Nirvana at Ground Zero

The Pentagon Meditation Club sits to make a stand

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Every Friday, in a quiet conference room half a dozen federal employees meet to practice meditation and other rituals designed to nourish their souls in that famed temple of enlightenment—the Pentagon. Founded in 1977, this faithful group of men and women has maintained what they call a “pilot light” of spirituality in the Pentagon despite hostility from bureaucrats and fundamentalist Christian co-workers. “This is a very transitory, high-pressure place,” Bart Ives, club president, tells Tricycle (Summer 1997). “The fact that this group had a 20th anniversary, small as we are, is phenomenal. We can’t advertise. I put up flyers and I come back an hour later and they’re torn down, as though people have nothing better to do but stand around and wait for them to go up.”

Still, regular meditators, like club founder Ed Winchester, say their practice has helped them narrow the distance between themselves and their critics—and maybe even change their workplace for the better. “I had an experience, an inner experience, of the Pentagon becoming my monastery,” says Winchester. “I came to the realization that fighting against the system, at least in my mind, wasn’t working. Somehow I had to recognize that I was a part of the system and the system was a part of me.” As a result, Ives is not completely certain he would leave the Pentagon for a more conventional monastery. Says he: “Where are you?”