Seeking Site for a ‘Peace Palace’

Times Staff Writer

They fight their personal stress with meditation that they say causes levitation.

But this week followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were floating the idea of building a “Peace Palace” that they believe would help reduce tension and crime in Los Angeles.

Their proposed $4-million meditation center would be a place for 200 practitioners of a concept they call “yogic flying” to meet twice daily and radiate positive, calming vibrations into a community that they claim has become traumatized by fear and violence.

Backers of Transcendental Meditation, including actors Stephen Collins, Laura Dern, Heather Graham and Laura Harring as well as filmmaker David Lynch, met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles to unveil the palace plan.

But they acknowledged that they haven’t found a spot to put the east-facing, 20,000-square-foot neocolonial structure that they envision -- or lined up all the cash needed to pay for it.


Still, there was blissful optimism, as devotees of Maharishi might put it, that the Peace Palace would be built either in nearby Beverly Hills, near Los Angeles International Airport or west of the San Fernando Valley in Agoura Hills.

The Peace Palace would require a combination of residential and commercial zoning to allow Transcendental Meditation students to book one- or two-week stays for training purposes, local Transcendental Meditation leader Penny Hintz said. The building would not be considered a church because Transcendental Meditation is not a religion.

“We have three sites -- the one that gets the zoning first gets it,” explained John Hagelin, a national leader of Transcendental Meditation. He is heading a campaign to build 100 Peace Palaces in cities across the United States. So far, centers have opened in Bethesda, Md., Lexington, Ky. and Fairfield, Iowa.

“Meditation is going mainstream,” said Hagelin, who predicted that the planned network of Peace Palaces would have a “calming influence on surrounding social environments” in each city.

A proposed “U.S. Peace Government” would administer the 100 palaces, he said.

Graham, whose films include “Boogie Nights” and “Sidewalks of New York,” said she knows through her dozen years of meditation that it promotes “inner peace, so you don’t have to go out and have a war.”

Harring, who starred in Lynch’s film “Mulholland Drive” in 2001, said the Peace Palace “is a wonderful gift to give ourselves and Los Angeles.”

Lynch, who said he has practiced Transcendental Meditation for 30 years, agreed. “It’s not a pretty building where people strum guitars and sing about peace. It’s a peace factory,” he said.

Financing the local Peace Palace won’t be a problem, predicted Collins, who has starred in television’s “7th Heaven” and the movie “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” He said the eventual goal is to establish some 3,000 palaces worldwide.

Collins said he has practiced the advanced yogic flying technique since 1980. In it, followers claim that an “enlivened spinal column” causes a person’s body to momentarily rise into the air.

“It’s a form of levitation -- you’re actually lifted one or two feet by the exhilaration” that some describe “as ‘bubbling bliss,’ ” explained Transcendental Meditation spokesman Joseph Boxerman.

And devotees are confident, he said, that the Los Angeles Peace Palace plan will also get off the ground.