Brother Craig Marshall, a Meditation Master details his journey to self-realization and shares his profound experience using NuCalm.
Written by Larry Trivieri Jr.
The Beginning of a Journey to Self-Realization
Few people can claim to have had as varied, distinguished, and interesting life journey as the one Brother Craig Marshall continues to have. From his time as a child actor who forged friendships with Ronald Reagan, Donna Reed, and Shirley Temple, to serving in the U.S. Army Security Agency, to his 35 years living as a monk in a monastery mastering and teaching meditation, to his friendships with such luminaries as Steve Jobs and George Harrison, to his current career as a public speaker, workshop leader, and transformational life coach and “business bodhisattva” within the corporate world, Craig has lived his life guided by his commitment to self-discovery and his dedication to serving others and helping them to discover and fulfill their unique life purpose.
In recent years, Craig has also become an advocate of NuCalm® because of how quickly, easily, and predictably it enables him to access a state of consciousness or awareness, which typically takes a long and regular practice of meditation to achieve. To that end, Craig also wrote the Preface for the book A New Calm, which tells the story of NuCalm’s development and explains its many benefits. In reflecting on his life journey, Craig says, “I’ve lived many lives in this life! I’ve been an actor, baseball player, Boy Scout, army recruit, photographer and film director – before I was a yoga monk, minister, public speaker, consultant, life-coach, ghostwriter, and now a householder. Through all these roles I’ve navigated a process of self-realization, learning and un-learning, experiencing a deeper understanding that I am something greater than anything and everything I was seeking. Behind it all, there was always my deeper self and my unique life-purpose.”
Craig’s quest to know more about himself, and about life, began at an early age. “I always questioned things,” he says. When he was ten years old, he attended the funeral for a friend of his family. That experience powerfully moved him to seek the answers to life’s biggest questions. “I grew up in Los Angeles and my parents were very balanced, healthy people. They were married for their entire adult lives and were actually childhood sweethearts from Kentucky. Thanks to them, I grew up in a very loving, supportive nest. My parents were very happy. They were living the lives that they wanted, yet I wanted something more. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I just had the sense that there is more to this game of life than I saw most people getting.” Craig’s desire to know more about the answers to life’s biggest questions only grew deeper during his time as a successful child actor in Hollywood. “I was on hundreds of television programs and commercials, so I grew up around dynamic and creative people and a lot of celebrities. I enjoyed that because it was fun and certainly beat going to school, but I saw that there were a lot of people in that industry who were kind of insecure. That spooked me a bit and fed my own desire to seek what I would just call ‘something else’.”
During this time, Craig met his first three mentors, all of whom he credits with having a deep and positive influence on him. “The first one was Ronald Reagan,” he recounts. “I met him when I was 13. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time. I had some problems with the union, so I got to know him and his family and he sort of took me under his wing. He was one of the kindest people that I have ever met, a real gentleman and a very caring person.
“I then did a number of live television shows with Shirley Temple, who was by then an adult and a very accomplished, mature, and what I would call conscious person. She later went on to become a U.S. ambassador and had a very dynamic life. I also was on The Donna Reed Show a number of times and I knew her and her husband, Tony Owen. In real life, Donna was just like she was on TV or in that fabulous movie It’s A Wonderful Life. She was like the perfect mom.
“Those three people were really a contrast to all of the Hollywood wannabes. They had a depth to them and a maturity that was very appealing to me,” Craig says. In part because of their influence, he decided to attend film school at the University of Southern California (USC), and graduated with a degree in public relations and film production. During this time, he enlisted in the Army and was on active duty in the Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War.
It was at that point in his life that Craig knew he had some important conscious decisions to make about his life and career, yet he felt incapable of making them. “I saw myself as a sort of restless, superficial person without any motivation, depth, or clarity about my life,” he admits.
While in the midst of this quandary, he discovered and read the spiritual classic Autobiography of A Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), who was one of the first yogis from India to popularize yoga and meditation in the United States. After reading the book, Craig visited the SRF temple in Hollywood, where he soon began to work for the organization. “There was a restaurant there at the time, and there were a lot of young people there then. It was a very dynamic and popular watering hole for spiritual seekers and new thought leaders,” he says. “I began toying with the idea of becoming a monk, but then I thought, ‘I don’t have the discipline or maturity to lead that kind of life.'”
By then, Craig had already started to meditate, and that is where he found the guidance he was looking for. “In meditation one time I had this proverbial turning on of the light bulb experience,” he recalls. “I gained a sudden clarity of absolute truth as I heard this inner voice say, ‘Just this once, don’t do what you want to do, but do what you know you should do.’ And that decided me. Though I still didn’t think I wanted to be a monk because it seemed like a struggle and something over my head, I nonetheless felt like I should do it, and that it would be good for me because of the discipline, structure, and support I would find living in the SRF monastery.”
Discovery & Commitment
There was only one problem – Craig was still active in the Army Reserve at the time and had four more years to go before he fulfilled his obligation. “The people at SRF told me they didn’t think I could become a monk at that time because of this,” he says. “Yet this vision and guidance I had received while meditating told me I was supposed to be a monk and I was committed to doing that.” That was when Craig started to discover what can happen when you discover and commit to following your inner guidance. “I went down to my Army unit and walked into the office of my commanding officer and told him, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but I’m going to have to leave your unit,’” he says. “He asked me, ‘Why is that?’ and I told him I was going to be a monk and would no longer be able to attend weekend meetings, and summer trainings, and so forth. This was in 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, so I was surprised when, instead of denying my request, he simply wrote up an application for my discharge, which I received three weeks later. It was a total left turn from what I expected, and soon thereafter I entered the SRF ashram [monastery].” This phase of Craig’s life began when he was 23 years old. He lived as a monk for the next 35 years. “In the ashram, I learned more about meditation and concentration and lived a life of service,” he explains.
“I was mentored by an inspired and saintly monk. After a dozen years, I was ordained a swami and was given the name Brother Mitrananda, which means ‘bliss through friendship’. For 15 years I was responsible for training the youngest monks, and became a minister and public speaker, addressing large audiences around the world.”
As a result of the training Craig received as a monk, today he is recognized as a leading authority on meditation. He estimates that he has spent 50,000 hours of his life meditating, both privately and in group settings. “Meditation really changed my life,” he says, “because, over time, I began to experience states of consciousness that deeply informed my core sense of self. I had never felt such peace, love and joy.”
Stilling the Mind With Meditation
Although he is no longer a monk, Craig remains a strong proponent of meditation. In recent decades, scientific research has uncovered many positive physical and psychological benefits that meditation can provide, in addition to its millennia-long stature as a spiritual practice of self-discovery that it holds within all major religions around the world. According to Craig, yogis teach that, on average, most people think one thousand thoughts each hour. “That’s a thought every two and two-thirds of a second,” he says.”It’s like thought, one Mississippi, thought, two Mississippi, and so on. That’s the tempo. We think all of these thoughts, yet we don’t even know where our thoughts come from. They’re like champagne bubbles that bubble up from our subconscious mind, or from outer stimulation or circumstances.
“For thousands of years, the yogis have recognized that the mind cannot control itself directly. That’s why they developed these concentration and meditation techniques, which act indirectly. You don’t start off trying to will your mind to concentrate because it won’t work. The mind is as much our enemy as our friend, at that stage. That’s why breathing exercises are used as a starting point.” There are many different types of breathing exercises, Craig explains, and many of them are ancient and still practiced today because of how effective they are. For beginners, though, Craig suggests simply breathing normally and observing your breath. suggests simply breathing normally and observing your breath. “Just become aware of your breath coming in and out through your nostrils,” he instructs, “sitting comfortably with your spine straight and your eyes closed and gently raised upward spine straight and your eyes closed and gently raised upward to the point between and slightly above your eyebrows. As you observe yourself breathing, your breath will slow down relatively quickly.”
It is this slowing down of the breath that provides the first possibility for self-discovery that meditation affords, according to Craig. “As the breath slows down,” he explains, “the intervals, or gaps, between inhalation and exhalation, and exhalation and inhalation start to widen. In those gaps, there is an opportunity to go to a deeper level, which I would call your higher or inner self, or your intuition, allowing you to tap into your inner guidance. You can’t do that in the midst of the thousand thoughts per hour drumbeat. That’s the first stage of meditation, slowing things down and de-stressing.
“After that comes a state of concentration of focus, and then after that meditation proper begins, where you rise above what you might call the mediocrity of average human consciousness. I think throughout history this is what the saints and the masters and the heroes and geniuses have been able to do. This state of awareness and focus is really the launch pad for creative and innovative ideas that are the breakthroughs that people are looking for, both in their personal and professional lives. It starts with slowing down the bubble machine of thoughts and then learning to focus and getting a very clear picture of what you want on a deeper level. And what we find out intuitively is that what we want are not things or outer circumstances.
“Most people live what I would call circumstantial lives. They have a belief system that says to them, ‘When I accomplish this, whatever it is, then I’ll be happy.’ This postponement of happiness and dependence on external things and events to be happy reminds me of when I was a freshman in college taking a course in Economics 101. In the preface of the textbook, in italics, was the definition of economics. It said, “Economics is the study of man’s attempt to satisfy unlimited desires with limited means.’ When I read that, I thought to myself, ‘Damn, this game is impossible by definition.’ That fed into my suspicion of normal living. I wanted something more. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I had a sense that there’s more to life. What I wanted to do with meditation, yoga, and being Craig with Ringo Star and a monk was to sort of offload my his wife Barbara Bach programming, if you will, and explore new ground and really be creative and figure out who I was and what I really wanted on the deepest level. Through meditation, I learned to go deep. I’m not a deep person, yet now I’m able to unplug from all these mind games and limitations.”