The Spiritual Regeneration Movement

maharishi

It was in Madras, Tamil Nadu in 1958 that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. It was his goal to bring transcendental meditation (TM) to the masses in an effort to redirect the course of humanity. Maharishi was a man of peace dedicated to teaching individuals a direct way to reach the silence that lies within all men and women. 

There is no doubt that individuals come to meditation through a multitude of doors. In fact, I have a friend who insists she came in the “cocktail party door”. Seriously, she felt inspired by the social conversation surrounding the “cool” factor of meditation. I learned TM because my mother told me to. It’s true. I had no great reason, no great calling and certainly no expectations. I innocently found myself learning TM at a time when no one was even talking about meditation. Unlike David Lynch, my first meditation did not include the elevator floor dropping from beneath me. I did not fall into a blissful state that immediately transformed my understanding of the world around me. I simply sat and meditated. It was nice. It was quiet.

Over time my meditation practice naturally became stabilized. Like brushing my teeth, sleeping, eating, walking and talking, the routine became a pattern and the pattern became a habit. I am not sure if I became “it” or “it” became me but meditation was an integral aspect of my being. It informed my daily life in rich and nuanced ways.

In the fall of 2012, I had the opportunity to go to Amherst College to speak at the Annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference. I had planned to discuss the specifics of my class integrating TM into the core curriculum. At the last minute, I changed strategies. I discussed learning to speak the institutional language in order to successfully bring a meditation program into a college classroom. It went well by my estimation. I was happy with the positive feedback. People need ideas on how to connect with administrators. Fortunately, the research on mindfulness, vipassana and TM offers evidence of significant benefits for students: everything from increased creativity, lowered blood pressure, increased intelligence, better focusing skills and stress reduction, etc. Administrators like stuff like that. They think in terms of retention.

Since then I have thought a lot about why I feel so passionate about bringing meditation programs to college students across the country. There is no doubt that a focused student is a more successful student. I also happen to like the idea of unleashing the creative spirit in an organic way. Meditating students tend to be happier, too. I like happy kids. So, it’s all good.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught transcendental meditation to individuals in an effort to share a direct path by which to find inner peace. Maharishi knew that a man or woman who has discovered this path and who walks it will radiate serenity. This calm presence  will ultimately fill the atmosphere around him and communicate itself to all who come in contact with him. This peace is infectious. It is pure. Expanding this inner bliss on the individual level is what will ultimately transform the world from a place of darkness to a sanctuary of light.

This is why I love transcendental meditation. Happy Birthday, Maharishi. May my every effort to bring your wisdom out into the world be blessed by your radiance.

Molly Beauregard

Entities

Chris and Jen

Every now and again, I am blessed with a student whose joyful energy infuses my whole classroom with sense of happiness. It is lovely when this happens as I have always believed emotions are contagious. Last semester, one Mr. Christopher Fry entered my classroom and my heart in one fell swoop. It was impossible not to be charmed. Fortunately for me, Chris a gift that keeps on giving. Despite his entry into “adult world”, we are able to keep in touch through his lovely girlfriend. Jen is enrolled in class this semester. She shares Chris’s ability to influence every space with her sweet sensibility and kind heart.

Last week, Chris came to visit. He shared this picture with me (above). I immediately asked if I could share it with the Tuning the Student Mind family of friends.

This is an experimental self-portrait of Chris and Jen on their front porch. Chris explained the photographic process of capturing such an image. Frankly, he seemed surprised with the magnitude of his technical success. I’m not. This photo may just be the most honest self portrait I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. He has truly captured his and Jen’s true essence in this picture. Chris and Jen are bodies of light – lit up on the inside with so much goodness it aches to be seen by others.

Molly Beauregard

(Photo by Chris Fry – www.chrisfryphoto.com

You Are Creativity in Action

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“At this time, I can’t think of anything more meaningful than taking meaning apart.” Meyer Vaisman

I teach a class called “Consciousness, Creativity and Identity” at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. I think this is very funny. My students seem to think I know what I am talking about. However, you can’t really teach someone to be creative. We are all simply creativity in action.

My academic background is in sociology. I love sociology. My students, well, they put up with sociology but what they truly love is stories. So, I do my best to weave together stories and sociological definitions. Sometimes, I am very successful, sometimes not so much but we have fun muddling along together and occasionally we share an “aha” moment that leaves us all quiet for a moment reveling in the joy of finding something in this crazy, mixed up world that makes sense.

I generally start each semester with a brief synopsis of Berger and Luckman’s classic work, The Social Construction of Reality. Berger and Luckman stress that human knowledge of the world is socially constructed. In other words, we apprehend our understanding of the world through our social situations and our interactions with other people. Every time you interact with your mom, your role as daughter or son is confirmed and confirmed again. Our shared routines, customs and social processes define the knowledge we have about the world around us. Of course, if this is true we must recognize that our view of the world is partial at best. Our understanding is limited by our own evolving perspective.

I ask my students to start to think about why they believe what they believe about themselves, their families and their communities. Pretty quickly everyone begins to acknowledge that we have all learned what it means to be human – in all of its contexts – through past interactions and social context. When you stop to think about it nothing really has meaning in itself, it is the relationships of concepts to one another that generate meaning.

Sometimes this same week I toss in a little Michel Foucault. Michel Foucault was a famous French philosopher who argued pretty persuasively that society has systems in place that encourage us to self regulate without the active threat of punishment. He believed that individuals internalized the “managerial” gaze that watches over us. Using the metaphor of a panopticon – a circular building with an observation tower in the center of an open space surrounded by outer walls (think old fashioned prison) – Foucault argues that an individual who is aware that he lives in a field of visibility assumes responsibility for the constraints of power imposed against him. Think Big Brother — why do you stop at that stop sign on a dark night in the middle of an empty parking lot?

You may be wondering at this point, what does any of this have to do with my own subjective everyday life experiences. Well, here is where the story telling comes in . . .

What is the first thing you do in the morning? Brush your teeth? Wash your face? Go to the bathroom? Check your phone? In addition, to the basic necessities of everyday living, I want you to imagine that you also put on a full body Velcro suit and an imaginary electric fence dog collar. (The Velcro suit is a metaphor for Berger and Luckman. The very tightly fitting electric fence dog collar relates to Foucault.) Not only are you collecting a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t naturally belong to you but you are also getting shocked in the neck every time you cross an imaginary boundary. By the end of every day you come home with a whole lot of expectations, ideologies and generally just crazy ideas about what it means to be successful, what it means to be happy and what it means to be human. And, certainly, you will have neck burns if you happen to visit the airport, reveal your political leanings to the wrong audience or accidentally wear your jeans to the country club.

Perhaps, this would not have been such a big issue if you worked in a factory in 1935. Hypothetically, you would go to work where you would engage in specific tasks and you would come home to very rigid expectations. “I am Dad. I am breadwinner. I am worker. I know who I am!” But, for most of us, this is not reflective of our day to day reality in 2012.

In the post modern age — or as some like to say the post post modern age — we have become splinted selves — fragmented aspects of the whole and very very few of us only play one or two roles anymore. In addition, I think it is fair to say that very few roles are so narrowly defined anymore. And, this my friends, is where the stress comes in — we are all changing our hats all day and night while simultaneously being bombarded by the visual landscape, noise and a dizzying array of cultural expectations.

And, finally, what does this have to do with creativity?

Here’s what I want to tell you about creativity: at your very essence you are creativity in action and I mean that very literally – the core basis of who you are is your creative spirit. I want you to think about this for a moment: think of planting tulip bulbs. You plant them in the fall and you do not go outside, dig them up and check on them in January. You do not water them or talk to them (Shouting GROW Tulip GROW!!) or fertilize them. They just seem to know what to do. Or a newborn baby — silly, how he starts to grow all on his own without any interference from you. That is how creativity works. It flows if you let it. The question is: how in the crazy mixed up world that we live in do we tap into this beautiful flow of ideas?

Do you remember being a child? The ideas would just come – game after game of inventive play. It is the world that gets in our way – or at least the way in which we interpret the world and let the world interpret us. It’s that Velcro suit and dog collar we all slip into at the age of seven – they don’t call it the age of reason for nothing. And this is a very real problem.

I use the analogy of cleaning out the garage with my students. What is the first thing you do when you clean the garage? You take everything out. Now, obviously, identity is important – we need to recognize each other — but peeling back the layers of yourself helps you to become aware of what is really you and what is falsely you. This process will go a long way toward reintroducing yourself to your Self. Think of yourself as an artichoke – we all long to get to the heart!

The search for creativity ends when we accept that creativity is not outside of ourselves, rather it is inside of ourselves. In other words, we are that very creativity we are constantly searching for. We just need to get out of our own way!

Think about it:  What’s been stuck to your velcro suit lately?

 

If I Were King by A. A. Milne

I often wish I were a King,
And then I could do anything.

If only I were King of Spain,
I’d take my hat off in the rain.

If only I were King of France,
I wouldn’t brush my hair for aunts.

I think, if I were King of Greece,
I’d push things off the mantelpiece.

If I were King of Babylon,
I’d leave my button gloves undone.

If I were King of Timbuctoo,
I’d think of lovely things to do.

If I were King of anything,
I’d tell the soldiers, “I’m the King!”

 

Love,
Molly

The Impact of Mentorship

imre

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” ― Galileo

My mentor died last month. It was unexpected. When I heard the news, my breath caught in my throat and a simple “no” escaped my lips.

Imre Molnar was the Provost of College for Creative Studies. A former corporate designer, Imre choose a career in education because he believed in students and was inspired by the kind of innovation one only sees in the freedom of an experimental incubator like a student studio.

When the President of our college organized a meeting for faculty and staff impacted by Imre’s death dozens showed up – including professors, maintenance men, department chairs and administrative staff. It says a lot about a person when his impact extends far beyond the boundaries of his authority. There were over 800 people at his memorial.

I remember the first conversation I ever had with Imre about bringing transcendental meditation to College for Creative Studies students. He listened to me with rapt attention. The intensity of his gaze suggested the sincerity of his interest. His pointed questions helped me to narrow my focus and strengthen my arguments. As our meeting finished, he smiled at me. Spreading his arms wide and gesturing to the stacks of papers strewn around his office he said, “Molly, you have an outstanding idea. As you can see, I am mired in my own mess of papers and projects. This will have to be a grass roots effort but I want you to know – I believe in you. And, I promise not to get in your way.” His silent support served as an enormous motivator. His belief in my ability to be successful empowered my efforts by helping me to see myself through his eyes. I knew he expected the best from me.

The art of teaching is the ability to help others see things in new ways. It doesn’t always take a lot of words but it does require a sustained attention on your pupil. Listening may be the most powerful tool a good teacher develops. It is in the act of listening that we allow students to rise to expectation, shift perspective and feel their own internal knowingness. Active listening engages student’s attention and helps them to expand their own knowingness. It also creates an atmosphere of warmth and love which motivates students to strive to do their best.

Many years ago a dear friend of mine lost her mother. After the funeral, she and her four siblings were sitting around the table laughing and crying and telling stories about their beloved mother. Eventually, her eldest sister confessed, “I know this is hard on all of you but ultimately this is the most difficult for me. You see, I was always mom’s favorite.” A pregnant pause ensued while everyone gathered their thoughts. Eventually they all said, “No, no, no!!! I was mom’s favorite!” Could there be anything more powerful than a mother whose children all believe they are the most cherished?

Human nature is to please. We all work extra hard to please the loving mother, the doting father and the high minded teacher. Imre was an inspirational leader because he knew how to make everyone feel respected, valued and appreciated. We all believed we were his personal favorite. In my mind, his death has opened the heart of CCS – with each of his “favorites” hungry to share Imre reflections, there is more talking and reaching out on campus. Ironically, the lasting impact of Imre’s personal touch style of teaching may be a renewed commitment to collaboration.

Imre’s life inspired a great and empowering legacy – a true commitment to creativity, innovation and thinking outside the box. I am proud to be one favorite in a crowd of many – it insures my ability to tap into the great resources left behind in the collective memory of my many new friends.

 

Molly Beauregard

Lessons from the Kindergarten Classroom

Kindergarten_NFTP

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
― Plato

Every semester I have my students read a short article written by Harry L. Gracey called “Kindergarten as Academic Boot Camp”. The basic thesis of the article is that the most successful student is typically the child who embodies the rules and routines of the classroom. Gracey offers numerous classroom anecdotes to show how noisy children are quieted, routine is implemented and how school in general exerts a strong “normalizing” influence on children. For some reason, this article outrages my students.

Initially my students’ reaction to the Gracey article surprised and humored me. I couldn’t quite believe that it had never occurred to them that a large part of the learning experience was tied to understanding behavioral expectations. Over time, however, I began to see that my students were not outraged by the imposition of rules and routines in the kindergarten classroom. In fact, they acknowledge the necessity of creating structure. Their frustration lay in the method of communication used by the teacher in the article and, more importantly, the teachers of their collective memories.

It seems that many students “hear” behavioral reprimands as personal critique. Rather than understanding teacher’s words as an attempt to engage them in the routine of the classroom, students interpret reprimands as personal assaults. Thus, severely impacting their developing self esteem and, more importantly, pushing them to the outside edge of the communal classroom. Overtime children who interpret behavioral reprimands as personal assaults begin to feel isolated, misunderstood and alienated from the larger classroom experience.

I have thought a lot about why some children “hear” behavioral reprimands as personal assaults. I can only seem to come up with one hypothesis. Children are generally much better at reading the undercurrent of emotionality than adults realize. A teacher may simply be saying, “Sit still, Johnny”, but Johnny is feeling “Johnny, you are making me nuts.” Johnny is ultimately experiencing rejection from the very person attempting to engage him in the learning process.

We know that classroom success leads to self confidence. How does a young child grow his self confidence when he experiences feelings of rejection in the classroom? It doesn’t matter if the rejection is real or imagined, the perception is what impacts the child. Teaching is an interactional process. Every thought, word and action produces an influence in the classroom atmosphere. The feeling of that atmosphere is dependent on the quality of the vibrations flowing through the teacher. As a result a teacher with love in his/her heart will establish a more loving and nurturing classroom experience. As Jim Henson, the creative genius behind the Muppets once said, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

Being a teacher carries with it great potential and great obligation. The current education landscape has as yet no socially based accountability for classroom etiquette. According to my students, teachers would do well to monitor their own stress levels in the classroom, communicate with love in their hearts and understand that children can feel the vibrations beneath your words.

Molly Beauregard

 

Click here to read “Kindergarten as Academic Boot Camp” by Harry L. Gracey.

To see all of the “Notes from the Professor” series click here!

 

 

Specialization vs Meaning — What is Education Really About?

molly_teaching_love

“Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.” Carl Jung

There has been much written on the impact of specialization in academia. Certainly, it is well documented that modern culture requires specialization. We see this in all disciplines and we recognize the difficulty of connecting all of the abstracted dots. My own field, sociology, with its emphasis on the social construction of reality and deconstruction of thought has certainly led the pack when it comes to denying a unified perspective capable of offering meaning to the masses. And, of course, when education becomes an instrument for individual careerism, it no longer inspires students in broad sweeping terms.

In my mind, education should be about ideas and connection. Certainly, students value the “skill” based focus of many classes, but they yearn for inspiration. I believe that the secret hunger that gnaws at most students’ souls is the desire to discover the meaning of life. It is not so much that any of us actually believe that we can “figure-it- all-out”, it is just that we crave some understanding of our purpose here on earth.

I teach a class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) that integrates transcendental meditation in to the core curriculum. All of my students have the opportunity to learn TM as an experiential tool to dive within and feel the potency of their own full potential.

Getting this class accepted into the liberal arts department was a fascinating, eye opening and personally challenging experience. I have heard it said that creating new curriculum is akin to moving a graveyard down the street. Ironically, innovation and academia are not the friendliest of bed fellows.

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of the entire process of getting my class on the books was learning to speak the institutional language. In other words, figuring out what everyone wanted to hear and producing some evidence that my class could meet the extraordinarily varied needs of an institution. For example, the counseling department at CCS really liked the research on TM as related to stress reduction, the film department really liked the research on TM related to enhanced creativity, the administration liked the research on TM linked to retention rates, etc. Many in my own department expressed concern that my proposed class would not be rigorous enough. I had to produce a long reading list, a research paper assignment, detailed learning outcomes and assure my chair that the TM component was simply an experiential tool. Even the David Lynch Foundation, who generously offered a grant to support TM training costs, wanted to make sure my students met “at risk” status requirements.

Piecing together the fragmented expectations of my varied stakeholders became a full-time preoccupation. It also represented a pretty interesting view of the contemporary educational landscape. A truly integrative educational model is one that does not merely stack discipline on top of discipline but one that literally enlivens the learning process by teaching students to touch their most transcendent nature – reminding them who they really are and how much they really know. A truly holistic curriculum also relies on mystery as much as fact and sees students as whole people rather than abstracted aspects of their full potential.

This semester when I asked my students what brought them to my class, I was delighted to hear many of them say they had heard through the grape vine that “it offered a BIG picture assessment of culture” and pieced together “many varied ideas while giving students a tool to illuminate their own journey.” One student actually had the guts to say he signed up to become “enlightened” – a tall order to be sure but one that I gladly embrace. My students and I are on a journey together. We are determined to create a classroom experience that feeds our collective soul and reminds us of the profound joy of connecting ideas and creating meaning through our combined intellectual and contemplative practices.

Fortunately, my class met all of the abstracted needs of the institution and students. In doing so it tied the varied threads of expectation together to create a harmonious template for the exploration of ideas, connections and meaning with an experiential component of transcendence. In the end, that is what an ideal education is supposed to be about.

To read a short except from an interview with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on what he believed brought people to meditation click here: http://www.tm.org/blog/news/nbc-interview-with-maharishi/

Molly Beauregard

To see the entire “Notes from the Professor” series click here!

 

His Cup Overfloweth — Role Reversal

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Every now and again, life tosses you the opportunity to take part in a role reversal. It can be a powerful experience. Fortunately for me, a favorite former student is teaching ceramics in Detroit. At the risk of making a total fool of myself, I decided to sign up for class. It turns out that working with clay was just the tip of the educational iceberg. Class with Henry is full on performance art!

This afternoon Henry and I met for a cup of coffee to discuss the “philosophy of making a cup”. Henry believes in a relationship between personal creativity, social responsibility and connectivity. He spent the bulk of last year building a kiln in the city of Detroit. His desire is to use the kiln as a “sort of public art space where people come together to celebrate the process of making something beautiful”. Art is a verb in Henry’s mind – it signifies action, process, connectivity and joy. Henry believes there needs to be a new shift in our collective
understanding of the power of art.

Henry believes the art of the future should reflect an understanding of the shared goals of society and be steeped in connectivity. He is more committed to process than object but decidedly attached to technique. Routine is what keeps him in the moment but skill is what ties him to the process. “Heck, Molly, it is impossible to explain because I only confused myself and my audience but there is something about the invisible cord that ties every moment seamlessly together. All I know is that it is bigger than me. It just pulls me along creating this thing that in the end looks like a cup but is really the outgrowth of a million tiny moments of interaction with the clay.”

Henry’s art lives within a socially interactive framework. Firing up the kiln this past June was a neighborhood celebration. “Listen this isn’t just about me and my work. This is really about re- imagining space. I mean, how many people get to fire up a community kiln in their driveway?”

Henry’s passion for ceramics is infectious. You can’t help but have a good time in his presence. And, that is the secret to his success as a teacher. When you sit at the wheel in Henry’s class you get so busy watching his show that you forget to concentrate on the clay moving beneath your fingers. The invisible force that moves Henry somehow moves you too – you “catch” it while you interact. Henry’s students literally fall in love with clay. Everyone’s cup holds the unity of the interaction and as a result the cups literally emanate that purity.

I believe Henry, like so many other young people today, is re-patterning conscious daily life through his behavior, his personal philosophy and his interactions. It is an exciting time to be alive as I feel the transformative power of all my new, young teachers. The ultimate power of their awareness is deep deep beneath the surface pushing gently upward toward the creation of a richer, truer more authentic individual and cultural life experience. Thanks for taking me on Henry – it is a joy to be your student!

 

To see what Henry is up to in Detroit and view more of his work visit – www.henrycrissman.com

 

Molly Beauregard | Program Director

 

 

 

Be Good For the Sake of Being Good

lemonade_stand

My middle daughter is going off to college tomorrow morning. I am hoping the TTSM audience will indulge my mother heart by allowing me to share a favorite story about Cami. I am confident it counts as an “educational” message.

When Cami was in sixth grade at the Sacred Heart Academy, one of her favorite teachers told her about a “sister” school in Uganda. Cami was very moved by the presentation and decided she wanted to “help out” over the summer months by raising some money to support the school. I, of course, was pleased with her enthusiasm and encouraged her to set up a lemonade stand and put some of her babysitting money toward the project. Frankly, as the summer progressed, I forgot about the school in Uganda and was just pleased to see her so committed to the lemonade selling business. She loved to be outside and could talk all day long. The set up was perfect for her. (more…)

Meaning Organizes the Human World

Angel_Museum

Every semester I share the story of the Angel Museum with my students. It is a simple story really – almost a modern day fairy tale. It all began in 1976 when Joyce and Lowell Berg were vacationing in Florida. They happened to stop at an antique shop where they fell in love with an Italian bisque figurine of two angels on a sea-saw. They immediately bought it and brought it back home to Beloit, Wisconsin where it became the first cherished artifact of what would eventually become a very grand collection of angels.

Now, I usually take some creative liberties with my story about the humble beginnings of the Angel Museum. I imagine Joyce and Lowell scouring the world for angel imagery – passionate in their obsession and abundantly inclusive. I know for a fact that they find angel imagery at rummage sales. They save plastic angels that come on the top of cakes (with the frosting still encrusted on the bottom). They hunt down angels at craft shows and antique fairs. They look for angels in shops and in garages and they happily embrace every angel they find. (more…)

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