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Before Maharishi Mahesh Yogi arrived on America's shores in 1959, there was no "meditation," "mantra," or "yoga." Within ten years this guru singlehandedly made these into household words. His brush with celebrities put him into the spotlight. But his true legacy is his gift of Transcendental Meditation (TM).

Fifty years ago, in 1968, when Mia Farrow, the Beatles, Donovan, and Mike Love visited Maharishi's ashram, the shock waves hitting Rishikesh, India reverberated around the world. The result was the iconic album The Beatles, a.k.a. the "White Album," written in India, and Maharishi's meteoric rise to fame. (A 50th anniversary White Album remix will be released in 2018.)

Though Maharishi died 10 years ago in 2008, in recent years TM has enjoyed a stellar comeback. TM has become a cool club again due to efforts of film producer David Lynch and his David Lynch Foundation endorsed by dozens of superstars. As a former TM insider, I list over 230 celebrities who learned TM in my new memoir Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles' Guru.

We who followed the most renowned guru of the twentieth century were yoga pioneers, and my story is the story of an entire generation that changed the world. The "Summer of Love" in 1967 in Haight-Ashbury was the start of the spiritual path for many baby boomers. Even if they didn't participate directly, they were swept up in a spiritual revolution.

But only a handful of the six million people who learned TM know what occurred in Maharishi's direct presence. For 22 years I lived in India, the Swiss Alps, Fairfield Iowa, and elsewhere studying with Maharishi, whom reporters dubbed "the giggling guru." Six of those years I served on his personal staff. I am a rare TM Insider, and in Maharishi and Me, I reveal fascinating unknown facts and dismantle some myths about Maharishi and the celebrities who followed this iconic guru.


Dr. Susan Shumsky has practiced yoga, meditation, and other self-development disciplines for over 50 years. For 22 years she resided in remote areas, including the Himalayas and Swiss Alps, under the tutelage Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an enlightened spiritual master from India. She is now a full-time professional speaker and author of Divine Revelation, published by Simon & Schuster, and Exploring Meditation, Exploring Chakras, Exploring Auras, Ascension, The Power of Chakras, The Power of Auras, Instant Healing, Awaken Your Third Eye, Awaken Your Divine Intuition, and Color Your Chakras, published by Red Wheel /New Page, and Miracle Prayer, published by Random House/ Penguin/ Celestial Arts.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: My Real Birth Day

Part I: Hippieness to Happiness

Chapter 1: Losing the self to Find the Self
Chapter 2: Into the Land of Oz
Chapter 3: A Natural High
Chapter 4: Feelin’ Guru-vy

Part II: Blissed-Out

Chapter 5: Home to India
Chapter 6: Melting in Maharishiville
Chapter 7: Bees to Honey
Chapter 8: Maharishi Merry-Go-Round

Part III: Open-Ego Surgery

Chapter 9: From Bliss to Blitzkrieg
Chapter 10: A Sacrificial Lamb
Chapter 11: Wham Bam, Ego Slam
Chapter 12: Heights of Heavenly Hell

Part IV: Maharishi’s Spell

Chapter 13: Eye of the Hurricane
Chapter 14: Under the Influence
Chapter 15: The First Shall Be Last

Part V: The Beatles' Guru

Chapter 16: The Beatles Invade India
Chapter 17: And They Write a Lot of Music
Chapter 18: Dropping the Beatles Bomb

Part VI: Inevitable and Inescapable

Chapter 19: Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred
Chapter 20: Frog-Hopping to Enlightenment
Chapter 21: Riding the Indian Express
Chapter 22: Guru Tricks and Celebrity Treats

Part VII: Ridiculous to Sublime

Chapter 23: From Tear-Filled to Fear-Field
Chapter 24: Into the Heart of God
Chapter 25: Letting Go of the Dream
Chapter 26: Now Miracles Could Begin
Chapter 27: How to Spot an Enlightened Master

Epilogue and Epitaph
Appendix: Who's Who in TM
About the Author

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by Susan Shumsky

Chapter 1: Losing the self to Find the Self

"Disciples cannot take knowledge from a master until they raise their level of consciousness so knowledge will flow to them."

                                                                        —Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Spinning in the eye of his hurricane was at once glorious, stirring, and electrifying, and wholly devastating, maddening, and mortifying. Riding an emotional roller coaster, I ricocheted from heavenly delight to hellish desolation and back.

This extraordinary man, who moved me so intensely, came from India—a land of mysteries. Until mid-20th century, its vast spiritual treasures remained largely hidden from the West. A significant change occurred when he left for America's shores and made "meditation" a household word. His brush with celebrities placed him in the spotlight. But his true legacy was Transcendental Meditation.

As a former disciple, I lived in his ashrams for twenty-two years and served on his personal staff for six years. For extended periods, I enjoyed close proximity to the most renowned guru of the twentieth century—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Submission to a guru is an abhorrent idea in the West, where worldly achievements, individual assertion, and winning define us. Eastern wisdom is considered inferior to science. However, the venerable Indian tradition seeks loftier treasures. There the goal is to trade up ego-identification for realization of the higher self (atman).

India is where disciples seek gurus to guide them towards spiritual enlightenment. But the alchemical process rendering this transformation has largely been concealed. Disciples seldom write about their "spiritual makeover," as frankly, it's incredibly embarrassing. Gurus don't reveal their closely guarded methods. Otherwise the spell they cast on disciples would be broken.

Loyal devotees impart only highest reverence toward their gurus and paint romantic pictures. They extol their guru's God-like qualities or quote their bespoken pearls of wisdom. Rarely do they divulge anything other than how great the master was, what miracles transpired, and what marvelous experiences were had.

Practically no one discloses the fact that, for the disciple to achieve moksha (freedom from the karmic wheel), the ego must die. The raw truth is this: realizing who we really are (infinite being) rather than who we thought we were (limited self), means giving up ego. That's why higher consciousness is termed egoless. Ego-death isn't romantic. It can be devastating and shattering.

Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire, said that to realize their higher self, disciples must undergo "self-annihilation"— "turned inside out, burned with the fire of love so that nothing shall remain but ashes and from the ashes will resurrect the new being, very unlike the previous one."[i]

Many authors willing to let us peek through ashram windows are disenchanted dropouts who label ashrams "cults" and gurus "cult leaders." Such exposés portray insulting, exacting bearded men severely rebuking and correcting disciples.

To our Western mind, gurus might appear angry or abusive. But at what point do tough-love tactics cross into "abuse"? How do gurus differ from coaches, athletic trainers, or drill instructors? Why is it okay for tough trainers to coach protégés, yet not okay for tough gurus to train disciples?

Just as coaches bring out the best in their charges, true spiritual masters elevate their students. In a unique relationship of unconditional love, disciples surrender to gurus, and gurus lift disciples to God-realization. This time-honored Eastern tradition, which transforms students into masters, has survived for millennia—because it works.

I wouldn't dare liken myself to revered saints who've achieved enlightenment at their gurus' hands. However, Maharishi's relationship with his students, which I witnessed over two decades, was similar to that of other disciples with their great masters.

Why do Westerners find gurus and cultish ashrams repugnant, considering our dominant religion began with a spiritual master and twelve devoted disciples? That master treated disciples with tough-love in a way that might resemble Maharishi. The disciples responded as we did under Maharishi's guidance—with actions deemed timid, immature, clueless, and sometimes faithless.

Only a handful of six million who learned Transcendental Meditation (The TM Technique) spent any time whatsoever in Maharishi's presence. Out of those who witnessed his antics, few understood his motives. Many who got scorched by his fire still remain baffled. A good number consider themselves victims.

This memoir will raise the veil to uncover how Maharishi captivated me, transformed me, and then released me to find self-empowerment in my own spiritual pathway. As I morphed from a painfully shy teenage rebel to a disturbingly self-doubting but determined young seeker, then into a spiritually aware teacher, I found what I was seeking, but not as expected.

Ultimately, I discovered the divine presence within me. Even though I no longer have a guru in physical form, I enjoy an intimate relationship with the inner guru. Anyone can experience this divine source directly, without accepting dogma, and without middlemen, such as priests, pastors, psychics, astrologers, rabbis, or gurus. Once we let go of ego-attachment, we become our own guru and miracle-maker. The kingdom of heaven is within us.

I feel Spirit has guided me always. A higher plan has been at work, threading my life with divine intervention. Some might say I live a "charmed life." Though my days have been peppered with challenges, multitudes of blessings continually fall into my lap. Even during crisis, the solution always appears—usually instantly. Generally I don't let anything, including myself, stand in my way. If I want to accomplish something, I just do it.

Luckily, I found a simple way to experience divine love directly, at will—anytime I ask. This has given me great solace. Once I made this connection, never was I alone again. The anguish of separation was gone. This mystical connection of love, light, grace, and wisdom is the pearl of great price, more precious than rubies or gold.

This book is a way of sharing a few glimpses into my spiritual journey, and hopefully will help you make your own spiritual connection. My life has been (and continues to be) lived in devotion, led by Spirit daily—even when I was younger and didn't know it. For my journey started under unlikely circumstances—a family of self-professed atheists and agnostics. But that's for another book.

The story that follows reveals how I found myself by losing myself in the most highly celebrated guru to ever visit the USA and mentor to The Beatles, Deepak Chopra, The Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, George Lucas, and countless other celebrities.

So we begin at the beginning, with my first baby steps towards the divine. Often such steps don’t seem divine—but we'll get there eventually. For the yellow brick road is curvy and rocky, with many pitfalls. And sometimes the Wizard of Oz isn't a wizard at all. Sometimes the wizard is our self, and the guru is simply the mirror.

[i] Tweedie, The Chasm of Fire, 47-48.

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from Bestselling Authors

"Full of fascinating information about TM, its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and the celebrities who followed him, Susan Shumsky's book Maharishi & Me is a captivating read."
—John Gray, bestselling author, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

"In 1965 at a Transcendental Meditation introductory lecture I first met Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, this was before The Doors, and may very well have planted the seeds for our communal creative‎ mind. Maharishi & Me captures a moment in my generation, where we turned to this great spiritual master who introduced meditation to the entire planet. We should heed his teachings and honor his spirit today, now more than ever."
—Robby Krieger, guitarist, The Doors

"I met Maharishi in Rishikesh, India, in 1968 where I took some iconic photos of the Beatles. There I learned TM, which healed my broken heart, and I found a sense of peace never experienced before. Susan Shumsky’s book Maharishi & Me captures that time in Rishikesh and tells her emotionally-charged, spellbinding story of 22 years of awakening and transformation under Maharishi’s tutelage and beyond. For anyone seeking spiritual understanding, I highly recommend this book."
—Paul Saltzman, bestselling author and photographer of The Beatles in India

"Susan Shumsky’s book Maharishi & Me is a powerful exploration of guru and discipleship. Her humor, insight and the intimate feeling you receive about their relationship is extraordinary. A great read for anyone interested in learning."
—Lynn V. Andrews, bestselling author, Medicine Woman and Jaguar Woman

"So many emotions churned within me as I read Maharishi & Me. In her incredibly heartfelt book, Susan Shumsky gives us a glimpse into a world that few people have ever experienced. Her graphic descriptions portray her awakening consciousness that occurred under Maharishi’s guidance and also evoke the tempest that swirled around this iconic guru. Fascinating reading from a great writer!"
—Denise Linn, bestselling author of Sacred Space

"Riveting! An eye-opening, enlightening, first person account of life behind the curtain of the TM Movement. I loved it!"
— Dr. Joe Vitale, bestselling author, The Miracle, and featured in The Secret

"Maharishi Mahesh Yogi initiated the current interest in meditation when he brought TM to the West. Susan Shumsky's book is the most comprehensive account of the history of his Movement and reveals what it is like to be close to a great spiritual teacher."
—Peter Russell, bestselling author, The Global Brain and From Science to God

"Susan Shumsky had a front-row seat at a spiritual revolution that profoundly affected all of us. She tells the tale with personal candor, a keen eye for pertinent detail, and a perspective seasoned by time and experience."
—Philip Goldberg, author, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

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