Call it the mind-over-murder approach to reducing violent crime in Cincinnati.
At 9 a.m. Saturday at Eden Park’s Mirror Lake, tai chi teacher Vince Lasorso will kick off what he calls the Greater Cincinnati 30-Day Experiment for Peace. The goal: get at least 3,000 people – or about 1 percent of the city’s population – to pray or meditate for 30 days, thereby creating a “peaceful field of consciousness” that he said would change “the energetic climate in which thoughts are formed.”
Lasorso sees a need to act. On Wednesday the city recorded its 29th homicide of the year.
He and his wife, Connie, own the alternative health-care shop Whatever Works Wellness Center and White Willow School of Tai Chi in Silverton. He says studies have shown that if 1 percent of a community practices meditation and other inner peace techniques, the crime rate can dip more than 20 percent.
In transcendental meditation circles, that’s known as the Maharishi effect, named for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a mystic who became famous in the 1960s after teaching the Beatles to meditate.
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“Pure malarkey” is what Bob Park calls it. He’s a physics professor at the University of Maryland and author of “Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud.”
“It would be great if we could reduce unpleasantness by meditating,” Park said. “Certainly while you’re meditating you’re not causing any unpleasantness. But beyond that the effect is zero.”
Lasorso is undeterred. He has expanded the Cincinnati experiment beyond transcendental meditation.
“We’re talking about any kind of prayer, any kind of meditation, any kind of song, contemplations – anything that puts you into a peaceful state of mind…which could even include running.”
Lasorso doesn’t expect 3,000 people to show up at Eden Park. He said beneficial results can occur if people participate elsewhere. He has posted details of how to reach a state of inner peace at www.movementsofpeace.org.
“I’m confident this will have an effect (on crime),” he said. “I don’t know how measurable it will be.”
A Cincinnati police spokesman said the department wouldn’t comment on the peace experiment, which begins during a month when stepped-up efforts by police in Over-the-Rhine have resulted in hundreds of arrests.
Lasorso says that besides reducing crime, the goal is to get participants to “break their cycles of stress and to re-establish hope” for a better community.