Mindfulness: It’s Still Not For Everyone

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is Washington's mindfulness guy, but can he teach them to meditate?

Photograph by Mark Mahaney

“For all of Tim Ryan’s insistence on meditation’s mainstream potential, it’s still not for everyone,” Molly Ball wrote in The Atlantic recently. As Mindful has been reporting over the past year, Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation, is holding meditation sessions for the House and working on meditation’s policy implications. But perhaps not quickly enough. Ball says few congress members attend the meditation sessions in the House chapel. Although Ryan is determined to make meditation accessible to a diverse crowd, including veterans and pro athletes, Ball says his attempts left Derrick Dockery, former NFL player, ‘eyeing the door.’ And promoting mindfulness has left Ryan with the unfortunately-coined name “Congressman Moonbeam.”

Speaking with Mindful back in June 2013, Ryan admitted that attaching his reputation to mindfulness might have a downside, but how seeing the science and support from other major organizations put things into perspective for him:

“I probably should worry,” he admits, but adds that he has the backing of “the Marines, science, Google, and Phil Jackson—the coach who won the most NBA championships.” The congressman senses an “openness now that wasn’t there five years ago, because everybody feels overwhelming stress in their lives and they don’t know what to do about it.”

Ryan just announced that Kent State and Penn received a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study whether lifestyle modification like meditation can keep hypertension patients off medication. He’s also co-sponsored a bill that seeks to improve health and wellness among the veteran population through integrative health programs. It would also expand holistic care education and research for such common post-war issues as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.