“Prayer. The world’s greatest wireless connection.” Those words on a sweatshirt greeted me as I opened a gift from my sister. I immediately thought this conveys one aspect of how we understand exercising contemplative power.
Think about it. When we are on the Internet, we have instant access to almost anyone on this planet. Through an intricate web of electromagnetic waves, we can start a revolution – be part of a flash mob – generate interest so that an idea or an action ‘goes viral.’ Without seeing the waves radiating outward, we know we are connected.
Think about it. When we are at contemplative prayer, we set the intention to open ourselves to the Divine working within us and align our hearts and minds with this deeper reality underlying all things. Our consciousness radiates energy outward, connecting with the subtle energy fields where all minds are joined as one. There is a healing energy inherent in the Universe and we can be aligned with it. In the words of Martin Luther King speaking about internal changes in the direction of non-violence, these changes are “materially passive but spiritually active.” Communal contemplation is doing something. It is a form of exercising contemplative power.
Cynthia Bourgeault reflects on the teaching that no conscious act is ever wasted. She reflects that, “Every conscious action no matter how miniscule connects energetically with every other action, and the quality and quantity of awakened consciousness increases incrementally on our planet.”
That is not easy to grasp in our culture where the insights of the Enlightenment continue to shape our mental operating system. Reason, measurable outcomes and verification by our senses still trump intuition, insight and belief in deeper dimensions of reality.
But that is changing with the advance of quantum physics. David Bohm, a leading quantum physicist of our age, developed the theory of the Implicate Order. His underlying theory is the "unbroken wholeness of the totality of existence as an undivided flowing movement without borders.” Within the Implicate Order everything is connected and like a hologram, each element can reveal something about the whole. Within the Implicate Order "everything is enfolded into everything." This complements the Explicate Order where things are unfolded and made manifest. Of course, I don’t pretend to understand this complicated theory, but what is important is that at the deepest dimension of reality everything is connected. There is an underlying dimension which is not accessible through our senses. This theory begins to give credence to the wisdom and insights of sages and mystics who experienced the oneness of all reality as they entered into a deepened state of consciousness.
Positing this underlying connection where “everything is enfolded into everything” then the power of meditation or concentrated energy on a specific focus begins to make sense. There have been a number of research studies to see whether a concentrated effort by many meditators can effect an outcome.
I was recently reminded of a study that was published in 1985 in the Yale University Journal of Conflict Resolution that reported on a group who meditated in Jerusalem in 1983 during the height of the Lebanese Civil War. During the summer of 1983, on each day in which there were large numbers of meditators, violence dropped and stayed low for an additional day or so and then went back to its previous levels. The final data revealed that whenever the group of meditators assembled, there was an average of a 76 percent reduction in war deaths.
A similar research study took place in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1993. Approximately 4,000 meditators assembled. It was hypothesized that the levels of violent crime in the District would fall substantially during the time they were present and meditating. In fact after taking into consideration other variables, it was shown that the level of homicides, rapes and assaults dropped significantly corresponding to the number of meditators. The maximum decrease was 23.3 percent.
We are learning more and more about the power of our consciousness-individual and collective – and the powerful energy field which can be created when we align our minds and hearts with the deeper reality underlying all things. Studies and experiments are increasing as more and more scientists give credence to the influence a community can have on an individual, as well as the individual on the whole community, through the vibratory energy field that they emit. One of the leading organization is IONS, the Institute for Noetic Science. Dean Radin, IONS chief scientist, is undertaking experiments to explore the special attributes of meditative practices as well as the nature of collective consciousness on the world, to name a few.
This broadening interest by science is exciting. It is offering another way of thinking about our world and our lives which will speak to those for whom faith and spiritual wisdom lack credibility. For me, it is a real breakthrough so needed today. The insights of science interface with the wisdom of the mystics, each offering the other legitimacy as we explore who we are and why we are here.
Part of the Institute for Communal Contemplation’s reflection on exercising contemplative power, which I shared in an earlier reflection stated, “It is believing that as we let ourselves be in this deep space things will realign in us and in the world. It happens even without our knowing it. We make the change by holding the high consciousness.”
One way the institute invites you into this aspect of exercising contemplative power is to become part of the ICCD Contemplative Sitting Network. You are invited to commit to sitting in contemplation for 20 minutes daily between 6 and 7:30 a.m. in whatever time zone you are in (or which best suits your needs).
Currently we are over 400 persons, mainly in the United States but representative of many different countries, who create this energy field focused on personal, societal and ecclesial transformation. If you would like to join us simply click here to fill out the form to add your conscious act to our powerful wireless connection!
[Nancy Sylvester, IHM, is founder and director of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue. She served in leadership of her own religious community, the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Mich., as well as in the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Prior to that, she was national coordinator of NETWORK, the national Catholic social justice lobby.]
To read Nancy Sylvester's entire series, click on her author name above or click here to see a list of her columns.