The crowd filed onto the lawn outside Weaver Street Market, clutching candles in paper cups, encircling itself in light. Some brought rugs; others sat with legs crossed on a carpet of dead leaves under an oak tree. A guitar strummed, cuing the chorus of 70 or so people to begin its chant.
They came together Monday night for The Meditation for the Nation, an antidote to traditional political activism. The idea was simple: There is power in numbers. The more who gathered to use chanting and meditation as political tools, the more powerful and positive the impact on the election.
With the 2004 presidential election on the horizon, they channeled their collective energy into the universe, making spiritual endorsements of their candidates, casting their votes in the metaphysical plane.
The event was a collaboration among five yoga companies throughout the Triangle, held simultaneously at yoga centers in Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro and Pittsboro.
"We are sending some healing vibes to those who are making the decisions for us, and sending some vibes out to the voters to get that vote going," said Donia Robinson, owner of Carrboro Yoga Co., which co-sponsored the meditation. "Let's send our energy out to the candidates, to those who have chosen to walk that path, and let's visualize a nation coming together and moving forward."
The Meditation for the Nation was one of many such gatherings nationwide of believers in the power of positive thinking. In the weeks leading up to the election, they came together, convinced that they can move mountains with their minds.
Master Hughes, executive director of The National Meditation Center in Jacksonville, Texas, said political meditation is growing in popularity nationwide as people look for alternative forms of political expression. Hughes himself held an election meditation Sunday night and said he has seen lists of several thousand people nationwide who either had already participated in similar sessions or were planning to do so Monday night.
"People are looking for a way to achieve something, and they have lost faith in the normal process," he said. "[Meditation] brings people together of like mind, and helps them have a sense of doing something positive, that there are people out there who believe in the same thing they do, in the power of social change."
Though many of the people who gathered for The Mediation for the Nation in Carrboro were John Kerry supporters, the event was nonpartisan and nondenominational. Some came to channel energy to their chosen candidates, some came to meditate for the country as a whole, and some came to relieve pre-election stress.
Caroline Butler, 55, of Carrboro said she was drawn to the gathering because she said it was a good way to counterbalance what she said has been a negative election.
"I'm really into positive thinking and positive solutions and healing," she said. "I am meditating for the country in general. I will be thinking positive thoughts for my candidate of choice as well."
Abby Lees came out because she said it was the only way her voice could be heard. She's only 16 and can't vote.
"I'm really stressed about the election. It is so important, and I can't do anything," she said. "I didn't want to feel like there's nothing I can do."
Sitting on a beige puffy pillow that matched his shirt, Gary Bernstein, 31, crossed his legs and put his hands on his knees. He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly.
Bernstein had never meditated before. He said he thought it would be a good way to relieve some of his anxiety about the election.
"I am meditating for my own peace of mind," he said. "I need to relax about it. I've been thinking about tomorrow for the last four years."
Staff writer Kayce T. Ataiyero can be reached at 932-2004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.