THE WASHINGTON POST DATE: THURSDAY July 10, 1986 PAGE: B01 EDITION: FINAL SECTION: STYLE L
THE WASHINGTON POST
DATE: THURSDAY July 10, 1986
PAGE: B01 EDITION: FINAL
SECTION: STYLE LENGTH: MEDIUM
SOURCE: By Victoria Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
AT THE HOP: THE FLYING YOGIS' OLYMPIAD
In a silence broken only by clicks of cameras and the gentle hiss of
ventilated air, the First Olympics of the Age of Enlightenment began something
like the way kernels of corn begin to pop.
The 22 male "Olympians"-finalists in yesterday's First North American
*"Yogic*Flying" Competition at the Washington Convention Center-were
advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation, here as part of a week-
long World Assembly on Perfect Health sponsored by followers of the
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Wearing identical uniforms of white drawstring pants, green T-shirts and
bare feet, the Olympians sat motionless, their legs crossed in a*yogic*twist,
meditating. Inert and as full of promise as unpopped corn.
At first, nothing. Not a motion.
Then a tremor. A sizzle. A shiver.
And, at last, minutes having passed, a POP! Up went the first cross-legged
kernel. The first meditator was off and-hopping!
This particular Olympiad was open only to assembly participants and the
press. Reporters had been invited for an unprecedented bring-your-video-
camera, bring-your-skepticism demonstration of the TM-Sidhi*"yogic*flying"
"War is caused by a buildup of stress in the collective consciousness of
nations," said Bevan Morris, president and chairman of the board of trustees
at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, explaining the
ultimate purpose of the stress-relieving exercise. Morris stood in front of a
portrait of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as he presided over a press briefing
yesterday morning at the convention center.
"Levitation" is the usual term for what the meditators would try to do-but
the word is misleading.*"Yogic*flying," as it is more properly called, comes
in three distinct stages-and today's contestants were only attempting Stage
They aren't hovering or floating yet. That will be Stage Two. They aren't
flying through the air yet. That will be Stage Three. For now, the
Transcendental Meditators are concentrating on the Hopping Stage, propelled,
they say, by nothing more than their own spiritual awareness.
"The press is on their way up," said TMer Paul Tarnoff, holding a walkie-ta
lkie in front of his mouth, as the briefing ended. And the press corps
filed up to the cavernous second-floor hall in the Convention Center, where
the competition was to take place.
"So, have you ever seen anything like this before?" muttered one cameraman
And on the escalator, in a haze of postbriefing bewilderment, a reporter
tried to assimilate the TM argot. "I don't suppose you know what a unified
field is?" he asked meekly.
If yesterday's competition was any indication, the road to world peace is
paved with rubber mats, divided into five lanes and populated by would-be
hoppers neutralizing their own and the world's stress.
A sea of mats, covered with white sheets and divided by red ribbon into
hopping lanes, spread across the room. On the far side, a row of solemn
dignitaries sat in golden wing-back chairs. In the middle chair was a turbaned
B.D. Triguna, president of the all-Indian Ayurveda Congress (practitioners of
an ancient natural health care system).
Across the way, Tiers O, P, Q and R were filled, row after row, with*yogic*
fliers who had not made it to the finals. Walls were bedecked with large
banners conveying TM slogans: "Alliance with Natural Law" and "Enlightenment
to the Individual. Invincibility to Every Nation."
To a standing ovation, the finalists appeared and settled down on a mat,
legs crossed and eyes shut
"Gentlemen, let the competition begin," Morris intoned.
Some were smiling. Some were rocking back and forth. Some were bouncing up
and down. Lined up as they were for the five-lane, 25-meter hurdles, it seemed
as if the eager competitors in the back rows would hop right into the still-
sedentary front row.
But in a TM minute, all the front-row hoppers were flopping down the foam
rubber rows, balancing themselves with their arms, bouncing into other lanes,
rocking back and forth, pursuing the Olympic dream.
A corps of TM referees, bearing clipboards and stopwatches, wearing
earnest looks and conservative business suits, ran alongside the sitting
hoppers, charting their progress.
When they crossed the finish line, they just kept hopping. Wiggling.
Squirming. Hopping deftly and not-so-deftly around and into the photographers.
It was the rare hopper who got up and walked to his next destination.
The high jump began at 40 centimeters. Each contestant composed himself,
took a hopping start and sprang up onto the elevated mattress, leg fold still
intact.*Yogic*Flyer No. 37 made the hop. Then No. 57. Then No. 11. And just as
it threatened to settle into routine, No. 7 sprang onto the mattress and,
glory in sight, hopped around in 180-degree turns.
When No. 20 wasn't hop-jumping onto the mattress, he was giggling. Blaine
Watson by name, he said later that he's been smiling "all my life, but it
became more prominent with TM. I'm not blissed out, just happy and content."
The 31-year-old TMer is here in Washington studying "Natural Law"
(consciousness). While he is experiencing "maximum brain wave coherence,"
which manifests itself by involuntary hopping, Watson "sort of sits back and
watches it. You enjoy the ride. One hundred percent wide-awakefulness-it's
sort of fun."
Centimeter by centimeter the high-jump mattress was raised: 55 centimeters
... 57 centimeters ... 59 centimeters ... all the way up to 63.
Hopper No. 7, twitching and bouncing, fresh from a jump, looked at the
next contestant, No. 40, and gave him the thumbs-up signal. Go for it. But No.
40 missed, hit the edge of the mattress, rolled onto his back and had to
settle for hopping around at ground level.
When the final race, the 50-meter dash, was completed, the contestants
were utterly animated. While the audience rose to its feet in applause, the
hoppers remained seated, hopping vigorously among themselves, mixing and
mingling with spiritual energy and good feeling. Finally they got up, walked
over to the front of the arena and stood in formation, awaiting the
announcement of the winners and the distribution of the laurels.
And what better laurel for a victorious*yogic*flier than a red rose?
Eddie Gob, the man with the most roses, was the only*yogic*flier wearing
socks in a line of bare feet. He walked off with four roses (three "gold" and
one "bronze") and warm toes. Gob, who comes from Guadeloupe, completed the 25-
meter hurdles in 11.53 seconds, long-jumped 70 inches, high-jumped 21 5/8
inches and hopped off 50 meters in 23.33 seconds.
The 27-year-old champion, who says he discovered Transcendental Medication
by accident, says that to hop is to "feel so full inside. So happy. It's
GRAPHICS: One:*Yogic*flier Eddie Gob. (WP) Two & Three: Richard LaMarita,
left, and Michael Busch; Chad Warren in the hurdle race. (WP Photos)
END OF DOCUMENT.
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