Here's something to think about if you're feeling a bit out of whack this morning:
A group of Soviets wants you to come to their country, cavort in their woods and learn how to "create thyself anew," as their retreat brochure proclaims.
"We see as our main task -- improving the ecology of the human being," says Ivan Muhrigin, director of a construction firm and member of a delegation of Soviets traveling around the United States to both spread the word of their holistic health center and learn from the burgeoning American movement.
The Soviets are interested particularly in the spiritual components of healing -- the alignment of body and soul -- they said at a recent Common Boundary conference in Crystal City attended by about 2,000 men and women, primarily mental health professionals from around the country.
"We're very happy," said Muhrigin through an interpreter, "to have a spiritual mother in America."
When Muhrigin was 50, he says, "I came to the edge of my life, completely exhausted, working for the wonderful tomorrow. I looked behind me. I had no soul. I had lost it. So I backtracked, and from a spiritual foundation built myself up again."
Muhrigin had been operated on for tuberculosis and then contracted hepatitis through a blood transfusion. "I was quite sure I was going to die. My digestive system was all messed up; my immune system was very low."
And now after eight years of "working on my body and soul," Muhrigin is here to persuade Americans to do the same. And if they can visit a Soviet holistic center, all the better. The center Muhrigin started because of his own experience in healing is one of two holistic retreats in Naberezhnyie Chelny, a city of about 500,000 located on the Upper Volga about 600 miles east of Moscow. Between the two of them -- the other center was started by a vice president of a truck manufacturing factory -- about 20,000 employees and their families are served.
Their centers are considered prototypes in the growing Soviet holistic health movement. Until recently, holistic medicine was practiced only in secrecy because of fear of punishment. Now even the mayor of the city often checks in for seminars.
"I see people who work under me as one family," says Muhrigin. "If one person is ill, we all are ill. We must respect the whole hierarchy of nature."
He encourages his employees to get in touch with nature, whatever their circumstances, by participating in a host of programs offered by his company's "Rehabilitation and Prophylactic Center, Culture of Spirituality and Health."
As the brochure explains:
"Here you will have a good rest, get your soul and body healthier in unity with Nature, feel the reality of understanding secrets of the Universe and their powerful influence on Man's health."
The center, continues the brochure, "is occupied not with maladies but with Man... . The Center makes use of new nonmedicinal techniques allowing to bring Man back to his essence, his way of uniting with nature. It also helps Man restore the completeness of his natural qualities through the harmony of soul and body.
"Those full of aspiration will acquire a psychophysical key to their health."
Essentially, the center and its staff of nontraditional doctors and other healers is interested in maintaining and restoring "the balance of microelements in the human organism." Among disciplines employed: yoga, meditation, acupressure, massage.
Muhrigin gets up at 5 a.m. daily and meditates for one or two hours before work. He encourages twice-daily, hour-long meditation breaks among his employees. "They become more conscientious and more conscious."
But it is the week-long nature retreats that clearly gladden Muhrigin's heart. His craggy features go soft and his eyes glisten as he raises his arms to the heavens and declares, "We are all part of the earth, part of the sky ... We are everywhere, all of us, and I want my workers to know that. You should see the people ... whole families change ... after a week of being barefoot and relaxed in the woods."
And just a sampling of what could be in store for you too, if you accept the Russian invitation. Among activities noted in their bulletin:
"Hiking about the woods, picking mushrooms, berries, medicinal herbs ... hiking along the picturesque banks of the Kama River ... meditative training of unity with Nature ... bike-riding in the woods ... long-forgotten dances of love and tenderness ... exotic Russian Winter skiing, skating, sledding, downhill skiing, Russian baths with birches, snow, ice-hole ... "
Muhrigin shrugs, glee enveloping his face. "Free."
Come on. Do you know how many Americans might show up?
He considers for a minute and says that he may have to work out something with a travel agency, or arrange exchanges of, say, lessons in different healing techniques or ... But he is obviously unconcerned; the universe, as the saying goes, will take care of the details.
For more information on the Rehabilitation and Prophylactic Center, write Larichev Vladimir, U.S.S.R., 423824, Naberezhnyie Chelny, 10/53-1FL.48. The Soviet delegation recommends corresponding through Federal Express.