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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" technique. "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 One. 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 to another. 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 really blissful." 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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