I’ve written quite a lot in recent years about the benefits of stopping the mind (not thinking) for even a few moments on a regular basis. With a very interesting (and important) U.S. presidential election looming and large numbers of citizens stressing over the potential outcome as well as worrying about the many other issues facing us at this moment, I can think of no better time for us to collectively turn off our TVs and other electronic devices for just a few moments and simultaneously stop thinking, meditate on peace, sit silently or however you want to participate.
You might wonder what possible good this would do at an apparently critical time like this when we “should” be trying to think of solutions, campaigning for our preferred candidate, posting our opinions on social media, marching against violence….”doing something!” It is very likely the BEST thing we could do at this point and will probably do more to stimulate creative thinking and bring peace to this country (and to each of us individually) than anything else we could do.
I am personally going with my gut here, but there is considerable evidence that this is an effective exercise. In the past 40 years or so, a number of studies have been conducted using relatively small groups of persons trained in Transcendental Meditation meditating collectively on peace to reduce violence and generally improve the quality of life in areas like Jerusalem, Beirut and Nicaragua. The website of the World Peace Group states;
“The effect [of the group meditation] is spontaneous, immediate and systematic. Furthermore it does not rely on any form of social, political or diplomatic interaction between the meditating group and the effected community. The influence is created by just a small group of these meditators equivalent to a tiny fraction of the number in the rest of the population.
While the World Peace Group proposes to use groups of trained meditators to bring about world peace, I would like to suggest a less formal approach…at least with regard to our current national situation. For the next 20 days or so (at least), let us all stop for 5 minutes at 5:30 pm Pacific Time/8:30 Eastern each day and focus on peace. I mean stop thinking, stop composing responses to those with whom you disagree, turn off radios, phones, ipads, computers and TVs and just focus on peace…on the word, the feeling, etc. The idea may be a bit scary for you, but this can be accomplished even if you’re driving or engaged in other activities not requiring thought. It might surprise you, but not thinking does not turn off your awareness. Doing so while driving may actually improve your safety as much as turning off your radio or phone or other source of continuous noise.
If you’ve never exercised the “off switch to your mind”, I guarantee your mind will wander. Just accept this and don’t fight it or force anything. As soon as you notice your mind once again running from thought to thought as normal, gently swing your focus back to peace. If you have trouble focusing on a word or feeling, focus on your breath….on how the air feels as it passes through your nostrils on inhalation, on your chest filling, the pause at the end of the breath and then the feeling of the air moving back through your nostrils. Be patient with yourself and be as persistent as you would be learning any other new practice.
Does this sound absurd to you? It is certainly an approach most of us are not used to, but what harm can come of it? Has all our screaming and arguing and judging and name calling and stress done anything except escalate issues and cause us to lose sleep? I challenge all of you reading this to join me and to pass this on to everyone else you know, encouraging them to join in….beginning tonight, just before our third and final presidential debate. Let’s see if we can get things rolling by encouraging a peaceful and productive debate that gives us a real look at our two main candidates and what they stand for. What easier way to be involved is there than this? I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the effects.
What? : Stop thinking, meditate/focus on peace or just sit silently for 5 minutes (or longer)
When?: Each day at 5:30 pm Pacific time/8:30 Eastern beginning today, 10/19/2016
Why?: To help bring peace, understanding and cooperation back to this country and our leaders (to begin with)….and to relieve excess personal stress you might be experiencing.
Together we can do this! Please join me!