The Fine Print
Of all the ways to describe the atmosphere of Capitol Hill, “peaceful” is not usually among them. But one congressman is hoping to change that by encouraging members of Congress and their staff to spend some time each day in quiet contemplation.
In a nondescript room on Capitol Hill recently, “The Fine Print” met up with Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan as he joined about 20 Congressional staffers in a guided meditation session.
“I have a quiet strategy happening where I am talking with members of Congress, giving them articles on science behind it,” said Ryan, who started meditating in 2008.
“It just seems like everybody is going faster on a treadmill that just keeps getting faster and steeper and harder to just kind of ground yourself at some point during the day,” he said. “So, for me, it's been very helpful in combating sort of the high levels of stress and distraction from technology and information overload.”
After appreciating the effects of meditation in his own life, Ryan joined with California Democrat Rep. Tony Cardenas to establish “The Quiet Caucus.” The informal caucus offers a weekly group meditation for interested members of Congress and a separate weekly meeting that is open to Capitol Hill staff.
“I think it's one of those things where you have to meet people where they are, so I've been talking to tea party members of Congress, liberal Democratic members of congress and slowly just trying to warm them up to it to say this is not out of the mainstream,” he said.
The caucus is small and consists of only a handful of members, who Ryan said have come and gone throughout the year. But, he said, a quiet revolution seems to be catching on in Congress.
“I've had numerous members of Congress come up to me and very quietly say, ‘Hey, I'm really stressed out, what's that stuff you're doing?’ So they're looking for something,” Ryan said. “But what's been really heartening is the staff sessions that we have once a week. We normally get between 30 and 40 members of congressional staff that are here, from all ages, all political persuasions.”
In addition to being non-partisan, Ryan said the practice is non-denominational. A lifelong Catholic, Ryan said meditation does not conflict with his religion but is instead an extension of his upbringing, when was taught to spend time in daily contemplation and prayer.
Above all else, Ryan said the practice of meditation is about finding a way to slow down in a fast paced world.
“You've got to find something; it could be golf or it could be long runs or it could be yoga or it could be the rosary, whatever is for you,” he said. “But this particular practice is showing some real benefits in how it changes your brain, moves it more in balance and reduces your stress level and in 2014 in America who doesn't want that?”
For more of the interview with Ryan, including why he believes that meditation factored into the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl victory, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Hank Disselkamp, and Barry Haywood contributed to this episode.