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Mindful : June 2013
Republicans—who tell him they’ve read his book and agree with its ideas. So I won’t name names. But let’s just say the politicians starting to see his point of view, and even engaging in deep breathing, are plentiful. They know stress when they see it, and they’ve had enough. Ryan sees his own role as cultivating interest in mindfulness practice over time. When Republicans tell him they do yoga, he listens and invites them to join him. Or he suggests they drop by the weekly meditation session in Rayburn. With the support of his congressional colleag ue Jared Polis (D-CO), the Mediator ’s Foundation, which encourages leaders to work for a “peaceful, just, and sustainable world,” sent every member on Capitol Hill a copy of A Mindful Nation. Ryan wishes he could have convinced the Republicans who have read it to write a blurb for the paperback edition that’s just come out. I ask if he tries to pitch his mindfulness agenda when he senses a lawmaker who is open to the idea. Not right away, Ryan says. “I want them to understand mindfulness on a very personal level and experience it themselves, then they will under- stand why I am pushing legislation and why it’s important.” Months later, we’re talking about guns in the wake of a new tragedy—the mass shooting in New- town, Connecticut. Rya n believes the nation has an opportunity to take a fresh look at mental health. “The experts tell us we need to prevent mental illness by intervening as ea rly as possible,” he says. “Part of the prevention we could maybe agree on is social a nd emotiona l learning programs a nd a little bit of mindfulness practice in the schools.” Ryan’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Educa- tion has directed nearly $1 million to schools in his district for a study to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness and social and emotional learning, known to educators as SEL. He has been told that when mindfulness is taught in a n educational setting, behaviors such as pushing on the playground are less f requent and fewer kids are sent to the principal’s office. Instead, they sit in the “peace corner” when they act up. His aim? Stan- dardizing the practice so it’s part of the fundamen- tals of being a teacher. He a rgues, too, that schools can use meditation as a recruiting tool because the statistics prove its effectiveness. This brings us to a discussion of how Ryan ended up practicing mindfulness. “ I was always interested in trying to figure out how to discipline my mind, calm my mind down, and be in a peaceful → Ryan regroups in his office on Capitol Hill, checking C-SPAN to see how much time is left before he needs to go to the House floor to vote. June 2013 mindful 47