. With just a slight tug, Midnight turns around.

Back on the farm, I notice the family’s three black, covered buggies stored in an open shed. Annie and Regina have driven their family’s covered buggies to town or to visit friends “since we were big enough to read up and put the bridle on the horse,” says Annie.

The family owns two Standard Bred geldings to pull the buggies and nine big-boned Percheron mares to plow the fields. Both girls love to mow the hay fields with a team of two mares. “If you like horses, you like to do things with them,” says Annie.

“Driving a workhorse is even more fun than driving a gelding, because they’re more powerful,” says Regina. “When you drive a team, you just feel content. Except you have to watch to make sure you’re at the row you should be and the mower doesn’t get jammed up.”

The geldings and massive draft horses are easy to handle and calm, the girls tell me. “We do have one pony that is kind of skittish,” says Regina. “So only Dad or Dan (her older brother) rides him.”

Soon it’s 5 p.m. and time for Regina to round up the horses and cows from the pasture. Barefoot, she rides Midnight without a saddle, because “Dad says it’s more fun to ride bareback.”

The sun slips low on the horizon by the time the cows are in their stalls. In a graceful motion, Annie swings the hobble chain under a cow named Sheila and fastens it just above the knees, drawing them together.

“Usually, you milk cows on the right side,” Annie says. But since Sheila is a two-bucket cow, the girls place their stools on opposite sides of Sheila, clutch shiny metal pails between their legs, and pull the cow’s teats with both hands in brisk rhythm. Frothy milk splashes into the buckets.

“Want to try?” Annie asks. I do, but when I squeeze the cow’s udder, there’s barely a trickle. Annie laughs and makes milk squirt like a faucet.

They like to sing while milking. A plaintive hymn floats in the air, voices clear and sweet, perfectly on key. “There are no shadows without the sunshine. There are no showers when all is fair. And roses blooming in thorny places with sweetest fragrance perfume the air.”

Excerpted from “Visits with the Amish: Impressions of the Plain Life,” re-released by the University of Iowa Press in 2009. Available at and other online bookstores.

(This excerpt originally appeared in Radish Magazine, May 2009. Reprinted with permission.)


Categories: Amish, book excerpt, Iowa


Lancaster_County_Amish_03My mother calls herself the original recycler. Having grown up in the depression years, she stored used tin foil in a giant ball, covered our presents in last year’s discarded Christmas paper, and wrapped our school sandwiches in Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread bags (a source of acute embarrassment for her 60s-era kids). My Dad lined his workshop with neat rows of Maxwell House coffee jars, the kind with bold white stars on red lids, which contained every loose washer, nut, bolt, nail, and piece of wire he had ever encountered in his life. When it came time to fix an appliance or a kid’s bike, he had the missing piece at his fingertips. My parents didn’t throw things away—they fixed them, mended them, and made do. It wasn’t that they were poor—they simply believed a frugal, non-wasteful lifestyle was best way to raise their family and protect the environment.

Thinking of this, I suddenly realized that going green to save our economy is not a radical new idea—it’s traditional and retro.

Take the Amish. As a growing but still marginal segment of the rural population, they make their own clothes, grow their own food, live off the grid, and drive horse and buggies instead of cars. While most of us are never going to achieve a carbon footprint as low as theirs, we can adopt a few of their habits to help ourselves, the environment, and our economy.

Buy Fresh, Buy Local

I once asked an Amish friend of mine why the Amish drive horse and buggies. I expected him to give me the usual answer—that it had to do with their religious beliefs, to remain separate from the world by eschewing modern technology. He surprised me by saying, “If we drove out of town to shop, our local merchants would be out of a job.”

While none of us are about to give up our cars, we can support our local restaurants, merchants, and farms. In a tough economy, your dollars spent at the corner market, the one-of-a-kind restaurant, and the local bookstore help prevent a chain reaction of small business failures, home foreclosures, and falling property values. In a town of 10,000 people, it’s estimated that a dollar spent locally will circulate a dozen times. Buying local also makes green sense because it cuts down on carbon emissions. And venues such as farmer’s markets bring fresher food at better value straight to the customer while supporting local farmers.

Live Within Your Means

I remember reading an article in the Des Moines Register at the height of the 1980s farm crisis. Small farms across the state were failing, mostly due to large debt-loads when farmers bought expensive new machinery and land at peak prices just before commodity prices fell. The article pointed out that the Amish, who did not incur debt and thus could weather economic downturns better, weren’t at risk of losing their farms.

It’s never too late to adopt a more realistic budget. A new fashion term cropping up is “frugalista,” someone who makes a statement by finding bargains and getting creative with the sewing machine. Even in today’s stagnant housing market, innovative new arrangements like house swaps are allowing people to unload homes that are too big to afford or to move up to a larger home to accommodate a growing family.

Take Joy in Simple Pleasures

Before I started visiting the Amish, I thought they must be a grave and dour people, judging from their dark, 1600s-era clothing and prim bonnets. What I found was a people who love to laugh, to tease, and to party even when they’re working. Whenever there’s a tough job to do—whether it’s putting up 50 quarts of tomatoes or putting up a new barn—they invite their friends over for a “frolic” that involves massive amounts of food and good old fashioned fun. And because they have less artificial types of entertainment at their disposal, the Amish have developed their human social skills to a high art. When they talk to you, they are truly present, free of interruptions by telephone, TV, or radio. The Amish enjoy simple pleasures—potluck meals, taking a walk in the woods, playing volleyball, baseball and other nonviolent sports, and family table games that involve a large dose of loud, raucous laughter.

No matter what your budget, you can take joy in simple yet fulfilling pastimes like starting a garden, preparing home-cooked meals for your family, or hiking in a nearby forest. Riding your bike for Saturday errands can burn calories, reduce your gas budget, and lead to new discoveries as you slow down and actually see the architecture and landscaping that were once a blur in your rearview mirror

Recently my husband, Tom, and I downsized to one car. It does require a little juggling when the weather is rainy, but Tom is enjoying a new form of exercise: walking to and from work. He says his daily walks have become favorite times of the day, and he wonders why he spent so many years driving. He also loves not having the extra car to service, which saves us both money and time.

“We’re just one car away from being Amish,” Tom likes to joke. “But no black hats yet.”

Simple pleasures not only save the environment, they save your health and your pocketbook. And like the Amish, who knows, you might find that living simply is simply more fun.

Linda Egenes is the author of Visits with the Amish: Impressions of the Plain Life, University of Iowa Press, 2009. A freelance writer and book author, Linda visited with her Old Order Amish neighbors in Southeast Iowa for 13 years before writing these very personal stories about her experiences inside the hidden world of the Amish. The book is available at

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

Categories: Amish, green living


Intelligent DesignIt started in 2004 when a few people in Fairfield, Iowa, were looking for a sponsor for an environmental conference.

“We decided to form our own nonprofit and called it the Sustainable Living Coalition,” says Diana Krystofiak, a founding board member of the SLC. “The goal was to combine people from different sectors to create a more sustainable Fairfield, which could then become a model for other communities.”

From the start, a driving force behind the SLC’s vision and educational initiatives was Lonnie Gamble, who with permaculture expert Grover Stock, began teaching a 10-week permaculture course called Big Green Summer. Hundreds of interns trained with Gamble and Stock and lived in Gamble’s home. But Gamble and his wife, Valerie, couldn’t donate their time, money and home to educate interns indefinitely. A campus was needed

Fast forward to the fall of 2009. The newly inaugurated SLC campus standson the north edge of Fairfield.

“We bought the land in 2006 with a grant from Iowa’s Great Places,” says Briggs Shore, the SLC’s administrative coordinator.

The purpose of the campus, she explains, is to become a working permaculture farm and educational center with classes and internships.

“Permaculture is a way to take the principles of intelligent design, found in nature, and apply it to absolutely everything in your life — how you get your food, water, shelter, heat (and) power, and (how you) dispose of waste,” says Shore.

“We want this to be a model, to establish best practices for natural building and rural farming that people can take back to their own communities,” says Frank Cicela. At age 40, Cicela brings a wealth of experience to the SLC, having established a similar nonprofit called Sustainable Indiana, and shows remarkable dedication by taking an unpaid leave from his job at Clipper Wind Power in Cedar Rapids to spend every other week working for the SLC.

Shore points to the 1,200-square-foot straw-bale, post-and-beam barn that is the main classroom and administrative space for the campus (pictured). The building is functional but awaiting funds for plastering the outer walls, covering the gravel floor with flagstone and completing a five-room dormitory loft. It was erected in just four months with the help of an Amish construction crew for the foundation and dozens of volunteers, who worked innumerable hours.

“We’re completely off the grid, and we provide our own power and water,” says Shore. She points to the rain catchment system, 10 photovoltaic solar panels and one-kilowatt wind turbine that supply electricity and high-speed Internet. “We’re high-tech while being sustainable, rustic while still being modern.”

The SLC benefits from its collaboration with other groups. For one thing, the campus adjoins and makes use of two other sustainable sites for its workshops: the Abundance Eco Village and the Mullenneaux extended-family acreage, which includes three sustainable cob, straw and clay homes. Other collaborators include Grinnell College and Maharishi University of Management.

Future projects include building four-season dormitory space to house 50 interns, a hospitality center, an Elder hostel, underground cisterns to store drinking water from the rain catchment system, wetland waste management system, permaculture food forest, edible landscaping, and seed money to extend educational offerings.

But ambitious as these plans are, Gamble sees a more visionary goal. “The SLC is a way to foster ecological micro-enterprises,” he says. As an example, the SLC bought equipment and loaned it to help a local baker get started, and launched the Edible Cityscapes Project.

Another project in the works: a micro-enterprise center to help fund sustainable businesses. And the SLC is providing land and sponsorship to a John Jevons mini-farm center, one of three in the U.S. to be established this spring.

For more information about the SLC, contact Briggs Shore at

or visit

(I originally wrote this article for Radish Magazine, January 2010, pg 14. Reprinted with permission.)

My mom with my brother, sister and me

My mom with my brother, sister and me

My mom was not a feminist. You could say she was a 1950s Donna Reed sort of mom, not the kind who had a job outside the home or marched in feminist rallies when I was growing up in the 60s.

She was a great cook, and because she made such fabulous, fresh meals, on time, every day, I never felt the need to learn how to cook myself. If I felt the urge to create something, it was more satisfying to sew a dress or draw a picture. A member of a 4-H club, I learned to bake brownies and cookies, and once, in high school, I spent all day preparing a ham dinner with all the trimmings—applesauce, string beans and dinner rolls—from scratch. For all my trouble, within 30 minutes it was gone, with only a few “gee thanks” left trailing in the air. To my teenage mind, it seemed like a massive waste of time.

In college I continued to feel ambivalent about cooking, helping to prepare salads during a raw foods phase and otherwise letting my roommate cook while I did the dishes. Yet when I married and set up a household of my own, it was clear to me that now was the time to learn to cook. I even remember a silly argument with my husband over who was going to cook and who was going to do the dishes—and this time I refused to slip into the passive dish-washer mode.

Why the sudden turnaround? Because I associated cooking with an expression of love. I was in love with my husband, and I wanted to cook for him.

In other words, while the way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, I was more struck by what cooking for my man did for my own heart.

My mom’s cooking inspired my sister in a similar way. She managed to rise to the top of a major corporation while raising two daughters—and always, always found time to sit down with her family for a home-cooked meal, prepared by herself or her husband. It was the foundation for their family time.

While cooking is not the only way to convey love to your children or your husband, it is certainly a practical one. We all have to eat. Home-cooked food is far healthier and less expensive than restaurant food. According to ancient health care systems such as Ayurveda, food cooked with love is the most nourishing elixir for anyone to eat.

And the ritual of gathering around the common table, sharing the intangibles of familial love and tasty food, is the binding ritual of most cultures. Even modern research has shown that kids who gather with their parents to share at least one meal a day (rather than grazing or foraging for food on their own) perform better academically and socially in school.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind in a rush while I was reading an interesting piece in the New York Times about a feminist activist’s daughter who, although she, too, considers herself a feminist and works for a living, has found time to cook and bake for her daughter—and to be available to her when she comes home from school. She does this, she says, because she wants her daughter to feel special, to feel loved.

The author’s own mother, it turns out, had spent 12 years as a homemaker but after a difficult divorce, found herself the single parent for two. At that point she did not want to end up like her mother (the author’s grandmother), who cooked three meals a day for her family—but felt bitter and trapped and took it out on her kids. Instead, the author’s mother embraced the budding feminist movement, focusing on her own self-development and her career as an artist and activist.

She succeeded in living a fulfilling and productive life as a leader in the feminist movement, but her kids were often left alone and unfed. The author says she not only felt physically hungry as a child, but worse, unloved and abandoned.

It’s interesting that the three generations of women in this family neatly represent three stages of women’s roles in this country: 1) the historical role of homemaker and caregiver (which left multitudes of women feeling trapped and yearning for something more), 2) the phase in the late 20th century when women broke free, becoming career women and feminist activists, sometimes rejecting their feminine role in the home altogether, and 3) the modern woman, who struggles to find time to have a satisfying career and be there for her children at the same time.

While understandably many women today are overwhelmed by the demands of trying to fulfill both roles, I do see a positive trend among young women who seem to have the energy to do both. In many cases these are the same women who are reaching out to empower themselves to stay healthy and calm—through yoga, daily exercise, healthy diets, and meditation. These are women who are not afraid to take a break from their jobs and families for some daily “me” time, knowing that when they come back, they will have more energy to devote to nourishing their kids and husbands.

Dr. Kumuda Reddy, a practicing medical doctor, book author and mother of three, says, “As a parent, I have found the Transcendental Meditation technique to be invaluable. In the past I led a busy life, returning home from my practice late in the day and facing a full evening with my family. I started the habit of meditating at my office before I returned home. This worked beautifully, because I could leave the stress of the workday behind. I found that I could create a much happier environment for my children and husband when I was more relaxed and more rested. I could really be the ‘200 percent parent’ that I wanted to be: 100 percent mother and 100 percent professional woman.”

The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown in research to improve emotional availability and family life. It makes sense—when the stress is less, when the parents and kids are rested, it’s easier to give and receive love.

And love is the real food of life. It’s the primary nourishment upon which a child grows and thrives. Certainly, love can be conveyed in an abundance of ways—by making a meal, by giving a hug, by just being there to listen. But all of these expressions of love are based on a flowing heart. You gotta have it to give it.

As Maharishi, the founder of the TM technique says in his beautiful poem Love and God, “The fortunate ones use the instrument of deep meditation and probe deep into their hearts. Then the waves of love gain the depth of the ocean, and the ocean of love flows and fills the heart and thrills every particle of being.”

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, November 30, 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

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

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

Create World PeaceHow is this possible?

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

The 1% Formula

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

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

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

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

Coherence Is More Powerful Than Incoherence

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

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

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

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

But even with this, there’s another shortcut.

The Square Root of 1% Formula

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

How does this powerful advanced program work?

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

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

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

Maharishi EffectNo Approach to Peace Is More Effective

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

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

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

You Are A Peace Creator

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

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

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

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

Just close your eyes—and create world peace.

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


IMG_0420If someone asked me, “What’s more important to you, being happy or finding meaning in life?” I’d have trouble answering. Like some kind of trick question in a fairytale, I’m thinking, Why not have both?

This question came up after I read a NY Times Opinionator piece citing a new study that showed today’s generation of young people born after 1980, called millennials or Generation Y, are so altruistic that they are choosing professions that bring meaning to life—rather than seeking personal happiness or more money.

In the forthcoming study conducted by Jennifer L. Aaker, Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs and Emily N. Garbinsky, 397 Americans were followed over a month-long period and asked the degree to which they considered their lives to be meaningful or happy, as well as what beliefs and values they held, and what type of choices they had made in their lives.

This is the part that gets confusing to me—because the study was based on the premise that although meaning and happiness can overlap in some ways, they are ultimately different. Although meaning can vary from person to person, the authors Emily Esfanhani Smith and Jennifer L. Aaker explained that “a defining feature is connection to something bigger than the self. People who lead meaningful lives feel connected to others, to work, to a life purpose, and to the world itself.”On the other hand they said that people who want happiness are looking for more money or having an easier, more fun job. People who seek meaning in life are more “givers,” while people who seek happiness tend to be “takers.”

Well. I think it does boil down to semantics to a great degree. I think the study would have made perfect sense to me if they had used the word “pleasure” instead of “happiness.” Then, certainly, I would say that people who seek pleasure above all else tend to be takers. Pleasure is more about fleeting, sensory gratification. To my mind, happiness has a deeper, more spiritual value, and is an important component of living a meaningful life.

In fact, for women, who in general tend to put other’s desires ahead of their own and to give and give and give—to their children and spouses and careers—it’s a good idea to remind ourselves that only a lit bulb can shed light. Only a full cup can overflow. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s when a woman has taken care of herself and is happy inside that she is in a position to give to others without depleting herself.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, referred to this as “200% of life.” By meditating twice a day and releasing stress and fatigue and tapping into the state of pure happiness (sometimes called bliss consciousness) that dwells within us all, we can meet the world refreshed, ready to give to others. We can develop inner happiness, and on that basis, enjoy outer prosperity and spontaneously bring that happiness and prosperity to others as well. When the heart is full, when life is lived in fullness in every moment, then it’s natural and easy to give to others.

Maharishi also said in the The Science of Being and Art of Living that “the purpose of creation is the expansion of happiness.” It is our nature to be happy. Think of a healthy child exploring the world with wonder and joy. Think of the birds greeting the morning with vibrant song. Think of the flowers bursting into bloom in spring. It’s a crazily exuberant world. And we can tap into that state of pure happiness inside us, twice a day, every day.

So I say to the millennials—how completely wonderful that you seek to find meaning in life by choosing careers that will help others. This is a credit to your generation and a step forward for our country. But don’t forget about taking care of yourself, too.

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, January 31, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

Older Posts »