Think Peace

The Oregonian/March 26, 2003
By Dana Tims

Lake Oswego -- Rick Hardt and David Fuerstenau sat wordlessly, side by side, cross-legged, eyes closed. White sheets covered the double-stacked mattresses on which they settled.

In a few moments, they would be flying. Not in the traditional sense of leaving the ground for an extended period of time, perhaps, but instead in an advanced form of transcendental meditation known as "yogic flying."

Behind them, in a room at the Oswego Heritage House, a dozen people sitting in folding chairs joined in silent meditation. The object of their focus was nothing less than a profound transformation of life in Oregon.

By meditating collectively, they said, they can generate and distribute psychic energy capable of reducing crime, preventing terrorism and reducing general societal stress.

For some outsiders, those claims may amount to wild overstatement. For practitioners at the Maharishi Vedic Center of Portland, however, nothing could be more true.

They are so certain of the benefits of their meditation that they are pushing ahead with a plan to build a $1.2 million, 12,000-square-foot Peace Palace somewhere near the Portland's southwest suburbs.

Practitioners are responding to a call from their spiritual leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to build 3,000 such "palaces" around the world. About 200 are scheduled to be constructed in the United States.

Money for the local project will be raised through several means, said Elaine Teague, a Lake Oswego certified public accountant helping the effort. The first will tap the pocketbooks of an estimated 20,000 people who have studied transcendental meditation techniques in the Portland area during the past 40 years.

The second will involve the development of an organic-produce business on recently donated land near Silver Falls in eastern Marion County, she said.

The last will ask the public to contribute.

Successful fund raising could see construction beginning before the end of the year. The group is looking for at least one acre within the region's urban-growth boundary, Teague said.

"What we envision is a visual symbol for peace," she said. "And, obviously, the need has never been greater than right now."

Yogic flying The group's ability to contribute to world peace relies on the training of 100 to 200 yogic flyers in the Portland area, members say. Yogic flying, considered an extension of transcendental meditation, speeds practitioners toward a state of heightened enlightenment, they say.

When practiced in groups, yogic flying is believed to spread an influence of peace and harmony.

A recent demonstration of yogic flying at the Oswego Heritage House by Hardt, of Bellevue, Wash., and Fuerstenau, of Lake Oswego, looked more like yogic bouncing. The pair sat lotus-style -- cross-legged with opposite feet pulled up on top of their thighs -- on twin mattresses.

On an unseen signal, both maintained the lotus position while bouncing from one end of the mattress to the other. Once they reached an end, they scooted around and repeated the maneuver, perhaps 15 times.

Both said they are beginning yogic flyers and thus not capable of the extended levitation they say advanced flyers can achieve.

Dr. Charles Elder, a Portland internist who practices meditation, said he commonly runs into skeptics who don't believe in the benefits of collective meditation, much less yogic flying. Citing a number of studies he called scientifically valid, he said the claims have repeatedly been verified.

"It's a bizarre idea," he said. "But when properly practiced, we can produce a unified field of consciousness. That, in turn, can effect a quantum change in what's going on both in this country and around the world."

If 1 percent of the world's population meditated in groups of 200 for 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day, a more harmonious planet would be almost immediately achieved, he said.

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