February 7th, 2015
By Molly ball, The Atlantic, August 13, 2014.
Tim Ryan’s job was killing him.
By the time he was 35, the Democrat was already in his third term in Congress, and he was exhausted. Campaigning, fund-raising, legislating, barnstorming through his swing state for presidential candidates, governors, and senators—it had all taken a toll. So just after the 2008 election, he signed up for a retreat led by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of Wherever You Go, There You Are and perhaps America’s foremost popularizer of “mindfulness.” Expecting to de-stress, Ryan ended up having a profound experience that would dramatically affect the course of his career.
He has sponsored a bill to increase the holistic-medicine offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has secured a $1 million earmark for relaxation training for elementary-schoolers in his district. He has written a book, A Mindful Nation, that—according to its foreword, by Bill Clinton—purports to “explain how the simple act of self-reflection can help us build a better America.”
Which is how we have come to be here, in the hearing room of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives—a high-ceilinged chamber with microphones sprouting from dark wood desks and paintings of stern white men lining the walls—for what Ryan has termed a “quiet-time session. ”The assembled group reflects Ryan’s determination to showcase a diversity of meditation practitioners. Billy Birdzell, a fast-talking former marine who’s now a fund-raiser for the National Rifle Association, credits meditation with helping cure his post-traumatic stress disorder. “My cortisol levels are normal, my hormone levels are normal, I sleep great, everything’s fine, I get invited back to parties,” he says. Read more by clicking the image.