When last we checked in with Rep. Tim Ryan, the contemplative pol was still laying the groundwork for a stress relief initiative he hoped fellow lawmakers and staffers would rally around.
A year after floating his mindfulness plan, the Ohio Democrat can now point to semi-regular staff meetings and a weekly, members-only powwow as proof that he’s not the only one in Congress desperate to shut out all the mind-numbing noise reverberating throughout the Capitol.
Ryan’s suggestion that everyone carve out room for self-reflection has evolved into professionally led meditation sessions open to anyone that works on Capitol Hill. Norma Cárdenas, the wellness-coach wife of Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., helped kick off 2014 by leading a 30-minute class in the Rayburn foyer on relaxation techniques on Tuesday.
“It was completely full,” Ryan spokesman Michael Zetts said, estimating that close to 30 fellow staffers participated in the welcome-back huddle. Zetts noted that Ryan and Rep. Cárdenas have bonded over meditation — Ryan’s a bit more free-form, while Cárdenas practices traditional transcendental meditation — and suggested that Norma Cárdenas has become integrally involved with helping spread the word.
Neither Ryan nor Rep. Cárdenas attended the Tuesday session. But Zetts explained that all members are encouraged to commune in the Speaker’s Chapel at 6 p.m. on the first voting day of each workweek. According to Zetts, there are no instructors or distractions allowed at the private decompression sessions — “He [Ryan] calls it the 'Quiet Time Caucus,'” Zetts quipped — just calm, head-clearing silence.
“People can meditate, pray the rosary or do whatever for 30 minutes … as long as they’re quiet,” he stipulated.
Meanwhile, interest in the public classes continues to build.
Team Ryan has programmed a number of events, led by guest instructors from both the local and nation-wide meditation community, over the next few months.
Mary Aubry, a member of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, is slotted to help folks unwind at 1:30 p.m. in Cannon 122 on Jan. 16. Yoga Nidra instructor Ryan Soave will share tips on sleep-based meditation at 1:30 p.m. in Rayburn 1203 on Jan. 27. Georgetown University assistant professor Darren Wagner will delve into mind-body issues at 1:30 p.m. in Rayburn 1203 on Feb. 12. And Samueli Institute Senior Director John Ives will chat about homeopathy at 1:30 p.m. in Rayburn 1203 on Feb. 24.