Posts Tagged ‘Transcendence’

Winding up the year with inspiration from Hafiz

December 29, 2014

We are coming to the end of the year 2014. It seemed like a rough one for many, personally, and collectively for the world. I’ve finished reading A Year With Hafiz: Daily Contemplations, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. There is usually one poem a day per page. It was a gift from friend and author Steven Verney. Here are 3 poems towards the end of the book, end of the year, that talk about endings, and, in a way, new beginnings. May they inspire you as we transition into the new year, and for some, into a new life in 2015.

A Prayer I Sometimes Say

It is the Beloved who is revealed in every
face, sought in every sign,

gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in
every object that is adored, pursued in the
visible and in the unseen.

Not a single one of His creatures, not a
single one, my dears, will

fail to someday find the divine Source
in all of its primordial and glorious nature.

And be forever united with the Infinite,
because that—God—is really you.

Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, look what your
words have become—the restoration of
Truth, the regeneration of Life itself.

December 23, page 391

* * * * *

The Tender Mouth Of The Earth

What will the burial of my body be? The
pouring of a sacred cup of wine into the earth’s

tender mouth and making my dear sweet lover
laugh one more time.

What is the passing of a body? The glorious
lifting of the spirit into the sacred arms of the

Sky, and making existence smile, one more, one
more time.

December 28, page 396

* * * * *

A River Understands

I used to know my name. Now I don’t. I
think a river understands me.

For what does it call itself in that blessed
moment when it starts emptying into the
Infinite Luminous Sea,

and opening every aspect of self wider than
it ever thought possible?

Each drop of itself now running to embrace
and unite with a million new friends.

And you were there, in my union with All,
everyone who will ever see this page.

December 29, page 397

* * * * *

One poem about a river is beautifully told by William Stafford in his poem, Ask Me, where he looks to the stillness in the river to inform him, and the person asking him about his life, and, in a way, the creative process in the moment. Another poem of his, Something That Happens Right Now, also leaves you with a similar unbounded feeling as this last Hafiz poem does.

See other inspiring poems by Hafiz, translated by Ladinsky, posted here.

Poets Kenneth Rexroth and William Wordsworth Experienced Transcendence and Self-Awareness

December 3, 2014

Transcendence and a self-referral awareness are described by great poets when they interact deeply with nature. In the process, they experience their own inner nature. Their poetic expressions describe a state similar to what practitioners of Transcendental Meditation experience, where the body is deeply restful, more than deep sleep, and the mind is highly alert, peaceful, unobstructed by thoughts, unbounded.

Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth describes this experience in his poem, The Heart of Herakles, (The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth). Looking up into the night sky through a telescope, he sees the enormous constellations and soon loses his sense of self. “My body is asleep. Only my eyes and brain are awake. … I can no longer tell where I begin and leave off.” In this expanded state he becomes aware of different aspects of nature being collectively self-aware with an “eye that sees itself.”

The Heart of Herakles

Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late, while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by
and watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith.
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.

You can hear Kenneth Rexroth read The Heart of Herakles in this July 13, 1955 recording, from 27:36 to 28:13, posted by The Poetry Center.

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth describes a similar experience of an inner physical suspension along with a deep seeing and joyful knowing while recalling a transcendental experience in his poem, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798. Here are some excerpts from that long poem.

That blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened: — that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on —
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul;
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

His initial experience of transcending within his own mind has matured as he recognizes that same transcendental essence throughout nature, thereby unifying his inner Self with the same Self of all conscious things.

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

(more…)

Transcendental experiences during meditation practice – paper published in @AcademyAnnals

January 13, 2014

Overview of research on individuals experiencing higher states of consciousness published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Today, millions of Americans say they practice some form of yoga and/or meditation. It’s become a health fad. Yet the goal of these practices seems unknown or elusive to many practitioners — transcendence.

Dr. Travis, PhD, Director, Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, Maharishi University of Management

Fred Travis, PhD, is the Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management

An article: Transcendental experiences during meditation practice, by Fred Travis, PhD, Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, provides an overview of research on individuals experiencing higher states of consciousness. It is published today in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: January 2014, Volume 1307, Advances in Meditation Research: Neuroscience and Clinical Applications, pages 1-8.

The paper is based on a presentation Dr. Travis was invited to give at “Advances in Meditation Research” (AMR), a meeting of the nation’s top meditation researchers, which took place a year ago  at the New York Academy of Sciences New York City.

In his paper Dr. Travis explains that different meditations have different effects, and that meditation can lead to nondual or transcendental experiences, a sense of self-awareness without content.

However, after a search of the scientific literature he reported that physiological measures and first-person descriptions of transcendental experiences and higher states have only been investigated during practice of the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique.

TM is an effortless technique for automatic self-transcending, different from the other categories of meditation — focused attention or open monitoring. It allows the mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought — pure awareness or Transcendental Consciousness. This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness — one’s innermost Self.

This figure, a 2 X 2 table, compares subjective and objective experiences during waking, sleeping, dreaming, and pure consciousness. As seen in this table, waking state contains a sense of self and mental content, thoughts and perceptions. In contrast, during pure consciousness, there is only Self-awareness, without any sense of time, space, and body awareness.

This figure, a 2 X 2 table, compares subjective and objective experiences during waking, sleeping, dreaming, and pure consciousness. As seen in this table, waking state contains a sense of self and mental content — thoughts and perceptions. In contrast, during pure consciousness (Transcendental Consciousness), there is only Self-awareness, without any sense of time, space, and body awareness.

Dr. Travis discusses a study of descriptions of Transcendental Consciousness from 52 subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique and found that they experienced “a state where thinking, feeling, and individual intention were missing, but Self-awareness remained.” A systematic analysis of their experiences revealed three themes: absence of time, space, and body sense.

Specific physiological changes are associated with this subjective experience of Transcendental Consciousness. These include changes in breath rate, skin conductance, and EEG patterns.

Dr. Travis further explains that with regular meditation, experiences of Transcendental Consciousness begin to co-exist with sleeping, dreaming, and even while one is awake. This state is called Cosmic Consciousness, in the Vedic tradition. The paper presents first-person accounts followed by an overview of the physiological patterns associated with Cosmic Consciousness.

Whereas control subjects describe themselves in relation to concrete cognitive and behavioral processes, those experiencing Cosmic Consciousness describe themselves in terms of a continuum of inner self-awareness that underlies their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

In addition, the Cosmic Consciousness subjects showed the EEG patterns seen during Transcendental Consciousness along with the EEG patterns when they were asleep, and during waking tasks. This leads to higher scores on the Brain Integration Scale developed by Dr. Travis.

Dr. Travis suggests that such higher states of consciousness can be seen as normal developments beyond the classic stages described by Piaget. One simply needs a technique to experience transcendence and thereby facilitate the development of these states. The practical benefit of higher states, he says, is that you become more anchored to your inner Self, and therefore less likely to be overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of daily life.

“This research focuses on the larger purpose of meditation practices — to develop higher states of consciousness,” explained Dr. Travis. “This paper is the outgrowth of meetings at Esalen and the Institute for Noetic Sciences to chart the future of meditation research.”

Source: EurekAlert!

The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is the oldest continuously published scientific serial in the United States and among the most cited of multidisciplinary scientific serials worldwide. Established in 1823, the Annals is the premier publication of the Academy, offering volumes of review articles in special topical areas and proceedings of conferences sponsored by the Academy as well as other scientific organizations. You can find out more about them here: http://www.nyas.org/whatwedo/publications/annals.aspx.

Read the Foreword to Advances in Meditation Research: Neuroscience and Clinical Applications, by editor Sonia Sequeira.

Related: Health India’s Editorial Team says Transcendental Meditation (TM) is taking the world by storm

Medical News Today: Overview of research on individuals experiencing higher states of consciousness during transcendental meditation.

A PDF of the study is now available at ResearchGate.

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.’s new book, The Gift of Adversity, helps us to look at life differently

September 1, 2013

Throughout his storied career as a research psychiatrist, Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal has searched outside the box for ways to help people struggling with depression and other mood disorders.  This search led him to diagnose and name seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and develop light therapy as a wonderfully effective treatment while at the National Institute of Mental Health. He went on to write several books that brought alternative, non-pharmaceutical treatments straight into public awareness, including “Winter Blues,” “St. John’s Wort: The Herbal Way to Feeling Good,” and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, “Transcendence,” which explores the power of Transcendental Meditation in healing and transformation.

The Gift of AdversityIn his new book, “The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks and Imperfections,” Dr. Rosenthal shares personal stories of adversity, as well as case studies and lessons he has learned from his heroes. Less scientific than his previous books, “The Gift of Adversity” is part memoir, part inspiration, and thoroughly enjoyable to read.

Adversity is an irreducible fact of life. Although we can and should learn from all experiences, both positive and negative, bestselling author Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, believes that adversity is by far the best teacher most of us will ever encounter.

Whether the adversity one experiences is the result of poor decision-making, a desire to test one’s mettle, or plain bad luck, Rosenthal believes life’s most important lessons—from the value of family to the importance of occasionally cutting corners—can be best learned from it. Running counter to society’s current prevailing message that “excellence” must always be aspired to, and failure or mistakes of any sort are to be avoided at all costs, Rosenthal shows that engaging with our own failures and defeats is one of the only ways we are able to live authentic and meaningful lives, and that each different type of adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own form of wisdom.

David Lynch Foundation executive director and author, Bob Roth, interviews Dr. Norman Rosenthal on how he went from writing “Transcendence” to “The Gift of Adversity.”

In this excerpt from the interview, Dr. Rosenthal shares with Bob Roth the gift he received from a very adverse situation early on in his life.

There are many reviews and interviews coming out on The Gift of Adversity and with Norman Rosenthal. Here are a few of them on Huffington Post and elsewhere: The Gift of Adversity: A Book Review by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD on HuffPost’s HealthyLiving. Norman Rosenthal on the Surprising Benefits of Life’s Biggest Challenges on Bookish. Norman Rosenthal ‏posted an article on HuffingtonPost: The Gift of Adversity. Norman wrote Your Mind, Your Body, How to live a happier, healthier life, for Psychology Today. Jeanne Ball ‏ posted 3 Ways Meditation Helps You Deal With Adversity also on HealthyLiving. The TM Blog posted an article by Dr. Norman Rosenthal: From Transcendence to The Gift of Adversity. And this excellent review by Jane E. Brody in the Personal Health section of the New York Times titled, Life’s Hard Lessons.

Norman Rosenthal was interviewed on Writers’ Voices: Looking for the Silver Lining with Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and “The Gift of Adversity”. Dennis Raimondi on his show Speaking Freely asks Norman Rosenthal about his new book, The Gift of Adversity on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM (23:51).

Susan Page and Norman Rosenthal at WAMU 88.5 FM

Guest host Susan Page interviewed Dr. Norman Rosenthal on The Diane Rehm Show

Norman Rosenthal was booked on the Diane Rehm Show to discuss his latest book, The Gift of Adversity, Wednesday, Sept 4, 11:00am to noon ET. Listen live on WAMU 88.5 FM or online.

As it turned out, Diane was on vacation, and guest host Susan Page, American Journalist and Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, conducted the interview. Visit their post to read an excerpt of the book, Dr. Norman Rosenthal: “The Gift Of Adversity”, and listen to a replay of the interview on their audioplayer.

He was also interviewed by Dr. Sherrill Sellman on her show What Women Must Know – The Gift of Adversity with Norman E. Rosenthal – 09/26/13.

As I continue to read this wonderful book I find myself quietly reflecting on my own life’s experiences and lessons learned, triggered by reading Dr. Rosenthal’s and those of the people he discusses. Each chapter has a takeaway point, something to reflect on and learn from the transforming alchemy of adversity.

I am reminded of two quotes that beautifully encapsulate the message of the book: One by Buddha: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” And the other by Tom Bodett: “In school, you’re taught a lesson, then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” Dr. Rosenthal looks for and finds the blessings and lessons that adversity has brought him and the subjects in his book. It should be required reading for young adults to help them build empathy and understanding, preparing them for their journey through life.

Dr. Rosenthal also gives us hope when he says that the stressful experiences of adversity can also lead to growth. Quoting Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous dictum: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” he tells us of the dividend of PTG from the payment of PTS, the post-traumatic growth that may come from the post-traumatic stress we’ve endured. And he also gives us the tools to deal with the stress, mentioned in his earlier books, like “Winter Blues”, using light therapy to chase away the winter blues, and from “Transcendence”, his most recent bestseller, extolling the healing and transformational virtues of Transcendental Meditation. Discovering what Dr. Rosenthal says in his books is like finding a thoughtful friend who dispenses wise advice.

On December 20, 2013 he spoke in New York at TEDx: Norman Rosenthal on The Gift of Adversity in which he describes the three kinds of adversities, and mentions his three heroes.

Craig Pearson interview and articles on awakened consciousness, transcendence and enlightenment

February 22, 2013

Since the theme of The Uncarved Blog deals with Transcendental Meditation, consciousness & enlightenment, and poetry, I’d like to introduce someone to you who has been studying these ideas in great people’s lives for some time now and has complied them all in a book.

Craig Pearson-EECraig Pearson, Ph.D., is the author of the forthcoming book, The Supreme Awakening, Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time — And How We Can Cultivate Them. He has spent many years researching the expression of higher states of consciousness in the writings of great philosophers, saints, scientists, artists, and writers. Find out more here: http://craigpearson.mum.edu

Dr. Pearson is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. He has served the University in a variety of roles over the past 33 years, including Dean of Faculty, Dean of Students, Director of Maharishi University of Management Press, Director of Freshman Composition, and Professor of Professional Writing.

In this interview for Issue 5 of Enlightenment Magazine, Linda Egenes asks Craig Pearson about humanity’s age-old quest for enlightenment. Dr. Pearson highlights his answers with examples of exceptional people throughout history who had described experiences of higher states of consciousness. Here is an excerpt from The Quest for Enlightenment: Transcendence in the Lives of Great Seers and Thinkers.

Enlightenment: What is the relationship of enlightenment and human potential?

Dr. Pearson: Enlightenment is a term that has been used for thousands of years, in traditions east and west, to refer to the most fully developed expression of human potential, far beyond the ordinary.

Enlightenment: How common is it?

Dr. Pearson: Although this extraordinary experience has been described by individuals in different cultures over the millennia and is celebrated in the world’s spiritual traditions, it seems to be exceedingly rare. But obviously it lies within the realm of human potential.

Enlightenment: What has Maharishi contributed to the understanding of enlightenment?

Dr. Pearson: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is often credited with reintroducing the concept of enlightenment in a systematic manner in our modern age. He has put forward a comprehensive understanding of enlightenment that embraces the great traditions and thinkers who have described this experience across time. Maharishi was also the first to promote scientific investigation into enlightenment, bringing the phenomenon of spiritual development into the arena of modern science.

Enlightenment: How does Maharishi describe enlightenment?

Dr. Pearson: For Maharishi, enlightenment is the ultimate development of one’s inner potential as a human being. It means being established in the highest state of human consciousness.

Enlightenment begins with experiencing the reality of your innermost Self as unbounded and eternal and being established at that level. This means the consciousness of an enlightened person is no longer subject to the ups and downs of emotions, mind, and body but steadfast, anchored in inner silence.

Enlightenment brings the ultimate unfoldment of one’s creativity and intelligence. It means living in harmony with all the laws of nature and easily fulfilling your desires. It means being of maximum use to yourself and others and creating a powerfully nourishing effect in one’s environment.

At the highest stage, enlightenment means experiencing the universe as the expression of your unbounded Self. It is a state of perpetual freedom and bliss, supreme fulfillment.

Enlightenment: Can we relate this in any way to our day-to-day experience?

Dr. Pearson: Although this vision of human development may seem idealistic, we have all had experiences in this direction. Some days we just feel happier inside, more appreciative of others—life is easier, fuller, richer, and more rewarding. We may have moments of enhanced mental clarity or heightened levels of creativity, when we surprise ourselves with how quickly the solution to a problem may come. Athletes sometimes experience the zone—periods of peak performance that are effortless and euphoric.

At these times we are using a bit more of our potential. But enlightenment is far, far more than this. It goes far beyond just having a good day. People who have had experiences of enlightenment report that words simply cannot capture the sublimity of the experience.

Enlightenment: You have researched how individuals from different historical epochs and different parts of the world have shared this same experience. Can you talk about that?

Dr. Pearson: In traditions throughout time we find remarkably similar descriptions of this extraordinary experience of human life lived to its fullest—in the writings of great philosophers, religious figures, artists, scientists, and writers, as well as in the great religious traditions of the world. The terminology may vary from tradition to tradition and age to age. But when you have the clear and precise description of enlightenment provided by Maharishi, it becomes easy to appreciate what these people are talking about.

Enlightenment: So the experience is universal?

Dr. Pearson: Yes. And the recognition that many have shared this experience throughout history is not new either. Some scholars have called it the perennial philosophy or the primordial tradition. The perennial philosophy holds that although various spiritual and philosophical traditions appear different on the surface, at their core all traditions share common, universal principles.

Enlightenment: What are these universal principles?

Dr. Pearson: The perennial philosophy has three basic tenets: (1) Underlying the diversity of the world is a field of unity. (2) We can subjectively experience this field of unity deep within us. (3) The purpose of life is ultimately to experience and live this inner, divine reality of life.

This inner field goes by different names. Laozi called it the Tao. Plato called it the Good, the One, and the Beautiful. Aristotle called it Being. The Greek-Roman philosopher Plotinus called it the Infinite. In Judaism it is called Ein Sof, in Christianity the kingdom of heaven within. In more modern times, Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the Oversoul.

These different names are not referring to mere philosophical or spiritual ideals. They point to the inner reality of life—a reality that can be experienced directly and, when experienced, brings fulfillment beyond words.

Enlightenment: How does Maharishi talk about this inner field?

Dr. Pearson: Maharishi characterizes it as an unbounded field of pure consciousness, an all-pervading ocean of creativity, intelligence, and bliss, beyond space and time. Maharishi asserts, moreover, that this field of pure consciousness is identical with the unified field of natural law that modern physics describes mathematically. Thus the inner field that gives rise to all our thoughts and feelings is the same field that gives rise to the entire universe.

Enlightenment: And we can experience this inner field of pure consciousness?

Dr. Pearson: Every human being has the natural ability to experience this field. It simply requires “diving within,” allowing the mind to settle inward, beyond the thinking process. This is called transcending.

People throughout history have described and celebrated this experience. It is a simple and natural experience—but by most accounts seems to be rare and fleeting. People have lacked a technique for experiencing it systematically. This is the gift Maharishi has given us—the Transcendental Meditation technique, a simple, natural, effortless procedure by which anyone can dive within at will.

Until Maharishi started teaching in the West, the understanding of how to transcend had for the most part been lost. The Transcendental Meditation technique, which has its origin in the ancient Vedic tradition, provides direct experience of pure consciousness. It is easy to learn and practice, validated by hundreds of scientific research studies, and practiced by millions of people throughout the world.

Read the rest of this fascinating article, which includes experiences from Rabindranath Tagore; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Hakuin Ekaku; and a woman known as Peace Pilgrim.

Many other experiences have also been written up by Dr. Pearson and posted on the TM Blog. Here they are, from recent to earlier posts:

‘Freedom and Self-Realization’: Excerpts from Jack Forem’s book on TM
Howard Thurman: Experiencing “the Great Silence” within us
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook: Connecting with the “deep soul”
The Buddha: Rapturous Joy Transcending Any Other
Meister Eckhart: It is in the purest thing that the soul is capable of
D.H. Lawrence: Sitting in a Timeless Stillness
St. John of the Cross: Transcending all knowledge
William Wordsworth: We are laid asleep in body, and become a living soul
Emily Dickinson: The Soul’s Superior instants
Albert Einstein: There is Neither Evolution nor Destiny; Only Being
Zhuangzi: Why don’t you try wandering with me to the Palace of Not-Even-Anything
St. Teresa: A state of great quiet and deep satisfaction
Johannes Brahms: In tune with the Infinite
Rumi: I have passed beyond all thoughts
Plato: And this state of the soul is called wisdom
Jesus: The kingdom of God is within you
Henry David Thoreau: We become like a still lake of purest crystal
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty
Walt Whitman: The luminousness of real vision
Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A state of transcendent wonder
Helen Keller: I feel the flame of eternity in my soul
Laozi: His mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky

Update: Craig Pearson’s book, The Supreme Awakening, is now available. Executive Vice President Dr. Craig Pearson was interviewed on KHOE’s “A Chat With The Dean” by Dr. Cathy Gorini on his new book, “The Supreme Awakening – Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time, and How You Can Cultivate them.”

Listen to a presentation Dr. Pearson gave in Dalby Hall on the book, which was recorded for broadcast by KHOE.

Listen to Dr. Pearson on KRUU FM, Writers’ Voices recorded Feb 21, 2014.

Listen to Craig Pearson on KRUU FM show, Writers’ Voices, discussing his new book, The Supreme Awakening.

Here is a video of Dr. Pearson’s recent presentation on his book, The Supreme Awakening, in Dalby Hall on the MUM campus seen on the MaharishiUniversity channel.

Craig Pearson has since updated his book with new entries. Here is an informative interview by Jeanne Ball, April 20, 2016, in the Huffington Post: The Supreme Awakening: What Did Buddha, Emerson, Einstein and Saint Teresa Have in Common?

“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.

Publication and Update

Carrying the Branch-Poets in Search of Peace

Thanks to Iowa poet and editor Rustin Larson for selecting “Sanctifying Morning,” which was later included in Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace. The book was published by Glass Lyre Press October 1, 2017 and edited by Ami Kaye. My poem is found on page 132. These other poets also submitted their poems and participated as editors soliciting poems and curating their sections for this anthology: Diane Frank, Lois P. Jones, Gloria Mindock, and Melissa Studdard. All profits after printing go to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

It is also an honor to be included among so many distinguished authors and poet laureates, like Robert Pinsky, W. E. Butts, Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, and Jane Hirshfield, to name a few collected here.

Blogger Chris Rice Cooper was the first to review our anthology, (January 17, 2018): Receiving & Giving Peace in the anthology CARRYING THE BRANCH POETS IN SEARCH OF PEACE . . . She put a lot of work into it with photos, excerpts, and links to an alphabetical listing of the poets and their websites. Next to my photo she provided the link to an article: PR to poetry – how things sometimes happen to Ken Chawkin.

After describing the different problem areas the poems deal with, Cooper says, “In this specific piece I’d like to focus on the poems that offer suggestions of acts and thoughts that we as individual human beings can do or think to bring peace into our own lives, the lives of our communities, and the lives of the entire world.”

Surprisingly, she includes my poem in her review: “In Ken Chawkin’s poem “Sanctifying Morning” the speaker of the poem experiences his own peace by having “church” in his own body, in his own home where he retreats to his meditation room and meditates mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”

She concludes by saying, “There are numerous lessons to be learned from this anthology but the top two are:  we must love the enemy within and without ourselves; and we must transcribe our experiences down, rather on paper or canvas – only then will the next generation receive their rightful inheritance – their own branch of peace.”

‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly … Or SAD? Article for Ageless Living by Helen Foster-Grimmett

December 14, 2012

‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly … Or SAD?
By Helen Foster-Grimmett

Tonight, my husband told me that this article lacked pizzazz. I said: “Sorry, my serotonin is seasonally challenged – no sparkle.” I find myself standing in front of travel agency windows mesmerized by posters of sun-drenched Hawaii, Mexico, Barbados. Mauritius looks delicious.

By Christmas – the season to be jolly – some people have been feeling sad, down, or downright depressed since the onset of autumn. And they’ll motor on through to the first buds of spring feeling the same way. If you are one of those people, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about five million Canadians experience the “winter blues,” a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. At least two to three percent have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed as “SAD” – an apt acronym. People with SAD often feel a sense of happiness on a cloudy day when the sun peeks through the clouds, then deflated when the clouds cover the sky again. It’s as if the clouds are a manifestation of their minds. For people with SAD, those inner clouds can be dark, and they sometimes don’t lift until the spring flowers bloom and sunshine is more constant. The Canadian Mental Health Association tells us that women are more at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder than men: eight times as many women as men report having SAD. Although the reasons for this are not defined, one suggestion is that women may spend more time indoors with their children than men and, therefore, less time in sunlight.

Sunless and SAD
Experts are not sure what causes SAD, but they generally link it to lack of sunlight. SAD is rare in those living within 30 degrees of the equator, where daylight hours are consistently long and bright. It is more common in northern countries, including Canada, where bright winter sunlight is sparse. Lack of light may upset our cycles and other rhythms. It may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin, which affects mood. People with mild winter blues manage to cope throughout the season. However, those diagnosed with SAD could feel more severe symptoms, including:
• Depression, apathy, negative thoughts, loss of self-esteem
• Sleep problems
• Lethargy, fatigue
• Overeating or little appetite
• Difficulty with concentration and memory
• Withdrawn – finding it hard to be around people
• Anxiety
• Inability to deal with stress
If you are affected by any of these symptoms, take heart: there are remedies that work wonders for SAD.

Relief for SAD Symptoms
Millions of people with SAD have been helped by the work of Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a world-renowned psychiatrist. Rosenthal and his team at the National Institute of Mental Health pioneered research that first led to describing Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the use of light therapy to treat it.

According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association in the UK, “light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of diagnosed cases.” Light therapy is now routinely prescribed for SAD in northern countries, but at the time Rosenthal and his team first used it, the results were dramatic. In his New York Times best-selling book Transcendence, Dr. Rosenthal recalls a comment from one of his colleagues. He had noticed a remarkable change in a patient who had been having light therapy for SAD for just one week: “I don’t know what treatment she is receiving, but she’s blooming like a rose!” A vivid metaphor for our need for light from the life-giving sun.

Dr. Rosenthal’s other guide for readers who suffer from SAD is called Winter Blues. This book provides a self-test that readers can use to evaluate their own seasonal mood changes, presents remedies for SAD, research on the use of medication, and new recipes to counterbalance unhealthy winter food cravings. A cautionary caveat: if you or someone you know is seriously depressed, it is imperative to seek professional advice, as depression can be debilitating or even life-threatening.

The good news? The incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder decreases with age. So for all you seniors out there, as we approach the holiday season, ‘tis truly the season for you to be jolly!

Helen Foster-Grimmett writes on issues of health, education, and stress management. These days you may find her outside travel agency windows, looking wistful. Article references available upon request.

This is Helen’s 2nd article for the Canadian magazine, Ageless Living. You can read her first article there: The Answer To Cancer.

For more information on Dr. Norman Rosenthal, his work and books: Winter Blues, and Transcendence, visit: http://normanrosenthal.com.

Norman Rosenthal spoke in Chicago on Light and Transcendence—alternative modalities to reduce stress, optimize health

September 11, 2012

Norman Rosenthal, M.D., was in Chicago September 5-7 to deliver a series of talks at various medical, educational, and public venues. His main theme was using Light and Transcendence as alternative approaches to reduce stress and optimize health. Dr. Rosenthal addressed 200 people at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center Wednesday evening, spoke on Thursday with staff and students at Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola, and talked with health care and other professionals as a guest of the Chicago Lakeshore Hospital at a Friday luncheon.

Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal is the world-renowned psychiatrist and author whose research in describing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneering the use of light therapy has helped millions of people. The New York Times best-seller, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation, is out in paperback this month (September 2012), with a Foreword written by Mehmet C. Oz M.D., and a new concluding chapter, After Transcendence.

At the same time, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat SAD, which the New York Times called “a landmark book,” is being released in its revised and updated fourth edition. It includes a chapter, Meditation for the Winter Blues.

Stressful times affect health and happiness

Economic challenges, the feeble job market and information overload, not to mention the drought, conspire to stretch people to the breaking point. Everyone is experiencing some degree of stress and anxiety in their lives. In fact, the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) estimates that 40 million adults, one in seven, have some type of anxiety disorder.

Dr. Rosenthal pointed out the current epidemic of stress has resulted in cardiovascular disease as well as psychiatric disorders. It effects everyone from war veterans to the general public. “Having witnessed the mental and spiritual anguish of many hundreds of people,” he said, “I find the potential clinical power of this technique (TM) amazing.”

Transcendental Meditation—a simple effective solution

A Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, Dr. Rosenthal was initially very skeptical about the effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation technique for beating stress and anxiety. After examining the research, however, he said, “I came to scoff and remained to pray,” paraphrasing a famous line from Irish writer, playwright, and physician Oliver Goldsmith‘s poem The Deserted Village.

Dr. Rosenthal at University of Chicago Gleacher Center explained three different categories of meditation and how they effect the brain producing different results

The former NIMH researcher explained three different categories of meditation and how they effect the brain. He said having the right instruction in meditation can make a world of difference in the results.

Dr. Rosenthal described research examining the Transcendental Meditation program resulting in hard evidence not seen with other meditation techniques. He cited improvements in cardiovascular health, reduced drug, alcohol and tobacco use, reduced PTS symptoms in veterans, and studies showing significant reductions in health care costs and utilization resulting from twice daily TM practice.

Mr. Ulrich Sandmeyer, co-owner with his wife Ellen, of Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, an independent Chicago bookseller, brought Dr. Rosenthal’s books to every event. He does this service for speakers 3-4 times a week and has done so for 20 years.  He said that Norman Rosenthal was the most compelling speaker he has ever encountered. Coming from Mr. Sandmeyer that says a lot!

Thanks to Carla Brown, Ed.D., co-director of the Transcendental Meditation Program in the Greater Chicago Area, for organizing these events for Dr. Rosenthal and for sending us some highlights of the tour.

Click on Transcendental Meditation Visualized [Infographic] to see this new post on Dr. Rosenthal’s blog. He says, “The infographic below is brought to you as a resource and extension of the book ‘Transcendence,’ which features some of the main points about Transcendental Meditation that I highlighted in the book.”

Related posts on this topic

Dr. Norman Rosenthal gives an engaging talk to medical staff at Northern Westchester Hospital

PsychCentral reviews Norman Rosenthal’s book Transcendence: Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Dr. Catherine Ulbricht interviews psychiatrist and author Dr. Norman Rosenthal for Natural Standard

A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress by David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal

Additional information on Norman Rosenthal, Transcendence and Winter Blues are listed below and available in his Press Kit.

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Sharpen your mind with meditation, by David Hughes, in March 2012 issue of Choice Magazine

March 20, 2012

Thought you might like to see this article, Sharpen your mind with meditation, published in the March 2012 issue of Choice, a national magazine in the UK aimed at the over-50s, which may include most of us, these days! Here is the text taken from their Health section on pages 48-49. There is a slight typo on the bottom left of page 48 — they put Dr Rosenthal’s photo with a caption belonging to another doctor quoted in the article. But he was fine about it, and thought it was a good article. I agree; it is very well written. You can download a PDF of the article, which is nicely laid out with photos and quotes. Choice – March 2012. Since this is in print, I activated the links at the end and added some.

Sharpen your mind with meditation

Once dismissed as hippyish humbug, meditation is being increasingly recognised by medical science as a way to keep your mind sharp, reports David Hughes.

FORTY YEARS ago, most busy people in the West would probably have preferred to reveal an interest in bear-baiting than meditation.

Associated with otherworldly images of incense, chanting and flower-power, meditation was generally viewed as faintly eccentric. Taking it up aroused suspicion of imminent departure on the Kathmandu trail – if not to somewhere decidedly warmer, in the view of some religious fundamentalists. Not any more.

Maybe it’s the fast pace of life and the stresses that go with it, but nowadays everyone seems to be closing the eyes and seeking nirvana. No celebrity feature is complete without mention of the meditative flavour of the month, despite which – or maybe because of it – the whole subject has become not merely respectable, but downright fashionable.

Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn and many others champion Buddhist-related practices, while film-maker David Lynch has recruited a host of fellow Transcendental Meditators – including Sir Paul McCartney, who describes the technique as ‘a lifelong gift’ – to support his campaigns to teach TM to groups as diverse as youngsters in inner-city schools, the homeless, and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Everyone, it seems, can benefit from meditation. Yet while celebrity endorsement is one engine which has driven this trend, there’s another, less glamorous but more impressive: scientific research.

Since 1970, thousands of studies have been performed on all kinds of meditative practices – cautiously at first, as the field hardly seemed scientifically respectable, but with increasing enthusiasm as initial, promising findings led to a host of impressive long-term results. Meditation, it seems, can be a highly effective way of ‘de-stressing’ mind and body, enabling us to boost physical energy, stay mentally alert, improve memory, and live longer, happier and more successful lives.

Transcending thought
The best-researched practice, Transcendental Meditation – with more than 340 studies published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals – involves two 20-minute sessions per day sitting comfortably with eyes closed. Easy to learn and effortless to practice, the technique – which has no religious or philosophical links – has been discovered to offer a simple antidote to the ‘fight or flight’ response associated with stress.

During TM, the attention moves automatically to a silent state of restful alertness at the source of the thinking process, while the body responds by settling to a level of physical rest deeper than ordinary eyes-closed relaxation.

“The benefits of TM are considerable,” says Dr William Weir, a consultant in infectious diseases. “It has a beneficial effect on various areas of psychological functioning; it improves one’s stress levels, it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, it has been shown in one or two studies to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels; and more than 600 studies of various kinds have validated the general proposition that it is an extremely helpful and life-enhancing technique.

“It produces levels of psychological rest, as well as physical rest, which are really hitherto unobtainable by someone who doesn’t know how to practice a technique like this.”

Reduced heart attacks and stroke
Practical results in daily life could be of huge potential advantage to the NHS. A nine-year study on TM presented to the American Heart Association Conference in 2009 measured a 47 per cent reduction in heart attack, stroke and mortality rates among coronary patients who practised the technique.

“If this kind of result was observed for a new prescription drug, it would be a billion-dollar industry to make it available to everyone immediately,” says Dr Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist and scientist who first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So impressed was Dr Rosenthal with the research on Transcendental Meditation that he has written a best-selling book on the subject – Transcendence – the UK edition of which is published this month by Hay House.

Concentration and contemplation
While transcending thought appears to provide the most wide-ranging spectrum of benefits if engaged in regularly, other forms of meditation are also widely popular, particularly methods of ‘Mindfulness’, where practitioners learn to monitor thoughts or breath, and systems which involve concentration or focused attention. Much research is being carried out on such methods, with dozens of papers appearing every month.

For example, a recent study on a group in the USA who attended a meditation retreat with a Buddhist scholar found the concentration practices used enhanced attention spans in daily life, while a Mindfulness-based stress reduction technique helped breast cancer sufferers recover from the disease, according to research from the University of Missouri published at the end of last year.

With today’s blossoming of interest in meditation, a much clearer understanding of the variety of meditation types is emerging.

Preliminary work in cataloguing the various methods has been started by Dr Fred Travis, a neuroscientist and Director of Brain Research at the Center for Leadership Performance in New York, and Jonathan Shear of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Three main types
“All experience changes the brain,” says Dr Travis. However, he points out, different experiences can be expected to give rise to different changes, and so produce different outcomes. Meditations involving concentration and directed focus will produce a different effect on the brain from those requiring contemplative monitoring, and a different impact again from transcending thought altogether.

Examining published studies on meditation, Travis and Shear were able to identify three main categories of meditation based on brain patterns:
• Focused attention practices (including loving-kindness-compassion, Diamond Way Buddhism, Qigong and Zen-3rd Venticle) were characterised by Gamma brain patterns (30-50Hz) and Beta 2 (20-30Hz)
• Open Monitoring practices – non-evaluative awareness of experience (including Vipassana meditation, ZaZen meditation, Sahaja Yoga and Concentrative Qigong) – showed brain activity in the Theta waveband (5-8Hz)
• Studies on Automatic Self-Transcending (Transcendental Meditation) displayed brain patterns in the Alpha 1 waveband (8-10Hz).

The measuring of meditation is to be welcomed, as increased scientific understanding will help speed the integration of the most useful meditation practices into the health services and other areas where they may be of great help in combating the stress-related ailments of our time. And on that note, perhaps the last word should go to The Beatles.

For people of our generation, the first exposure to meditation was probably when the Fab Four trooped off to Bangor to learn Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. And exotic as it all seemed then, 45 years on – as in many other ways – The Beatles look ahead of their time. Says Sir Paul McCartney in Transcendence, summing up his lifetime’s TM practice: “In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity – and I would like to think that it would help provide young people with a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world.

“I think meditation offers a moment in your day to be at peace with yourself and therefore the universe – which once was thought of as a slightly silly hippie idea, but now it’s much more accepted and even fits with some of the most advanced scientific thinking.”

Find out more
• Transcendental Meditation, website: (www.t-m.org.uk)
• Network of Buddhist organisations: (www.nbo.org.uk)
• Mindfulness: (www.bemindful.co.uk).

Dr. Norman Rosenthal gives an engaging talk to medical staff at Northern Westchester Hospital

February 22, 2012

Dr. Norman Rosenthal addresses medical staff at NWH

Dr. Norman Rosenthal recently gave a wonderfully engaging talk on the Transcendental Meditation technique to the medical staff of Northern Westchester Hospital as part of their Health Education program.

Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a world-renowned psychiatrist and author who described seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy to treat it has improved the health of millions of people. His latest book Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation (Tarcher-Penguin, 2011) explores the value of this ancient meditation technique for healing and transformation in today’s modern world.

Dr. Rosenthal began his talk by highlighting the key themes of healing and transformation brought about by TM, and explained how certain parts of the brain are effected by stress and improved by meditation. He humorously described the conflict that exists neurologically in a stressed mind between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala by using the simple analogy of the CEO of a company and the fire marshall. It made a lot of sense. Everyone got it.

Drawing on anecdotes from his best-selling book, Transcendence, Dr. Rosenthal’s relaxed narrative style held the audience’s attention throughout the presentation. He shared personal stories of how TM had improved the lives of those interviewed for the book, like Hollywood filmmaker David Lynch, actress Laura Dern, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Tim Page, neuropsychologist William Stixrud, as well as patients from his own practice.

A former NIH researcher, Dr. Rosenthal had looked into, and was impressed by, the volume of scientific research studies on TM in the fields of mental and physical health, education and social behavior. He cited some of these studies, including more recent ones.

Dr. Rosenthal also mentioned a published pilot study he had conducted on Veterans with PTSD that showed a 50% reduction in symptoms within two months. He posted an article about it on his blog, along with an emotionally-charged video of one of the Veterans and his mother:  The Case for Using Transcendental Meditation to Treat Combat Related PTSD.

He told the amazing story of Jim Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School, and how he had transformed violent, stressed under-achieving, low-attending students to motivated harmonious academically successful ones with the highest attendance ever, after he had introduced the TM/Quiet Time program to his staff and students. The program was implemented and funded by the David Lynch Foundation. Here is a recent article, with a video of principal Dierke, posted on the TM Blog: Breaking the “predictive power of demographics”: SF principal talks about how TM helps his students.

Dr. Rosenthal also shared his own story of how he started TM as a college student in South Africa back in the 70’s. “As they say, if you remember the 70’s you probably weren’t there, but I was there,” he quipped, and giggled. Like most of us he was inspired by the Beatles traveling to India to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But, he says, he was overwhelmed with his medical studies and didn’t take the time to meditate regularly. He dropped the meditation, yet returned to it decades later after one of his patients recommended he do it based on his own experiences. He went to the local TM center to refresh his practice. After looking into some of the research studies, and noticing subtle yet lasting changes in his own life, he was convinced that this simple, natural process could really make a difference in people’s lives.

Dr. Rosenthal swore he would never write another book; it takes too much time and energy, but after seeing how much of a difference TM was making in his life, and in the lives of his patients, he just had to write this one last book. He felt as compelled to write about TM as he had been about his earlier medical discovery. He was also pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable the whole process went, compared to earlier experiences. He felt the joy of being in the flow, of being in the moment, totally engaged in the creative process. He said the whole experience was very rewarding, uplifting and fulfilling.

He concluded his talk with the value of groups, organizations, practicing TM together, and the impact that has. As an example he mentioned Oprah and how she chose to give TM to her whole organization, and the amazing transformations that brought about. She wrote about it in her magazine, What I Know for Sure.

You can enjoy watching Dr. Rosenthal’s entertaining and informative presentation here on the Northern Westchester Hospital website: http://www.nwhc.net/home/about-us/video-suite/health-education.

Credit and appreciation goes to Sally Rosenfeld, a Certified Teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program, in Westchester County, NY, for arranging to have Dr. Rosenthal speak at Northern Westchester Hospital. Sally said it was a great event, with around 100 people attending from both the hospital and community. Several of them later came to the TM Center to learn how to meditate. Considering how progressive NWH is with their alternative offerings, adding the TM program to the mix would seem like a natural outcome of the meeting.


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