Readers of Rewire Me know how much I admire Congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation, so of course I was excited to read Molly Ball’s article about him in the most recent issue of The Atlantic. I was especially struck by his comment on how he travels a two-way street—not only does he work hard to convince people in government to give meditation a chance, he struggles to convince meditators to give Congress a chance:
“A lot of these people in the mindfulness community, they’re not necessarily involved in the political process,” Ryan says. “They meditate, they do yoga, and they stay away from all that. I tell people who do it, ‘You’ve got to be part of the process to help us change it.’ To transform the process, you’ve got to be part of the process.”
Inspiring, right? In October 2013 I was fortunate enough to have a breakfast meeting with Congressman Ryan. I’d met famous people before, but I was particularly excited and nervous about meeting him. I don’t know about you, but I’m not at my sharpest at 8 a.m., and getting in late the night before didn’t help. But Tim was so down to earth—and funny!—that he put me at ease. By the time he told me he was half Italian, I was giving him my recipe for “sacred pasta” and offering to make it for him!
He spoke about the peaceful revolution afoot in this country and how he sees mindfulness as encouraging compassion, empathy, and eco- and global-mindedness. It was amazing and gratifying to hear a politician speak in these terms! His approach to mindfulness was not intellectual or prayer-centered. It was intensely practical, and he shared his high hopes for what it can achieve. Because mindfulness clearly benefits people, he said, “we are seeing validators like the U.S. Marine Corps, Google, Target, General Mills, many sports teams, and others who have implemented mindfulness-based practices as part of their institutions.”
To at least one Congressman, then, mindfulness is embraced as a form of therapy for individuals, as well as a broad philosophical perspective that can put the country on a better course. Ever since then I’ve been eager to find ways for Rewire Me to be associated with Congressman Ryan’s work. And I still owe him that homemade pasta dinner!