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Meditation gets cool and sexy makeover aimed at youth

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Max Simon is a man with a mission -- to give the ancient art of meditation a cool, sexy makeover that will appeal to young people who have never heard of Maharishi Yogi.

Forty years after Western baby boomers started dabbling in yoga and Indian transcendental practices, Simon, 25, is ditching some of the traditions in a bid to encourage 1 million young people to connect with their inner selves.

“Almost everything that is out there in the consciousness-based meditation community doesn’t necessarily vibe with my generation,” said Simon, a former yoga and meditation teacher at The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Southern California.

“We are taking away all the stuff that appears weird or that scares people away. And we are adding in stuff that my generation thinks is cool, like fashion and music and entertainment,” Simon told Reuters.

Out goes the focus on healing, chanting and traditional hand mudras (gestures). In comes dancing, chocolate and meditation in noisy places like the Hollywood street outside the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Meditation and yoga have boomed in the West since first gaining attention in the 1960s through India’s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his association with The Beatles. Numerous studies have shown meditation to be effective in lowering blood pressure and easing depression.

Bob Rose, president of the Meditation Society of America, said it’s impossible to quantify the numbers. But he said, “Tens of millions of people meditate in the United States and half the world meditates religiously on a daily basis.”

‘AUTHENTICITY IS SEXY’

Yet, after travelling in the United States for four years as a teacher, Simon said he was dismayed to find that traditional methods were not attracting younger people.

He launched his provocatively titled “getselfcentered” movement and a Web site (www.getselfcentered.com) in February in Los Angeles. He says he already has more than 1,000 online members across the U.S. and Canada.

“Part of the misconception around meditation is that you have to be this totally quiet, calm guy who lives in the mountains. You don’t necessarily have to disengage from society. Meditation can make you more connected to it,” Simon said.

“We teach that authenticity is sexy, which means that as you become deeply connected to who you are and stop trying to be something you are not, you become irresistibly attractive to the world around you.”

Next month, Simon plans to take his message into the corporate world by holding meditation sessions in offices and training employees to carry on the work.

In a recent bid to reach out, 26 getselfcentered supporters silently dropped down onto the sidewalk amid the tourists and celebrity look-alikes outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

“Everyone was so curious they stopped moving and talking. The Johnny Depp pirate guy sat down with me, Snoopy stood behind me. Even if it was just for a couple of moments this element of silence washed over Hollywood,” said Simon.

“And that was really cool, because Hollywood is crazy.”

Editing by Mary Milliken and Xavier Briand

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