The Epidemiology of Peace

Meditate_Tapasya_Dhyana

In 1993, a group of approximately 4,000 people practiced meditation in a focused and consistent way for a measured time period as part of an experiment in reducing crime in Washington DC through creating a more peaceful collective consciousness. The crime rate was significantly reduced. This was a successful, well-designed scientific experiment, and from the 1970s through the 1990s several others were done with similar results. This type of intervention hasn’t become a mainstay of public policy, though a study done in Merseyside, England found that it saved the local government money. Do we need more meditators? More people in in government who pay attention to these ideas?

Though I write fiction that involves psychic phenomena, it’s not the only reason I find the science behind it important. I’m reading Dr. Larry Dossey’s book One Mind, and I’ve been thinking about the effects our multiple minds have on the One Mind we all share—the interaction of our individual psychology with transpersonal psychology. It can be positive, like the meditation experiments. It can be negative, like the rising level of what I’ll call recreational anger in the United States. I get the impression there is an audience for anger—angry radio, angry TV, angry politics—and that the audience is getting pleasure out of this state of hostile arousal. I’m not one to enjoy outrage for the fun of it, so I can’t claim any insider insights into it. As an observer, I wonder, does it create a wave of disturbance leading to additional anger? Do negativity and meanness have a kind of viral quality that can spread through the shared psychic space of a culture? Is there any connection between our level of anger-for-fun and anger that kills? I don’t know the answers.

Still, I’d suggest that each individual contribute his or her drop of peace to the ocean of the collective consciousness through actions, thoughts and words as well as meditation. It’s an experiment worth trying. Imagine what would happen if we all practiced self-forgiveness and self-study. If we humans all sought moments of stillness and awareness of beauty. Paused to reflect before speaking and acting. Made a daily practice of seeing what Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield calls the “inner nobility” of others, whether they are family members, friends, opponents, or strangers. Perhaps we can change the world-mind, one careful, loving person at time. Our peace-minds would be the psycho-spiritual equivalent of the sterile male mosquitoes that scientists release into disease-ridden areas. No one gets killed. The problem stops reproducing. To continue my epidemiological analogy, when the effort is dropped, the mosquitoes find fertile partners again and the diseases they spread come back. We can’t take peace and wisdom for granted. Meditation is a called a practice for a reason.

Do you notice changes in your life if you keep up the practice?

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