D.C. Honors Brain Wave Education

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 21, 2009

The ceremonial proclamation is one of the unheralded perks of local government officials. They get to honor anything and anyone they want. Sports teams. Science clubs. Firefighters. April has been declared Autism Awareness month in Montgomery County. Alexandria designated Days of Remembrance for Holocaust survivors a few years back. Annapolis has proclaimed farm animals sentient beings.

And now come brain waves.

Or brain wave vibration, to be exact.

The D.C. Council, in a flourish of whereases, proclaimed March 16 Brain Education Day, responding to a nationwide call from a brain-wave guru in Sedona, Ariz. (The Montgomery County Council was set to make the same proclamation Tuesday but canceled at the last minute. And supporters in Fairfax County missed the submission deadline.)

The council's formal resolution says brain education helps "create physical, emotional and social well-being, as well as higher achievement." The proclamation closes by praising its "potential to improve the human condition."

So what is brain education?

If a recent class at a Dahn Yoga Center in Alexandria is any guide, it's a whole lot of shaking. Students wear matching white uniforms, stand in a circle and, after vigorously and rhythmically pounding their bellies, shake. Their heads, their shoulders. Their hips, their knees. The shaking, practitioners say, vibrates the brain, calms brain waves and helps clear the mind.

"It's so much less weird than it sounds," practitioner Joanne Steller said after class. "It refreshes your mind."

Practitioners follow a five-step training system -- such as "brain versatilizing" -- to achieve better HSP, or "health, happiness and peace." The method was developed by Ilchi Lee, originally from South Korea, who oversees an international brain education organization headquartered in Sedona, otherwise known as the "New Age Capital" of the world.

Lee's followers approached local governments seeking to have their method of brain vibrating validated by official declaration.

Their efforts resulted in official Brain Education Day proclamations in New York; Busan, South Korea; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.; and now, the District. (Followers in Fairfax had a petition going a few years ago asking the county board to proclaim an Ilchi Lee Day, as the board did with Falun Dafa Week for Falun Gong practitioners in 2000.)

"It is very New Agey," said Desi Deschaine, spokesman for D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who sponsored the proclamation at the behest of a local businessman. It recognized practitioners who teach brain vibrating in public schools and senior centers, he said.

"It's not a role for government to endorse their methods," he said. "But it is a recognition of the fact that they're promoting education, promoting health awareness, and they're promoting peace and happiness. At a time like this, in our nation's capital, how can one be against health and peace and happiness?"

A similar proclamation in Montgomery was ready to go when staffers who vet ceremonial proclamations -- there are about two each week -- went to the brain education Web site to check the group out. "When we checked, we decided it was not appropriate," said council spokesman Neil Greenberger. "We like to use our good judgment to make sure something is appropriate for Montgomery County."

In the District, Deschaine said, practitioners have promised to go to the council office soon to teach staffers how to vibrate their brains.

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