A few weeks ago I came across a 1993 study regarding the impact of meditation upon crime rates in Washington, D.C. The researcher, Dr. John Hagelin, had this to say about the project in “Shift, The Power of the Collective.” “From June through July of that summer (1993), we brought to the area a large number of practicing meditators and trained quite a few others. When the group reached a particular size -- 2,500 (ultimately reaching 4,000) -- which was about halfway through the period, there was a distinct and highly statistically significant drop in crime compared to expected rates based on previous data.Actually it dropped by 25 percent during the season of the year when there is typically a rise in crime.
“The Washington D.C. chief of police had quipped at the beginning of the study, that it would take ‘two feet of snow in the city to reduce the crime rate in June or July.’ Later he became one of the major spokespersons about the phenomenal success of the effort and its importance to the community.”
Many of us are quite aware of the value of meditation on a personal level. It is a known fact that it can help improve physiological conditions, support the effort to get release from stress and provide help with an individual’s overall wellness. So why not imagine that it can be helpful in improving something such as the crime rate? Similar studies to this one in Washington were conducted in other cities with similar results.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to dismiss things such as meditation, prayer or other disciplined habits of keeping silent because we have been conditioned to think solutions to our dilemmas are always found outside of ourselves. For centuries, wise people among us have known that most answers come from within.
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I imagine that some of you reading this column can recall times when you have tried to problem solve and found yourself completely unable to see any solution, only to have the most simple and obvious answer present itself from inside your head and heart. And this usually happens after you settle into resting from the exhaustion of trying to find the answer or solution.
While I am quite willing to be an activist in many situations, it has been clear to me for many decades that it is crucial to slow down, turn off the noise outside and inside and listen for the still, small inner voice that serves as a profound guide, mostly when we get to the end of our rope and cannot see which way to turn. I am fascinated about the idea of trying to use some forms of meditation to help with addressing some of the major social issues that we have facing us in Macon and across this land.
In some ways, it is easy to think, why not? We have tried a lot of things in the past that have not worked. What if it could work? We could transform our community without spending money that we don’t have to spend in the first place.
While meditation is the primary activity that the above study used, it has been shown in the treatment of various illnesses that prayer has played a very powerful role in the healing process. Dr. Larry Dossey’s work is one example of a physician who has paid attention to the results of prayer with his patients and he has written extensively on this subject.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges before us is finding willing participants and organizing them to work together in such an endeavor. We have small vigils of various kinds during the year which speak to our understanding that coming together as a collective to focus upon a social concern can make a difference. It could be helpful for us to consider meditation vigils. What do you think?
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.