Silence and meditation amid convention chaosby Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
As the media and the politicians descend on Denver a lot of people here are trying to avoid all the fuss and get on with their lives.
And at least one other group has chosen this week to hold its own convention in Denver.
Denver — Wandering the streets of Denver, it's nearly impossible to avoid the calls for change.
While the majority share their messages through marches and bullhorns, others are expressing themselves seated on pillows in the park.
"This is Meditate 08! -- with an exclamation point," says Nicole Langley. "With all the stuff going on around Denver that is full of exclamation points, this one is a little bit different. What this is is a place for quiet contemplation at the Democratic National Convention."
Langley is one of the people behind this six-day gathering in Denver's Fishback Landing Park. Just like the DNC, Meditate 08! brings in high-profile speakers to inspire attendees. But instead of roaring cheers, the sign of approval here is contemplative silence.
To be honest, it isn't entirely quiet. The park is located right across the river from the Pepsi Center, which means the sounds of protests and of the DNC's ever-present Apache helicopters force their way through the grove of maple trees. But that's OK, Langley says.
"You don't practice meditation just to get zoomed out and think of nothing or get peaceful or something," she says.
Many assume meditation is blocking out the world in order to relax. But, really, says Langley, it's a way for people to be more perceptive of everything around them.
"The whole purpose being to become more clear so that we don't tend to react as a knee jerk."
Which is why Langley hopes convention delegates will take a little break from the politics and stop on over.
"During the convention, I would like for the posturing and proselytizing that takes place to come up against a moment of thoughtfulness," she says.
Nicole Langley may have chosen to spend this week cross-legged and barefoot on the grass. But that doesn't mean she doesn't care about politics. In fact, she's done more than her share of protesting.
"Oh man, I was a firecracker back then."
Eventually, though, she didn't feel that marching in the streets was making much of a difference. And, actually, that's the story of many of these meditators, including Don Morreale. Years ago, the Denver resident traded in yelling for meditating.
"It's changed my life completely," he says.
Morreale used to be a wrecking contractor. Now he teaches meditation for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. He says he's much calmer now, but that doesn't mean he's any less engaged in politics.
"Meditation is all about clarifying your motivation, the attitude you take when you take action," he says. "So getting back to politicians, what are their intentions when they legislate? Are they legislating out of greed, hatred and delusion? And believe me, those are real motivators, legislating out of anger. I think there is a real place for meditation in contemplative politics."
That might sound a bit unrealistic to some. But more 10 million Americans now practice some form of meditation -- many of them politicians. In fact, the Pentagon even has its own meditation club. Its slogan: "Love is the ultimate first strike capability."
Event creator David Nichols hopes Meditate 08! will offer people an escape from the chaos of the DNC, but he admits his ultimate goal is to have a positive influence on the politics inside the convention hall.
"I hope some of our messages can reach Barack Obama, I have a sense he's a very spiritual man," Nichols says. "If these ideas can infiltrate the delegates and move to the top of the hierarchy, that would be very exciting."
- All Things Considered, 08/25/2008, 6:25 p.m.