Posted by: bobroth | February 4, 2010

My visit to the West Wing (not the TV show)

Uplifting and a let-down (Part I)

I am a big fan of the late, great, sorely-missed-by-me (but available incessantly on loads of cable stations near you) “West Wing” television show. I have always been a political junkie (too bad drug addicts got that word; it is such a good one). Genius writer/director Aaron Sorkin (his films include “American President” and “A Few Good Men”) created a show that could actually move me to tears (but then again, I am a sucker for feel-good stories). Script, acting, music, lighting (oh, the thoughtful, moody lighting!)… It all worked, like magic. It got huge ratings for years, for good reason.

The West Wing TV show idealized everything good about politics for me. As a high school senior eons ago, I worked for Sen. Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign in San Francisco. He was my guy and his politics were my future. My plan was to attend Boalt Law School at U.C. Berkeley, go into politics, and become a US senator (like Senator Bobby).

But then reality hit. I got a taste of politics as a student at Berkeley in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And I most certainly did not like the taste. It was sour—a frustrating and disillusioning experience. I was then, and I still am, a hopeless idealist. Like so many of us at that time, I wanted to work nobly for a cause I believed in. What I saw at Berkeley was not that—it was rough and crude, cynical and violent. I did not see how the ends—if we ever got there—could justify the means.

Read More…

Posted by: bobroth | February 4, 2010

My visit to the West Wing (the building)

Uplifting and a let-down (Part II)

Four things that stand out from my tour of the West Wing of the White House on Tuesday night.

1. The Oval Office. It blew me away to actually stand in the doorway of THE OVAL OFFICE. The Center of Power for the Free World (as I was repeatedly reminded growing up). Blew me away but also, on some level, it was kind of a major let-down, because it seemed so ordinary, so normal. I mean it is the Oval Office. Wars are declared there, crises averted there… big-time action movies are made there (not there but similar to there) and potboiler books written about there. But the room is not very big, or grand, or imposing. In fact (and I hope I am not being sacrilegious here) it was just kinda there—moderately sized with a very old, wooden, intricately carved, historic desk (it has a name: “The Resolute Desk”), two yellow sofas facing each other with a coffee table in between topped by a glass bowl of tasty looking red-green apples, some chairs that probably could use reupholstering or freshening up, and cool paintings on the walls and busts of famous people on shelves.

I kept staring, amazed to see in real life what I had seen as a kid in Life magazine photos or on the tube. I also kept waiting to feel something really, really special. Peering through the doorway, I wanted to feel that I was peering into the inner sanctum of some rarified political/spiritual space. Really, I wanted to feel that. Didn’t happen. I just looked at the room, and thought, wow, this is THE OVAL OFFICE… It sure is small and well, regular.

2. The Cabinet Room. You know those scenes of the big long boardroom table in the White House with the President sitting at the center, surrounded by the vice president and all his top Cabinet members? A very imposing gathering of the nation’s most venerable think tankers. Yes, well, this room, in real life, is also surprisingly small. Nonetheless, like the Oval Office, I kept staring and staring and staring and did not want to leave, imagining all the presidents since way back when, sitting in this room. I also really liked the bust of a young, slim Benjamin Franklin by the fireplace at the far end of the room.

Read More…

Posted by: bobroth | February 3, 2010

Mehmet and me

Awk photo of the week

A few weeks back, I promised to write more about my visit to the taping of Dr Mehmet Oz’s top rated television show (fittingly named: “The Dr. Oz Show”).

I got busy and just didn’t do it… Sorry. But if I go again, I promise to jot down more thoughts…

In the meanwhile, as evidence I was really there, here is a kinda awk photo of Dr Oz and me in his green room (truth-be-told, the room was NOT green) after his taping…

Before the picture was taken by his wonderful assistant, Diane, she offered me a glass of Dr. Oz’s signature healthy “green drink” made mounds of raw veggies along with gobs of supplements and powders… As my friends will attest, I am a healthy eater… But I must confess… drinking that stuff on a daily basis would take some serious getting used to!

Dr Oz is a great man and a brilliant heart surgeon, who pours his heart out when he tapes each of five-day-a-week shows… We are friends but I think he didn’t mind when I left moments after this photo was taken… (The guy definitely earns his down-time!)

Posted by: bobroth | February 2, 2010

Bobby Visits the White House

Feelin’ quite at home

I’m feeling mighty comfortable standing in front of the press room at the White House this evening… Great tour of the West Wing… More to come…

Posted by: bobroth | February 2, 2010

We live in a scientific age

What about that website I read?

Some time ago, I got a call from a reporter with the Washington Post who was working on a big article on the David Lynch Foundation and Transcendental Meditation.

In his research, the reporter had come across a site on the web that made scary claims against TM.

He asked me about them, to get my response. I said, Let’s go through each thing, line by line, and look for solid scientific facts that could back it up.

He was working on a bunch of other articles at the time, so it took him about two weeks to track it all down.

He called researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institutes of Mental Health. He called medical doctors at American University where a two-year study was under way on the effects of TM on 300 stressed-out college students… He scoured the IRS website and saw for himself how much the TM organization is worth (not much!) … He spoke to students, parents and teachers in inner city schools who had been meditating for several months and to elderly folks who had been meditating for several decades.

He tracked down everything. (He had the time. After all, he was being paid by the Post!)

He concluded that the accusations against TM that exist on the web had no foundation or existence in the scientific or medical community. He looked and found that the accusations don’t appear in any medical textbook (although there are countless positive citations about TM in these texts). He found that the American Psychological Association regularly showcases research on the benefits of TM practice for mental health and brain functioning.

He got so intrigued by the good stuff that he decided to learn to meditate.

That reporter is not alone. The NIH has given tens of millions of dollars over the past 20 years to study the effects of TM on hypertension and heart disease. Prisons and veterans groups and schools offer TM (for free) to their at-risk populations. Hospitals offer TM as part of their wellness programs in small and large businesses.

We live in a scientific age. Fortunately.

I do not get paid to teach meditation. I have been a volunteer for nearly 40 years. I worry about the next generation of young people who are drowning in an ocean of stress, and seeking a lethal escape in drugs, alcohol, violence—and worse, suicide. Terrible, unimaginable stresses compared to the mild dose of tension I must have felt as a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s…

And the conventional approaches for helping them cope with their stresses? Medicines, therapy, and punishment.

They can certainly help some. They can certainly be a deterrent for some. But the situation is only getting worse, precariously, dangerously worse.

Is TM alone the solution to all these problems? Of course not.

But it can help, and there are lots of smart people in education and health and business and government who have studied the facts and agree…

Speaking of government, I am in Washington DC today. Cold, cold, cold. Going on a tour of the White House this evening. I have never done that before.

Will let you know if I see Barack, Michelle and the kids… (yeah, right!)…

Thanks for listening,

Bobby

Posted by: bobroth | February 1, 2010

Question of the Day – What is Transcendental Meditation?

What is Transcendental Meditation (TM) and why does it cost money to learn?

As I wrote earlier, I will periodically use this blog site to answer frequently asked questions—or clarify frequently misunderstood points—about the Transcendental Meditation technique.

The facts about TM are simple and easily understandable and the benefits are medically established by hundreds of scientific studies.

The basics:

    1. TM is a simple, natural technique, practiced for 20 minutes twice a day, which allows your active, thinking mind (e.g., the “I gotta do this and I gotta do that” thinking mind) to settle down to pure consciousness—a state of silent inner wakefulness that is an unlimited reservoir of energy, creativity, and intelligence.
    2. As your mind settles down, effortlessly, your body gains a profound state of relaxation. Scientists call this a unique state of “restful alertness.” Research shows this twice daily experience eliminates deeply rooted stress, tension and fatigue; improves health; and decreases, anxiety, and insomnia
    3. Research also shows TM develops the total brain, creating coherence between the different parts of the brain, which is the basis of the increased creativity and intelligence, and improved memory and decision making reported by meditators.
    4. There is no concentration or control of the mind during the practice, no following your breath, no imaging or contemplation.
    5. The technique is not a philosophy, religion, or lifestyle.
    6. When you learn Transcendental Meditation you receive from your teacher a mantra (a specific sound with no meaning whose effects are known to be positive and life-supporting) and you receive from your teacher exact instructions how to use the mantra properly so that you dive all the way within to experience pure consciousness—your own inner Self. Click this link to see a talk by Maharishi on the Transcendental Meditation mantras.
    7. Anyone can learn and practice the technique as well as anyone else—independent of your education, nationality, belief, etc.

 

Thus, the question of the day is:

If TM is so great—if it can create peace and reduce stress and all that—then why does it cost money? Or if it costs money, why does it cost so much that it could prevent some people who may need it the most, like the poor, from learning? Is that fair? Is TM a money-making organization?

The answer is: TM is not a money-making organization. It is a nonprofit, educational organization—and it has been that way for over 50 years. (All financial transactions are public knowledge.

And yes, it would be grossly unfair, cruel even, if someone really wanted to learn to meditate and could not do so because of money. But that is not the case. Scholarships, grants and loans are available to ensure that anyone who genuinely wants to learn to meditate can do so. Case-in-point: During the past four years, the David Lynch Foundation has provided full scholarships for over 100,000 people to learn to meditate who could not otherwise afford to start.

So money is not an obstacle for people to learn.

Then the next question is, why does it cost so much? (For now, let’s leave aside the point that the fee for learning TM and a lifetime of follow-up and mentoring is usually much less than enrolling in a college course, which will be over in 14 weeks, or buying many new computer programs which have an expiration date of a year of two.)

Transcendental Meditation is not “meditation lite”—it’s not some how-to thing you can learn from browsing through a Cosmo or People magazine article on meditation. Yes, TM is a simple technique, but it is also authentic, the real deal. Transcendental Meditation comes from the oldest continuous tradition of meditation in the world. Today, more than six million people of all cultures, religions, and walks of life have learned the technique during the past 50 years.

TM costs what it costs for four main reasons:

 

1. Your own meditation teacher You learn TM today the same way it has been taught for thousands of years—from a highly qualified, properly trained TM teacher, through personal, one-to-one instruction. Again, you don’t learn it out of a magazine or book or a CD or a DVD.  You are unique; you have your own questions and experiences, and your teacher is there to provide the necessary and correct guidance and information at each stage of the instruction, so you can have a clear experience of the transcending process.

2. Lifetime course When you learn TM, not only do you have seven steps of initial instruction (about 90 minutes a day) from your meditation teacher, but you also have access to a lifetime of mentoring and support from your teacher. And if you travel or move, there are highly qualified TM teachers all over the world to provide you with follow-up support—which is all included in your initial course fee.

3. Professional teachers As I said, the teachers are highly-trained professionals, many with families, homes, health insurance, etc. Teaching the technique is a full-time profession; it cannot be done through volunteers alone. To ensure the sustainability of the organization, teachers are paid an appropriate salary (like a high school teacher). Your course fee helps to cover their salaries and the expenses that come from running a local TM center (rent, utilities, phone, etc.).

4. Help those in need Any remaining funds from your tuition are used to provide scholarships for children, teens, and adults who cannot afford any tuition, such as inner-city school kids, American Indians on reservations, homeless men, etc.

The point is:

Money is not an obstacle to learning TM. Yes, money is needed to pay teachers and run the organization. But if you don’t have the funds, don’t let that stop you. Contact www.TM.org and work something out.

Thanks for listening,

Bobby

Posted by: bobroth | January 21, 2010

Bobby’s Rant

THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY

Been reading the news?

Blech.

Political posturing and partisan infighting prevail while tens of millions of Americans suffer inhumanely without proper health care.

I have been involved in politics—both on the inside and as an engaged observer—for decades. Maybe it was always so, but these days there seems to be so much to be embarrassed about—and so little promise of foundational change—in our body politic.

One day, hopefully real soon, we, the people, will wake up to the overt manipulation of our lives by drug companies, health care companies, weapons manufacturers, food manufacturers, agrichemical companies, energy companies … _

Consider genetically manipulated foods—a travesty against nature and, if the technologies weren’t so dangerous to people and the environment, a sick, twisted joke. (If you are unaware, Google and read up.) For years, I joined the tens of thousands of people who tried to introduce legislation in Washington to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But Congress (and the press), fueled by bazillions of dollars in biotech money, merely yawned…

It must be true, as wise seers of social reform have said, the basis of any solution to any political, social, or economic ill is a more awakened “collective consciousness,” a more enlightened electorate—with educated people taking control of their own destinies…

Ironically, in our age of unfathomably super-high technologies, the “technology” to awaken collective consciousness is not available in modern psychology texts, but it can be found in the ancient sciences of consciousness in most every traditional culture…

For real? Yes. And I will have a lot more to say on that later…

Posted by: bobroth | January 20, 2010

Dr. Oz Tapes His TV Show

Part One: Here I Sit (The Preamble)

Way back in the early 1990s, my Mom announced that, for her 75th birthday, she would like to travel to Chicago from Fairfield, Iowa, where she was living and tutoring little kids through Head Start, and see a Chicago Bulls game starring the all-universe Michael Jordon and then be an audience member for an Oprah Show.

That was her birthday wish.

Cool, I thought.

I called some friends who knew some friends whose brother-in-law (or somebody) worked for Harpo Productions and we got tickets. Then, feeling heady with success, I called the Bulls ticket office and somehow got two nose-bleed seats to the premium attraction Bulls-LA Lakers game. (To this day, I have no idea how I got that lucky. But the truth is, it was Mom.)

Two days later, we caught an Amtrak train in nearby Mount Pleasant (I know how familiar the names of these town must be to you) and settled in for a four-hour shoot up to Chicago. Then we got a cab, weaved through traffic to the hotel, unloaded our luggage, and headed over to see Michael “play” for Mom. He certainly didn’t disappoint her, 45 points as I recall, and the Bulls won easily. The next day, audience tickets in hand, we stood at the back of the line, shivering in the cold for an hour before the doors opened wide to Oprah’s studio. We were directed to the back, back, back, back row of the bleacher seats, and waited and waited and waited. They kept it secret who Oprah’s guest would be until last minute, to build the suspense.

It worked.

Oh, my. It was Tina Turner. And oh, man, did she kick.

Birthday Mom was swaying and bouncing and shaking it. (I should say, my mom was not an afternoon talk-show groupie. Walk into her bedroom when the TV was on and it was most likely CSPAN—she loved those long senatorial addresses to an empty chamber—or the San Francisco 49ers, if it was football season. But she didn’t much go for the talkie-talkie shows.

Gotta say though, Oprah and Tina were really great. The emotion in the studio was explosive, lots of standing O’s. Genuine and authentic. Mom had her birthday wish fulfilled plus.

I say all this as a preamble to my experience yesterday, which was to attend, as the guest of Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the “Dr. Oz Show” (and former attending physician on the Oprah Show), the taping of his top-rated afternoon doctor show that gets broadcast every day pretty much everywhere in America.

I met Dr. Oz when David Lynch was a guest on his satellite radio show back in April. It was a lovely, fun interview about meditation and David’s foundation, and David and Dr Oz became fast friends. Three days later, David’s foundation hosted a big benefit concert with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (and Donovan, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, Moby, Bettye LaVette, Paul Horn, Jim James, and half of Manhattan) at Radio City Music Hall.

Dr Oz and his family came. And loved it. Everyone became even faster friends. The Oz’s got interested in what David was doing, and good things started to happen.

Now fast-forward to January 19. It’s a cold, blustery, wintery day outside. Thankfully, I am inside so I am warm. It’s 9:30 am, and I am sitting where I was told to sit: in a chair, behind a camera (thankfully, it is on wheels), in Dr. Oz’s studio, which is in the NBC Building, across the street from the Rockefeller Center, in midtown Manhattan. In previous incarnations and decorations, Dr. Oz’s studio was home to Conan O’Brien and David Letterman.

It is rehearsal time. Dr. Oz is working through the first of two shows he will tape today. With producers and directors and audio guys and stagehands on hand, he is blocking out who will stand where and say what to whom.

It is 30 minutes before tape time, so the audience has not filed in yet. The air is focused, but also relaxed, informal, joking. I can still think. The blasting, thumping, skull cracking, get-the-audience-ramped-up-to-meth-amphetamine-levels music has yet to start…

MORE TO COME.

Posted by: bobroth | January 19, 2010

More Emily

I love Emily Dickinson’s “There is a solitude of space”.

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite infinity.

If anyone knows of other poems that reveal the silence between the sounds, the Transcendent infinite reality at the core of this ever-changing existence, I would love to read and share them.

Thank you…

Posted by: bobroth | January 18, 2010

Sharing My Secrets

14 Things I Love about New York City

I never particularly liked New York as a kid. (I was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have spent time in a lot of big cities around the world.) New York was stressed, dirty, mean, crime-ridden. Well miracles do happen, and New York has changed (this past year saw the lowest crime rate in 40 years)—and so have I. And I am proud to say that I have been a New Yorker for close to four years now (sounds pathetic I know, but you gotta start somewhere).

Here are 14 things I love about living in New York City, in no particular order of preference…

  1. I love fruit. Gotta have it all year around. Not everyone is like me. My friend Mario hates fruit. He breaks out in hives just looking at an apple. So for me, New York is fruit heaven. There many fruit stands on so many street corners. So unexpected. What other city has that, I ask you? (Downside: No water to wash the mounds of sweet plums and grapes and blueberries and peaches. They are lookin’ kinda dusty to me… But then again, they look so darn good… So what harm is a little dust going to do to a guy?)
  2. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a crisp Sunday morning in the Spring … As a kid, I used to walk the Golden Gate Bridge—absolutely gorgeous views, a glistening pearl of a city, no question, but a looooong walk… Brooklyn Bridge, pffft, and you are across… Fresh air, lovely skyline, feel great, home in a sec..
  3. The subway to get you anywhere in the city in the wicked hot summer … When the traffic is horrendous (pretty much all the time) and a cab ride will cost you $20 easy, and the temp and humidity are pushing the high 200s, I slip out my building, walk a short block to the corner, slide down the steps, whisk my metro card ($2.25) to open the gate, wait a minute or so, and bango, the beloved number 4 or 5 arrives… And then, whooosh, doors open, I climb some steps, round the corner, and I am where I need to go… The ride is air-conditioned, always entertaining, and an experience of intimacy with New Yorkers you would never tolerate anywhere else …
  4. I also love salads. Again, there are so many dang salad bars … I am a mountainous mixed-leafy-green-salad kind of a guy who loves gobs of fresh mozzarella cheese balls, tofu squares, whole plump black olives, avocado slices, artichoke pieces, chopped tomatoes… Topped with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper… and I can create a sublime version of this culinary masterpiece on virtually every block in Manhattan.
  5. Broadway … Call me naïve, a small-town country (San Francisco) bumpkin, but I had no idea… The creativity, the power, the emotion, the perfection … To date, I am a sucker for the big-stage stuff… huge singing productions, tap dancers, romantic storylines—South Pacific, Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Mama Mia, Producers, Lion King, 39 Steps, Mary Poppins (I ain’t too proud to admit it, sends me back to days of babysitters) … Now, my sophisticated New Yorker friends are vowing to introduce me to the world of Off-Broadway so I won’t feel like such a tourist. Will keep you posted…
  6. Fine, fine, fine Italian, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern cuisine. Amazing vegetarian, raw food, and pure vegan restaurants… Everywhere, open all the time, it seems…
  7. Whole Foods Market on Union Square, at least a one-hour wait to get through the checkout line, it is so crazy busy… My recommendation, bring a book or a kindle and read and push and read and push … Don’t tear into the Newman’s Own Fig Bars while you read and push, though…
  8. Anonymity.
  9. Community.
  10. Prices are ridiculously, horrendously high, which is a major downer. But then I went to Geneva, which makes NYC seems like Filene’s Basement…
  11. Yankees, I don’t revile them like I used to… New York Giants, who cares? Knicks, do they still play? Mets, Jets, Nets—not so much…
  12. HUGE LEWD BLOCK HEADLINES the front page of the New York Post /Daily News… What are we, back in high school?
  13. Working in the Center of the Universe… For the Lynch Foundation, I can do it all from here… Meet the people, raise the funds, organize the events—for the whole world—from right here… Love it…
  14. Three airports and two train stations within 45 minutes to get outta here every few weeks so I can reclaim my heart and soul… Stay too long and this place will eat you alive! Keep the balance, as the wise say.

    Thanks for listening,

    Love it here.

    New York Bobby

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