You are in a meditation hall with 1800 people. Your eyes are closed so you do not see them. Instead, you feel them. You feel like you are being powerfully pulled inward, drawn down the face of a large wave that rises inside you. You are alert, alive, thrumming with excitement. On the outside you do nothing. You merely sit comfortably in meditation. On the inside you are at the gate of an exhilarating inner adventure. Without thoughts, your mind is thrilled by how satisfying silence can be. Your heart opens, expanding bravely into the infinite.
I had the fortune of this life transforming experience twice daily, every day, for 12 years. That was when I lived in a community that formed in Fairfield, Iowa for the purpose of group meditation. Fairfield is a town of 9500, where meditators gathered starting in 1974. Around 4000 meditators have lived there since. The meditators live in homes throughout what is otherwise an ordinary small town in Iowa. They work regular jobs. However, they start and end their work day at the town’s two, conveniently located, large group meditation halls. Think of two of Western’s Carver Gymnasiums filled with meditation mats and row after row of, at any given time, 1200-1800 people meditating.
Since leaving Fairfield for career advancement, I have sought out group meditation experiences. We live in incredible, and perilous times: humanity has more power and global interconnectivity than ever, yet these have come with the depletion and poisoning of our air, water and earth, escalating climate chaos, the war on terror, a dysfunctional prison system, racism, the underfunding of education, the failure of healthcare to emphasize prevention, obesity, anxiety, depression, social isolation, increasing poverty, homelessness, and a federal government that only accidentally represents the interests of the people (1).
In my observation, the underlying causative problems are:
- Excessive emphasis on the male with the suppression of the female principle
- Materialism with its push to greed, violence and institutionalized economic disparity
- Our habit of responding to fear with violence.
Communities are responding to these problems. Many activist groups work to create awareness about what is and what is not in the interest of the people. The overwhelming need of our time for activism is one of the main reasons I believe now is the time for increasing numbers of people to meditate and participate in group meditation.
Meditation—and other forms of yoga—are activism. When you meditate, you do not fight against anything. Instead, you are for everything, “everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes” (line from poem, “I Thank You God For Most This Amazing” by E.E. cummings). Meditation feels like activism because it so life affirming. It strongly brings you into harmony with yourself. Meditation puts you into a state in which you experience “Yatinam brahma bhavati sarathih” (Rik Ved, 1.158.8) – ‘For those established in the meditative state, the intelligence of the universe, inspires the actions with the greatest benefit to the whole.’ In the meditative state you experience, “Satyam eva jayate” (Manduka Upanishad, 3.1.6) – ‘that ultimately, truth alone triumphs’.
In the meditative state you:
- Go beyond male, female, ideas, beliefs, and grow to experience yourself as something that includes and transcends these.
- Uncover the riches of your inner consciousness, encouraging expansion beyond your egoistic possessions.
- Find that violence starts in your own heart in the ways you treat yourself and your loved ones.
- Experience that on a deep, subtle level, we are connected; we share a common, sacred core.
When you meditate in a group, in direct proportion to the size of the group, the clarity and power of the meditative experience is exponentially increased. Because of the power of 1800 people meditating together, when I lived in Fairfield, it felt almost as if I became a member of another species. A species filled with possibility, positivity and hope. A species with the creative potential to transform the human experience wholesale to the next level of human evolution. A level where air water, earth and life on earth are sacred, where ‘humanimals’ are sustainable, and our lives are filled with freedom, meaning and the magic, healing power of love.
Travis Callender is a primary care Nurse Practitioner at Peacehealth. He has been meditating and practicing yoga since he was nine.
1) Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, Vol 12, Issue 3, 9/2014, p 564-581.