Last night I had the blessing of participating in an intimate meditation group. Four of us met in the home of my friend, Gary, in order to experience sitting in silence together. Gary enjoys keeping his front door wide open to let in the fresh air. So of course in addition to the cooler evening air, we also experienced the sounds of cars driving by and dogs barking.
After the meditation, we discussed our thoughts and experiences. One thing mentioned was how interesting it was to practice meditating through the interruption of outside noises and even a ringing telephone in our midst. We talked about how good it felt to be still and silent in the midst of those disturbances.
Immediately I noticed how this was a microcosmic example of what we can all strive to do in the “regular” world on a more macrocosmic level. Can we learn to maintain a feeling of stillness and calmness in the midst of a sometimes chaotic and disturbing world? Can we maintain our center when there is war, pollution, sickness, terrorism, and natural disasters?
Some people may think that to be calm in the face of sad and frightening events is to be callous and apathetic. I disagree. It is, of course, okay to feel the feelings of despair or sadness which may arise upon learning of certain tragic or disheartening events. But we cannot allow ourselves to stay stuck in that energy because it only creates a downward spiral – personally and, most likely, globally as well. Being in a state of depression does not facilitate healing or resolution of any kind. In fact, it often contributes to an atmosphere of lethargy. However if we are able to come back to our center and radiate stillness and equanimity (a term often used in Buddhism meaning “evenness of mind especially under stress”) our calmness will radiate out into the world and affect the macrocosm in a greatly beneficial way.
The Dalai Lama, who is extremely interested in science, wrote about this very thing:
“Experiments have already been carried out that show some practitioners can achieve a state of inner peace, even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances. Dr. Paul Ekman of the University of California at San Francisco told me that jarring noises (one as loud as a gunshot) failed to startle the Buddhist monk he was testing. Dr. Ekman said he had never seen anyone stay so calm in the presence of such a disturbance.”
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama goes on to say:
“Reflection shows that in our lives much of our suffering is caused not by external causes but by such internal events as the arising of disturbing emotions….
If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial….
We would do well to remember that the war against hatred and terror can be waged on this, the internal front, too.”
I confess I am still a novice when it comes to meditation. It is definitely not a practice I have mastered in any way, shape, or form. However, I see the benefits. I KNOW that if I practice regularly, it will improve the quality of my life immensely. And, I am beginning to realize it can also affect the world rather profoundly – especially if I am one of many.
All the sudden I thought of the words: “Be still and know I am God.” If we could each take the time to sit in stillness and silence, we might come to know peace. Our human minds may not be able to comprehend the millions of things that occur daily in this world, but perhaps if we learn to silence that endless chattering of our mind, we can come to a place of equanimity and, perhaps even, trust. It is all in God’s hands.
 Tenzin Gyatso, DHARAMSALA, India. “The Monk in the Lab,” The New York Times, April 26, 2003, as quoted in Dr. Neala Peakes’s The Journey of Spiritual Cultivation: Healing through Meditation and Spiritual Practice, Synergy Press: Atlanta, GA, pp. 68-69.
 There are a multitude of articles which could be cited right here. The one that leaps immediately to mind is an impressive article regarding a large group of people meditating in Washington, D.C. and how the crime rates did appear to decline significantly as a result of that meditation. http://istpp.org/crime_prevention/