Collective Power for Change: Meditation and Prayer Uplift Humanity
Dec 05, 2016 03:34AM
By Jampa Mackenzie Stewart
Living in a time of unprecedented global challenges, we can easily feel a sense of despair or powerlessness toward having any ability to shift the tides of events. Yet the solution may be much closer than we realize.
We are faced with serious environmental issues, such as Fukushima, deforestation, global warming, vanishing species and the proliferation of GMOs. We are contending with the global expansion of terrorism and the fear and uncertainty it intentionally breeds. We are experiencing the economic angst from having once had a thriving middle class to having more and more wealth shifting to the “1 percenters” and less to the rest of us.
We are watching our democracy eroding into oligarchy since Citizens United allows unlimited and unchecked funding of candidates by corporations and the wealthy, influencing our elections.
All of these threats might make us want to crawl into a cave and never come out; we might try to block them out of our awareness with denial and retreat into television, social media, video games, drugs or alcohol. Yet we can recognize that our concerns over these developments reflect our goodness and power that cuts deeper than mere self-concern; it is actually an expression of our profound connection and compassion for all life and for the health and healing of the whole planet. It is our deepest virtue that cares for all creatures and for the happiness of future generations. Therein lies our greatest strength, our collective power for change.
“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world...we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while, writes Joanna Rogers Macy, PhD, an environmental activist and author, and a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory and deep ecology.. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.”
A.T. Ariyaratne, the founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in India, suggests that we merge our intentions with those of all the people in the world who share the active hope for positive change. This might seem a bit far-fetched at first glance, but consider the well-documented 1993 experiment by a group of Transcendental Meditation (TM) meditators. A brain wave coherence-creating group of TM-Siddhas conducted a two-month national demonstration project in Washington, D.C., to show how a group of meditators can reduce crime and social stress. The group began with about 800 meditators and increased to a maximum of 4,000 over the period of the trial.
Before the group began their meditation experiment, they publicly predicted that they would reduce violent crime—homicides, rapes and aggravated assaults, measured by the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics—in the city by 20 percent. Before the study, violent crime had been rising steadily during the first five months of the year. The chief of police at the time ridiculed their prediction, asserting that the only thing that would reduce crime that much would be 20 inches of snow.
A week or so into the study, violent crime began to decrease, and continued to drop until the end of the project. By the end, the maximum decrease in violent crime was 23.3 percent below the time series prediction for that time of year. This most significant lowering of the predicted crime rate happened when the size of the group was at its greatest during the final week of the experiment.
The statistical probability that this result might reflect chance variation in crime levels was less than two in one billion (p < .000000002).The research is considered extremely reliable by the usual standards of social science.
We don’t need to be an accomplished meditator or professional prayer healer to get results either. In 1988, doctors in San Francisco divided 393 coronary care unit patients admitted into two groups. The first group received no organized prayer, while the second half had people outside the hospital praying for their recovery.
The second group was further divided into two groups. Half were professional or experienced healers whose prayers were focused on specific healing outcomes, such as coronary arteries becoming unclogged or chest pain being reduced; this is called “specific prayer”.
The second half were amateurs, who simply prayed that the patients would receive whatever healing they needed; this is called “non-specific prayer”.
The research was conducted according to the highest double blind protocols. Neither the patients nor the doctors knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t. At the outset, both groups of patients were equally ill.
In the end—not too surprisingly—the group that was prayed for developed significantly less severe heart disease, were less likely to need mechanical help breathing, and consumed fewer antibiotics and diuretics. What was surprising was that of the two halves of the prayed for group, the half that received non-specific prayer did better than the half prayed for by the professional healers. Other studies tell a similar story.
It’s often said that the best things in life are simple. There are many ways to meditate while holding a benevolent and healing intention. If we already have a meditation or prayer practice of our own, we can spend part of it holding an aspiration and intention for the healing of our planet in whatever way suits us. There are also a few easy steps to guide us.
Begin by sitting in a comfortable position in a quiet, private place at a time with little disturbance.
Spend a minute or two observing any tensions in the body while breathing in; release the tensions one by one while breathing out. Come into a state of relaxation.
Select a healing intention upon which to focus. For example, we may wish for the end of fighting and warfare, or the eradication of a particular disease, or an end to poverty or crime. Imagine that happening and what it would be like if it were to come true.
Picture that intention merged with that of all the other people who hold the same wish. Feel the power of that collective intention, and see it coming to pass.
When ready to conclude, dedicate the energy of the practice to helping all living beings find peace, comfort and happiness.
Jampa Mackenzie Stewart is a meditation teacher, board certified acupuncturist, tai chi and qigong instructor, and author. He can be reached at Valley Spirit Wellness Center in Washington Depot or at [email protected]. See ad, page 17.