What On Earth Is A Meditation Flashmob And Why Is It Called ‘Half An Hour Of Purest Sanity’?

Poorna Bell in the Huffington Post

Flashmobs: you either know them from the viral videos you pretend not to watch at work or you admire the way complete strangers come together to create something of such unity.

One such trend that has harnessed the power of the crowd is the meditation flashmob, which has been conducting a quiet revolution behind the scenes, on the streets of Aberdeen, Brighton and London.

And that’s just in the UK.

meditation flashmob

Although the idea of meditating in such a big group may seem nightmarish to someone who prefers solitude, one Guardian writer, Naseem Khan – at first skeptical – wrote that it ended up being “half an hour of purest sanity”.spesifikasi android

The idea of pockets of quiet and peace in such busy urban spaces is like a balm to frazzled nerves. It turns the very stereotype of what we know about cities on its head: that even in the most hectic environments, it’s possible to carve out an oasis of calm.

HuffPost UK Lifestyle caught up with meditation flashmob organiser Elina Pen.

What is a meditation flashmob?

A meditation flashmob is a gathering of people that sit in meditation in a public location, usually no longer than an hour. The meditation flashmobs we organise are announced a month before via social media, Meetup.com and the Wake Up London weekly newsletter.

Its intention is to raise awareness of meditation in public, unite people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths together and send positive intentions out to the world. We come together to celebrate our very real capacity to generate peace, already, in the here and now. This is the peace we offer to our cities and to the world.

What has the response been like so far? What was the first one like?

The first one surprisingly had a big turn-out. It was in the middle of Trafalgar Square on a hot Thursday evening in June 2011. I set up a Facebook invitation the month before in May and had no idea how people would respond.

Not long after the event invitation was set up, it seemed like it went viral as I was seeing hundreds of people sign up to attend week after week. It was really astonishing to see. The invitation reached various other spiritual groups in London and it felt wonderful to be united in this initiative with others, even if our tradition and practices were different.

When it was time to start, I sat down in the middle of Trafalgar Square and sounded the bell. For the first 30 minutes, I had my eyes closed, so I wasn’t sure how many people were there. I opened my eyes to start the sound bath, which is when we chant sounds together towards the end, and to my amazement, there were hundreds of people sitting in concentric circles around me. I had never imagined that being in the middle of Trafalgar Square could feel this peaceful.

I finished the flash mob with three sounds of the bell, opened my eyes again and looked around with so much gratitude to the people sitting so beautifully around me.

What is your own experience with meditation, and what has it done for you?

From my practice in the tradition of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, meditation has helped to cultivate a sense of calm and ease in my body and mind. In meditation, I simply rest my attention on the movement of my breathing – the flow of the in and out breath. My breath helps to anchor my attention in the present moment and bring my mind and body together as one.

I practice to come back to the present moment each time my mind wanders off to thoughts about the past or future, about anxieties or imaginings – and it nearly does each time I sit. I try to sit with whatever is there – boredom, pain, anger, self-criticism, joy, love or peace.


Elina PenIt’s not always easy but when I can be present with how I am feeling or what I am thinking about, and not get caught in it, I am able to be more spacious and kind to myself.

Allowing myself to stop, rest and be present through sitting meditation, creates conditions that can help me understand myself better; understand the causes of more difficult feelings, like fear, despair and anger, as well as understand the causes of more wholesome feelings like happiness, joy and love. With this deeper understanding of myself, I can make more skillful choices that can nurture more joy and happiness.

Right now in my life, I can say that I am the happiest and steadiest I’ve ever been before. It’s not because of any particular major successful life event, or being in this job or this relationship. It’s not because I don’t experience any anxieties or sadness anymore, because I still do. I think it’s because I’m learning how to be kinder, more compassionate and accepting of myself day by day, which I have struggled with in the past.

I used to think that the aim of spiritual practice is just to be happy and blissful and be completely free of suffering. But really, I see now that it’s about training ourselves to be able to have the space to be with both happiness and suffering in our daily lives.

Do you think that increasingly, people are looking for quiet and reflection in their lives?

Yes. I think more people are prioritising their wellbeing and happiness over such things like wealth, power and job status. Often it takes a kind of suffering, a physical, emotional or mental suffering, to wake people up to the current state of their lives, and move in a direction that is more nourishing for them.

Having the space for quiet and reflection where we can sit, breathe and look and listen deeply to ourselves, is essential. And doing this as a community too is essential because we need the support from others who also aspire to live life in a way that is nourishing for them.

In my own community, Wake Up London, there has been an increase of young people coming to our mindfulness practice meetings over the past three years. In 2010, we started with around 5 to 10 people at our meetings, and this year, we’ve seen on average around 33 people. It’s wonderful to see this rise and feel that we are reaching out to more and more young people.

meditation flashmob

What does meditation do for people?

One of the main benefits is more clarity and understanding about oneself and one’s experience. Meditation is difficult to quantify, but one can be aware of certain changes in oneself: we can become more centred, connected to our experience and knowledgeable about what is happening to us, to how we react, to see what triggers different responses within ourselves.

Usually we are more reactive than responsive. It also has the capacity to helps us connect and nurture qualities that essentially makes us more happy, like kindness, generosity towards ourselves and others, less fear and anger, the capacity to be more steady with difficult and challenging emotions.

We feel less driven by our desires and needs, and we are in a better position to understand others and better resolve conflicts.

Meditation flashmobs seem like a global movement – have you found this?

As I was organising the first meditation flash mob in London in 2011, I came across the group called MebMob that have been mobilizing synchronised meditation flash mobs around the world earlier that year. Knowing that these meditation flash mobs were already happening in America and in other parts of the world, gave me a boost of inspiration and sense of unity with these groups.

Now there continues to be synchronised meditation flash mobs around the world throughout the year, particularly on significant days like International Day of Peace, World Water Day, World Earth Day, Winter and Summer Solstice.

I think social media can have a positive role in facilitating such global movements such as this one. I’ve used Facebook a lot to advertise upcoming meditation flash mobs, and then later share the videos and photos afterwards. These links would often become shared to people around the world, and would inspire people in other countries to get involved.

What’s amazing too is that when my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, goes on tour with his community of monastics, there is usually a meditation flash mob included in the itinerary! In May this year, for example, there was a meditation flash mob in Barcelona which had what seemed to be 5,000 attendees! It was the subject of TV news coverage and of various newspapers in Spain.

To me, it seems to be difficult to meditate in an urban setting – what are your tips, for while you are in the flashmob, to begin meditation?

I can understand that. Perhaps many people feel hesitant towards coming to meditation flash mobs because it sounds difficult to be calm and centred in such busy places. What I’ve discovered is that it’s really possible to be at peace in these environments, whether sitting or walking. The key is in being mindful.

When we can have more space and be at peace with what is within and around us, instead of letting it disturb us, create tensions or become agitated, we can realise our capacity to generate peace throughout our daily lives.

This is how we can bring meditation in all aspects of our lives – not just formally on a meditation cushion but in everything that we do, such as walking in the underground, preparing for a meeting at work, sitting at our desk in front of the computer or standing up in a hot crowded tube.

Waging Peace

[Editor’s note: This isn’t a plug for the method specified in the article. It’s reposted here to promote thought and action in connection with the described processes. The method specified is one of a variety available that enable the process.]

Waging Peace

by Cate Montana in The Global Intelligencer

Peace is breaking out all over.

If you get your news from mainstream TV and radio, you probably haven’t noticed. But here are a few startling statistics the networks have overlooked in their rush to promote the usual stories of crime, corruption, terrorism and war.

More lasting peace initiatives have been successful in the last 15 years than over the last two or three centuries combined.

More individuals and private groups are involved in effective grass roots peace-making and conflict resolution efforts than ever before.

Thirty years ago the great majority of the world’s governments were autocratic, totalitarian regimes with democracies far in the minority. Today approximately 70% of world governments are democratic.1

With our attention fixed on “the problems,” we rarely hear stories like the one about the philanthropist who subsidized a group of 8,000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners to engage in group meditation twice a day from 1988 to 1990, near New Delhi, India.

During this same period, the seven year war between Iraq and Iran came to an end. The Soviet Union’s brutal invasion of Afghanistan was called to a halt. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Cold War, which had held the world teetering on the brink of extinction for forty years, simply evaporated. Coincidence? Not hardly.

There is a technology of peace, and many organizations and individuals have been utilizing it for a long time. The most prominent is the Maharishi University of Management, based in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

With a university degree in physics, Maharishi was determined to ground the ancient science and meditation practices of the Vedas in modern scientific understanding and terminology. In line with his stated goals to “bring enlightenment to every individual on Earth, and to establish a state of permanent peace in the world,” he established the university in 1971 to not only provide an excellent academic and holistic education for students from around the world, but also to take meditation mainstream by providing scientific proof that meditation is effective in reducing stress, and inducing calmness, peace and mental/emotional fortitude.

World renowned physicist John Hagelin, responsible for the development of a highly successful grand unified field theory based on the Superstring, is Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the university and a professor of physics. Along with Hagelin, scientists at the university have meticulously conducted over 600 scientific studies on the effects of meditation, and have been awarded nearly $20 million in federal research grants over the years to continue their investigations.

From this research, the effectiveness of meditation as a world-wide peace inducing technology has been extrapolated. “Reality is really one of unity, one of awareness, and universal consciousness,” says Hagelin. “With the discovery of the Unified Field, we are witnessing a total transformation of human knowledge — from the isolated understanding of specific laws of nature to the holistic understanding of the unity of existence.”

Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, is not just healthy for the individual, it’s healthy for the planet and everyone on it. By tapping into the peace of the unified field, individuals meditating alone or in groups, literally emanate the qualities of unity, oneness and peace that characterize this underlying quantum level of reality. Studies have even revealed the number of meditating participants necessary worldwide to effect optimum change: either one percent of the earth’s population of 6.5 billion, (6.5 million), or the square root of one percent which is (maybe you guessed it already) approximately 8,000.

Because of wave amplification dynamics, having that number meditating in one large group, such as in the New Delhi experiment, is ideal. However it is also effective having smaller groups around the world meditating. To this end, Hagelin is helping establish the University of Peace worldwide, with the main campus in Iowa.

The goal to establish one University of Peace near every state capital in the U.S. is currently underway, and campuses are already in place in over 100 countries. In India, about 175 small campuses, with an average of 350 students each, have been established. One campus is being created in Washington D.C. “Which is not enough to bring peace to the world,” says Hagelin, “but it is enough to bring a very powerful source of peace to the United States and particularly in and around Washington D.C. where the influence of peace and sanity is perhaps most critically needed.”

The Lebanon study

One of the most well-known, and best controlled studies of the peace-creating effects of group meditation occurred during the Lebanese civil war in the early 1980s. With Israeli troops heavily involved, the situation around Beirut and the Chouf mountains was rapidly creating a middle-eastern powder keg. Into this arena in 1983, Drs. Charles Alexander and John Davies at Harvard University, in collaboration with Maharishi University of Management researchers, brought 200 experienced meditators, setting up a group base in Jerusalem along with local Israeli meditators, for a period of two months. In addition, a smaller group was formed in Lebanon, containing both Muslim and Christian meditators, and five other larger groups were established at various distances from Lebanon, ranging from 2,000 in Yugoslavia to 8,000 in the US, at intervals over a 2¼ year period.

“The Lebanese participants were heavily at risk doing this,” says Davies, co-director of the Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. “If their fellow countrymen had known that Muslims and Christians were talking with each other, let alone meditating in harmony, they would have been killed.”

The results were highly significant. After controlling statistically for weather changes, Lebanese and Muslim, Christian and Jewish holidays, police activity, fluctuation in group sizes, and other variant influences, during the course of the study violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 to 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place, depending upon the measure and statistical approach used. This pattern was replicated seven consecutive times between 1983 and 1985. During the period each of the seven groups was in place, the average number of people killed during the war per day dropped from twelve to three, a decrease of more than 70%; war-related injuries fell by 68%; the intensity level of conflict dropped by 48%; and cooperation among antagonists increased by 66%. And the effects didn’t stop there. Violent crime incidents, auto accidents and fires in both Lebanon and Israel also decreased significantly during each of the studies.

According to an analysis of the results by the Maharishi School of Management, “the likelihood that these combined results were due to chance is less than one part in 1019, making this effect of reducing societal stress and conflict the most rigorously established phenomenon in the history of the social sciences.”

In 1988, Alexander and Davies’ meticulous findings on the very first study in 1983 were published in the prestigious Journal of Conflict Resolution. But the backlash of criticism was formidable, and it was another 15 years before Davies’ research showing that results were replicated seven times over with different groups could be presented in another peer-reviewed journal.

Peace from the bottom up

It is precisely because of the closed-minded attitudes of mainstream scientific organizations and publications, mainstream politics and mainstream journalism, that individuals such as Maharishi, Hagelin and Davies are taking peace-creating initiatives to the streets, teaching individuals how to transform their personal lives and showing them how they can make a difference in the world.

“Our most important responsibility as citizens is to create peace in our own lives,” says Davies. “We have to move beyond hypocrisy if we’re going to make peace. You can’t impose peace in a complex society, such as we’re living in now, through simply dictating what’s right and what’s wrong while not living up to your own standards. The first step of responsibility, which applies to all of us, is to be able to look to our own lives and see if we’re living and being the peace we want to create.”

Davies works to create peaceful solutions to political rivalries around the world through conflict resolution with Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects. His organization helped resolve an often violent Peru — Ecuador conflict over disputed territory when private citizens of both nations agreed to meet at the Maryland headquarters. “The solution that came up in our workshops was, let’s make this a bi-national park that honors the people that have died on both sides fighting over this sacred ground, and have shared sovereignty,” says Davies. “So that met the needs of both sides — it was win-win — and was incorporated as the basis for an official peace agreement.”

His organization has also been involved in mitigating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, contributing to an agreement on how the very limited water supplies there could be managed. Civilian workshops eventually arrived at a solution where people’s basic needs would be met at a low cost within budget parameters, while higher rates were established for irrigation and luxury use and water waste minimized. “Since those agreements emerged, water issues are no longer a deal breaker for a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” says Davies. “And that’s still the case.”

Davies is clear about the need for taking personal responsibility for creating peace. By uplifting one’s thoughts and expanding attitudes through meditation, people can prepare themselves to take a greater responsibility for world affairs. Changes in attitudes and widened perceptions are critical if a difference is to be made.

“We mistake the world for being some sort of zero sum place — we’re all fighting over limited resources,” he says. “But it’s not the resources that are limited. It’s the capacity to manage the resources well … and understand the human needs that are at stake. You’ve got to connect with people as human beings. From there, that and a little empathy allows you to be able to very quickly find ways of building partnerships that allow both side’s needs to be met.”

The Peace Government

After running for president on the Natural Law Party platform in 2000, Hagelin now eschews the regular political channels with their stubborn complexity, hierarchical structuring and lack of innovative thinking. As President of the US Peace Government, which is the US affiliate of the Global Country of World Peace founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in October 2002, Hagelin is busy building partnerships that carry grassroots peace efforts far beyond America’s shores. Literally a country without borders, the Global Country of World Peace is pulling together organizations, citizens and diplomats from around the world who hold the vision and who are willing to learn the scientifically proven principles and policies of governance under Natural Law.

According to Hagelin, the international diplomatic community in Washington D.C. has welcomed the existence of this essentially self-proclaimed Peace Government, and has been very active in visiting Hagelin’s D.C. offices for luncheons and planning projects — especially peace promoting projects in their own countries. “There are many countries in the world that are not particularly pleased with the current administration,” Hagelin says, “and are very eager to explore the possibility of relationships with an alternative government in the United States that is fundamentally concerned with their welfare and peace, and prevention of crime and promotion of education in their country.”

For more information uspeacegovernment.org [1]

1 John Davies, Ph.D. Co-Director, Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park MD

Source URL:
[1] http://www.uspeacegovernment.org/


For more information on recent developments  on the theme, see the Flash Mob Meditation posts on this blog.