The force that created the unimaginable splendours and the unimaginable horrors has taken refuge in us, and it will follow our commands.
— St. Catherine of Siena
In recent weeks, I, and others, have been asked, as a matter of urgency, to pray – every single day – for peace, with the added request ‘to ask everyone that we know, in whatever way we can, to do likewise’. No pressure! I am no evangelist but, here goes…
There is no denying the existence of malevolent forces in the world, gathered to inflict terror and suffering as means to some sinister end. This malevolence, forged in anger and nurtured in places where disenfranchisement, poverty and disempowerment are rife, seems to be gathering momentum. Combined with the anger of others who are moved to anger by the plight of victims, and the antics of those in positions of power, who appear hell-bent on a ‘fight’, fear is fuelled and conflict spreads like a rash, the anger, the fear – and the casualties – mounting in unison. In the face of such forces, and the fragility of this planet, spinning at dizzying speeds through space, prayer might seem rather ineffective – even absurd.
In the past, wars and crimes – in all forms – have testified to the existence of a force, that some would call Satan and his cohorts, prowling the world, seeking the ‘ruin of souls’, and I used to pray for every soul – dead and alive – until I ran out of steam. If over ninety-five percent of the world’s population believes in prayer and in the existence of a higher intelligence or higher ‘power’ and over half that amount call that power ‘God’, to whom they pray, why, after thousands of years or war, in every corner of the world, does war still exist? How can ninety-five percent of the population of this planet succumb to the whims of the remaining five percent? How do we get through to the higher power that so many of us profess to believe in? Despite our professions of faith, do we really believe in a power greater than ourselves – a power that controls every aspect of our lives, whether we pray or not? And while we pray/ask for good health, a decent income, peace in our lives, do we simultaneously fear the worst?
Happily, both spiritual teachings and science are joined in the maxim that ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is within’ and an understanding of what this is might help restore our faith in the power of prayer. In recent years I began searching for information on prayer and oddly enough found an explanation of ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ that seemed to make sense in areas like Positive Psychology, ‘the Quantum Field’ and ‘The Energy Field’ – and a ‘language’ of prayer used to communicate ‘in the field’ – the language of feeling.
As a former, paid-up sceptic, when I first heard about ‘energy’, I filed it neatly under the heading, ‘pseudo-science’, ‘psychobabble’, ‘airy-fairy stuff’. The term ‘energy’ had been subsumed in many New Age practices and waved about like snuff at a wake, sending me running in the opposite direction. And what the heck did ‘changing one’s vibration’ mean? Then, I studied and witnessed examples, first hand, and for real. But the proof behind the clichés, ‘energy flows where thought (and feeling) goes’; that ‘energy follows thought’, that ‘thought travels faster than the speed of light’ – and generates a feeling that when intensified, results in something showing up in our lives as ‘matter’, ‘E=MC2’, ‘what goes round comes around’ etc., took rather longer to find. Nowadays, of course, everyone from politicians to the people trying to sell us insurance use this principle – in election manifestos and multi-media advertising – because they know that they must engage us in order to influence our choices, and they do it by way of subtle and not-so-subtle visual or auditory means, through our feelings and emotions.
In this age of technology, it is easier to understand the concept of energy. Modern science has confirmed that an energy-field exists everywhere, and always has existed. We live in an energy-field which Max Planck, stated is responsible for our physical world. “We must assume that behind this ‘force’ is the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind,” he said. “This mind is the matrix of all matter”. Contemporary studies have shown that Planck’s matrix does, in fact, have intelligence – and that the ‘Field’ responds to human feeling. The ‘vibration frequency’ of feeling is as tangible and real as the grass beneath our feet. So what is it about feeling that effects the ‘Field’; the energy? Implicit in the words of St. Catherine of Siena is the principle that this force is within us and can be used, just like electricity, for both good and evil. There is evidence to suggest that we can effect change, both inside ourselves and around us, through the quality of our own energy – the frequency, or wavelength, on which we transmit and receive, as we go about our daily lives. And one of the ways we can do this – consciously – in the cause of peace is through prayer. We are connected to this ‘matrix’; we are a part of the ‘force’ of energy, and it the greater part of us – like it or not.
A mantra: the repetition of a word or a sound is often the stimulus, but it is in the soundless language of human emotion and the quality of feeling that gives us access to the power of creation: the Spirit of God, or whatever name we give to the field of energy that supports all life.
Some years ago, a scientist visited a monastery in the mountains of Tibet and joined the monks’ daily prayer ritual. Observing the toning, chanting, the ringing of bells, bowls, chimes and gongs, he asked the abbot, what it all meant. The abbot replied, “What you have seen is what we do to create the feeling in our bodies. Feeling is the prayer.”
In our secular world, we can be ‘moved to tears’ by a piece of music or a poem and we can ‘move’ an audience through the ‘powerful’ performance of a piece of drama. Anything that ‘touches’ us – including words – strengthens our ability to communicate with the intelligent force that most of us believe in and we can, through this ‘language’ of feeling, participate in healing our bodies and even healing rifts between nations.
In biblical texts, the faithful are encouraged to strengthen the power of their prayers by feeling their desires fulfilled. For our prayers to be answered, it seems that we must transcend all doubt. In the words of Jesus, “Say to the mountain move and it will move” and “Believe, without any doubt and it will come about.”
The Washington Experiment
In 1993, a two-month national demonstration project conducted in Washington, D.C., showed how feeling-based prayer through meditation can influence crime. This was a carefully controlled scientific demonstration carried out between June 7 and July 30, 1993 that involved a group of experienced Transcendental Meditation practitioners whose numbers grew from 800 to a maximum of 4,000 over the trial.
Before the project, violent crime had been steadily increasing but the researchers had publically predicted that the ‘coherence group’ would reduce crime by 20%. They were ridiculed by the Chief of Police who told them bluntly that the only thing that would decrease crime by that much would be twenty inches of snow. A week or so after the study began, violent crime decreased – and continued to drop until the end of the experiment. The final decrease was 23.3%. This reduction occurred in the final week of the project, when the numbers in the group were the largest – and during a blistering heat-wave. Meditation and the feeling of peace – self-generated among the large group – seemed to radiate across the city, spreading peace. They didn’t focus on the problem, nor even on solving the problem; they simply elicited, felt – and maintained – the experience of peacefulness in themselves.
In contrast, feelings of despair, anger, worry and depressed states are said to add to the universal gloom and drain our energy. Evil thrives in places with ‘low’ or contaminated energy, evident in conflict and in problems such as drug abuse and crime. Cynicism and corruption are also indicators of ‘low energy’ that manifests in ‘white collar crime’ and exploitation in some workplaces, and can be felt, despite the camouflage. And it is crime, corruption and conflict which dominates our world. When the Washington project disbanded, crime began to rise again.
This implies that in order to be effective, a feeling of peace within ourselves must be maintained. But, given the problems and demands of our ordinary, day-to-day lives, doing that could be a tall order! There may be little time to switch off and settle down into a meditative state, and there is even less likelihood of us, ‘ordinary folk’ setting aside a couple of months to gather at an appointed venue to meditate.
However, each one of us has the ability to choose how we feel, from one moment to the next, to connect with – and activate – ‘the Kingdom of Heaven within’ and at least afford a few minutes throughout our waking hours to hold the intention to generate the feeling of peace. If this peace is not within us, it is nowhere.
Lighting a candle, listening to lively, melodious music, or humming an upbeat tune can start the ball rolling. Over time, a daily dose of peace can result in a few personal side-effects: mood elevation, calm, greater ability to deal with problems are just a few.
It is the intention and the feeling in us that effects our world and (hopefully) radiates across the planet and beyond – without ‘leaving’ us, in the conventional sense; if peace exists here, it exists everywhere, because ‘everywhere’ is here! As Dr. Deepak Chopra says, “we are local and non-local at the same time.”
With this understanding, I try to take a moment to ‘stop, breathe, reflect and choose’ (the basis of the Relaxation Response as taught by cardiologist, Professor Herbert Benson and his colleagues), and to focus on the feeling of gratitude for what I do have, on what I can do and on what life would be like with the prayer already answered. I also light a candle, a symbol and a reminder to myself of the ‘Field’ of Universal Intelligence of which I am an integral part. And, as often as possible, I switch focus from what I don’t have and cannot do and the current mess: threats from every angle – from climate change to war – to the peaceful, productive, creative world that I would like my children and grandchildren to inherit and enjoy, and I take refuge in the tangible, sensual, cleansing force that is still alive and well in Nature.
I’m still a work in progress, requiring practice, practice and more practice.
In asking ‘everyone I know’ to do whatever is possible to ensure that the force that has ‘taken refuge in us’ and follows the ‘commands’ of peace, I am mindful that what I do is not necessarily the ‘formula’ for success. Everyone has his/her own beliefs and their own method of prayer – or none. However, I guess that the intention of others is similar to mine: Peace and Goodwill amongst all.
For more on the Washington Experiment: