The above quote caught my attention earlier this year. It is an astonishing assertion - that we could end violence on the planet in a single generation merely by engaging in inward reflection.
It has been an extremely violent year. We have seen continuing war across the world. In Denver, where I live, the past few months have given us one of the most devastating mass shootings in history, the gunman a youth in his early twenties; and the past few weeks we have had to deal with the horrifying abduction and murder of a young girl by, it appears, a 17 year-old boy.
Could these tragedies have been averted by training in inward reflection?
I work in a school for emotionally disturbed young people. I have always been struck by the fact that the de-facto response of these students to most situations that cause any stress is to suggest a violent solution, if not to act out in a violent manner. It seems as though very little is below the level of people deserving to be injured or killed for causing any sort of inconvenience. Certainly, these students are on the extreme end of the bell curve in their responses, but I see this out in the public at large - as people, frequently, show road rage, cuss at each other, extend their middle fingers, or otherwise seem to wish harm upon others for often very simple and innocent oversights or mistakes of which all of us are guilty.
It sort of seems, sometimes, that many Americans live their lives moving from one little temper-tantrum to the next.
Certainly, if we struggle so much, and become enraged about small conflicts, then the large conflicts create out-of-control situations.
The idea of meditation is a simple one. It is non-religious, although people can make it religious if they want... in fact, people can make it almost anything they want. It is simply a process of turning away from the stresses of the external world, and connecting with the balance that in natural in an inner world.
Most people I know seem extremely focused on the external world. They are caught up in their belongings, their jobs, their schedules and their routines. People are frightened by emotion, and when faced with more intense emotions, look more to the external world for guidance.
The inner world is an important place, and it is important to be in touch with it.
Research has proven that inward reflection and meditation result in reducing stress, increasing happiness, better cognition, the ability to have better control over one's emotions, and so on and so on.
In a school I read about, they had the students engage in 20 minutes of meditation in the morning, and their test scores increased dramatically.
I have also read about other schools where this has been tried, but where parents objected because they felt that meditation was related to Eastern religion. In fact, meditation has been a vital part of Christianity and Judasim, although it is most often referred to as prayer or contemplation. The contemplatives in the Christian church or Kabbalist traditions are every bit as advanced in their meditation techniques as Eastern meditators. Meditation can be adapted to any belief system, and is also just as effective as a non-religious practice, as one can merely get in touch with their inner thoughts and emotions.
A lot of people have told me they can't meditate because they don't have time. A reality is that meditation actually will cause people to become more relaxed and efficient, and will create more time for people. As an old saying goes, "Everyone should meditate for a half-hour a day - unless you are busy. Then you should meditate for an hour a day!" I have found in my life that during the times I let meditation go, I feel that life is busier, and I feel more exhausted. I also engage, during these times, in more escapist activities, such as television watching.
As far as the difference between escapism and meditation, I think Eckhart Tolle does a nice job of describing different levels of consciousness: There is the state of everyday consciousness, with which we are all familiar. Then there is the state of 'super consciousness' which is the state of meditation. He describes escapist activities, such as TV and video games, as be 'sub-consciousness' (meaning below the level of everyday consciousness - not the subconscious mind) which is where we sink into a state in which we have turned our minds off and are easily subjected to the will of others - or of the television. This can result in fatigue, and interfere with peoples' abilities to make good decisions.
So, how does this all relate to peace?
I am a firm believer that external peace will only come from internal peace. As that Dalai Lama implied, if all of our children were schooled in the methods of meditation, and became masters of inner peace, our problems would be resolved simply and without violence.
I have a hard time picturing people who meditate flipping off people who cut them off in traffic or yelling at a waitress because their glass is dirty. And it seems that it takes working at this level to affect real peace on a larger scale.
I think another offshoot of meditation is that it realigns our values with internal needs rather than external wants. It is easy to argue that war has become profitable in our world, as thus people are willing to easily wage war upon others because people make large amounts of money. Likewise, people steal and kill for material possessions on a smaller scale.
Meditation takes away some of the emphasis on material goods, and places more value on inner virtues. If people see that respecting each other is more important than profit, the world would change immediately.
So, how does one start to meditate?
There are all sorts of meditation tools out there. Here is an example of a simple, guided meditation available free on youtube. And there are thousands of them!
There are thousands of books, CDs, meditation programs, classes and so forth to help people meditate, and probably most of them will work. There does not have to be a great investment of money or time (meditate for 30 minutes instead of watching one show.)
Rumi said "What nine months does for the embryo, Forty early mornings will do for your growing awareness." Meaning that 40 days of meditation (he preferred the early morning, as does Wayne Dyer...) can alter a person's consciousness. (There is a great winter program based on this, 'The Winter Feast for the Soul' )
The last thing I would like to address here is how collective focus can alter the world:
As Mimi has thousands of us blogging about peace, when many people focus on one thing, there are real, measurable changes that occur. Dr. Dean Radin has done research for many years about collective focus. In his research, he has random number generators all over the world. They just run constantly, generating random numbers. There is a predictable randomness to this most of the time. However, when large numbers of people focus upon one thing, such as 9/11, during the O.J. Simpson trial, during Hurrican Katrina, etc... The number generators suddenly start becoming less random for a period of time. I can assume that the recent Hurricane Sandy event will affect these number generators.
So, if thousands of people start focusing inward every day, and focusing on inner peace, I can imagine this could have a profound influence upon our planet.
I have recently recorded a guided meditation that I am offering as a free download. It is a little more advanced meditation, but anyone can try it. It takes one through a cleansing of the chakras (a kriya) and then raises one's energy through the chakras (a kundalini.) The background tones are singing bowls, didgeridoos and vocal overtones, which have been shown to vibrate the chakras and create healing. It is based on a combination of Yogic and Shamanic meditation traditions and techniques.
Here is the link. Please feel free to enjoy it and share it, and I would certainly appreciate any feedback. This is really sort of a rough draft, and I would like to polish it and have it available in a more professional form, eventually.
Axis Mundi Kriya Guided Meditation