Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

1st anniversary of my India trip to spread Sali’s ashes on the Narmada River, visit Bijouri campus and Maharishi Vedic Pandits at the Brahmasthan

November 12, 2017

This is the one-year anniversary of the start of my trip to India. A year ago today, I boarded a very long non-stop flight from Chicago to New Delhi. After clearing customs I went to an airport bank to change some money. It took a while, but a driver who had been sent to pick me up waited to take me to a Holiday Inn, where I finally crashed. The next morning another driver took me to the airport for a flight to Jabalpur. My sister and brother-in-law where there to welcome me when I arrived, which was very nice. We then traveled to the holy Narmada River, to fulfill the prime purpose of my long journey.

As it turned out, November 14, 2016 was a very significant day in three major religious traditions at this celebratory time of year. We hired a boatman, and after some special prayers, I spread Sali’s ashes on this peaceful celestial river as he rowed the boat towards and around a small temple at the foot of the Gwari Ghat. This took place during the late afternoon on a Monday, a moon day, but the largest full moon in 70 years, the supermoon! It was highly significant, worthy of Sali’s spiritual merit she had earned offering a lifetime of one-pointed devoted service to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Movement. Some of his ashes had been spread at this holy place as well.

See more details in last year’s post I wrote 3 weeks after returning home: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times. You can read the many inspiring tributes that were given at the October 5th memorial service, about her brilliant mind, kind heart, and good nature.

It was evening by the time we arrived at the Bijouri Campus in the Brahmasthan of India. During my 3-week stay there I would meet many wonderful meditators and sidhas from different countries around the world who came for the Maharishi India Courses, to meditate and enjoy the recitations of the Maharishi Vedic Pandits. It was a very healing atmosphere to settle into. Just what I needed, thanks to my family.

Traditional Indian Greeting

To start our course, we were each given a special welcome by the Maharishi Vedic Pandits and garlanded with flowers. Here is a photo of me, taken last year, November 16, 2016, after that warm reception.

Kenny at the Brahmasthan Nov 16, 2016

I purposefully stood in front of a large beautiful painting of Guru Dev, Maharishi’s master. I had purchased a print of this latest painting of Guru Dev the previous summer, having seen it featured at Art Fifty Two in Fairfield during a reception for the artist and her work. I had taken a photo of Frances Knight at the gallery standing in front of the original painting. You can also see part of a large Holy Tradition painting on the back wall behind her, one of many she had painted in the past.

Visiting the Maharishi Vedic Pandit Campus

On one of our trips we were taken to the geographical center of India known as the Brahmasthan. We shared a short group meditation and took photographs. And once a week we were driven to the Maharishi Vedic Pandit campus to hear 1,500 pandits recite Atirudrabhishek, an ancient Vedic performance to create world peace.

Sitting there with my eyes closed listening to the powerful Vedic recitation, I started to feel a deeply relaxing peacefulness growing inside my body. Soon, much to my surprise, I started to smile, then chuckle! I felt an inner happiness welling up within me that was totally unexpected. This bliss was a welcome contrast, a relief from the grief I was carrying around with me, mourning the loss of my sweetheart. This profound experience was worth the long tiring trip over there!

Group photo at pandit campus Nov 25, 2016

We put on traditional Indian clothing for these special occasions and posed for a group photo before boarding the buses back to our campus. I am standing in the upper second-to-last row on the far left. The course participants came from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, several European and Asian countries, Israel, Australia, and many from Iran. We were a diverse and harmonious group.

Now that I finally transferred all of my photos from my iPad onto my computer, I could post some of them related to this story. Who knows, maybe other photos will spark new stories.

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Enlightenment Is Sexy, a memoir by Valerie Gangas, is out today, and it’s not just for women!

July 14, 2015

EIS Book CoverA first book from Valerie Gangas, ENLIGHTENMENT IS SEXY: Every Woman’s Guide To A Magical Life, is out today, and it’s not just for women!

Valerie is a great writer. She’s colorful, direct, and pulls no punches. Her effervescent personality shines through the amazing stories she shares with her readers, awakening them to their own inherent greatness.

The book is divided into short easy-to-read chapters packed with practical insightful wisdom. It’s also an inspirational testimony to the transformational power of TM, and I am enjoying reading every word of it!

Valerie sent us this intro to her story.

Awakening to Me

In 2011, I woke up and realized everything I thought I knew was wrong.

~ Valerie Gangas

For as long as I can remember, I have been running. Waking up in the morning and running to the gym. Running to the hospital to support my mother, who battled cancer for 13 years. Running to my job, managing an extremely busy Chicago restaurant/bar. Running from boyfriend to boyfriend. Running from one social event to another. Running to deal with the pressures modern women face to be perfect, to get the job done right, to be a caretaker, to look good—let’s face it: to be Wonder Woman.

Then one day, I was forced to stop running.

In late 2010, the restaurant I’d managed for 15 years was sold . . . but it turned out to be a weird sort of blessing, in that I got to spend day and night with my beautiful mother who, by Thanksgiving that year only had a couple of months left on the planet.

All of this time, I had been on a steady diet of double espressos, bottles of Cabernet and late nights eating steaks, cooked rare. (Did I mention I don’t eat meat?)

I was losing my mind as I watched her slowly slip away. I’d had a bad case of insomnia for years, my depression was deepening, and the distractions I’d held up like masks were no longer working well . . . make that, at all.

My mom passed away on January 25, 2011. And my world went black.

After she died, I felt like I’d died right along with her. I was out of a job, suicidal and completely unhealthy. My “diet”—mainly fueled by booze and caffeine—had caught up with me. I was the thinnest I’d been since high school, and my nerves were on fire. And it was like Groundhog’s Day—every night was the same scene. Go to bed, wake up at 3 a.m., stare at the ceiling, my thoughts reeling, feeling like complete crap, until I had to get up a couple hours later. Then my “day cycle” would start again. Down some caffeine, make myself workout (I had to fit in my cocktail dresses, duh!) and then never stop throughout the workday, ‘til I collapsed later that night.

Reflecting back, thoughts of suicide regularly arose in my mind. I didn’t feel like I could go on without my mom, who’d been my best friend. Clearly, I was a broken woman. Yes, I had been seeing a therapist and was trying to get my head above water. But nothing seemed to be working. My suicidal thoughts were getting stronger and stronger. I had gone so far as to ask my aunt and uncle to take my dog (I couldn’t bear messing up her little life), and I didn’t get a new car when my lease was up . . . because people who are going to kill themselves don’t need a car. I also wrote out my will.

Yep, I was gearing up to end my life.

One particularly horrible day I was on my knees in the shower, when I just collapsed and screamed out, “God, Mom, anyone, please help me kill myself or please save me!” In that moment, I completely surrendered. I was nothing. I was no one. And I completely gave myself and my fate over to God.

A week later, a friend suggested I learn Transcendental Meditation (TM). My only hope, at the time, was that I would be able to get some sleep. I hadn’t read anything about meditation, hadn’t thought about it or even wondered about it. But I was in such a dark place, one morning I made the call.

Within days, I borrowed that same friend’s car and drove to a Transcendental Meditation center in Chicago. The home which doubled as a TM center had a feeling of calm I couldn’t quite put my finger on—the air seemed lighter, somehow, and the view was all lake. Even upon entering the center’s lobby, I felt a bit calmer. Huh, I thought, these people who work here are super different. They were so chilled and completely filled with love . . . it was immediately clear to me they were there to help me. My next thought was, I’m here, so I might as well learn how to do this.

I sat down with my teacher and after a short, but beautiful ceremony, I was given my “mantra”—a sound she said my awareness would naturally follow, as it subsided into the depths of silence in my mind. When we both closed our eyes, I easily and effortlessly said the mantra to myself less than five times . . . and just like that, I was gone. I dove into a part of my body and mind I never knew existed—boundless, limitless and totally awesome. Yes-sir, something major had just happened . . . but soon I was discovering I’d only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg.

Driving home down Lake Shore Drive, I immediately began noticing how the world seemed so much different to me than it had on my way to the center. The colors all around me were more vivid, the sounds of the birds felt like sweet music to my ears, I seemed to be connected to all of the trees I saw . . . and above all, I felt happy. But, my mind called out to me, Is this really happening?! Do I really feel happy? How? Why? What the hell?

Fortunately, the essence of that experience stuck and stayed, and I came to find it was in fact “real”—that in twenty minutes, my whole life had changed. I woke up and realized everything I thought I knew was wrong. My life was no longer defined by outer circumstances. I was having a direct experience of what I have come to know as my true Self.

I cannot explain what followed . . . you know, the why of it. Within weeks of learning to meditate, I was standing in front of Oprah Winfrey, explaining how her newfound TM practice was going to make her limitless and boundless. Now, one would think standing in front of one of the most powerful women in the world would cause some serious butterflies in the stomach. But this wasn’t my experience. In that moment, when I stood at the front of the room and described my journey to her, I could only “see” her. The fame and the power didn’t exist. I was only concerned with helping the beautiful human in front of me the only way I knew how . . . with honesty, passion and a dash of humor.

I walked out of Harpo Studios that Friday morning and knew I was about to head down a very different life path. My soul and heart were breaking open and I was watching the right words leave my lips before my mind could even think them. I felt the power of the whole universe in my little body. That day, I decided to give everything I had to try to bring peace and goodness to the world. To do my part.

It has actually taken me the past few years to really understand this new way of living: that is, from the inside out. I felt compelled to write in my journal every night. I mean, the realizations I was having were just too profound not to write them down. I turned what I wrote about into a manuscript . . . and today I am proud to say I have just published my first book, Enlightenment Is Sexy: Every Woman’s Guide To A Magical Life. I’ve also started a brand I love and have continued to speak about consciousness, happiness, freedom, and above all, Transcendental Meditation.

Learning to meditate saved my life . . . but it also gave me more than I could have ever dreamt of: awakening to the real me.

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George Foster of Foster Covers, with help from wife Mary, designed the colorful cover! Order the book today at http://amzn.com/0996350209. Nice comments on Amazon.

Related: Read an interview with Valerie Gangas at TM Home, and this poem I wrote for her: Scheherazade Incarnate. TM Home also posted this today: Valerie Gangas reveals her top 5 reasons to learn Transcendental Meditation. And Val posted and sent this out. Transcendental Meditation for Women also posted Awakening to Me.

Valerie Gangas Shows Why Enlightenment Is Sexy on Writers’ Voices.

@MaharishiU Dean of Faculty, Dr. Cathy Gorini, interviews author Steven Verney on MUM’s KHOE

January 2, 2014
Steve Verney Cathy Gorini

Steve Verney  Cathy Gorini

Author Steven Verney is interviewed by Dr. Cathy Gorini, Dean of Faculty at M.U.M. on the KHOE radio program “A Chat with the Dean.” Titled “The Best of all Possible Worlds” Steven Verney’s novel is based on his experiences as a teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s Transcendental Meditation.

Steven sprinkles gems of Maharishi’s knowledge before the reader along with threads of life-changing experiences many teachers of TM will relate to while going about the business of bringing enlightenment to the individual and the world and balancing life in the “real world.” Readers have found it difficult to put down this well-written book.

Click to listen: Steven Verney and Cathy Gorini – mp3 58 min, 16.8MB

A generous percentage of book sales will benefit the David Lynch Foundation teaching Transcendental Meditation to at-risk populations.

To find out more about Steven and his book, read this post and listen to an earlier interview on KRUU FM: Writers’ Voices interviews B. Steven Verney, author of “The Best of All Possible Worlds”.

Visit Steve’s new website one of his son’s designed for him http://steveverney.com and blog. Read the overview of the book and see the Xlibris Book Trailer: The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Steven is at work on his second book, about a lama that got away. The main protagonist is also a philosophy professor. I’ve read an excerpt and can’t wait to see the book when it comes out. If it’s anything like his first one, which I thoroughly enjoyed, then we’re in for another treat!

The Beatles “Dear Prudence”: A Portrait of Prudence Farrow Bruns, Maharishi and TM

September 6, 2013

Dear Prudence: A Portrait of Prudence Farrow Bruns

Enjoy this video portrait of Prudence Farrow Bruns, the inspiration for the Beatles song “Dear Prudence”. Prudence discusses her personal journey, meditating with the Beatles in India, the transformation her generation tried to bring about in the world, and the change that can only come from within through Transcendental Meditation.

Directed, shot and edited by Kryshan Randel, music by Mike Pellarin, produced by David Shaw for iTranscend TM, a concept created by Ashley Cooper. For more information on Transcendental Meditation, visit these websites: http://maharishi.ca (Canada) and http://www.tm.org (USA).

Visit the newly launched Dear Prudence Foundation and click on About Prudence to read about her journey and why she set up a foundation: http://dearprudencefoundation.org.

See these other interviews with Prudence: 1) Amitava Sanyal, Allahabad, for BBC News India: Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela, and two videos: 2) Ted Henry interviews “Dear Prudence” Farrow Bruns about her life with TM and Maharishi, and 3) MicCameraAction: PRUDENCE FARROW BRUNS.

Other iTranscend TM Portraits

Another video portrait made by Canadian filmmaker Kryshan Randel is about Paralympian Daniel Westley. Westley had represented Canada in the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. As Paralympic Games grew, Daniel went on to participate in both the summer and winter games in a wide range of sports that included everything from wheelchair racing to skiing. Read this inspiring story: Meditation key to finding balance for Paralympian Daniel Westley — special to The Vancouver Sun, which contains the video, Physical Meditation: A Portrait Of Daniel Westley.

Both videos appear on the iTranscend TM YouTube channel series along with other heartfelt testimonials from new meditators, meditators dicussing meditation, and portraits of veteran meditators — people from all walks of life telling their stories — a physiotherapist, bakery story owner, musician, students, sharing how they are realizing their potential through the profound life-changing benefits of their Transcendental Meditation practice. And this video is an edited composite of some celebrities talking about the value of meditation, TM, in their lives: iTranscend Hollywood.

See: Who was Dear Prudence the Beatles sang to in India? What happened to her? Here is her story.

Prudence’s memoir is now out: Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song.

Read this excellent article in the Pensacola News Journal: Woman behind Beatles ‘Dear Prudence’ reads at Open Books.

Ted Henry interviews “Dear Prudence” Farrow Bruns about her life with TM and Maharishi

June 9, 2013

This wonderful interview is also available from on Vimeo. Retired TV journalist Ted Henry conducts interviews with spiritual people for Souljourns. Last month he interviewed Prudence Bruns Farrow. You can also see the interview on their Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/67166559. Here is their introduction to the video:

From the very beginning Prudence Farrow Bruns recognized an added layer or texture to her life, a spiritual dimension that would take her deep within.

She was among the first in the West to become initiated into Transcendental Meditation and in the mid sixties she traveled to Rishikesh, India to learn to become a TM teacher. Her own teacher in India, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who is credited for bringing TM to the world.

In India with her at this time, her sister and acclaimed actress, Mia Farrow, The Beatles, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Donovan and others.

Prudence and her husband, Albert Bruns who is also a TM instructor, live in Seagrove along the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida.

The interview was recorded in Seagrove, Florida in May, 2013.

See this related BBC news item: Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela. And this video: The Beatles “Dear Prudence”: A Portrait of Prudence Farrow Bruns, Maharishi and TM.

Who was Dear Prudence the Beatles sang to in India? What happened to her? Here is her story.

Celebrating Paul Horn and his Contribution to Jazz, World Music, Meditation and Spirituality

March 20, 2013

Paul Horn, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and David Lynch attend the press conference for the David Lynch Foundation “Change Begins Within” Benefit Concert at Radio City Music Hall on April 3, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

It was St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17, 2013. It was also Paul Horn’s 83rd birthday, and I had sent around an email about it with links to Paul’s participation (:55–1:22) in the Change Begins Within Press Conference Highlights from Radio City Music Hall in NYC, April 3, 2009, and the concert the following night. Here’s an overview of the Change Begins Within Press Conference and musical Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr Concert Highlights. This is a great collection of concert clips and interviews, and DLF school clips: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Collaborate for Meditation in Schools. An edited version was shown on PBS. Someone posted these excerpts: Paul McCartney/Ringo Starr “Change Begins Within” Concert (39:39).

A Symphony of SilenceI also read an interview with Paul Horn in the first chapter of A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision by George A. Ellis. Paul spoke about his philosophy of music and improvisation, how he communicated musically with a killer whale at an aquarium in Victoria, BC, and in Hawaii. He also spoke about his own spiritual quest, how he started Transcendental Meditation and met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He discussed how he was invited to join a course in India with Maharishi and his experiences there. George Ellis also asked Paul questions about his becoming a TM teacher in those early days, and also playing his flute in the Taj Mahal. It’s a great interview, and a wonderful way to start the book! It got me hooked.

Rolf Erickson, editor-in-chief of Enlightenment, The Transcendental Meditation Magazine, emailed to say there’s an excerpt of the interview with Paul Horn in the latest issue, number 11, called The Music of Meditation. In it, George cites a beautiful quote from Paul’s own book, Inside Paul Horn: The Spiritual Odyssey of a Universal Traveler, highlighted at the top of the article: “We are traveling in historical time, from the present to the distant past. We are traveling inwardly as well, through the music of meditation.” Rolf also contributed an article about George Ellis, Sharing the Symphony of Silence, describing what he had accomplished as a TM teacher and entrepreneur, and his heartfelt tribute to Maharishi with this book. Visit http://asymphonyofsilence.com.

Here’s an earlier post from a few years ago: Iconic Jazz Musician Paul Horn Performs Inside MUM’s Golden Dome in Historic Concert May 15. The concert was in the context of a Symposium on Music and Consciousness during which Paul Horn was honored for his lifelong contribution to music, as a jazz musician and Father of New Age Music; and consciousness, as a longtime teacher of Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation technique. Paul taught thousands of people to meditate in the 70’s. Here is Paul’s great talk at that Symposium: Improvisation: The Ultimate Art of Self-Expression — Paul Horn at MUM. Click here to see all of the Lecture and Performance Videos including Q & A.

During his visit to MUM and Fairfield, Jo Ann Gesner interviewed Paul for an article, Paul Horn: Improvisation from the Inside Out, published in Enlightenment Magazine’s 6th issue with a beautiful photo of Paul and his wife, Ann Mortifee, taken in Café Paradiso.

This video, Inside Paul Horn, is an overview of Paul Horn’s career. Originally titled, Inside Paul Horn Special Edition, it includes clips from Story of a Jazz Muscian – David Wolper Presents, and was uploaded on Jan 14, 2011 by annmortifee.

For more on the music of Paul Horn and Ann Mortifee, visit http://paulhornmusic.com and http://annmortifee.com.

Listen to Monica Hadley interview George A. Ellis on Writer’s Voices – 20130712 and how his book Symphony of Silence came about.

See my Haiku With My Muse, Sali, inspired by Paul Horn.

See Snapshots: Paul Horn in Conversation: History & Influences.

Varanasi by Mary Oliver in A Thousand Mornings

March 16, 2013

I previously posted Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying, and Philip Goldberg emailed me to say that someone recently showed him the last poem in her new collection (A Thousand Mornings). He said, “It’s called ‘Varanasi,’ and it’s exquisite.” I started looking for it and found the poem posted by another poet, Bob Arnold, on his website. After reading it I agreed – it’s stunning! That’s why I’m posting it here for you to enjoy. I also came across a musical video of the poem with images from the Ganges. After you’ve read the poem, see Diane Walker’s poetic reaction to it below. But take a break from this busy introduction, and then enjoy the enlightened peaceful simplicity of Mary Oliver’s visit to Varanasi.

VARANASI

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering,

and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can’t say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty.

I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back

to America.

Pray God I remember this.

_______________________

Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings
(Penguin, 2012)

Now read this beautiful poetic reaction to the poem, Mary Oliver’s Varanasi, that Diane Walker, a contemplative photographer, posted on her website.

Among the NPR Poetry series is this interview ‘A Thousand Mornings’ With Poet Mary Oliver. You can also read the transcript here. I especially love this remark she makes about poetry:

“One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are – they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.”

Here are a few other poems by Mary Oliver posted on this blog, and the wonderful Maria Shriver Interview With Mary Oliver.

Speaking of another famous American visiting the Ganges, see Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela.

Journeying god—traditional Ghanaian prayer song

March 10, 2013
journeying god
I found this beautiful traditional prayer song from Ghana, and photo, posted in the Panhala Archive. The translator is unknown.

Journeying god,
pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions,
toward a wisdom not based on books,
toward a strength not bolstered by might,
toward a god not confined to heaven.
Help me to find myself as I walk in other’s shoes.

“Sanctifying Morning” is a poem by Ken Chawkin on one way to be “spiritual but not religious”

February 17, 2013

Sanctifying Morning is a poem I wrote four years and one month ago today. It may remind you of the phrase, “spiritual but not religious,” how millions of Americans now identify themselves, a trend I was not aware of until I learned about it from Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda. TM* is my way of being spiritual but not religious.

Sanctifying Morning

Charcoal in a church,
Incense-filled smoke,
Knees on the ground,
Wafer on a tongue —
Prayers ascend the sky.

It’s Sunday morning,
And I have my own rituals.
The smell of burnt toast sanctifies the morning air.
Orange rinds round out the debris of breakfast.
Fumes float upwards from a hot coffee cup.

Having pacified the body’s urges,
With no work to be done today,
Though the senses focus outward,
It’s time to bring them within,
And prepare for this peaceful morning.

I retire to my meditation room,
Sit comfortably, and close the eyes.
Thinking my mantra, effortlessly,
I descend to the depths of my mind,
And transcend.

My body follows —
Breath slows, and suspends,
Heart beats quieter,
Brain cells speak softly, in unison —
I’m at peace with myself.

This is the true communion of the spirit
Within the church of the Self.
No pews are required here
As one prepares to meet the maker
Of one’s life.

© Ken Chawkin
January 17, 2009
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

*TM stands for Transcendental Meditation. It’s not a religion. To me, it’s a spiritual practice that is compatible with any or no religion. Today millions of Americans admit to practicing some form of meditation. Members of different faiths practice Transcendental Meditation, including monks, nuns, priests and rabbis. Even atheists and agnostics meditate. You may too, some day, if you haven’t, already.

Ken Wilber said meditation can change the world. Jaochim Chissano showed it could – Steve Taylor.

December 19, 2012

Can Meditation Change the World?
The amazing story of the ‘meditating president.’
Published on December 10, 2012 by Steve Taylor in Out of the Darkness

Ken WilburLast week a group of my students were giving a presentation on the spiritual philosopher Ken Wilber. It included a video interview in which Wilber remarked, ‘The best way to stop famine in the world is to meditate.’ Some students were outraged, and my initial thought was that the comment was glib and offensive. Surely the best way to stop famine is to provide food, to donate money, or at least to end conflict or reduce corruption? However, there is a case study which illustrates Wilber’s meaning very clearly. It’s the story of the ‘meditating president’, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique.

In 1992, Mozambique’s civil war came to an end, after 15 years of devastation, and around a million casualties. The country was completely broken, and showing all signs of being trapped in the cycle of conflict and corruption which has afflicted many African countries. But Joachim Chissano – whose forces had won the war – surprised the world by acting sensibly and empathically. Rather than trying to shore up his own power base and enacting revenge, Chissano treated the rebel forces who had been trying to overthrow his government with respect. He made compromises, promised there would be no prosecutions or punishments and offered the rebels half of the places in the Mozambiquan army. He gave them the chance of gaining power through political means. Rather than trying to crush the rebels, he began to work with them.

Two years later, Mozambique’s first ever multi-party elections were held, and Chissano and the former rebel leader came face to face in the polls. Chissano won the election, and set about the task of establishing lasting peace by reducing poverty. Between 1997 and 2003, almost three million people were rescued from extreme poverty, out of a total population of almost 20 million. This lead to a 35% decrease in the number of children dying under the age of five, and an increase of 65% in the number of children going to primary school. Through Chissano’s ability to set aside differences and connect with his former enemies, Mozambique was brought back from the brink of self-destruction and has instead become one of Africa’s most stable and peaceful countries.

What was it that made Chissano so rational and compassionate as a leader?

Joachim Chissano

In 1992, he learned Transcendental Meditation. Quickly becoming aware of the benefits of the practice himself, he taught it to his family, then his cabinet ministers and his wider government. In 1994, it became a requirement for all military and police recruits to meditate twice a day, for 20 minutes.

Chissano himself is in no doubt that this collective meditation was responsible for the peace and increasing prosperity of the country. As he said, ‘The result has been political peace and balance in nature in my country…The culture of war has to be replaced by the culture of peace. For that purpose, something deeper has to be changed in our mind and in our consciousness to prevent the recurrence of war.’

In 2004, Chissano’s second term in office came to end. Rather than pursuing a third term – as he would have been legally able to do under Mozambique law – he stepped aside. Since then he has been an elder statesman, campaigning for peace and working as an envoy and negotiator for the United Nations. In 2007, on his 68th birthday, he was awarded Africa’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the $5 million prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

This is Wilber’s point, of course. In the short term, meditation reduces anger and aggression. In the long term, it increases our capacity for empathy, compassion and rationality. It leads to less self-centred behaviour, and reduces cravings for power and wealth. It generates a sense of well-being which makes us less liable to be affected by slights or prejudices.

Research has confirmed these effects. In 2003, scientists at the University of Wisconsin scanned the brain of people with a long experience of Buddhist meditation. They found that their left pre-frontal lobes – the areas of the brain linked with positive moods and emotions – were unusually active. In other words, they seemed to be happier than normal. In a 2011 study at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness 16 people meditated for an average of 27 minutes each day. MRI scans after 8 weeks showed increased ‘grey matter’ in parts of the brain associated with compassion, introspection and learning.

So Wilber’s seemingly glib comments may well be right. Human social behaviour is a manifestation of our inner state. Discord in the world stems from discord in our minds, and there will only be harmony and peace in the world once there is harmony and peace inside us.

Steve Taylor is a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. He is the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of the Human Mind. Eckhart Tolle has called his work ‘an important contribution to the shift in consciousness happening on our planet at this time.’ stevenmtaylor.co.uk | Follow Steve on Facebook and Twitter

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What Steve Taylor says in this Psychology Today article is true. In addition, there have also been hundreds of scientific studies on Transcendental Meditation showing improvements in mental and emotional development as well as health and social behavior. See Hard evidence grows for including meditation in government-sponsored health programs and Excellent article by Tom Jacobs on Meditation: Strong Preventative Medicine for Heart Patients.

But one of the most striking effects is the impact large numbers of people practicing Transcendental Meditation together in large groups in one or more places can have on their environment. This is what happened in Mozambique. The longtime drought also came to an end as balance was restored in nature; the rain came!

Over fifty studies have scientifically documented the profound and measurable benefits of this approach to peace. Many have been published in respected peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1988, 32: 776–812; Social Indicators Research, 1999, 47: 153-201; Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 2003, 36 (1-4): 283-302; Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 2005, 17(1): 339-373; Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 2005, 17(1): 285-338; and Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2009, 23(2): 139-166.

For a scientific explanation behind the power of large groups collectively practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program including Yogic Flying, read The Power of The Collective, by John Hagelin. Also see this Op-Ed peace piece spreading around the world: Reducing Tension in the Middle East

And here is a newly published study on this topic: Can group meditation prevent violent crime? Surprisingly, the data suggests yes: New study (SAGE Open Apr 2016, 6 (2).

One last point, and that is comparing different meditation practices and generalizing their results can be a bit misleading. With the aid of fMRI, EEG, and other methods, we can now see that different parts of the brain are effected by different meditation techniques, which utilize their own approaches, like concentration, open monitoring, or transcending. To better understand these differences and outcomes scientists have created categories of meditation, matching approaches with their scientific measurements. See Are all meditation techniques the same?.

For a current perspective on how TM has been successfully applied in various settings, see this recent video presentation: John Hagelin speaks on meditation as a powerful tool for health, education & post-traumatic stress at TEDxWomen 2012.

Read two reviews of Can meditation change the world? in the January 28, 2013 UK TM News blog, and below in a print copy from the February 2013 issue of UK Transcendental Meditation News. Click twice on the image to read it. (more…)


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