The mindful Congressman keeps on keeping on

There’s next to zero chance that the U.S. Congress is going to get anything done anytime soon, so why not try to push through some yogic and Zen legislation, right?

That’s what Rep. Tim Ryan — we’ve covered his mindful exploits before — keeps aiming to, and it may be that his quest is just quixotic enough that he keeps getting media coverage. The latest is New York magazine:

Ryan’s journey to becoming Congress’s crunchiest member began just after his reelection in 2008, when he attended a meditation retreat in the Catskills that ended in 36 hours of total silence. He has always been an overachiever — he was first elected to the House in 2002, at the age of 29, serves on top committees like budget and appropriations, and is seen as one of the bright, young Democrats that will make up the next generation of House leaders. But after six years in Congress, he could feel himself beginning to get burned out. “Lawmakers are so anxious and they need to raise money and there’s all these elections and 24-hour news cycles and Tweeting and blogging and a crisis of every hour,” he says. “There’s no time to contemplate or evaluate and look at what’s happening and why.”

He realized that meditation had an effect on him and in so many segments of society, and it was completely free. “I just made the decision that I don’t care what people think. I believed in this; I saw the science. I met the people it was helping. I knew it helped me,” he says. “And I went for it.”  So he wrote a book, A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit, which details how mindfulness can be used in schools, in the health-care system, and with veterans.

And there’s this ender:

The kids haven’t totally gotten with Dad’s program yet, though. “My young son didn’t get the memo on my meditation practice. He’s 7 months old; I’m just starting to get back into a daily routine,” Ryan says. “Brady threw up on my books.” Ryan seemed pretty Zen about it. “Okay, we’ll text you about yoga,” he says, stepping forward to embrace me in a bro hug. “We’ll definitely do yoga!”

It’s a good read, although I can’t help but notice one of the online tags is “Namaste.” I would not say it leads down the brightest rabbit hole. But it sure seems like Ryan is the real thing.

Posted by Steve

Wednesday reads: Congressman Moonbeam and Ganesha Chaturthi

Kind of a busy day here, so just a matter of a couple of quick links for you.

First up, if you aren’t paying attention, this weekend is Ganesha Chaturthi. Are you in or around New York? Well, you’re very much in luck. The Broome St. Temple is running a weekend-long celebration, ending with a cart festival on Monday. We’ve helped sponsor on of the pujas. Details are available here.

And that’s not the only celebration happening in New York. The New York Times has a nice piece on the Ganesha temple in Flushing, Queens:

At the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, this week is time to worship Ganesh, the elephant-headed, many-armed deity who is believed to remove obstacles. Here, as at temples in over a dozen countries, Hindus are celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi, which marks the god’s birth (and rebirth).

“The coconut shell is like the human ego,” said Mohan Ramaswamy, who teaches at the temple on Bowne Street. “You have to crack it open before you can let in the lord.”

In Queens, which has perhaps the largest Hindu population in New York, more than 10,000 people will pay homage during the jubilee, which started on Friday and ends on Sunday. More than 400 gallons of milk, 100 boxes of apples, 50 crates of bananas and five kilograms of sandalwood paste will be used. And each day, dozens of liters of ghee, clarified butter, will be ladled into the fire pit for the homam, or fire ritual, which is believed to carry offerings to the lord. Visitors will consume some 50,000 prepared meals, according to the organizers.

At the Ganesh Temple, ancient traditions are carried out with a relentless, New York-style efficiency. On Saturday, volunteers and staff members wearing laminated “May I help you” name tags and white T-shirts bearing the temple’s logo used iPads to check the schedule, which was detailed on the temple’s website. In the courtyard, rows of devotees repeated hypnotic hymns asking the lord for his protection as they faced a large fire pit. A bare-chested man with a clipboard and a counter was on hand to ensure that the requisite 400,000 mantras were offered.

Last piece is at The Atlantic; it’s about Rep. Tim Ryan, the Mindful Congressman (we’ve run a few mentions of him). Link and tease:

Ryan, who is now 41 and in his sixth term representing northeastern Ohio, is that guy you know who’s just started meditating and can’t stop talking about it, only with the ability to propose legislation. “I came out of it”—the 2008 retreat—“with a whole new way of relating with what was going on in the world,” Ryan tells me. “And like any good thing that a congressman finds—a new technology, a new policy idea—immediately I said, ‘How do we get this out?’ ”

Ever since, he has busily worked to make himself meditation’s man in Washington. He has appeared with Deepak Chopra and Goldie Hawn. He has sponsored a bill to increase the holistic-medicine offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has secured a $1 million earmark for relaxation training for elementary-schoolers in his district. He has written a book, A Mindful Nation, that—according to its foreword, by Bill Clinton—purports to “explain how the simple act of self-reflection can help us build a better America.”

The piece does note the inevitable: He’s earned the nickname “Congressman Moonbeam” from his opponents.

Posted by Steve

Watch the Mindful Congressman talk about transforming the country

We highlighted the Mindful Congressman — Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio — a while back after he met with Eddie Stern.

Now, not surprisingly, the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia has posted video of the Congressman’s talk there. Perhaps this will raise your regard for elected leaders in the U.S.

Posted by Steve

Eddie Stern and the Mindful Congressman

A week or so ago, we noted that Eddie Stern was among a group that met with Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, the so-called “Mindful Congressman.” Today, Eddie has more on that visit:

Last week, the Congressman and I spent the afternoon together at the Broome Street Academy, a charter school for foster and homeless children, observing one of the yoga classes run by the Sonima Foundation, and speaking with the director of the school. He spoke passionately about the need for our country to not just become more thoughtful, caring and kind, but to learn how to deal with the incessant distractions that we are inundated with – all achievable through the simple practice of meditation. Much of this is outlined in his book, Mindful Nation, which, if you have not read, you should. It is the first direct foray into contemplative practice for daily living written by a public politician, and hopefully is a sign of the times to come.

On Monday, March 31st, Congressman Ryan will be leading a discussion/fundraiser at Deepak Chopra’s Homebase at ABC Carpets in NYC, on how this movement can help shape an integrated mindful policy and spark a national dialogue around some of our country’s most important issues including health care (especially preventative), education, veteran’s benefits, income equality and food policy.

You can check out more about Ryan, as well as a photo of him and Eddie, at Eddie’s blog.

Posted by Steve