Paulene Saxton with Stanley Lewis, James Vishwa Scott, and renowned jazz musician, Charles Lloyd at a TM course in Humboldt, CA
A teacher dear to Maharishi
First African-American female teacher
Reflections by Jim Thompson,
Member of Purusha
Submitted by K. Kearik Sunev, also on Purusha
Paulene Saxton was born in Atlanta on September 12, 1913. Her father was a professor at Gammon Theological Seminary and her mother was a school teacher. She graduated from Clark College and later moved to New York where she had a catering business.
Paulene, close to and trusted by Maharishi
She was interested in metaphysical things and attended many classes of that type. In one, Rev. Ike was also a student. She had a guru, I think from India, but she and a friend saw where Maharishi was speaking and they both attended. At one point in the lecture, Maharishi said, "I want you to learn." Nobody was quite sure who he meant and each person asked, "Me?" "Me?" Then Paulene asked, "Me?" and he said, "Yes."
She learned TM but didn't want to give up her Guru. She said Maharishi kept coming to her in visions until she was completely with him. In the early days, she would travel with him and look after his food. They would have retreats with him and write little newsletters about their devotion and experiences. She had a nice collection of early movement memorabilia. Maharishi felt close to her and trusted her. She became a teacher in India in 1969, I think. [Actually, 1970 see Photo here] While there everyone was supposed to stay in the Ashram but she thought, "I didn't come all this way not to see anything." So, she sneaked out and went to see Tatwala Baba. He asked where she was from. She thought that maybe he had never seen anyone of African descent. Anyway, he spent some time with her and blessed her. I first met Paulene when she moved back to Atlanta to live in the old family homeplace to take care of her mother who had had a stroke and who, though able to get around OK, had lost her faculties. She was a sweet old lady but her speech didn't make sense.
Paulene wanted to teach in the African-American community under the TMC banner and a friend and I helped her out driving her around. She gave a course on the Morehouse campus and though the turnout to the lecture was disappointing (Paulene said when she saw the size of the crowd I felt like screaming) about 25 people learned, including Jeru Hall and his buddy Leon. I also remember a very distinguished Ethiopian gentleman, Ayami Alemu, whom I became good friends with. Once, I was leafleting with Paulene at the AU campus. Some militant students approached her with some sharp criticism. In her dignified manner, she gently told them they should not criticize something until they fully understood it and their manner with her immediately became respectful.
Paulene taught about 60 people TM and the meditators would gather at her house, a nice old two-story white house. I had several friends including my boss at work who started TM with Paulene. She continued to live with her mother and over time she didn't teach as much. But she did attend the TTC in Ethiopia and helped with that. But when Maharishi came to Atlanta he gave her his entire bouquet when she met him at the plane and he told her, "I am very pleased with what you are doing." Paulene had a very dear sister, Mildred, who also learned to meditate. For a time her house attracted a wide variety of people.
Paulene, the woman
In Atlanta, she continued to cater. I wasn't yet a teacher but she had made some chitterlings for her sister's social club. She offered me some and I almost accepted, but finally declined. In NY she catered bar mitzvahs and things like that. She had majored in nutrition in college. I liked all of her relatives that I met. She had a beautiful bright niece, Mabel, whom we could never get to start TM.
Paulene was a generous spirit who was soft spoken and dignified, but if something wasn't right she could let one know without raising her voice. She could be funny and down home. Once we were riding late in the car after an event and her sister had fallen asleep snoring and she said laughing, "Mildred's calling hogs."
She often said, "I want to turn the movement over to the young people." I moved away from Atlanta in 1979 and would soon join you, Kearik, at Livingston Manor. I would see Paulene from time to time. Once I visited her and as we sat on her front porch she said, "Maharishi comes here sometimes. The other night I saw him there," as she pointed to a space up in the air in the yard.
She was very interesting in herbal remedies which she raised in her yard. When her mother passed away she went to work at a Methodist nursing home as a physical therapist. She had a healing touch and healed her Mother of a difficult condition and probably healed the old folks at this place. She would tell me how "beautiful" her clients were. When she reached 65 I told her she could apply for Social Security but she didn't want to because she thought of it as welfare. Over time I didn't see her as much, but I wrote her a letter and a good while later she wrote me back. She had had a series of strokes; now it was around 1993 when she was near 80. She was living with her cousin in Montgomery AL and his family was looking after her. And though her health had declined she loved life and looked to the future with optimism. I wrote her back and that was the last I heard of her.
As a new meditator, what I remember most about her was that more than anybody else she radiated Being, and her brightness made everyone want to be around her. She once told me that in New York, she would visit some friends and maybe stay late. They would be concerned about her getting home safely and give her some bills to take a cab home. She said, "I put the money in my pocketbook and me and God rode the subway."
© Jim Thompson • 2012, 2013, 2019