Patch portrait: meditate on this

Holding a little bell in one hand, Dr. Om Johari instructed the eight meditation students before him in a Niles classroom to focus on breathing in and breathing out.

As they focused, he occasionally tapped the bell, producing a chime that reminded them to bring their attention back to their breathing.

“His meditation techniques have helped me so much,” said one of the class members, who didn’t want her name used. “It helps me not to worry about things as much as I used to.”

That’s exactly why Johari, 70, facilitates the meditation classes, as well as teaching laughter meditation, sudoku and a certified driving course for people age 50-plus that can get them a discount on their auto insurance.

He started life as a scientist, leaving his native India to get his Ph.D in materials science, specializing in electron microscopy at the University of California-Berkeley.

He worked for 11 years at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, then started his own…

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business in 1977, publishing and organizing conferences in the electron microscopy field.After retiring in 2001, Johari was looking for activities to do in his retirement and decided to teach driving safety courses to seniors. When he was teaching a woman who complained that her mind raced too much when she tried to drive, he taught her a meditation technique. Staff at the Wheeling Senior Center heard about that, and asked him to teach meditation.

It went over so well that when he offered to teach sudoku, gratitude meditation and laughter meditation, the answer came back an unequivocal “yes.”

Now he teaches those subjects and more, such as a program for cancer survivors, at the Niles Senior Center and senior centers and park districts in Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and elsewhere. He lives in Elk Grove Village with his wife; one son teaches at Stanford University and the other runs a business in Minneapolis.

Johari teaches nearly every day, and says it energizes him.

“I don’t count the hours,” he said, “because it’s so much fun to do it.”

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