From the October 2002 Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, 911 Tyler Street, Port Townsend, WA, 98368, phone (360) 385-6021, www.townsendletter.com, email@example.com. Reprinted with permission.
Unconventional Conflicts Call for Unconventional Solutions
Years ago as a newsman in the Middle East, I vividly recall a Tel Aviv press conference given by a top Israeli intelligence officer in the wake of several bloody terrorist attacks. In answer to a question, the officer said that Israeli security, as good as it was, could not stop every terrorist on a suicide mission. We can stop many, but not all, he said.
Those words have sobering relevance for America, where terrorism has come ashore in shocking magnitude, and anthrax has become a household word.
The U.S. is no Israel when it comes to security. We are patently vulnerable. We cannot even stop the murderous rampages of crazed students or ex-employees within our own ranks.
Remember the hate-filled teenagers on a suicide mission who perpetrated the Columbine High School killings in 1999? Afterward, on Oprah’s TV show, famous Wyoming defense attorney Jerry Spence compared such events to cauldrons of scalding water beneath Yellowstone Park that explode in roaring geysers.
Acts of terror are indeed geysers of violence. They erupt from cauldrons of unremedied stress on individual, ethnic, religious, and international levels.
A nation applies the means it has to protect its citizens. But heightened security, imprisonment, anti-terrorist coalitions, military muscle, asset "freezing" or targeted assassinations cannot stop every fanatic determined to carry out a warped mission in the name of God.
Conventional means cannot totally defend against an unconventional enemy that can hardly be found, much less eliminated, and that can burrow and plot right beneath our noses.
And conventional strategies do not eliminate the root causes of violence and terrorism. Often, the strategies create more violence and more terrorists.
Are these approaches to conflict resolution analogous to the modern medical paradigm of treating chronic disease? The prevailing medical strategy is to bomb the symptoms with chemo or drugs, blast them with radiation, or cut them out with surgery.
AND IGNORE THE ROOT CAUSES.
Anyone who reads this esteemed journal knows that conventional medicine has a dismal record with these strategies against chronic disease.
Call it what you may but successful treatment and elimination of disease requires alternative, complementary, holistic or integrative approaches.
Better yet, an approach that emphasizes prevention instead of disease management.
We need to adopt a similar approach to conflict resolution. We need to think in terms of eliminating root causes and preventing the birth and growth of a terrorist.
One highly unusual approach for accomplishing this has been largely ignored because people have difficulty understanding or accepting it. Yet in more than fifty studies published in scientific journals, including Yale University’s Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Mind and Behavior, the method has been documented to powerfully reduce violence and criminal activity and even calm open warfare.
The concept involves groups of advanced practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. Here’s how it works: Just as radio or TV transmitters beam signals through an unseen electromagnetic field, groups of meditators generate a strong wave of coherence and positivity through an underlying field of collective consciousness. Stress and tension diminishes. The larger the group, the greater the effect.
This amazing technique was demonstrated in the summer of 1993, in Washington D.C., where 4,000 meditators sat down and closed their eyes to lower crime. An independent board of eminent criminologists documented a 25 percent reduction in criminal violence.
A decade before, during the war in Lebanon, large assemblies of meditators repeatedly caused battlefield casualties to drop dramatically. (See sidebar on Creating Peace Through Meditation).
The number of experts needed to achieve such effects is relatively small. A group equaling a mere square root of one percent of a given population creates enough "good vibes" to do the job. For the world at large, 7,000 meditators in one location can bring about positive trends.
The problem is sustaining such groups. Typically, TM meditators leave their jobs and pay their own travel and lodging expenses to participate in large group efforts. Sooner or later, they must return to work, families, and obligations. When they depart, the group numbers fall. The coherence effect diminishes.
After the September 11 attacks, the TM organization called for meditators to gather in Fairfield, Iowa, the home of Maharishi University of Management, the institution named for the founder of Transcendental Meditation. The call went out in order to raise existing numbers of meditators in Fairfield to the level of the square root of one percent of the U.S. population – about 1,800 – and provide a buffer of coherence and protection for the country. For about two weeks, this number was exceeded, but then decreased as many meditators returned home.
Ideally, military units or unemployed individuals should be trained as "peace makers" in coherence groups funded by governments. But until that happens, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who discovered this "technology of consciousness," is working urgently to create a huge permanent group of not just 7,000, but 40,000 trained experts in India. Such a large group, he predicts, could "completely root out terrorism forever" and generate such a strong influence of harmony in world consciousness that negative trends will not arise.
Maharishi left his native India in 1958 to bring his message to the West. And ever since, he has pursued a single-minded mission to use meditation to end conflict and suffering on our long-suffering planet. He has persistently sought the support of visionary leaders in government and finance for his revolutionary approach.
In full-page newspaper ads during the bombing of Serbia in 1999, he warned of the potential for destruction that could come to any country at any time, including the U.S.
"Can you imagine if bombs began to fall on Washington D.C., and to destroy the high-rises of the money markets of New York?" he said. "When our house is in uncontrollable flames, it is too late to dig a well to get the water. Better to prevent the house from catching fire in the first place."
Maharishi once again appealed for support after September 11.
Admittedly, the idea of fighting terrorism with meditation sounds crazy. But the idea of an Internet would have seemed crazy, too, just a few years ago. Now, we communicate across oceans and access a universe of information simply by typing into some invisible field.
You might also think that group prayer for patients at a great distance couldn’t possibly be effective. Yet medical studies show it works, even when patients are unaware that they are "targets" of prayer. Healing is enhanced. Heart patients recover faster. And, according to one recent study, prayer even helped a group of infertile women become pregnant!
You can’t see the field into which people are praying, yet something tangible is going on through an intangible field.
These phenomena are hard to understand. That doesn’t make them crazy, though. At one time, meditation was considered "mystical." Now, doctors routinely prescribe it. That’s because research shows meditation reduces stress and improves health. Hundreds of studies confirm real benefits for individuals, including better energy, learning ability, job productivity, and happier relationships. Corporations are even offering – and paying for – their employees to learn meditation.
The revelation that group meditation reduces turbulence in society and improves community or global health is simply an extension of the individual practice of meditation. This "super-radiance effect" stimulates the invisible field of collective consciousness that permeates everything.
Scientists are indeed beginning to recognize a "non-local" field of global consciousness into which intentions can have effects at great distance. This is a new paradigm, an exciting and boundless frontier. We should explore this territory, for it may hold the secret for planetary peace. If wars start in the minds of men, then peace logically should start there as well.
With all the conventional methods we utilize to protect life, liberty, and freedom, we should also be open to trying new, creative ideas, no matter how unconventional they seem. The times demand it. Only new seeds will bring forth new crops.
Sidebar: Creating Peace Through Meditation
Major research studies on the coherence-creating effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) include:
Middle East Hostilities Reduced
Casualties during peak hostilities in Lebanon dropped by 70 percent during seven extended periods when large meditation groups assembled in Israel, Lebanon, Europe and the U.S., in 1983-84. Cooperation between warring parties increased by 66 percent. The odds of these results occurring by chance or any explanation other than the meditation were calculated at one in ten million trillion! (Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1988, 32: 776-812, and 1990, 34:756-768).
Reduced Violent Crime
A trend of increasing crime in Washington D.C. was reversed during a two-month demonstration in 1993 involving 800 to 4,000 meditators. Violent crime dropped by 24 percent, according to FBI statistics. The likelihood this could be attributed to chance was less than 2 in 1 billion, and could not be attributed to other causes. (Social Indicators Research, 1999, 47: 153-201).
Similarly, large TM groups in Manila, New Delhi and Puerto Rico corresponded with significant declines in violent crimes. Alternative explanations could not account for the results. (Journal of Mind and Behavior, 1987, 8: 67-104).
Article © copyright 2002 by Martin Zucker
Medical writer Martin Zucker is a former Associated Press foreign correspondent. His most recent book is Preventing Arthritis (G. P. Putnam’s Son’s, New York). Zucker, who has been meditating for 25 years, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.