Posts Tagged With: freedom

A Collective Moment of Silence

peace

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.

This powerful and invisible effect has been documented dozens of times in fifty research studies (Watch video) and is now known as the Super Radiance effect.”

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!

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Gardens and Community

 

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I read recently that most hunter/gatherer peoples spent an average of about four hours/day working on the essentials of life—gathering food, erecting or maintaining shelters, making clothing, etc.—and the rest of their day playing or otherwise enjoying themselves!  When did we jump off that boat and start swimming upstream?  Some of the principle reasons they enjoyed this kind of freedom are they cooperated and owned very little in the way of individual possessions.  Somewhere along the line, we drifted into our own places, started gathering stuff about us, buying vehicles so we can even travel in our own space and working at least 8 hours/day (double that of hunter/gatherers!) to keep ahead of our debts!  In the process, we have isolated ourselves in our homes, glued ourselves to TVs and other electronic devices where our only “communities” are nothing more than images and/or words…and now sounds on a screen!  I joked with a friend recently saying that while it is nice to see and hear loved ones on our computer screens, it is an experience similar to that of visiting a strip club….you can look, but you can’t touch!…which seems a bit like self torture to me!

 We have gained a few things…like more privacy maybe…from our move away from community, but if you consider it even briefly, it becomes clear we have lost much more than we have gained.  In short, we have burdened ourselves with debt, buried ourselves in stuff, and in our quest for more and more, have separated ourselves not just from each other, but from everything around us!  For a great example of this process, you might read, Ancient Futures;  Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg Hodge (see also the documentary film “The Economics of Happiness”).  I recently spent three months living at an ashram and despite the fairly rigorous schedule and restrictions typical of a religious retreat, I had an amazing time and realized that I thrive in a close-knit community environment.  I suspect many, if not all of us would respond well to increases in our sense of community.  Churches and other organizations fill some of our needs in this area, but getting together a few times a week is not the same experience as living close and working together toward common goals, sharing resources and even meals at times and enjoying harvests and other special events as a community.  Babies attended without touch and affection will fade away and die.  Despite the image of the “rugged individualist” we often try to project, we humans are social creatures…we need contact, we need a community in which to blossom.

 The interesting thing about many of the “problems” we get ourselves wrapped up in and stress over is that as we are killing ourselves worrying about possible solutions, they are quietly solving themselves!  I am ecstatic to see the growing number of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture…small local membership farms) and inner city community gardens around the country, the popularity of programs like WOOFing (volunteering and learning at organic farms around the world), the increasing interest in permaculture and the move toward small, self-sustaining communities of which there are now over 1,000 in North America (see www.ic.org).  Large numbers of people are realizing that most of the problems we’re facing today are directly related to the sense of separateness that has developed along with our quest for “independence” and emphasis on personal gain.  More and more are discovering (or re-discovering!) the great satisfaction and joy that comes not just from producing and consuming wholesome food and developing sustainable ways of living, but also from working together and serving something bigger than themselves…and being part of a community.  I just read a slogan for a city’s community garden program that states “Gardens build community!” It is hard to imagine a more powerful tool for positive growth than people working together with their hands in the dirt, raising wholesome food for all to enjoy!

 I’m not suggesting that we can all meet our needs and those of our families working just 4 hours a day, but the “work” we do doesn’t need to feel like work.  We can’t all “go back to the farm” or become hunter/gatherers again, but there are some very helpful steps we can all take in that direction and for those inclined to step away from the consumer-driven life, there are some great options available.  Initial steps could be as simple as learning how to sprout and growing live foods on your windowsill or counter.  Success with this might lead to container or tower gardening or small hydroponic systems, or backyard or rooftop gardening if you have the room.  Involve everyone you can, share the knowledge you gain, form a community garden or your own intentional community;  join an existing community that is growing its own food. Properly-designed gardens take less water, require fewer chemicals (or better yet, NO chemicals) and much less of our attention and energy to maintain than lawns and can also shave a lot off our grocery (and health care) costs!  There is no reason for anyone anywhere to go hungry!  What are we waiting for?  Just garden!  Find your community!  Find yourself!

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