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More recent devotees are decisively noncrystal. Eileen Harrington, who runs the hard-boiled consumer-fraud group of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, invited a meditation speaker to give a presentation after 9/11. Roughly half her staff is still at it. Bill Ford, the head of Ford Motors, meditates, as does a former chief of England's top-secret MI-5. Hillary Clinton has talked about meditating, and the Gores are converts. "We both believe in regular prayer, and we often pray together. But meditation--as distinguished from prayer--I highly recommend it," says the man who nearly became our President. Gore's TM mantra is not, as rumored, Florida.
Though I don't meditate as religiously, I can see Gore's point. Taking time out of our video-and Wi-Fi-drenched lives to rediscover the present is a worthwhile activity. And I felt a tangible difference when, in my postmeditative buzz, I would walk down the street hyperaware of my surroundings, like some not particularly useful superhero power. I could even get myself to not need to go to the bathroom if I concentrated on my bladder and accepted its fullness, though I'm not really sure this is a health benefit. But if I weren't one of the few people I know who need to be more active and less chill--I could use an anger-training class--I would meditate more. And if I ever find myself faced with trauma or disease, I think I'll pursue meditation. That's what Buddhists meant it for, after all, since they believe that life inevitably entails suffering. My only counterargument is that they came up with that suffering idea before television was invented. --Reported by David Bjerklie, Alice Park and David Van Biema/New York City, Karen Ann Cullotta/Iowa and Jeanne McDowell/Los Angeles