I don’t think it is particularly pessimistic to say that we are living in very difficult times.
War, climate change, terrorism, racism…not to mention fear-mongering politicians who seem to be operating at the basest level of humanity leading our countries.
Sometimes the problems seem so huge and insurmountable it can be easy to feel saddened, overwhelmed and powerless in the face of them.
Many times I have thought: What can one little person like me do?
Well, here’s what I really believe.
As well as getting active in my community in a more practical way, and supporting causes I care about, I have gone deeper into my spiritual practice.
These issues we see being played out on the world stage are magnifications of the issues we deal with in our personal lives. The world’s ego is no different from our own small egos. We express our division, fear, judgements and hard-heartedness in our own small lives and minds every day.
The world needs awake humans more than ever.
Humans in the process of transcending their egos, living with open hearts and eyes.
The world needs our meditation practice.
Every time we sit down on our cushion, bit by bit it we will not only soften our own heart and develop inner peace but we will start to affect everyone we come into contact with in subtle but far reaching ways.
To quote the Confucius:
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
And if you want some more concrete evidence, have you heard about the meditation and crime study done in Washington in 1993?
Four thousand Transcendental Meditation practitioners collectively meditated over the two-month trial in Washington with the express intention of reducing violent crimes by 20 percent in the area. The Chief of Police was extremely skeptical at the time, saying that the only thing that could reduce the crime rate by that much would be 20 inches of snow. By the end of the trial, violent crime had been reduced by a whopping 23.3 percent! The statistical probability that this result could reflect chance variation in crime levels was less than two-in-one billion.
When I did a Vipassana retreat in May this year, we were taught how to offer our practice up to the greater good using metta (loving-kindness intention). Now, when I finish my meditation session, I say these words in my head and imagine the inner peace I feel radiating out in all directions:
May all beings be free from suffering,
May all beings be free from hatred, anger and ill-will,
May all beings experience peace and liberation,
May all beings share in my peace,
May all beings share in my merits.
The last line about sharing merits means that I acknowledge that my meditation practice is not just for me. The more peace I generate in myself, the more it affects the world around me—it serves as a reminder that taking time to meditate is not selfish or unimportant but part of something bigger than me—and that as I benefit and grow from my practice, so do those around me.
This also helps me to stay inspired with my practice…sometimes it is so tempting to skip a meditation session, so it helps to remember: the world needs our peace as much as our own chaotic minds do.
Author: Sharee James
Image: elephant archives
Editor: Travis May