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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

"Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds." ~Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

This month we feature two articles on meditation: one a brief overview and the second on meditations for world peace here in Atlanta.

Meditation, I believe, is one hugely beneficial spiritual practice that cuts across all paths, faiths and religions. It is essential, fundamental.

“It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our mind?” asks Sakyong Mipham, the spiritual director of of the Shambala lineage and international network of meditation centers.

Indeed, and meditation is the supreme method of training our minds. Meditation, says Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, leads to peace of mind, which leads to happiness. Is that not what all living beings want, humans and non-humans alike, to be happy? And to his point, we cannot begin to work on world peace without being peaceful individuals. That is rather like hoping to put together a winning basket- ball team with people who know how to play only poker.

I cannot lay claim to a constant and continual inner peace. It is the goal, and practice extends the length of time in which my mind dwells in peace, but “constant and continual” is down the road for me. Which is why I find the Twin Hearts meditation, which is discussed in our second article, particularly appealing; it starts by triggering a mind of happiness before focusing our energies on love and compassion for the planet and its inhabitants.

There are some who are equally angry and disgusted as I am at the injustice that spews daily from our nation’s capital, but who criticize those who pray for things to improve; action and resistance are needed to make a difference, they say. Either implicitly or explicitly, they judge prayers as useless, if not downright hypocritical in the avoidance of “effective action.”

But praying and meditating for peace is action. As Sakyong Mipham says, “If we want to generate compassion and love, that’s work.” Moreover, such action can be effective. To wit, there is the 1993 experiment by Transcendental Meditation practitioners in which thousands of people gathered to meditate over an eight-week period to reduce the incidence of violent crime in Washington, D.C. The group’s efforts reportedly reduced crime during that time by 23 percent.

Moreover, our hearts know. There are nights when a Twin Hearts meditation concludes and we all know that something happened, that the needle did move, however imperceptible it might be to anyone who walked by our meditation space.

I believe in the power of meditation to confer peace of mind, to engender happiness and to make us instruments of world peace. We cannot give what we do not have, and the struggle for some is to create enough peace in our hearts so as to share with the world. At this point in time, making the effort seems crucial, if not for effect, certainly for intent. We live in a milieu that seems intent on dividing and creating hate, and it is up to us to choose to act differently.

May the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which is incorporated into the Twin Hearts meditation, inspire and support us along the way.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring your light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life

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