School News

Waking the Inner Writer:  Consciousness in the Classroom

from Issue 10 -- by Dr. Richard Beall

Power and insight are tucked into the title of veteran teacher Tom Kepler’s new book, "I Write: Being and Writing".

Most of us read for the content of an article, a book, or a blog. If it’s an investigative piece, or is particularly creative, we might ponder the author’s perspective or process. Tom Kepler is an English-Language Arts teacher at Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa, who challenges us to look beyond the words to realize the significance of the writer within.

Mr. Kepler considers two perspectives: writer and teacher. He has authored five books in genres ranging from poetry and fantasy to young adult novels. In his English classes, Tom guides adolescents through the writing process, from idea to draft, to the final polished product. At Maharishi School, the student writer and their process of writing are significantly different from other schools.

Focus on the Knower

At most schools, students arrive, go directly to their classrooms, and the day unfolds in a routine manner. But at Maharishi School, the day begins with morning practice of yoga and the Transcendental Meditation technique, which discards stress and fatigue and optimizes the coherence of their brains. When the students begin their first class, they’re not the same students who arrived at school. They are wide awake and ready to learn and access deeper levels of their own creativity. This is a different kind of student, or in this case, writer.

In I Write, Tom Kepler asks, Who is the “I”?

“As writers, we have to consider the subject, the ‘I.’ If I am dull or impatient or distracted or unhealthy, what I write will lack my full potential. Like an athlete, I must be fully engaged, alert. I must continue to grow and expand as a person.”

Tom explains how the TM® technique prepares students to write. “I’ve been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for many years. This isn’t a writing technique, but I would call it a preparation for the activity of writing. I guess one could say it cleans the slate prior to writing. You must allow yourself as a writer to go deep within, to let your creativity take you where it will.”

Film director David Lynch describes the process of going within as “Catching the Big Fish,” which is the title of his own book. Taking a vertical dive into the quieter, more subtle levels of consciousness yields creative inspiration for authors such as Tom Kepler, David Lynch, and Maharishi School students. For example, student Lila Cutter won first place in the 2010 Lyrical Iowa contest for her poem “Magic.”


There are times when the
black cloak of that
one thought
revealing a child who is just old enough
to know that everything she once believed
is now uncertain.
In the teetering darkness she wonders,
“What about magic? Where has it gone?”
And when faced with that
looming mountain she knows is
hers to climb there is always an
“I can’t do it”
blocking the path.
Yet there are times when her feet
keep moving forward.
You can do it.
And that’s magic little one,
That’s it.

Deeper Thinking, Deeper Connections

Depth of thinking is cultivated in another unique way at Maharishi School. Along with the practice of the TM technique, Maharishi School students are introduced to universal principles and qualities of natural law in a unifying subject called the Science of Creative Intelligence. This class integrates all fields of knowledge with the student’s own personal experience.

In Mr. Kepler’s class, students analyze pairs of qualities of creative intelligence, or consciousness. Some qualities are opposites, others are complimentary. For example, students might examine the relationship between thoughtful and spontaneous. Both are qualities of human thought and activity, and both play key roles in the creative process. As Mr. Kepler explains, in the early “free writing” process, students are encouraged to let their ideas flow freely. Other stages of the writing process—drafting, revising, proofreading—become more thoughtful and deliberate.

Many qualities found coexisting in nature, and in writing, are opposites, like rest and activity, or silence and dynamism. Whether within a single sentence, with its gaps between words or pauses from punctuation, or within a plot that alternates action and description, both contrasting qualities are essential for balance and brilliance in literature.

With regard to the writing process, the writer must be aware of their audience. Do we write to explore and expose some ideas within ourselves? Or do we write to stimulate and satisfy the vox populi, the voice of the people? Again, Mr. Kepler calls for balance. The writer’s inspiration and expression has to initially come from within, but then he or she must take into account the audience. To communicate effectively one must be true to oneself and be respectful of others.

Consciousness-Based Writing

All of these elements and considerations are part of a Consciousness-BasedSM approach to writing. First, optimize the writer’s alertness and awareness through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Next, identify the deep universal principles and qualities embedded in literature and the writing process.

Maharishi expressed the relationship between literature and the writer in this way:

Outer expressions of the artist are the reflections of the artist’s inner being... [Literature’s] essential force lies in the purity of the writer, in the purity of consciousness of the writer, who is able to bring… the ocean seen in a drop, that microscopic vision, that microscopic appreciation which naturally comprehends the totality on any surface value of a thing. (The Flow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language)

Our goal for student writers is to construct a pipeline between the inner reservoir of creativity and intelligence, and the writing process. We call this Consciousness-Based Education: inner development and outer success.

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