Tuesday, December 25, 2012

1968, Meditation and Obstinate Faith: A Litany of Daisy Chains for Dear Prudence

Prudence Anne Villiers Farrow Bruns in Rishikesh, front row left

I have a set of pushpins squeezed into a pretend timeline in my mind. It’s linear (only for the sake of order) and runs left to right (convention). Anyway, on it, several crucial dates are pinpointed. It’s like those maps of the world people have on their inspiration corkboards with pushpins that represent every place they’d like to go. If I could fling myself back to one year on that ridiculously reductive line, it would be 1968. My reasons are myriad – I won’t start that list. But a good number of those reasons started flooding back to me when I spoke at length to American yoga and meditation teacher, author and film producer Prudence Farrow Bruns.

Prudence Anne Villiers Farrow Bruns is the daughter of film director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, and the younger sister of actress Mia Farrow. She also happens to be the subject of the breathtaking Beatles song “Dear Prudence."
On January 23, 1968, Farrow, along with her sister Mia and brother John, traveled with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from New York to India and then to the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh, India for a Transcendental Meditation teacher training course. The Beatles arrived shortly thereafter, on February 16 and 20. Farrow became so serious about her meditation while in India, that she turned into a near recluse, rarely coming out of the cottage she was living in. As a result, Lennon wrote the song “Dear Prudence.”

Prudence Farrow Bruns
Farrow taught Trancendental Meditation for several decades after her teacher training course in India. She received her BA, MA and PhD in South and Southeast Asian studies from University of California at Berkeley. Her doctoral dissertation was on pulse diagnosis, titled Nadivijnana, the Crest-Jewel of Ayurveda: A Translation of Six Central Texts and an Examination of the Sources, Influences and Development of Indian Pulse-Diagnosis. She has also worked in film production, with credits including The Muppets Take Manhattan of 1984 and The Purple Rose of Cairo of 1985, with Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen.  She also conceived and co-produced the 1994 film Widow’s Peak.  Farrow became a magazine writer in the 2000s. Using her married name, Prudence Bruns, she has authored articles on Asian studies, world religions, ayurveda, and healthy living. She has presented at conferences and held teaching positions at the University of California at Berkeley, Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin. She has taught Transcendental Meditation in Northwest Florida since 1970.

Occasionally, -like anyone not enough advanced in their yoga practice to be able to inhabit two (or more) lives at once- I lament that there must be a way to bend time, to live exponentially. And so it is with remarkable candour and detail that Prudence talks to us about her travels and experiences circa 1968. She relates the seismic impact of a spiritual experience that followed on the heels her father’s death, her unbroken loyalty to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, what the song “Dear Prudence” meant to her, the miracle she requested (and received) at Lourdes, teaching asana to Andy Kaufman, and the story behind her very name, a name which she notes, “fashioned my destiny.”
"I was sitting around my brother’s house reading a book on meditation because I was obsessed with it. It didn’t really make sense, but I was obsessed with it and he came up and he said, “What are you reading?” And I said, “I’m reading a book on meditation.” And he said “So, you’re interested in meditation...”
And somehow when he said that, I just felt... But I felt something happen and I just KNEW that I was hearing something that would have profound effects on my life..." (Prudence Farrow Bruns)