NIH Mind-Body Week canceled

I just got an unexpected message from Rachel Permuth-Levine, the organizer of the National Institutes of Health Mind-Body Week, the latest installment of a series of events that NIH has served an institutional umbrella for. The conference this year was really shaping up as a compelling gathering of presenters (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Alan Finger, Timothy McCall, etc.) and demos of yoga, meditation, tai chi. It’s not the same as a high-profile Yoga Journal conference, but still dealt with fundamental issues. Look at its Facebook page for details. I was even planning on taking a few days off to attend. It was part of Yoga Month.

Here’s her message:

I am writing to inform you that the NIH has decided to cancel the proposed NIH Mind-Body Week (MBW), scheduled for Sept 8-11, 2009. Subsequent to initial discussions among planners about a MBW event, the NIH was given the enormous opportunity and attendant responsibility of funding an unprecedented $8.2 billion to support scientific research priorities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The period proposed for holding the MBW is exactly when much of the NIH will be focused on ensuring that all of the successful ARRA applicants receive their awards prior to the end of the NIH fiscal year on September 30, 2009.

We appreciate your efforts in developing MBW and regret any inconvenience caused by the change in plans.

This cancellation is really baffling! Two months before the event is to take place, it’s called off because the NIH can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, figuratively speaking. Or because it suffers from institutional attention deficit disorder — if some guests are doing yoga while the NIH managers are crunching numbers for funding research grants, the bureaucrats might get distracted and hit the wrong key on their computers.

This move just does not make sense, with apologies to Rachel, who, I am sure, feels embarrassed and disappointed. There has to be a more rational explanation for the NIH backing out of the event (conspiracy theories welcome). And the NIH is dumping this news on a Friday afternoon to make sure that it gets buried over the weekend — there’s proof that something fishy is going on!