Peace palace proposed for Marin

Marin Independent Journal/April 23, 2003
By Keri Brenner

Plans for a $1.2 million, 12,000-square-foot "peace palace" - complete with bouncing yogis - were unveiled yesterday in Sausalito by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Although funding remains uncertain and a site has yet to be located, such a project could ease tension and stress, said Philip Bombace of Mill Valley.

"Every day, we're under an orange alert, a yellow alert, different levels of alerts," he said. "The cumulative stress level has increased significantly in the last few years - even traffic gridlock seems to have grown," said Bombace, an investment specialist in South San Francisco.

"We need to balance these negative tendencies out with the positive energy generated by this 'peace palace.'"

The Marin "peace palace" would be one of about 3,000 called for worldwide - including 200 in the United States - by Maharishi, whose admirers once included the Beatles.

At a news conference yesterday, Larry Chroman of Tiburon, a 32-year meditator and clean coal technology consultant, provided a demonstration of the kind of advanced meditation technique that might be provided at a peace palace.

After a brief meditation, Chroman sat in the lotus position on one end of a twin mattress. Suddenly, he proceeded to bounce, still seated, two or three times to the other end.

Chroman repeated the bouncing routine about a dozen times before relaxing, saying he felt energized and euphoric. People who do the bouncing, called "yogic flying," generate positive energy that spills out to the community, he told half a dozen observers.

"The peace palace is one concrete step we can take," Chroman said.

Bombace, Chroman and other leaders of the Maharishi Vedic Center in Sausalito said they are looking at sites in Corte Madera, Fairfax and Novato. They said finding the right land - they hope for bayfront acreage - is a challenge in Marin, where two-thirds of the county is zoned as parkland.

Fund raising, they said, would not be a problem, with an estimated 15,000 Transcendental Meditation supporters in Marin, a county that has the highest median income in the state.

"The worst that could happen is that we'd create some kind of more mellow influence in Marin," Bombace said.

But commercial real estate broker Bill McCubbin, head of Orion Partners Ltd. in San Rafael, said the group has some hurdles to overcome.

"That's a lot of space," he said. "There's a scarcity of land for any type of development right now that will make their task daunting.

"I'm not sure of what type of zoning it will require," he said. "It's going to be tough."

Larry Brackett, head of Marin's Frank Howard Allen Realtors, said the $1.2 million building price tag - which does not include the price for the land - seemed low.

"I don't know what kind of peace palace you can build for $100 a square foot these days," Brackett said. "I don't think you can even build a warehouse for that amount."

In a brief video played during the news conference, Maharishi said peace starts with the individual and then spills out to society, and then to the world.

"The peace palace can teach relaxation and how to use the total brain," he said in the video. "No one wants to suffer, no one wants pain - the knowledge that they can be free from strain has to be given to them."

The Sausalito center was founded just after the Sept. 11 attacks in rented quarters atop the former Sausalito police station.

"We're all busy, so we don't want to be random," said Sunil Rawal of Sausalito, a technology analyst. "We want to do what has scientific proof that it works - and this does."

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