by Stewart Bitkoff
Listen friends, love is like the sun.
The heart without love is nothing but a piece of stone.
Over the last few weeks, I have watched with interest the growing effect of the occupy Wall Street protests and movement. On one level, these protesters are merely voicing the unrest that is building in America and across the world; for indeed this voice of protest is now growing into a worldwide movement. The average person is weary of having their future taken away from them by greedy government, politicians, religious leaders and masters of business.
In this consumption of the people’s birth right, it is the young that are most vulnerable, have the energy, and strength that is required to correct the imbalance. (See The Star Child posting http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uspa&c=words&id=11362 for a beautiful fable concerning other elements to this corrective.) This imbalance was fueled by personal greed; people taking from others in the name of capitalism, religion, or power and strength; all these personal philosophies merely a justification for an act of aggression against another.
Be aware that these protests are just the beginning. Look at history. Revolutions were started when one group of people stood their ground and refused to accept the taking by those in power.
Over recent years, count the failures of government, bankers, and masters of business to protect and be concerned about the people. In America alone, consider these failures: the mortgage and housing crisis, failure to prevent the Gulf Coast oil spill, Katrina clean-up and prevention, bankruptcy of local government & failure to assure pension, social security, and reasonable health costs. Clearly, someone was not minding the store, because they had their mind on making personal fortunes. To date, how many of these takers have gone to jail or had their personal fortunes turned back to the people; in many cases, it was the people’s money that was taken.
You ask what future has been robbed from the young. Surely, they still have the opportunity to care for themselves and those they love. I respond what of the balance of the eco-system, what of the growing health hazards due to pollution and over industrialization, what of the melting polar ice-caps, what of the taking of taxes from people’s wages and no longer providing services. Our systems have grown corrupt and the change to correct this imbalance is in its early stages.
That is the message of the occupy Wall Street protesters, and is the natural order of things. Perhaps, one day again, the wisdom of the heart and the Higher Call will greet the morning sun; and the protests of the young will be heard.
When you came into this world of created beings, a ladder was set before you, so that you might pass out of it. At first you were inanimate, then you became a plant; afterward you were changed into an animal. At last you became human, possessed of knowledge, intelligence, and faith. Next, you will become an angel. Then you will have finished with this world, and your place will be in the heavens. Be changed also from the station of an angel. Pass into the mighty deep, so that the one drop, which is yourself may become a sea.
Also by Dr. Bitkoff, A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment, Llewellyn, 2008 and Journey of Light: Trilogy, Authorhouse, 2004. These books are available on Amazon.Com or from publisher.
Announcing my new book– Sufism for Western Seekers: Path of the Spiritual Traveler in Everyday Life. In next 6 weeks, look for it on Amazon; more information to follow.
From the book Radical Peace: People Refusing War
By William T. Hathaway
Published by Trine Day 2010
I was sitting in full lotus, body wrapped in a blanket, mind rapt in deep stillness, breathing lightly, wisps of air curling into the infinite space behind my closed eyes. My mantra had gone beyond sound to become a pulse of light in an emptiness that contained everything.
An electric shock flashed down my spine and through my body. My head snapped back, limbs jerked, a cry burst from my throat. Every muscle in my body contracted — neck rigid, jaws clenched, forehead tight. Bolts of pain shot through me in all directions, then drew together in my chest. Heart attack! I thought. I managed to lie down, then noticed I wasn’t breathing — maybe I was already dead. I groaned and gulped a huge breath, which stirred a whirl of thoughts and images.
Vietnam again: Rotor wind from a hovering helicopter flails the water of a rice paddy while farmers run frantically for cover. Points of fire spark out from a bamboo grove to become dopplered whines past my ears. A plane dives on the grove to release a bomb which tumbles end over end and bursts into an orange globe of napalm. A man in my arms shakes in spasms as his chest gushes blood.
I held my head and tried to force the images out, but the montage of scenes flowed on, needing release. I could only lie there under a torrent of grief, regret, terror and guilt. My chest felt like it was caving in under the pressure. I clung to my mantra like a lifeline to sanity. I was breathing in short, shallow gasps, but gradually my breath slowed and deepened, the feelings became less gripping, and I reoriented back into the here and now: my small room in Spain on a Transcendental Meditation teacher training course.
I lay on my narrow bed stunned by this flashback from four years ago when I’d been a Green Beret in Vietnam. I had thought I’d left all that behind, but here it was again.
I sat up and was able to do some yoga exercises but couldn’t meditate. Instead I took a walk on the beach. For the rest of that day and the next I was confused and irritable and could hardly meditate or sleep. But the following day I felt lightened and relieved, purged of a load of trauma, and my meditations were clear. My anxiety about the war was much less; the violence was in the past, not raging right now in my head.
Gradually I became aware of a delicate joy permeating not just me but also my surroundings. I knew somehow it had always been there, inhering deep in everything, but my stress had been blocking my perception of it. I felt closer to the other people on the course, connected by a shared consciousness. Then I started feeling closer to everything around me; birds and grass, even rocks and water were basically the same as me. Our surface separations were an illusion; essentially we were all one consciousness expressing itself in different forms. Rather than being just an isolated individual, I knew I was united with the universe, joined in a field of felicity. This perception faded after a few days, but it gave me a glimpse of what enlightenment must be like.
The whole experience was a dramatic example of what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi called “unstressing,” the nervous system’s purging itself of blockages caused by our past actions. Since my past actions had been extreme, the healing process was also extreme.
I had begun meditating in 1968, several months after returning from the war. I’d come back laden with fear and anger, but I had denied those emotions, burying them under an “I’m all right, Jack,” attitude. I was tough, I could take it, I was a survivor. Within certain parameters I could function well, but when my superficial control broke down, I would fall into self-destructive depressions. I finally had to admit I was carrying a huge burden of stress, and I knew I had to get rid of that before I could live at peace with myself or anyone else.
My best friend from Special Forces, Keith Parker, had started doing Transcendental Meditation and said it made his mind clear and calm. I tried it and found he was right. When I meditated, I sat with eyes closed and thought a mantra, a sound without meaning that took my mind to quieter, finer levels and eventually beyond all mental activity to deep silence. Subjectively, TM was like diving down through an inner ocean into a realm of serenity. The effects were more real than anything I’d experienced through prayer or psychedelics. My stress and pressure began to be relieved.
I started going on World Peace Assemblies, large courses led by Maharishi or one of his assistants where we meditated as a group. This strengthened the effects, making me feel both tranquil and energized. Then I attended this four-month course to learn to be a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. Every day we did hours of “rounding,” repeating cycles of meditation, yoga and breathing exercises, each taking us deeper towards transcendental consciousness. Afternoons and evenings Maharishi would answer questions and teach us how to be teachers of meditation.
One of his favorite topics was the connection between modern science and Vedic science. After getting a master’s degree in physics, he had studied metaphysics with one of the great swamis of India, so he could integrate both worlds. He taught us how the unified field that physics has discovered is the same as our own consciousness, that the fundamental level of the universe is the fundamental level of ourselves. And most importantly, he taught us how to experience this unity, where the duality of subject and object disappears and separation merges into oneness. This is the source of creation, a realm of bliss where even the concept of enemy doesn’t exist. It’s the level from which energy manifests into matter and form. Enlightened people live there all the time, but all of us can experience it, and once we do, our reality is different.
Ordinarily, our awareness is directed via sense perception outwards to physical objects. When we meditate, we reverse this direction and move our awareness back towards its source, the unified field. The mind goes inward and perceives progressively more refined levels of thinking until all thoughts drop away and we reach the ground state of transcendental consciousness, in which the mind is alert but without thoughts, pure awareness without an object. In place of thoughts, we are filled with a joy that can only be described as divine. Here we are united with all of creation. We are no longer observing the universe; we are the universe.
The path to transcendental consciousness, however, is not always smooth. Our stresses — the inner effects of past actions — can make our mind murky and unsettled, thus blocking us off from a clear experience of the transcendent. But stress can be healed. During Transcendental Meditation the nervous system repairs itself and removes the obstructions so that our awareness isn’t confined to the surface thinking level but can flow into the silent depths, providing deep rest for the mind and body. In this physiological condition, stress is cured and higher states of consciousness experienced.
The process can be unsettling because as stresses are dissolved, some of their qualities may affect our awareness in the form of physical pain, old buried emotions, or hectic streams of thoughts. Sometimes the unconscious has to be made conscious before it can be healed. I’d had a first-hand experience of this sort of unstressing, and it cleared away my war trauma. I haven’t had a flashback in all the years since then, but I’ve had many experiences of the blissful unity that came afterwards.
The deep calm of meditation is more than just a subjective experience. Physiological research has shown that during TM oxygen consumption decreases twice as much as it does during deep sleep. Brain waves become more coherent, changing from the usual scattered, disordered patterns into synchronized waves coordinating across both hemispheres, an indication of more integrated mental functioning. Blood flow to the brain increases. On the skin, electrical conductance decreases, a sign of relaxation. In the blood stream, the stress hormone cortisol decreases; serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves depression and promotes well being, increases; arginine vasopressin, a hormone that regulates blood pressure and improves memory and learning ability, increases; blood lactate level decreases, indicating lessened anxiety. And rather than being in a trance, the person is fully alert and aware of the surroundings. This physiological condition defines a fourth state of consciousness distinct from the three usual states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. In this rejuvenating transcendental consciousness, the physiology repairs the damage done by traumatic events and illnesses.
More than anything else I’ve experienced, Transcendental Meditation creates a peaceful inner change. The personality and basic self remain the same, but fear and hostility diminish. We become friendlier to ourselves, and so we can be friendlier to others. As our personal stresses are healed, the mind functions better and we gain access to more of our mental potential. We’re more able to perceive and correct the sources of social stress that surround us.
Recent research has shown that the effects don’t stop with the individual. Large groups of people meditating together produce coherence and stability not just in themselves but also in the society around them. This extended effect has been demonstrated in experiments in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Iowa, Washington DC, New Delhi, Manila, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran and Holland where large groups met for long meditations. During every assembly, crime, violence and accidents in the surrounding region dropped and the composite Quality of Life Index for public health, economics and social harmony rose. All the changes were statistically highly significant. The groups of meditators improved the whole society: negativity decreased, positivity increased. After the assemblies ended, the figures returned to their previous levels. The results were calculated by comparing data from different time periods to insure that the only variable was the meditation course, thus establishing it as the cause of the change.
I attended two of these assemblies, in Washington DC and Iowa, and the experiences were wonderful. Meditating with thousands of other people strengthens the results. The mental emanations reinforce one another into a palpable effect of group consciousness. I enjoyed deeper levels of inner silence and clearer infusions of transcendental energy. Outside of meditation, we treated one another with a harmony and tenderness that I’d never experienced in a group of people before. It was a taste of what an ideal society could be like.
How can meditators sitting with their eyes closed influence people many miles away? Quantum physics describes how everything in the universe is connected through underlying fields of energy. The electromagnetic field is an example. A transmitter sends waves through this invisible field, and receivers many miles away instantly convert them into sound and pictures. Similarly, our minds send mental energy through the field of consciousness that connects everyone. We are all continually transmitting and receiving these influences. The mental atmosphere we share is loaded with them, and the program they’re broadcasting is frequently one of fear, frustration, anger and aggression. This toxicity pollutes the collective consciousness, resulting in cloudy thinking and harmful actions. All of us are affected — and infected — to some degree by this. Under this sway, persons with a heavy load of personal stress become more prone to turn to crime to solve their problems. As this negative atmosphere intensifies and the pressures mount, groups of people turn to the mass criminality of warfare.
Wars are hurricanes of the collective consciousness. Hurricanes relieve the physical atmosphere of excess heat that has built up. They result afterwards in a more balanced climatic condition, but they do that destructively. Similarly, wars relieve excess stress in the psychic atmosphere and bring a temporary peace, but their destructiveness generates more stress and another war.
In contrast to this stormy approach, a meditator in transcendental consciousness broadcasts the qualities inherent to this plane: peace, orderliness, harmony. And when many meditators reach transcendental consciousness together, their energies reinforce one another into a surge of positivity that overrides the stressful emissions of the surrounding population. The minds of everyone in the area receive this broadcast of coherence. It’s a very subtle effect that is under the limen of most people’s perceptual awareness, but they are influenced through this field where all human minds are joined. This life-nurturing energy purifies the collective consciousness of fear and hostility before those negative forces can build up and erupt into crime and war.
New experiments demonstrated the effects on war. As civil war was raging in Lebanon, a group gathered nearby in Israel to practice long meditations. During their assembly, the intensity of fighting in Lebanon lessened and war deaths plummeted. In Israel, crime, traffic accidents, fires and other indicators of social disorder decreased. All the changes were statistically highly significant.
A further experiment showed even more dramatic results. According to the ancient Vedic tradition, if a very large number of people meditate together, positive influences will occur globally. Maharishi decided to test this with 7,000 meditators, the square root of one percent of the world population. He gathered them together at the TM university in Fairfield, Iowa, for long meditations. The results thousands of miles away in Lebanon were a 71 percent decrease in war deaths, a 68 percent decrease in injuries, a 48 percent decrease in combat incidents and a 66 percent increase in cooperative efforts to end the civil war. A time-series analysis of the results confirmed the causation.
Groups of 7,000 meditators also reduce terrorism. During three of these large assemblies, worldwide terrorism dropped by an average of 72 percent as compared to all other weeks in a two-year period, based on data compiled by the Rand Corporation. Statistical analysis ruled out the possibility that the reduction was due to cycles, trends, seasonal changes, or drifts in the measures used.
Peer-reviewed studies of these experiments have been published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Mind and Behavior, Journal of Crime and Justice, Social Indicators Research and other academic publications. Twenty-three studies based on 50 experiments document the long-distance effects of large groups of meditators in reducing violence and improving quality of life.
With this overwhelming evidence Maharishi approached the governments of the world and requested that they establish these groups on a permanent basis to secure peace and social harmony.
The governments of the world weren’t interested.
So Maharishi decided to build a long-term group. With the help of a wealthy donor he constructed a residential center in India and filled it with 7,000 meditators practicing several hours a day. The other experiments had been short-term, lasting a few weeks or months, but this one lasted two years — a time that fundamentally changed the world. The Cold War ended, communism collapsed, the people of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union freed themselves of totalitarian rule, the Berlin Wall came down, 80 nations signed an agreement that saved the ozone layer, black and white South Africans dismantled apartheid, hostile borders became open and friendly, former enemies signed arms reduction and nonaggression treaties. It was a period of unprecedented good will, a breakthrough for world peace.
But the donor ran out of money. He had already expended most of his fortune supporting the group and couldn’t continue. Maharishi tried again to convince governments to take over the funding, an amount per year that was a fraction of what they spend on the military per one heartbeat.
Again, no government was interested. Why did they turn down such a scientifically verified program that would cost little, harm nothing and possibly bring world peace?
In three of the countries that participated in the initial experiments, the governments were thrown out of office after the assemblies. Three dictators — the Shah in Iran, Somoza in Nicaragua and Marcos in the Philippines — had invited the TM teachers because their populations were rising in rebellion. They hoped the meditating groups would act as a social tranquilizer that would pacify the rebels. The opposite turned out to be the case. The increased coherence generated by the groups enabled the whole society to join together and throw out the dictators with a minimum of violence. Other governments didn’t want to risk losing power through a similar upsurge in the collective consciousness of their people.
Another reason was that although many governments pay lip service to peace, they don’t really want it. What they want is to use the military to control their people and enforce their aggressive foreign policies. They also profit from the arms trade; peace would be bad for business.
A third reason is that the concept of meditators being able to decrease violence half the world away is just too unconventional for most politicians to comprehend. It doesn’t fit the worldview they’ve been educated into. Our society is still living in the shadow of 19th-century empiricism, where matter was seen as the basis of reality. Science has moved far beyond this position, but the old view still has a lingering effect on our thinking, causing us to reject what we don’t understand. The insights of unified field physics are only slowly being absorbed by the general population. Most people can’t yet comprehend that energy rather than matter is the basic component of the universe, and that this energy is identical with our own consciousness.
In addition, the intellectual rebellion against dogmatic religion has gone to the opposite extreme where many people now embrace skepticism as the ultimate wisdom. Doubt has become the new orthodoxy, and definitive statements about the world are automatically suspect.
Seeing consciousness as primary and matter as being manifested from it is a whole different way of looking at the universe and will require some getting used to. But every paradigm shift in human thinking has had to confront the prejudices of its time. As Arthur Schopenhauer said, a new worldview is first ridiculed, then attacked and finally accepted as self-evident.
But unfortunately in the early 1990s when the group of 7,000 meditators had to be dissolved, negative consequences followed swiftly: The USA decided for full-spectrum dominance and developed new nuclear weapons; the first Gulf War broke out; Yugoslavia dissolved into violent chaos; terrorism multiplied. Destructive trends in all areas of life continue to engulf us.
Maharishi didn’t give up, though. He started rebuilding the group on his own. To finance it, he raised the prices for learning TM and for his ayurvedic health programs. Although Maharishi died in 2008, there’s currently a group of 4,000 in India and 2,000 in Iowa, both of them growing. If the number of meditators continues to increase, we could all be in for a new era.
Scientific evidence indicates this technique can cure the root cause of war — stress in the collective consciousness — and bring world peace. This could be the most important discovery of our time, and we can all participate in it. Several studies have shown that individuals meditating on their own for 20 minutes twice a day also contribute to this effect. More information and citations on the research can be found at www.permanentpeace.org.
William T. Hathaway’s other books include A WORLD OF HURT (Rinehart Foundation Award), CD-RING and SUMMER SNOW. He was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he is currently living. A selection of his work is available at www.peacewriter.org.
by Michael Berman
In every community, every family, every classroom, and every staffroom, there are relationship problems, most of which are swept under the carpet, and most of which inevitably resurface again, often when we are least expecting them to, to cause even greater problems than they did initially.
This article presents one way of dealing with such problems that was used to good effect by the International Shamanic Community that I am a member of at one of our periodic weekend gatherings, and it has been found to be most effective when carried out in a circle.
First of all, being as honest as you can be, write down all the complaints you have about anyone in the group in question. Next to each complaint write down the name of the person or persons you blame. In each case, whose fault does it feel like it is? If you were to take full responsibility for each of your complaints, consider what you would need to do about each one.
Have you been holding some negative energy towards someone in this group? Do you need to apologise? Or do you need to just let it go and forgive? Are you simply being right about things and not being open to the validity of others’ experience/ideas/needs? Does everything have to be your way? Is your way the right way?
Are you afraid to speak up and offer your experience/ideas/needs? If so, what would it take to be responsible and do it anyway, without blame, and with respect and openness?
After looking within for the answers to all these questions, if you have a complaint you need to express, do so to the person concerned within the group, with a recommendation and with respect.
To bring the session to a close, the facilitator could invite everyone present to stand and hold hands, to feel the power of the circle flow through them. Alternatively, the facilitator could lead the group through a Circle of Compliments, in which each member of the circle is required to compliment the person sitting next to them for something positive they have brought to the process. This can be done by providing the group with possible sentence starters, and here are some examples:
I really like / love the way you … / I’d like to thank you for the way you … / What I really appreciate / enjoy is … / I think you’ve got a really good / great … / You’re really good at … / You’ve got a great way of …
The process described in this article enables the potential conflict situation the group was initially faced with to be transformed instead into a rich, real, responsible experience that will inform and benefit the community. And the way to achieve this is by not holding on to things we need to say and instead to speak them in an appropriate way to the person or persons that we need to say them to.
What follows is a story about a conflict situation that was resolved in a very different way, but then there is never only one way of skinning a cat, or a tomato for that matter:
In the Greenhouse
Gilbert Greensleeves was very proud of his tomato collection and his succulent, perfectly formed specimens regularly won him prizes in horticultural competitions all over the land. He tended his plants as if they were his babies and, in a way, they were as Gilbert and his wife had never been blessed with any children of their own. So he was most upset when he woke up one fine summer morning to find a terrible commotion going on in the greenhouse.
He rushed outside, still in his pyjamas, to see what the problem was and he found all the tomatoes having a heated argument. In fact, the dispute had got so out of hand that the tomatoes were almost coming to blows. He tried to calm them all down and to make them see sense but without success and was at a total loss as to what to do.
Fortunately, he knew a bit about relaxation techniques, which he’d learnt to help him cope with his pre-competition nerves, and in desperation he decided to try them out on his beauties. After all, he didn’t want them to get themselves into a state, especially just before the annual finals. It wasn’t easy but he eventually managed to attract their attention and to persuade them all to follow his instructions.
“Good. Now I’d like you make yourselves comfortable and close your eyes,” he began. “Feel the tension gradually fade away from the tops of your juicy heads to the tips of your little green toes.” Here he paused for a moment to give his words a chance to take effect and to produce the desired results. “Now focus on your heads,” he continued “and become aware of the fibre that extends from your crown chakra and what it’s connected to.”
After a couple of minutes, one of the more forthcoming tomatoes, generally regarded as the leader of the pack, broke the silence. “But we’re all connected to each other and we all come from the same source,” he observed.
“That’s it exactly,” Gilbert Greensleeves replied. “So now you’ve solved one of the mysteries of life. When you fight against each other, you’re only fighting against yourselves. And perhaps now you can be more understanding and tolerant towards one another in future.” A hush descended over the greenhouse as all the tomatoes bowed their heads in shame. It was clear that they had all learnt their lesson and Gilbert returned to the house with his head held high, his mission having been accomplished.
And from that moment onwards, Gilbert Greensleeves never had another problem. His tomatoes lived in perfect harmony and won him even more prizes than before!
And now for some questions, you might like to consider:
a. What feelings did you have during the telling of the story?
b. Have you ever been in a similar situation to any of the characters in the tale?
c. Did any of the characters remind you of people you know?
d. What do you think the “message” of the story is?
e. Did it remind you of any other stories you know?
The story above was taken from In a Faraway Land – a resource book for teachers on storytelling that is due to be published by O-Books in 2010.
Michael Berman BA, MPhil, PhD, works as a teacher and a writer. Publications include The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, and The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Shamanic Journeys through Daghestan and Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus are both due to be published in paperback by O-Books in 2009. Michael has been involved in teaching and teacher training for over thirty years, has given presentations at Conferences in more than twenty countries, and hopes to have the opportunity to visit many more yet. For more information please visit www.Thestryteller.org.uk