What do a researcher studying disease prevention at Stanford and a particle physicist from Harvard studying changes in crime rates have in common? Both have published statistical research showing that when groups of people intentionally create peaceful states of mind, they affect physical reality whether the changes are internal and physiological, or external and related to societal well-being.
Fred Luskin’s research conducted at Stanford (referred to earlier in this issue) demonstrated physiological improvements while his research participants practiced meditative and forgiveness techniques. In most instances however, Luskin’s statistics reflected subjective perceptions. Statistical changes in stress-related physical indicators were significant: Research participants with preexisting elevated levels of anger did experience measurable reductions in blood pressure.
Several years after Luskin published his research findings, new measurement and empirical research protocols were developed which generated better and more direct links between forgiveness and endocrinological evidence. These results showed a change in cortisol levels as well as stress indices like blood pressure improvement and both were associated with the regular practice of meditation.
For many people, these kinds of results might seem obvious - if you calm your mind and get rid of stressful thoughts, your body will calm down also. But in the world of medical research, these statistics point to direct physiological correlations as a result of using both physical and mental relaxation techniques.
Physicist John Hagelin’s “Maharishi” research tracked significant decreases in crime rate percentages when large (in the thousands) groups of people meditated on peace within densely populated urban cities. His experiments tested the following hypothesis: Can a large group of meditation experts practicing together reduce stress and tension in their surrounding environment and thus reduce violent crime? His statistical results showed a significant impact.
Now at this point in my column I’d like to address “skepticism.” There exists an organization (I won’t mention the name - it’s easy enough to Google) that represents itself as being “scientifically neutral” but has the intent to expose (what is considered in their ranks) pseudoscience. For instance, let’s say a member of this organization wants to take issue with a particular study or some piece of published research. Their website provides stringent guidelines in which to construct valid arguments.
Yet in the case of Hagelin’s research this organization allowed a “skeptic” to fudge on the veracity of his arguments when it came to challenging the research findings. Instead of rigorously finding fault with the research data, this pseudoskeptic merely attacked the scientist, an all too common tendency demonstrated by many people in the field of pseudoskeptism. Further, while the organization provides unlimited space in which to marshal an attack on a scientists’ published research, rebuttal space in which the scientist might fully address the skeptic’s attacks is minimal.
Dr. John Hagelin, respected particle physicist and author of almost one hundred cutting edge peer reviewed theoretical physicists papers, conducted a collection of the research data so thoroughly and impeccably as to leave little doubt of the statistical implications: When four thousand experienced meditation participants focused on peace over a period of several weeks, the violent crime statistics for that city (Washington, D. C.) fell significantly when compared to previous years as well as before and after experimental time frames. Regardless of the pseudoskeptic criticism, Hagelin’s statistics were robust and were predictable based on dozens of previous experiments.
There is a compelling similarity between the internal physiological changes observed from people focusing on peace and forgiveness and the dramatic drop in crime rates when large groups of people meditate publicly on peace. The meditators practicing peaceful mental states demonstrate an observable effect on material reality: mind affecting matter.
When it comes to the world of science, there is a problem in getting the researchers who work primarily with “mind” (social scientists) to create terminology that has compatible meanings with the researchers who work primarily with matter (natural or physical scientists). Most people would say that they experience their meditation internally or “within” themselves. OK, but what does the term “within” mean? Within what? The physiological body? The mind? And what shared meaning do those terms refer to?
People who have experienced this “within,” might assume that the terms they use to describe those experiences would be universally accepted. But subjective experience is difficult to qualify and the use of any vaguely defined terminology can often be a source of contentiousness within the scientific community. But as more solid evidence is published that supersedes old boundaries of understanding, new meanings and new terminology do emerge.
The physical connections between the quality of our thoughts and the interpretations of our life experiences are becoming increasingly apparent, not just to the researchers who test these hypotheses, but to the scientists who review and publish the data. While pseudoskeptics argue that the premise of such research is too absurd to pursue, these statistics show that our physical science theorems are increasingly compelled to integrate human/ mind interface. Thus, breaking down antiquated boundaries in terminology and comprehension between what we think and the world we experience IS the future of science. The prejudiced arguments presented by pseduoskeptics will become increasingly ignored, then forgotten.
Current physical science theorems already hold that the boundaries of matter are fuzzy and somewhat elusive. As physical evidence concomitant with intentional thought continues to accumulate, whether it is physiological healing, psychological well-being, or a marked reduction in violent crime, the reciprocal relationship between thought and matter will ultimately become accepted and a new scientific language that reflects these evolved understandings will arise.
In the meantime, appreciate and moderate the quality of your thoughts. Evidence shows that we perceive as “with-in” ourselves does indeed effect the quality of our experiences “with-out.”
About the Author:
If there was undeniable proof that consistent meditation could heal our planet, would you learn meditation techniques and join millions of others in visualizing world peace?