Former veterinary doctor from Romania found a home and answers to deep questions at MUM
“This is how the story starts…”
“Everything is connected,” Dr. Elena Burkeland says. And she should know—her journey to MUM and beyond is a perfect example.
Born in Piatra Neamț in Eastern Romania, Elena began having powerful, deep spiritual experiences in the late 1980’s. However, spiritual philosophy and psychology were forbidden subjects at Romanian universities under the country’s communist government. “My experiences weren’t ordinary,” Elena says. “But I couldn’t find anyone to relate to my experiences, to give me the guidance, the knowledge, and to support me. So there were no answers.”
Prohibited from studying philosophy or psychology at her university, Elena instead earned a veterinary medical doctor degree. She continued to record her experiences in journals throughout the next decade while working as a national food inspector in Iași, one of the largest cities in Romania. After Romania’s communist government failed in 1989, she sought out books on spirituality from libraries.
Elena says that she had to find out “Who am I, what is my potential, why are we different? I started to have existential, universal questions: where I came from, why do I miss so much all the stars, all the planets, why do I feel such a connection to everything in the universe, why do I empathize and have such sensitive perception and intuition?” She also “wanted to understand the functioning of the brain, and why some people have some experiences and perception and some others do not. I was very curious to understand psychology.” She read all the literature on these subjects that she could find in Romania, but still, she did not find any satisfying answers. “Something was missing, was incomplete,” she says.
But Elena persisted. “All that made me to not choose an ordinary life—to settle down like my mother would have liked, to get married, to make children, to stay in the same town.” Her persistence paid off quite fortuitously. In 1999, while working on the side as a translator for a visiting group of American Rotarians, Elena met Darrell Burkeland, and the two quickly became close. “When I saw him, I knew it was him,” she says. “I felt I remembered him.” Darrell proposed to Elena, the two soon became married, and Elena immigrated to the U.S.
Coming to MUM
Elena moved with Darrell to Madison, Wisconsin, in October of 1999. Darrell suggested traveling and seeing the world together, but Elena continued to search for the answers she desired. “That strong desire to find my answers, that fire was so burning for knowledge and for truth in me,” she says.
Within a few months, she discovered MUM when searching online for universities related to spirituality and psychology. So, instead of traveling the world and going on cruises, in March of 2000 she and Darrell visited MUM’s campus in Fairfield, Iowa. There, she met with MUM professor Dr. Fred Travis, who suggested Elena learn the Transcendental Meditation® technique (TM), which is practiced by all MUM students. The day after arriving, Elena learned TM.
Elena immediately felt connected to MUM. Driving around campus, she saw that it was “such a simple place,” she says, and when driving near the Domes, she felt a strong feeling in her heart and stomach. She asked her husband to stop the car; she felt that something connected to her experiences was here. When she asked her TM instructor about the Domes and learned about the TM-Sidhi Program and Yogic Flying (an advanced meditation program), she said, “That’s it, this is the place.”
Elena began her studies at MUM in the fall of 2000 and earned an M.S. in Psychology, also winning an Outstanding Student Award. While at MUM, she took the TM-Sidhis course, and Darrell learned TM as well. In 2001, her sister Laura joined her as an MUM student.
After graduating from MUM, Elena earned one more degree, an Ed. S. (Education Specialist) in School Counseling from Argosy University in Sarasota, Florida. Since then, she has worked as a teacher and school counselor. She and Darrell live in Florida, and she currently works as a school counselor at Port St. Lucie High School in Port St. Lucie, Florida. She now feels able to help students who have questions like she had.
“To fulfill yourself, MUM is the best place.”
Elena’s MUM experience was fulfilling and transformative. “At MUM, I felt like for the first time in my life, regardless of where I’ve traveled around the world, this was the only place where I felt—although it’s very simple—like home. I felt whole.”
Elena says that MUM definitely enabled her to become more successful in her career. The courses at MUM “helped me to handle situations and to counsel students and to deal, in a more productive and efficient way, with everyone—supervisors, colleagues, students. I have gained very fast respect of everyone and success, and very good relationships.”
Elena emphasizes that the most important part of her MUM experience was the profound personal evolution that MUM’s Consciousness-Based Education℠ promotes. “Yes, definitely, MUM prepared me to be successful,” she says. “But it was not success that I was searching for, because I know what I am capable of. What I was searching for was to maintain that equilibrium, that peace within myself. Success was secondary—it just came based on what I became after having my soul, my mind, my consciousness more refined.”
She goes on to say that “to fulfill yourself, MUM is the best place.” She cites the TM-Sidhi Program as particularly transformative. MUM, TM, and the TM-Sidhis “changed everything. Before, in Romania, I had dissatisfaction, not full happiness, and [MUM and TM] changed the whole dynamic.”
MUM feels so strongly like home that Elena still returns every summer to meditate in the Dome and recharge. “I tell everyone I’m going home.” She says MUM still makes her feel “happy, fulfilled, and nourished.” She combines this with a very active life in Florida, where she has two cats and loves swimming, fashion, opera, and taking morning walks on the beach with Darrell. “I love life!” she says. “I live 200% of life.”
Written by Madhava Martin