Archive for August, 2019

Sage advice from William Shakespeare in the film “All Is True” on how to become a truthful writer

August 18, 2019

I never let the truth get in the way of a true story. – William Shakespeare

I love this quote, and the one below, on becoming a writer, both spoken in All Is True, an intriguing film about the final years of William Shakespeare’s life (April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616). Brilliantly written by Ben Elton, it was produced and directed by the lead actor—an unrecognizable Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare. Other notables are master Shakespearean actors Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen.

Earlier on, a stranger approaches Shakespeare, who had returned home to Stratford after his London Globe Theater had burned down, and attempts to ask him a question. Shakespeare starts giving him the usual advice and tries to dismiss him. The stranger finally asks him how he was able to know everything: “There is no corner of this world you have not explored, no geography of the soul, which you cannot navigate.” After some humble bumbling, he clearly gives him this powerful advice: 

If you want to be a writer,
and speak to others and for others,
speak first for yourself. Search within.
Consider the contents of your own soul… your humanity.
And if you’re honest with yourself, then whatever you write, all is true.

This contrasts dramatically with what his unmarried, bitter daughter Judith keeps saying, that nothing is true. The reason for this clash between daughter and father slowly reveals itself bit by bit as unresolved family issues are finally addressed. I highly recommend seeing this brilliant film. I watched it twice. Also see the DVD Bonus Features.

After the renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground, William Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a neglected family and a painful past.

Related posts on writing: Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers | Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing | Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights | Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say | Timeless advice on writing from famous authors | Writing—my early poem on the writing process | INSPIRATION, a poem by my son as a young student | The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice, with links to more content.

‘Dear Prudence’ Bruns in Parade discusses world peace, the ’60s, and why kids love the Beatles

August 9, 2019

Parade’s senior features editor M.B. Roberts interviewed Prudence Bruns for this Aug 9, 2019 article: The Woman Who Inspired ‘Dear Prudence’ Opens Up About World Peace, the Influence of the ’60s and Why Kids Today Love the Beatles. Click the title to see original article with photos. Here is the text.

The Beatles’ muse still believes in world peace.

Prudence Bruns, 71, has several claims to fame. First, she’s the daughter of film director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, as well as the younger sister of actress Mia Farrow. Second, she’s a teacher and passionate advocate of Transcendental Meditation who studied with the TM guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India, back in the late 1960s. It’s at Maharishi’s retreat in 1968 where Prudence’s fellow students included all four members of the Beatles. Third, her behavior during the retreat led John Lennon to write the song “Dear Prudence,” which appeared on the Beatles’ White Album. So, who is the flesh and blood woman behind the song that Rolling Stone named as No. 63 on its list of “100 Greatest Beatles Songs”? And what’s the story behind the famous song? Parade caught up with Bruns to find out.

You met the Beatles at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s retreat in Rishikesh, India, in 1968, where you’d traveled with your sister, Mia, to learn Transcendental Meditation. Were you starstruck?

No, I’d been around famous people before. It wasn’t a big deal to me but I liked them a lot, especially John and George. They came into my room one night to play a song and I could hear them outside on the patio at night playing. But really, I was so focused on getting the most out of my time there. It was my dream to go to India and study with a person who really knew about this meditation. I was pretty extreme.

That’s why John wrote the song, which starts out, “Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play/Dear Prudence, greet the brand-new day.”

Right. People over the years would have these reasons why I was Dear Prudence that were completely off the wall and almost disturbing, like I was a heroin addict or I lost my mind or all these crazy reasons why John wrote the song. It bothered me in a sense but it seemed over my head, like what can I do about it. I’d tell people, well I had to stay in my room. Nobody believed that I didn’t have an affair with him. I couldn’t tell people. But it all came about because I stayed in my room by myself for five days straight. I hadn’t gone to the bathroom or slept. I didn’t eat. I was trying to see where [meditation] would take me.

And you’ve stayed with meditation all these years?

Yes, I’m back teaching now. At Sofitco Studios, a fitness studio in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

What do you love so much about TM?

TM is a yogic meditation but what’s different about it is that it has been streamlined and simplified for those of us who are busy and can’t give our whole lifestyle over to changing how we are and what we’re doing. It makes it so that in just a short period of time you can go extremely deep inside and tap into a part of the mind that is foundational. It’s just silent. It’s like, the ocean has a surface and as you get deeper it becomes less active. And if you can get incredibly deep, it’s still. So the same with the mind. You can get to this part of the mind that is still, but it’s not inert. It’s actually very creative. And so, it’s wonderful. You can actually experience that. Anybody can.

Your memoir, Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song, came out in 2015. Why did you decide to write the book so many years (nearly 50!) after John Lennon wrote that song about you?

It was because of my grandson. We’d moved down to Florida and my daughter lived next door. At a certain point when my grandson was in high school, he came over and said, “OK, Grandma, you have to come to my school and speak to my friends.” It surprised me because at that point, I was getting used to accepting myself as being old and kind of irrelevant. I forgot I was Dear Prudence, because my older daughter and son—they were the generation after the Baby Boomers—and their interest in The Beatles was zip.

But there’s been a revived interest in the Beatles among kids and twentysomethings, don’t you think?

Yes, absolutely. Especially with [the game] Guitar Hero. Then you even have little kindergartners knowing all the Beatles songs. Anyway, being Dear Prudence really never mattered. Then when I went to my grandson’s school, it was like one of the Beatles came to see his friends. There were about 30 kids and they all came rushing up and gathered around me with all this respect. I was completely stunned.

Was it your link to the Beatles they were excited about?

Besides the kids noticing the Beatles and actually knowing every song they did and the words to every song, one of the kids asked a question that stood out. “Why did John and the Beatles think there could be such a thing as world peace?” I mean, they really believed there could not possibly be such a thing! This shocked me. It was sad, but it meant that they were actually listening to us. For us, we didn’t listen to anybody over 30! But grandparents? Forget about it. So that they were actually listening and hearing The Beatles and that message was a real wake-up call.

What was the message?

That there can be world peace. I told them, you’re wrong. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean we can’t achieve it. I explained to them that if enough of us live more consciously rather than every man for himself, really caring about our culture and our humanity then we can have peace. It was very powerful and that’s when I decided I had to tell my story. I’m Dear Prudence, one of the many that went through the ‘60s. We brought yoga in and the whole perspective of green and organic and all that came in to our culture.

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See this blog post with links to other interviews: Who was Dear Prudence the Beatles sang to in India? What happened to her? Here is her story.

See What Transcendental Meditation does for Ringo, published in Parade.

Op-Ed recommends TM for student mental health

August 9, 2019

The Scarsdale Inquirer published an Op-Ed piece by Margo L. Baum, August 2, 2019. Margo and I graduated from the same masters program in education at MUM in Fairfield. She asked if I would share her article. I offered to post it on my blog and added hyperlinks. Here is her story. It is very timely advice given the growing mental health crisis in America!

TM: A simple technique could help Scarsdale student

After reading the article about teen mental health (“Helping teens in affluent communities cope with mental health,” Scarsdale Inquirer, July 26), I wonder, what is mental health? Is it simply the absence of anxiety, depression and stress?

As a Scarsdale High School graduate, I understand the pressure to achieve. However, in my teens I wanted more than aspiring to good grades, attending an Ivy League school and making six figures. I didn’t know what I wanted until I found something that transformed my life.

At age 17, I learned a simple mental technique called Transcendental Meditation, which I have now practiced for 45 years. TM became a source of inner development that created a solid foundation of inner strength and bliss within me. From this experience, I believe the missing component of mental health for teens is inner development. I credit TM for providing me with an inner sanctum of peace and saving my life. Due to my experience, I feel the desire to help others lessen the stress of daily life, especially our youth.

As an elementary school teacher, I have witnessed the stress on students of having to gain knowledge of subjects and yet not be taught how to gain inner fulfillment. We train the mind and intellect of our youth to get into better and better elementary, middle, high schools and colleges. But, having achieved all this, are the students balanced, happy, loving adults? More importantly, is the journey from child to adult filled with love, happiness and a balance of heart, mind and spirit? Or is it a path riddled with stress, anxiety and depression?

I have watched students battling anger, low self-esteem, social troubles and academic issues change through instruction in TM. Students around the world have learned this simple mental technique and have had their lives transformed.

Students at The Thacher School, the oldest coed private boarding school for high school students in California, face many of the same issues that impact students from affluent communities: the stress of standardized tests, the pressure to get into good colleges, massive amounts of homework due daily, the pressure to excel in sports, etc.

Thacher students learned TM and found positive results. Michael K. Mulligan, head of the school, said, “Students today are under more pressure than ever to succeed. Standardized testing and grades play increasingly important roles in secondary and college placement outcomes — and many of our youngsters and teens are showing signs of folding under the stress of homework, grades, testing and parental expectations. Our kids need a break, and Transcendental Meditation is one great answer to helping them find rest, peace and calm. Simple, easy and effective, TM has provided for our students … a critical time-out from the stresses of the day. Our students who learned this technique last year report more peace and silence in their day and more resilience in their activities. It has been a gift and a blessing in their lives.”

The use of meditation as an intervention may seem ridiculous to some. Yet, many of the greatest ideas and inventions of our times started out as seemingly insane. For example, my father, the late Dr. Gilbert Baum, was a pioneer in diagnostic ultrasound. The chief of staff at the Veterans Administration Hospital, where my father did his research, told my dad, “Baum, I thought you were certifiable to think you could use sound to see.” 

A new paradigm in imaging in the health field came about due to my father’s endless zeal to follow what he knew to be beneficial to the world. 

TM has been scientifically validated in more than 600 research studies to reduce stress, anxiety, anger and depression. The research also indicates a greater sense of inner calm develops and a stronger sense of self. In some cases insomnia is alleviated.

The David Lynch Foundation has given TM to veterans, domestic violence victims, and students in schools around the world, transforming the lives of individuals from darkness to light.

Why not give TM to SHS students to develop inner contentment? Why not create a new paradigm of mental health for our youth? When inner development and outer achievement go hand in hand, the result will be true mental health for Scarsdale students.

Margo L. Baum, of Brite Avenue, received her bachelor’s in education from Boston University and her master’s in education from Maharishi University of Management, an accredited university in Fairfield, Iowa. She has taught elementary school and creative writing workshops around the world.


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