- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Typically, you visit museums to learn about the world outside of the self: the pyramids of Giza or the art of Henri Matisse, for example.

Not so with the recently opened Meditation Museum in Silver Spring, whose aim is for visitors to learn about the inner self.

“Right now we’re showcasing art by Marie Binder, and on the right side of the artwork we pose questions to the visitors that invite them to reflect on themselves,” says Jenna Mahraj, known as Sister Jenna, director of the museum. The venue is run by the Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual movement founded in India.

Sister Jenna, who also is the local director of Brahma Kumaris, says the free museum has received 700 unique visitors of all religious and ideological backgrounds since opening in mid-July.

“We’ve had a very positive response,” she says. “Mostly people say that the minute they walk in it’s a different world.”

That world currently is inhabited by an exhibit called “The Confluence Age,” comprising reflective messages and questions as well as the artwork by Ms. Binder, which is dreamy and flowing and portrays globes, paths to heaven and fantasy landscapes.

Through the museum’s speakers flow quiet New Age music.

Next to one of Ms. Binder’s pieces is this thoughtful question: “When we are full of powers inside our beings we feel experienced and in charge of our lives. When we lack inner power we are influenced by everything outside of us. How will that make you feel?”

The exhibits will rotate; the next theme and artist are planned for later this fall. The museum also offers evening workshops, lectures and classes.

After viewing the exhibit, visitors are invited to spend some time - 10 minutes or so - in the Quiet Room, a tiny, sparsely furnished white-walled space. Among the directions for entry: Leave behind ordinary thoughts, imagine yourself entering into a pure and innocent space in your mind, breathe and create peaceful, positive thoughts.

Explains Sister Jenna, “First you reflect and observe your thoughts in silence. And then you redirect the thoughts that are not healthy.”

This can help improve the quality of thinking, she says, and as the thinking becomes increasingly positive, the whole sense of self improves.

“It’s a way to take charge of your own life,” she suggests, adding that meditation is not “hocus-pocus” but a practical life skill.

The first step, though, is silence.

“Silence is the absence of negative and wasteful thinking,” she says. “And it allows you to go beyond the limited concept you hold for yourself, giving you a glimpse of the you that is larger than that.”

WHERE: The Meditation Museum, 8236 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

INFORMATION: 301/588-0144 or 301/660-0065; www.bkwdc.org/meditation-museum.html

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily


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