Archive for March, 2018

New study highlights unique state of “restful alertness” during Transcendental Meditation

March 24, 2018

fMRI shows increased blood flow to frontal areas of brain and decreased blood flow in pons and cerebellum

Summary: A new study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggests that Transcendental Meditation is associated with a unique state of “restful alertness.” The study, which monitored blood flow, found that, compared to eyes-closed rest, during Transcendental Meditation there was increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, indicating the sort of alertness also seen in other meditations. However, unlike other meditations, there was decreased activity in the cerebellum and pons, indicating deep rest.

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Mahone - side view fMRI

fMRI images show significant areas of activation during Transcendental Meditation compared to resting with eyes closed. Areas of activation (orange) included the anterior cingulate gyrus and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Areas of deactivation (blue) included the pons and cerebellum. These findings suggest the mind is alert but that mind and body are in a deeply restful state.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is said to lead to a state of “restful alertness,” and now a new study in Brain and Cognition using brain-imaging supports the assertion that during the practice one’s mind is alert but that both mind and body are in a deep state of rest.

Functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) patterns of 16 subjects during their practice of Transcendental Meditation found that, like meditations that involve focused attention or open monitoring, there was increased activity in the areas of the prefrontal cortex related to attention – indicating alertness. However, unlike other meditations, during Transcendental Meditation there was also decreased activity in the areas related to arousal – indicating deep rest.

“Given the wide variety of meditations that are practiced today, it’s important to distinguish among them in order to see the different ways they affect the brain,” said Michelle Mahone, lead author. “It makes sense that different approaches to meditation would use the brain in different ways.”

A state of restful alertness

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced Transcendental Meditation in the West, taught that TM practice leads to this state of restful alertness. And over the past decades, researchers have sought to verify this claim scientifically.

Early research suggested that Transcendental Meditation practice lowers sympathetic nervous activity, as indicated by a reduction in skin conductance and plasma lactate – two physiological markers of sympathetic functioning – and a decrease in breath rate.

“This reduction in sympathetic activation results from gaining the state of restful alertness during Transcendental Meditation practice,” said Fred Travis, a coauthor of the study. “This restful alertness is the key to Transcendental Meditation. It’s a very different kind of rest than sleep. It’s rejuvenating and healing, as evidenced by a wide range of clinical studies, while at the same time it allows the person to experience deeper mental states – with profound implications, such as an ongoing experience of transcendence.”

The restfully alert state gained during Transcendental is more than a concept, Dr. Travis says. “These blood flow patterns give a physiological picture of the reality of restful alertness in the mind and body.”

Increased blood flow to prefrontal cortices

The sixteen subjects, who had been practicing Transcendental Meditation an average of 34 years, were each tested as they meditated for 10 minutes while the blood flow in their brain was monitored by an fMRI scan.

Compared to just resting peacefully with their eyes closed, the fMRI scan found an increase in blood flow in the bilateral anterior cingulate gyrus and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices – areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex associated with attention and executive functions such as decision making, reasoning, working memory, inhibition, and reward anticipation.

Frontal blood flow is also reported during other meditations and indicates that the mind is alert.

Decreased blood flow to pons and cerebellum

However, unlike other meditations, during Transcendental Meditation there was a decrease in blood flow to the pons and cerebellum. The pons modulates the individual’s overall state of arousal and governs breath and heart rates. The decrease in activity in this brain area supports the experience during Transcendental Meditation of a deeply silent mind and rested body.

The cerebellum modulates the speed and variability of information processing, both related to coordination and motor control and to cognitive functions such as attention and language. The decrease in activity suggests that the body reverts to a more automatic mode without the need of cognitive effort to exert control.

Together the decrease in activity in the pons and cerebellum activity suggests an overall reduction in cognitive control and executive processing during Transcendental Meditation – as if the attentional system is at a balance point ready to act when needed, Dr. Travis said.

“By using the mind in a specific way, restfulness follows,” Dr. Mahone said. “While this may seem contradictory, this finding is compatible with other research supporting that meditation could be key to balancing the autonomic nervous system and improving quality of life.”

Natural tendency of the mind

This state of restful alertness is said to result from correct practice of Transcendental Meditation: without effort.

“Transcendental Meditation is effortless because it follows the natural tendency of the mind,” Dr. Travis said. “One begins the practice in a simple way, and then it goes automatically, without any analyzing or intention. Maharishi said that it simply follows the natural tendency of the mind to settle down to quieter states if given the opportunity.”

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About the Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation® is a simple, natural technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It is easily learned, and is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It doesn’t involve concentration, control of the mind, contemplation, or monitoring of thoughts or breathing. The practice allows the active thinking mind to settle down to a state of inner calm. For more information visit http://www.tm.org.

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“fMRI during Transcendental Meditation practice”
Michelle C. Mahone, Fred Travis, Richard Gevirtz, David Hubbard
Brain and Cognition 123 (2018) 30–33

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Reports: EurekAlert | Health Imaging: fMRI confirms state of ‘restful alertness’ during transcendental meditation | EUPB | Press Locker | Bioengineer.org | Science Newsline: Medicine | INTO.AI | The London Economic | Scicasts | SCIENMAG | The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest wrote an impressive review of the study (April 16, 2018) in their section: Brain, In Brief: First ever neuroimaging study of people in the midst of Transcendental Meditation.

 

Norman Zierold: Hollywood biographer, novelist, TM Teacher, member of Maharishi’s Purusha program, raconteur, publicist, beloved by all

March 9, 2018
Norman Zierold photo by Mary Drew

Norman Zierold: 7/26/1927–3/7/2018

A close friend and colleague, Norman Zierold, passed from this world early Wednesday morning, March 7, 2018. Beloved by all, he lived a long, culturally rich and spiritually devoted life.

Born and raised in the Amana Colonies, Norman enlisted in the navy, graduated cum laude from Harvard, and earned a master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Iowa. He spent two years in France on a French Government Teaching Assistantship, then a decade in New York City, where he taught at Brearley School, worked at Collier’s Encyclopedia, then Theater Arts Magazine and Show.

Norman wrote eight books: true crime novels, tales of Hollywood’s golden age, and science fiction: The Child Stars, (1966); Little Charlie Ross, (1967); Three Sisters in Black, (1968), which won a Special Edgar Allen Poe Award; The Moguls; Garbo; (both 1969); The Skyscraper Doom, (1972); Sex Goddesses of the Silent Screen, (1973); and his final book, That Reminds Me, A Conversational Memoir (2013).

In 1972, Norman began the practice of Transcendental Meditation. He became a TM teacher and taught the technique to hundreds in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He later joined Maharishi’s Purusha program and eventually moved to Fairfield, Iowa in 2002. Norman became part of a dynamic media team at Maharishi University of Management under the direction of Bob Roth. Norman’s accomplishments there were legendary!

Those of us who worked with Norman over the years were always impressed by his work ethic and ability to charm writers, editors, and producers into reporting on TM. Bob Roth, now CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, is fond of telling the story of how Norman inspired a national TV profile on the NBC Today Show for TM and the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse in inner city Detroit.

A few years later, when Bob and David Lynch showed it to Ray Dalio in a private meeting, it inspired him to give the David Lynch Foundation a donation of one million dollars for more school projects. This was the start of an ongoing relationship with DLF, now in 35 countries, and led to millions more over the years for many at-risk groups. Bob feels the successful launch of the Foundation was largely due to Norman’s efforts, and prepared a special message about him for today’s memorial service.

Norman is survived by his sister Loretta Wolf, nephews Geoffrey and Mark, and niece Candice. A memorial service and cremation ceremony will take place Friday, March 9, 2018 at Behner Funeral Home in Fairfield.

Rustin Larson, published poet and MUM librarian, interviewed Norman Zierold on the publication of his book, That Reminds Me, A Conversational Memoir. Enjoy this interview, which took place in the MUM Library. There is a short separate introduction by librarian Suzanne Vesely. Both videos were posted March 2, 2013 on mumlibrary. Margot Suettmann posted a link to this video on Facebook when she found out about Norman’s passing. She also posted a lovely comment there about Norman that captures him perfectly. I’ve included them both below.

Margot Suettmann: I did not know Norman that well for a long time, but he left a deep impression on me as a very gentle, refined and also intellectual or let’s say: well educated person. I saw him often on the road walking up and down and doing his errands. He was tall and slim and his gait was very typical for him. He immediately learned my name – soon after I had arrived in Fairfield – and thus greeted me always with my name “Margot” which is something special. One feels appreciated and familiar with a person who takes the effort. I also knew he was a good friend of Ken Chawkin’s whom I consider a good and old friend myself. I knew Ken before I came to MUM. I also may have read some of Norman’s media press releases at times. He was working in the media department of MUM. I got to know him a little better at the memorial or obituary lunch for Sally Peden which Ken Chawkin had organized at Revelations as I happened to sit next to Norman. Of course we started to talk about different subjects and I noticed his refined personality and his rich educational background and the way he expressed himself verbally in a cautious and knowledgeable way. Probably what I appreciated most was his gentleness and his intuition for other’s feelings and handling them with caution and tenderness. I also admired his bravery how he mastered his life in his old age. He never complained and trod his way up and down the road unperturbed – and of course he loved and appreciated deeply to live in Fairfield. He was very independent in his inner Self and a noble personality in some way. And I remember most his kindness.

Linda Egenes sent this note. It says a lot! “Thank you, Ken. What a lovely memorial post of Norman! I think we all felt connected to him because he was so deeply settled in himself, and made everyone feel appreciated, loved and respected.”

Linda also sent this: Here’s a link to a “My Story” feature by Norman for Enlightenment magazine. It features a moving chapter from his book, about how he started to meditate and then why he became a TM teacher: From Utopia to Hollywood and Back.

“Today, I believe that omniscient Mother Nature remembered my youthful spiritual stirrings even when I did not, and also noted my disillusion with metropolitan high life and my attempts to find a better road to fulfillment.” —Norman Zierold

Jim Turner sent a wonderful Letter to the Editor of The Fairfield Ledger, which they published on March 22, 2018: A tribute to Norman Zierold.

Earlier related blog posts on Norman Zierold: The Chronicle of Higher Education: Notes From Academe: The Spokesman Who Kept CallingDiane Vance and Norman Zierold discuss his new memoir, That Reminds Me, at Revelations Café | You can read more lovely articles and listen to a few fascinating interviews with Norman about his book in this post by scrolling down to Articles, Interviews, and Update: That Reminds Me: A Conversational Memoir by Hollywood biographer Norman Zierold is now out!Norman Zierold: A Charmed Life: Celebrated Hollywood Author Reminisces on Six Decades of Extraordinary Encounters | THE REMARKABLE DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION — written by Norman Zierold for Healthy Referral | Celebrating Norman Zierold’s 90th birthday at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant we met Marie.

Bob Roth promotes Strength In Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation on Today Extra, Australia’s popular TV morning show

March 7, 2018

Bob Roth @meditationbob continues to promote Strength In Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation. His new book is currently Number 1 in All Books on Amazon in Australia!

Here is an interview on Australia’s popular television morning show, Today Extra. Team Coach Nine bill Bob as Hollywood’s meditation master, and Guru to the Stars. Watch this dynamic 5-minute interview: The meditation technique Oprah and Seinfeld swear by. Bob also appeared on ABC’s Breakfast News Show.

Bob Roth on Today Extra Sydney, Australia

For decades, Bob Roth has taught meditation to some of Hollywood’s biggest names: his client list includes the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael J. Fox and Ellen Degeneres. (Perhaps you’ve heard of them.)

Roth focuses on Transcendental Meditation, an approach he describes as “the simplest meditation technique” to access the inner reserves of calm he says are already inside everyone.

“I use the analogy of an ocean,” he said on Today Extra, in Australia to promote his new book Strength in Stillness. “Choppy waves on the surface, [but] the depths of the ocean are silent.”

Roth says Transcendental Meditation is backed by scientific evidence and is a tool to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even Parkinson’s disease — actor Michael J. Fox is among his high-profile clients.

Oprah is one of the technique’s most outspoken converts, describing it as “the most ‘human-friendly’ meditation” and loving it so much that she had Roth teach it to more than 400 employees at her production company.

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Also see Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos interview Bob Roth and other news coverage listed there.

Denise Levertov’s poem “Of Being” describes that mysterious moment of expansive inner stillness, joy and reverence

March 6, 2018

Denise Levertov, in her poem, Of Being, describes the mysterious experience of inner happiness, of just being. Though provisional in time, it is removed from great suffering and fear, and hails from an eternal inner source. Her description sounds like a taste of bliss consciousness, which is self-sufficient, not dependent on anything outside itself, and out of time — transcendental pure Being.

Of Being

By Denise Levertov

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences—
great suffering, great fear—

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

this mystery:

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Denise Levertov must have also written Primary Wonder after becoming present to the “quiet mystery” that sustains everything.

Denise Levertov’s The Avowel reminds me of the effortlessness of transcending in @TMmeditation

Naomi Shihab Nye says something similar in her poem, So Much Happiness, where “there is no place large enough / to contain so much happiness, / you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you / into everything you touch.”

William Stafford also describes something similar in his poem, Just Thinking, where he appreciates the value “of just being there.”

Here is a poem I wrote on this subject in the early 90’s: Seeing Is Being.

Speaking Of Being, a mysterious bird in this Wallace Stevens poem, Of Mere Being, also uses the image of wind moving slowly in the branches, and teaches us the wonder of just being our self.

Derek Walcott, when he wrote his poem Love After Love, described it as withdrawing into a world of silence, and creating from there, as if in a trance, being blessed by “a kind of fleeting grace” if something happens.

Besides the magical experience of writing such a poem, I also see it as an experience of inner transformation, a time when you first acknowledge the value of just your self. Walcott instructs the reader to “Give back your heart / to itself, to the stranger who has loved you / all your life, whom you ignored / for another, who knows you by heart.”

Watch an excerpt from this CBC film where Maharishi describes the nature of inner life: bondage and liberation, and gaining bliss consciousness through Transcendental Meditation. If you’re interested to know more, watch the whole 1968 film of Maharishi at Lake Louise.

Alex Gregory on what social media is doing to us

March 4, 2018

The New Yorker cartoonist Alex Gregory uses humor to show how social media changes the ways we communicate, and what that’s doing to us.

Wanted to share this funny cartoon by Alex Gregory in The New Yorker Magazine on Instagram. It’s how social media is changing the way we communicate, and what that’s doing to us. It’s funny because it rings true, to the extreme. Check out the facial expression on the guy next to the one complaining. Gregory conveys a lot with a few lines and dots. Brilliant!

Stages of communication through technology by Alex Gregory #TNYcartoons.png

Related: Two innovative creative videos remind us how social media can destroy not build relationships and Rick Hotton and Holy Molé make us laugh and learn “what is essential is invisible to the eye”.

John Glenday’s poem, Concerning the Atoms of the Soul, illuminates and nourishes the mind

March 3, 2018

Concerning the Atoms of the Soul

by John Glenday

Someone explained once how the pieces of what we are
fall downwards at the same rate
as the Universe.
The atoms of us, falling towards the centre

of whatever everything is. And we don’t see it.
We only sense their slight drag in the lifting hand.
That’s what weight is, that communal process of falling.
Furthermore, these atoms carry hooks, like burrs,

hooks catching like hooks, like clinging to like,
that’s what keeps us from becoming something else,
and why in early love, we sometimes
feel the tug of the heart snagging on another’s heart.

Only the atoms of the soul are perfect spheres
with no means of holding on to the world
or perhaps no need for holding on,
and so they fall through our lives catching

against nothing, like perfect rain,
and in the end, he wrote, mix in that common well of light
at the centre of whatever the suspected
centre is, or might have been.

(Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds,
ed. by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce)

Related poems worth seeing: Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, Buddha in Glory, reminds us of our eternal nature within; and Fishing For Fallen Light: A Tanka inspired by David Lynch and Pablo Neruda. Another poem recently added from Soul Food is Thomas Merton’s Song for Nobody.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, Buddha in Glory, reminds us of our eternal nature within

March 3, 2018

Michaela‘s website, The Living Room, posted this entry on the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. She says, “Rilke wrote the poem Buddha in Glory at the time he worked as a secretary for the sculptor Auguste Rodin, who he admired very much. He lived in Rodin’s house and was fascinated with a statue of the Buddha in front of his guest quarters. Buddha in glory is one of three poems and it said that Rilke perceived them, sitting in quiet meditation in front of the Buddha statue in Rodin’s garden.”

Buddha in Glory

by Rainer M Rilke

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet–
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

To see all three poems in this collection, in German and in English, visit Luke Fischer and his post: Rilke and the Buddha: Three Translations.

Other poems by Rilke posted on The Uncarved Blog are: What Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator and Before He Makes Each One by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Related: Fishing For Fallen Light: A Tanka inspired by David Lynch and Pablo Neruda. Also see: John Glenday’s poem, Concerning the Atoms of the Soul, illuminates and nourishes the mind.


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