Celebrities push for Transcendental Meditation center in L.A.

Associated Press/June 14, 2003

Los Angeles -- Celebrity backers of a proposed meditation center say the new "Peace Center" would lift the spirits of city residents.

Practitioners of Transcendental Meditation want to build a $4 million center where 200 followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi can gather twice a day to practice a technique called "yogic flying." The goal, they say, is to spread positive vibrations into the community to help reduce tension and crime.

Backers include actors Stephen Collins, Laura Dern, Heather Graham and Laura Harring as well as director David Lynch.

The group has not yet raised the cash to pay for it, nor have they found the spot to place the proposed 20,000-square-foot facility, which will face east. Possible locations include Beverly Hills, near Los Angeles International Airport or Agoura Hills.

"We have three sites the one that gets the zoning first gets it," said John Hagelin, a national TM leader. So far, "Peace Centers" have opened in Bethesda, Md., Lexington, Ky. and Fairfield, Iowa. Hagelin said the goal is to build 100 facilities around the country.

Supporters said the center would provide tangible benefits to Los Angeles.

"It's not a pretty building where people strum guitars and sing about peace," said director Lynch, who said he has practiced TM for 30 years. "It's a peace factory."

According to the Transcendental Meditation Web site, yogic flying involves the body lifting up and moving forward in short hops. The individual experiences bliss and, when practiced by a group of people, yogic flying helps to reduce negative energy and promotes positive trends in the larger society.

"It's a form of levitation you're actually lifted one or two feet by the exhilaration" that some describe "as "bubbling bliss,"' explained Transcendental Meditation spokesman Joseph Boxerman.

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