Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

March 1, 2017

Here are 4 entries—two leading up to Sali’s passing; a poem describing it, written 6 weeks later from India, 5 days after having spread her ashes in the holy Narmada River; and one poem composed a few days ago in remembrance of Sali, and the gift of love we shared together.

Ahead of the Game
Friday, September 23, 2016

You’ve been practicing for your next journey. With the dementia and a possible stroke that rendered you almost speechless, how can you communicate, except with inaudible sounds, and even those you no longer bother to form or utter.

But you can still smile and giggle, communicating great joy like the angels, with pure feeling and silence, where words are no longer needed or used.

You’ve been practicing for your upcoming journey. You’re way ahead of the game.

###

Not the End Game
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The nurse called this afternoon to tell me you seemed to stop swallowing. You haven’t been able to eat or drink. The Hospice nurse who knows you started putting things into action to get you back on Hospice care. Will know by tomorrow morning after their evaluation and direction from your doctor.

So it looks like this is it. No more rehearsals. You’re going for the final homerun sliding into heaven. I think we’re better prepared now, having read The Grace in Dying. We have a better understanding and appreciation for the end game, which, as it turns out, will not be the end.

To be continued…..

(Sali would soon pass, on Saturday night, 11:17 pm CT, Oct 1, 2016, first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Her glorious Memorial Service and blissful Vedic Cremation Ceremony took place on the 5th day, Wed, Oct 5, 2016. See Celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden.)

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Five days after spreading Sali’s ashes from a boat on the Narmada River in India during a most auspicious day, I started to write about our final moments together back in Fairfield when she passed, around 6 weeks earlier, during the first night of the Nine Days of Mother Divine, Navratri. The answer to a question of what had happened came in one word during an evening meditation at the Brahmasthan. It became the title and last line of this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

©Ken Chawkin
Nov 19, 2016
Bijouri Campus
Brahmasthan of India

Contained within An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times. Included are some of the inspiring tributes to Sali we shared during her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony on that very special send-off.

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The Rare Gift of Love
A Tanka in Remembrance of Sali

Your heart opened up
Time and illness tempered you
Then, the Surrender

What we shared was glorious
A Gift from God and Guru

©Ken Chawkin
February 27, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

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Addition on March 22, 2017

On March 12th, I wrote a new poem for Sali, Haiku for Her. Five years earlier, on the same day, I had written the two-tanka poem, Sali’s Shakti.

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally M Peden

January 17, 2017
Sally Peden - 1992

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

A repost celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden, which includes descriptions of her peaceful and graceful transition, memorial service, and Vedic cremation ceremony. Many beautiful tributes were added that give a glimpse of how special she was. Included is a poem I wrote about Sali’s passing, and descriptions of the auspicious times of her death, and spreading of her ashes in India’s holy Narmada River. May she reside in the highest heaven.

Source: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times 

Recently added: Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times

December 28, 2016

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally Monroe Peden

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

Sally M. Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

This photo of Sali was taken in the summer of 1992, about a year before we would meet. She arrived to register us for a large advanced meditation course in Washington, DC. When Sali came up to me to ask my name and check it on her list, two thoughts immediately entered my mind: Too bad I just got married (again); Too bad she’s on Mother Divine (a course for single women). Our lives would drastically change—my second marriage would end and I would eventually return to Canada, later leave to join Purusha (a course for single men) and travel the world; she would leave her way of life and end up at MUM in Fairfield, Iowa working for John Hagelin’s ISTPP and the NLP. We would meet there 10 years later in the fall of 2003, as if for the first time. A beautiful friendship would grow and transform our lives, a story worth writing one day.

Sally M. Peden, passed peacefully and gracefully on Saturday, October 1, 2016, 11:17pm, during the evening of the first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony were held on Wednesday, October 5, 2016, at the Behner Funeral Home in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

Sali had devoted her life in personal service to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi since 1971. She traveled the world with him as a personal assistant and lived for many years at the International Capital for the Transcendental Meditation movement in Seelisberg, Switzerland working on many important projects. Sali was very humble, the sign of a great soul. She accomplished untold tasks for Maharishi, which pleased him, but never felt the need to draw attention to herself, just pure dynamic devoted service.

Many emails from around the world poured in praising Sali. I’ll reference a few here.

Sheila Chalmers had worked closely with Sali at International on several projects. In her tribute to Sali, which was read aloud, Sheila described Sali’s brilliant mind, amazingly focussed work ethic, and how much she learned from her.

Emily Levin, a close friend of Sali’s, sent this wonderful tribute to Sali, which was also read aloud. Maharishi had paired them up early on, and Emily shines a glorious light on Sali and their fun-filled friendship.

Some other people who used to work with Sali spoke at her Memorial Service. Alarik Arenander, a neuroscientist from the early days of Maharishi Eureopean Research University in Seelisberg, described an incident when they were recording an EEG of a meditating subject. Maharishi happened to enter the lab with an important guest. The scientists showed Maharishi the EEG brainwaves being printed out from the moving ink pens. Maharishi asked, “What is that?” Researchers again explained the brainwaves. After asking several times, since the researchers were not ‘getting it,’ Maharishi pulled apart the long ream of neatly folded EEG paper emphatically pointing to the long non-fluctuating line at the bottom below the EEG. The researchers had an ‘aha’ moment when they examined the breath rate signal, which indicated extended periods of no breathing. They had been looking to find a marker for transcending in meditation and there it was, right in front of them, unnoticed, until Maharishi pointed it out. Sali was meditating in the next room, and it was her clear orderly mind and refined nervous system that brought out the understanding of breath suspension during Transcendental Meditation as an indicator of transcendence! That, along with the orderliness of coherent brain functioning producing relaxed alpha waves. The rest is history!

Gerry Geer, an MUM faculty member and ISTPP director of publications, described her extraordinary personality and some of the amazing things she had accomplished early on in her career. Gerry first met Sali around 1970 when he dropped into the Cambridge TM Center to find out what it was all about. She inspired him to learn TM and to become a teacher. Decades later they would work together at the ISTPP. Read Gerry Geer’s tribute to Sali. In it he mentions a very special incident he witnessed between her and Maharishi. It speaks volumes!

Valerie Gangas, a friend and author, posted a personal reaction to that very special day celebrating Sali, and our relationship, on her blog: Life in Love with You. It was a powerful revelation for her! I am so thankful she wrote it. Also definitely worth reading!

Dying, Dharma and Devotion

In the weeks leading up to Sali’s transition, I was reading two books to her. The first was an enlightened description of the nearing death experience, clearly delineated by Kathleen Dowling Singh in her reassuring book, The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die. I believe this book prepared us for what was to come, to both let go and allow it to happen naturally.

Sali would soon be put back on Hospice for added care, and moved to a private room, which gave us the needed privacy for such an intimate experience. She would pass within a few days, at an auspicious time in the Vedic calendar.

The second book was The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic–Complete and Comprehensive, written by Linda Egenes, a friend, and Kumuda Reddy. It is an inspiring story as relevant today as it has been throughout the ages, of dharma, duty, triumphing over evil; enlightened leadership; and an ideal love between an evolved man and woman. Listening to that story kept our attention focused on something spiritually elevating during her final days.

I got as far as the end of Chapter 36, where Hanuman, after finding Sita, consoles and reassures her that Rama is preparing an army to free her from her abductor, Ravana, king of the rakshasas. This comes as a great relief to Sita who was at her lowest with no hope in sight.

For the previous two days and nights, Sali’s breathing pattern consisted of short quick breaths, in and out. It was at this point in the story that her breathing began to change. It became softer, slower, and then, stopped. I waited for another, very feeble attempt, then put one hand over her heart and the other on her head. Not finding any sign of life in the body, these words came into my mind: “It’s done. The karma is over.” With a sense of relief and finality, I said: “Peace, Peace, Shanti, Shanti,” and lovingly kissed her forehead, our last goodbye. I felt a profound peacefulness deep within me, which I could not fully comprehend. The answer would come later, in a word, while meditating in India, where I wrote this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

As promised, I did continue reading the rest of The Ramayana to Sali, wherever she might be, that evening and the following morning, finishing it at the funeral home, after they had picked up her body and brought it there. Her memorial and cremation would take place a few days later, still within the auspicious Nine Days.

Narmada River, Brahmasthan, Atirudrabhishek

At the luncheon in Revelations following Sali’s cremation, one of our friends, Sheila Ross, suggested I take the cremains to the holy Narmada River, where some of Maharishi’s ashes had been placed. She said it was also close to the Brahmasthan, geographic center of India, where meditation courses were being held, and thousands of Maharishi Vedic Pandits were reciting Atirudrabhishek, an ancient Vedic performance to create world peace.

At the invitation of my family, I did go to India, a little over a month after Sali’s cremation, to spread her ashes from a boat at that location near the Gwari Ghat. It turned out to be during a most auspicious time—a celebration of the holy day of Kartika Poornimah, November 14, 2016, also known as Devi Dipavali, the Festival of Lights of the Gods—one of the most spiritually significant days in the Vedic calendar, during the biggest full moon in 70 years, the supermoon! Truly befitting someone of Sali’s spiritual merit.

Staying at the Brahmasthan afterwards for three weeks was healing for me. It was a powerful and blissful experience visiting the Maharishi Vedic Pandits in their large meditation hall, listening to them perform their Vedic recitations! You can sample some of them in these eCards, enhanced with audios, videos and slideshows.

To get an example of Sali’s sweetness and our special relationship, see this previous post from December 8, 2016—Capturing an authentic moment in writing—about Being with Sali on August 1, 2012, during another full moon.

I am so thankful for the support of our families, the Slusers, Kaplans, Mitchells, and Petch Peden and Robert Harper, and for many of our friends who helped handle so many details, especially Kate Ross and Jennifer Hamilton! I also appreciate acupuncturist Sarah Brooks, the staff at Parkview Care Center and Hospice Compassus for their tireless care of Sali, and sometimes me.

Recently Added

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally M Peden and Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

Capturing an authentic moment in writing

December 8, 2016

Being with Sali, August 1, 2012, on a full moon night

Norman Zierold, an associate and author, had suggested I write about my experiences after visiting my sweetheart Sally Peden at Parkview Care Center, while they were still fresh. That way, he said, I would have an authentic record for some future use, which, he added, would be a lot easier than relying on memory. Aside from the poems inspired by her, I wish I had done so more often. But I did find one precious account from over four years ago that stands out for me. It took place during a full moon night and ended with a poem. Here is that journal entry:

Went to see Sali Wednesday night, August 1, 2012, between 8:45 to 9:30 pm, full moon night. I was dropping off some supplies for her and came into her room to see if she might be awake. She was sort of sleeping in bed. I came up close to her and spoke quietly. She smiled, opened her eyes slightly and started to talk. I spoke to her some more. When it became clear to her that I was really there she became animated trying to say how much she loved me. I said the same to her. She was happy and giggled from time to time. It was a powerful sweet experience just being with her. It was joyful for both of us.

I brought a chair over and sat next to her at the head of the bed. I leaned in through the open space where the bedrail ended and put my arms around her. My heart was at peace, happy; I felt whole again. That sweet memory of what it was like to be together made me see how empty my time alone on the computer back home was compared to sharing this joy.

The peace and bliss I was feeling was palpable. She felt it too and we both laughed from time to time. Even with her physical and mental limitations, she was able to radiate this powerful spiritual reality from within herself.

Life is a mystery, and a blessing, in ways that are unfathomable, in the most unexpected situations. I spontaneously spoke out the experience I was having with her and then quickly wrote these 3 lines down.

This is the calming center
This is the place of sweetness
Lying next to you

Since I wasn’t actually lying next to her I later revised the last line to read: Being here with you. Then I completed the poem.

Being with Sali

This is the calming center
This is the place of sweetness
Being here with you

All that I knew before this
All that I thought important
Simply was not true

You radiate truth … beauty
You’re giving me so much more
Than I’m giving you

Just by being who you are

Ken Chawkin
Fairfield, Iowa
August 4, 2012

Sally Peden would pass, October 1, 2016, four years and two months later. I’ll share that experience of our final moments together, which I wrote in a poem; and what happened with her ashes during another full moon, in a future post. An earlier poem, This Quiet Love, with links to others, will give you an understanding of our relationship, and what Sali meant to me; as well as this recent description of her Memorial and Vedic Cremation Ceremony, by friend and author, Valerie Gangas: Life in Love with You.

Here is that update: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times.

A baptism by fire: Why Paul Dalio’s debut as a filmmaker is Touched With Fire

July 25, 2016

TOUCHED WITH FIRE PosterPremiered last year at SXSW, with a theatrical run this spring, and now on DVD, Paul Dalio’s first full-length feature film, Touched With Fire, is a love story between two bipolar poets that reveals the relationship between illness and creativity.

Dalio was inspired by Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explores the link between great art and bipolar disorder. He read that many famous writers, poets, and artists suffered from this mania and may have produced their work because of it. Their genius was touched with fire.

This was a welcome relief for Paul who had become bipolar. He now saw himself no longer in clinical terms as a social outcast without a cure, but as a creative artist who was dealing with a neurological imbalance.

The most well known example of that heightened state was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a kind of leitmotif throughout the film, even materializing as a literal hallucination by the main characters.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Reflecting on his own experience of being bipolar, Paul wanted people suffering with the illness, and those concerned with their health, to better understand what they are going through, that they are not necessarily crazy, perhaps gifted, and to help remove the stigma associated with the disease.

He compares the manic highs and depressive lows of the disease to the seasons. The film’s palatte of colors reflects the changing emotions within and between the main characters. Attempts to control these mood swings with drugs create deadening side effects, part of the conflict within their relationship.

In his Huffington Post blog, Touched With Fire, Paul asks: How much more receptive would a patient be to treatment if the patient was told that the treatment was to nurture a gift they had, instead of terminate a disease they had?

Director Dalio gave author/psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison a role in the film as herself, to explain how the right balance of medication can help rather than hinder a manic personality. Marco is concerned that the medications are stopping him from feeling any emotions, and is destroying his creativity. From her own experience, Kay shares with them how “medication can tamp the fire down a bit without losing that gift.” She tells him, with the right dosage, which takes time, she became even more productive than before becoming bipolar.

Cast and Crew

Paul Dalio wrote, directed, edited and scored Touched With Fire, his feature-film debut starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, with other performances by Griffin Dunne, Christine Lahti and Bruce Altman.

Paul’s longtime friend, Jeremy Alter, produced the film, along with Kristina Nikolova, Paul’s wife and fellow student at the NYU Film School, who convinced him to make this semi-autobiographical film. Their teacher, Spike Lee, is the executive producer.

The brilliant acting in this passionately moving film is intensely engaging. Holmes (Carla) and Kirby (Marco) play two poets with bipolar disorder whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense driving each other’s mania to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity, swinging them from fantastical highs to tormented lows until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love. Watch the official trailer.

Comments from the Critics

The New York Times Critic’s Pick wrote: “Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists. An extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” Read the Review: ‘Touched With Fire,’ a Love Story Between Two Bipolar Poets.

The Los Angeles Times said: Writer-director Dalio has firsthand experience with bipolar disorder, and his perspective sheds fresh light on the unique ways in which manic-depressive individuals experience love and creativity. Read the Review: Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby propel ‘Touched With Fire’ as it shines fresh light on bipolar disorder and creativity.

This is a powerful film! We witness their struggles from the inside out. More reviews are listed on the film’s website.

The Role of Poetry in the Film

In one of the interviews from the Special Features of the DVD, Paul Dalio talks about the value of poetry in his life, and for the main characters in the film. “It was only when I met my wife that my heart became more tender, and I actually started reading poetry, which I never did, and I started writing poetry.”

Paul describes the transforming power of poetry to heal and create beauty. He speaks from his own personal experience as someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of this disorder while trying to become a writer, composer, and filmmaker. The film is an amazing testament to his artistic achievement! See his bio under Cast & Crew for more details.

“Poetry at its best has the deepest expression of being in the worst hell, and having no choice but to bring some kind of aesthetic meaning to it, and some kind of beauty to it, just to even cope with it. (and) Only by being forced down there to such a hell are you forced to bring that much beauty to that hell, and in the process it becomes a healing. And so it was natural how it wove itself into the film, as these two characters use it to cope with their psychosis, and to deal with coming out of their situation.”

From my own experience, writing poetry does have the power to transform and heal. Another film where poetry is featured is in Words and Pictures, where a poem invites you to be who you are.

The Soundtrack to the Movie

Paul Dalio’s blog post includes both the song and lyrics to Starry Nights. Listen to the Touched With Fire Soundtrack Preview, followed by Starry Nights, the song at the end of the film during the credits, published by Lakeshore Records. Download the album on iTunes.

Interviews with the Director and Actors

Charlie Rose: ‘Touched With Fire’ (Feb. 4, 2016)  Director and writer Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, and psychologist Kay Jamison discuss the movie “Touched with Fire” and the connections between bipolar disorder and creativity. (18:51) Paul does mention his use of medication and meditation, which he elaborates upon in this next video.

At a David Lynch Foundation-hosted screening of the film, Paul opened up about his own struggles with bipolar and how pivotal the practice of Transcendental Meditation has proved to be in living a happy, healthy, and creatively rich life. “TM is the difference between surviving with bipolar and thriving with bipolar. I never stopped meditating, without fail,” he says. “That’s when my doctor, Norman Rosenthal, witnessed the power of TM and was so blown away he decided to do a study on the effects of TM.” Paul was responsible for Dr. Rosenthal restarting his long-lapsed TM practice, which led to the publication of two best-selling books on the subject. Visit NORMAN ROSENTHAL, MD for details. See Thriving with Bipolar – A Conversation with Writer/Director Paul Dalio.

TODAY: Katie Holmes Discusses Role In ‘Intense’ Film ‘Touched With Fire’ (4:41)

The Washington Post: Filmmaker Paul Dalio mines his bipolar disorder for feature debut

HotSpot: TOUCHED WITH FIRE | Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio & Jeremy Alter Interview | February 8, 2016 (26:54)

Video of Marbling Art Animation of Starry Night and Van Gogh

Check out this amazing video on marbling art animation of Starry night and a Van Gogh self-portrait: Van Gogh on Dark Water Animation. The Turkish artist is Garip Ay, and the ancient technique of painting on water to marble paper is called Ebru.

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Physicist Werner Heisenberg said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work. Visit TED-Ed for more.

Enjoy some of the Zen Poetry of Ryōkan

July 3, 2016

Zen Poet RyōkanA friend loaned me a copy of Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf, Zen Poems of Ryōkan, translated by John Stevens. A delightful little book, his poems are deceptively simple, yet go straight to the heart. A Zen master, Ryōkan was also considered one of the greatest calligraphers of all time in East Asia. Living as a hermit, he spent much of his time writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and communing with nature.

The Translator’s Introduction ends with this sage advice from the poet:

Good friends and excellent teachers—
Stick close to them!
Wealth and power are fleeting dreams
But wise words perfume the world for ages.

Ryōkan’s poems are pure, honest, direct. Here are a few beauties that caught my attention as I read them aloud to Sali.

It’s a pity, a gentleman in refined retirement
……….composing poetry:
He models his work on the classic verse of China,
And his poems are elegant, full of fine phrases.
But if you don’t write of things deep inside your own
……….heart,
What’s the use of churning out so many words?

 —————

In the stillness by the empty window
I sit in formal meditation wearing my monk’s surplice.
Navel and nose in alignment,
Ears parallel with the shoulders.
Moonlight floods the room;
The rain stops but the eaves drip and drip.
Perfect this moment—
In the vast emptiness, my understanding deepens.

—————

At night, deep in the mountains,
I sit in meditation.
The affairs of men never reach here:
Everything is quiet and empty,
All the incense has been swallowed up by the endless
……….night.
My robe has become a garment of dew.
Unable to sleep, I walk into the woods—
Suddenly, above the highest peak, the full moon
……….appears.

—————

When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.

—————

The Lotus

First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
Its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it rises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.

—————

Bamboo

The thick bamboo grove near my hut
Keeps me nice and cool.
Shoots proliferate, blocking the path,
While old branches reach for the sky.
Years of frost give bamboo spirit;
They are most mysterious when wrapped in mist.
Bamboo is as hardy as pine and oak,
And more subtle than peach or plum blossoms.
It grows straight and tall,
Empty inside but with a sturdy root.
I love the purity and honesty of my bamboo,
And want them to thrive here always!

—————

Leave off your mad rush for gold and jewels—
I’ve got something far more precious for you:
A bright pearl that sparkles more brilliantly than the
……….sun and moon
And illuminates each and every eye.
Lose it and you’ll wallow in a sea of pain;
Find it and you’ll safely reach the other shore.
I’d freely present this treasure to anyone
But hardly anyone asks for it.

—————

Keep your heart clear and transparent
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought, though,
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Let myriad things captivate you
And you’ll go further and further astray.
How painful to see people
All wrapped up in themselves.

—————

I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deep despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world
……….suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.

—————

Even if you consume as many books
As the sands of the Ganges
It is not as good as really catching
One verse of Zen.
If you want the secret of Buddhism,
Here it is: Everything is in the Heart!

—————

Chanting old poems,
Making our own verses,
Playing with a cloth ball,
Together in the fields—
Two people, one heart.

The breeze is fresh,
The moon so bright—
Together
Let’s dance until dawn
As a farewell to my old age.

See some of Ryōkan’s quotes at goodreads. Here’s one I liked:

“In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same. What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.”
Ryokan

Here is a goodreads description of his life introducing Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan.

Five great articles on #TranscendentalMeditation in The Quad-Cities Online @Dispatch_Argus

July 1, 2016

Here is a series of five stories exploring Transcendental Meditation written by Jackie Chesser and published in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Click the titles to see each one of them online with photos at QCOnline. Or click Dispatch-Argus-May 2016 articles to see a PDF of them all together, courtesy of The Dispatch/Argus.

May 14, 2016: Transcendental Meditation could improve your life

May 15, 2016: Transcendental Meditation a lifesaver for vets with PTSD

May 15, 2016: Q-C instructors are passionate about Transcendental Meditation

May 16, 2016: Transcendental Meditation pays off in the classroom

May 17, 2016: ‘It has been a godsend!’: Q-C people talk about Transcendental Meditation

Fairfield, Iowa, TM and MUM make national news

June 10, 2016

Many articles have come out in praise of Fairfield, Iowa. Two and a half years ago, Rox Laird, The Des Moines Register’s editorial columnist, published an Opinion piece, Fairfield defines community action, on the city’s civic collaboration and Maharishi University’s Sustainable Living Center. The Smithsonian named Fairfield 7th out of 20 best small towns to visit that year. BuzzFeed named Fairfield one of the coolest small towns in America. And The Iowan had published an article on how Fairfield thinks inclusively creating rural success in Iowa.

I like to think the positive outcome of this latest article on Fairfield, TM and MUM, by Kevin Hardy in The Des Moines Register and the  USA TODAY NETWORK, resulted from a phone call I received on my birthday.

In April, I went to visit my son Nathanael at his new home in the Santa Barbara Riviera. For lunch he took me to The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, a well-known outdoor restaurant on the beach by the ocean. While waiting for our food to arrive, an unknown number called my cellphone. It was Kevin Hardy. He told me he covered business, labor and the economy for the Des Moines Register, and was researching why some towns in Iowa were thriving while many were losing population and failing economically. Then he said something that surprised me.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fairfield was Iowa’s fastest-growing city among cities of a similar size. Kevin wanted to know what role I thought Maharishi University of Management had played in the demographic and economic growth of Fairfield.

In addition to some of the longtime established businesses, I  gave him an historical overview how hundreds of meditators came from all over the US and Canada after MIU had moved to town from the mid-1970s onwards. Many would stay and relocate their businesses or start new ones. Also told him about today’s younger entrepreneurs, the new successful ventures they started, and gave him a list of people and companies to visit and interview.

Kevin Hardy and Register photographer/videographer Zach Boyden-Holmes really did their homework. They put together an impressive article that became a national success story! It is reproduced here with permission.  See the full article with 14 photos taken May 9, 2016 by Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register. I added links for more information.

Why this Iowa town is thriving when so many aren’t
By Kevin Hardy, June 1, 2016

Click here or on the image below to see a short video of Fairfield entrepreneurs. (1:20)

Fairfield out-performed all of the state’s 15 micropolitan areas in terms of population growth between 2010 and 2015.

FAIRFIELD, Ia. – Take a walk around this town’s bustling square and you’ll see an array of businesses that would rival some shopping malls.

On one corner sits a coffee shop that roasts its own beans in house. Down the block is a store specializing in sustainable children’s clothing and toys. Along another strip, there’s a women’s boutique, a Verizon store and a nutrition company.

The town’s retail center also is home to a salon, a consignment store, a furniture store and an art gallery. Just off the square is a pet spa, a natural remedy store and a photography studio. And for those looking for a bite to eat: a Thai restaurant, an Indian cafe, an Italian spot and a joint peddling pizza and steak.

In fact, local officials count only one vacancy in the storefronts that line shady Central Park. It’s just one more sign of success in this town of 9,500 in a state where most small cities and rural areas are seeing residents leave.

Since 1969, census data show Iowa’s metropolitan areas have gained nearly a half million people, while smaller cities and rural places have lost more than 171,000 residents.

But Fairfield has prospered, particularly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015, the city saw a 4 percent population gain – a rate that rivaled the growth of some of Iowa’s much larger metro areas.

This southeast Iowa city is known as a magnet for practitioners of Transcendental Meditation at Maharishi University of Management, who flocked here since the 1970’s. Fairfield was able to capitalize on that unique niche, building a surprisingly metropolitan quality of life.

While Fairfield is home to 1,000 fewer jobs than it had 15 years ago, state figures show employers have rebounded in the last five years, adding nearly 700 jobs between 2010 and 2015. During that time, Fairfield went from 714 employers to 751, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

“We have a great quality-of-life culture and an entrepreneurial culture,” said Mayor Ed Malloy. “And we see it is allowing more young people to put down roots in this community.”

Around town, there is no shortage of small-city staples like Casey’s General Store and Pizza Ranch, though Fairfield is better known for its funky coffee houses, shops and restaurants. Locals claim the city is home to more restaurants per capita than San Francisco.

Yet the place that Oprah Winfrey dubbed “America’s most unusual town” is more than just quirky. It’s one of the few nonmetropolitan areas in Iowa posting strong population growth, according to U.S. Census figures. And around town, evidence abounds that Fairfield has done what so many small cities in the Midwest struggle to achieve: attract and retain people.

Troy with MUM Solar Array

Troy Van Beek stands in front of a solar power array his company Ideal Energy installed at the Maharishi University in Fairfield Monday, May 9, 2016. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

TM’s long effect
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Transcendental Meditation, or TM, in India in the 1950’s.

But he brought his technique and “Consciousness-Based education” to Iowa in 1974, when Maharishi International University moved from Santa Barbara, Calif., to the 1 million empty square feet vacated by Parsons College in Fairfield. (The university later changed its name to Maharishi University of Management.)

While some in the community resisted the influx of meditators, locals say most of those tensions were alleviated years ago.

“As time has gone on, everybody’s meshed seamlessly,” said local designer Linda Pettit.

Pettit, who with her husband owns Finishing Touch interior design, has watched Fairfield thrive over the last 32 years from her storefront on the town square. She ticks off quality-of-life improvements such as a new pool and new recreation center.

She boasts about the many restaurants. And she tells of all the new and unusual businesses that have opened.

“We have a very vibrant community,” she said. “I think a lot of small towns don’t have the diversity that we do.”

Pettit hears about layoffs at plants in nearby Ottumwa. She knows how Iowa farmers are struggling with low commodity prices. But she said that isn’t Fairfield’s storyline.

Her business works on residential and commercial projects. But she’s noticed a slant toward more commercial projects in recent years, as new businesses pop up and old ones invest in upgrades.

“It’s a great place to have a business,” she said.

Iowa’s ‘Silicorn Valley’
Over the years, many TM practitioners and others who visited Fairfield decided to stay.

Once here, they had to find a way to make a living. Some Fairfield residents drive to Ottumwa or Iowa City for work. But many have started small businesses in Fairfield, which has been called “Silicorn Valley” for its mixture of tech startups and entrepreneurial ventures.

“People moved here and they had to figure out how to stay here,” said David Navarrete, spokesman for Sky Factory.

The 38-employee company was founded in 2002 by Bill Witherspoon, an artist who moved to Fairfield for its TM community. A serial entrepreneur, he formed Sky Factory as a means of supporting his family. It creates window and ceiling panels that recreate outdoor views like those of a blue sky or a beachfront.

Sky Factory’s biggest clients are health care providers, as research shows even a simulated view of the outdoors can boost moods for those trapped indoors.

“I think there’s definitely an entrepreneurial spirit here, and I think a lot of that comes from the university,” said Witherspoon’s son, Skye Witherspoon, now the company’s CEO.

Fairfield is also home to a surprising array of manufacturing.
Creative Edge makes intricate flooring for some of the world’s best known hotels, casinos, hospitals and universities. Bovard Studios makes and restores stained glass windows for churches across the country. And a host of businesses manufacture agricultural parts, iron castings, polyethylene piping and laundromat washers and dryers.

So many things are made in Fairfield that the Iowa Economic Development Authority will host an export conference here in the fall.

Fairfield’s biggest employers have grown in recent years, too.

Cambridge Investment Research now employs about 700 and boasts more than $70 billion in assets under its management.

Mixed signals
Like many small cities, some employers in Fairfield report trouble recruiting and hiring, especially with Iowa’s unemployment rate remaining below 4 percent.

Lori Schaefer-Wheaton, president of the 170-employee Agri-Industrial Plastics, said hiring is a struggle. She has 20 openings, a number that has held fairly constant over the last two years, she said.

Fairfield is an anomaly among small cities in Iowa, she said, but she thinks recent population growth is largely related to the university.

“That kind of population growth might show up on our census,” she said. “But I don’t think it changes the dynamics of the workforce in our town.”

Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson said Fairfield definitely out performs many similarly sized cities. But some signals are mixed: While some measures show recent job growth, other data actually point to employment losses, he said.

“They seem to be demonstrating both demographic and economic growth that stands out,” he said. “The big question is this a short term growth or is it sustainable?”

Natives return home
Meghan Dowd came to Fairfield as a child when her parents migrated here for the TM community.

She moved away for college, then ended up working in television in California.

From there, she visited her mom in Fairfield and realized it was going through a “renaissance,” with monthly art walks, a new events center and lots of cool coffee shops and restaurants. She moved back in 2009 and started Shaktea, a maker of kombucha, a trendy fermented drink.

In Fairfield, she says she can do just about anything she could in a metro city. Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy a home or start a business. (She also started Cado, an organic avocado-based ice cream, featured with a photo in the article and video.)

Her children attend a Waldorf-inspired preschool. And after yearning for a yoga studio, she just opened her own.

“A lot of people moved here, the kids grew up here, but then the kids wanted to go out into the world and experience different things,” Dowd said. “I think that happened and some of that is kind of boomeranging back to Fairfield.”

Jesse Narducci followed a similar path. He returned home to Fairfield a few years ago after living in Colorado and California for more than a decade. He opened Jefferson County Ciderworks just outside of town. He brews hard apple cider and runs a taproom featuring hard-to-find craft brews.

Narducci said many of Iowa’s smaller towns are undesirable places to live because they lack quality places to grab a meal or a drink out. Not Fairfield.

“You don’t have to drive to Iowa City to have a good ale or a good meal,” he said. “I don’t really leave that often. … I’m trying to create my own little paradise out here.”

(more…)

The Curse of Dementia: On watching a loved one diminish before your eyes, poem by Ken Chawkin

May 29, 2016

I sometimes get depressed seeing what’s happening to my sweetheart over time. She has dementia and lives in a care facility.

I keep my feelings in and don’t burden people with them. Only talk favorably about her. But sometimes I have to write them down. It’s one way to deal with an emotional reaction to a worsening situation. There may be more going on, but I am not always privy to such spiritual transformation.

Writing offers relief. By expressing what I’m feeling, I objectify my feelings in words and no longer hold them in. Then I can rework the words into a poem, and an introduction. This creates a kind of satisfaction. It gives me something else to focus on, and lightens the emotional load.

Hopefully, it will ease the hearts of those carrying a similar burden, should they read this. And maybe inspire them to do the same.

The Curse of Dementia
On watching a loved one diminish before your eyes

This passing of time
Is too fast for comfort

You’re changing but not
Getting any better

As I get used to this
Diminished form of you

I forget who you used to be to me

But this is nothing compared
To what you have lost

Yet who is happier

Mortality marches on
Until it will fall off

This cliff called life

© Ken Chawkin
May 29, 2016
Fairfield, Iowa

Related: An Unwanted Guest | Dementia Blues | Teapot Poem

The beautiful views to and from Nathanael’s Santa Barbara Riviera home inspired this short poem

April 20, 2016

My son Nathanael recently moved to the Santa Barbara Riviera and would send me photos of the view from his home. One early misty morning he posted a surreal photo taken from his balcony. It inspired this Santa Barbara Riviera Haiku.

View to Nathanael's home

Nathanael had invited me to see for myself how special it is to live there. When I arrived a few days ago, I was struck by the beauty of the place. As I entered the gated property, I sensed a stillness, and noticed the artistic landscaping filled with all kinds succulents and flowering bushes.

As I approached the front steps, I was literally stopped in my tracks, by an overwhelming floral scent. After recognizing it, I had to write a Threshold Haiku, and took a photo of the entrance way to go with it.

Once inside, I was overwhelmed again, this time by the view from his living room window. It looks out onto the city, the ocean and neighboring Channel Islands, topped by an expansive blue sky. Now I knew what he meant. The view is spectacular! The colorful natural scenery is constantly changing. At night the lights of the city and the stars create a different picture. It’s all very relaxing. You don’t want to leave.

Today I told him how lucky he was to be in this place, in such an incredible location. It’s like living in a painting. He said he had spent time exploring the different Santa Barbara neighborhoods, and was immediately drawn to Toro Canyon, Eucalyptus Hill, and the Riviera. Here’s a picture of the view that inspired yet another short poem.

View from Nathanael's home

You’re living in a painting
In the eye of the artist’s
Object of adoration

©Ken Chawkin
Santa Barbara
April 18, 2016

——————

A bit of history

I remembered the first time I came to Santa Barbara, in April 1974, an exotic welcome relief from the cold Canadian winter. I was a student at MIU, based in a temporary campus in Goleta. The university had rented an enclosed apartment complex. After a few months an actual college campus was purchased and we all moved to our permanent home in Fairfield, Iowa. Those were exciting days. We were pioneers!

The most recent time I was in Santa Barbara was in the summer of 2012 on my way to Greg and Britta Reitman‘s wedding in Ventura. Miriam Kasin, a friend who was living in Santa Barbara at the time, showed me around town for a few days before we drove to the wedding, where we had a fabulous time.

Yesterday, Nathanael took me to see the facility where MIU, now MUM, started in Goleta. That was 42 years ago! The place looked the same, but obviously different. I had turned 30 at that time, 5 years younger than Nathanael is now. By the time I was his age, I would already be married and he would be born a year later. And here we were, together sharing a part of my early history. What a difference a generation has made, thanks to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi!

Where MIU was in Goleta, CA

For my birthday, Nathanael took me to The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach for lunch. While waiting for our food I received a phone call from an unfamiliar caller. Here’s what happened.

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