When we heal, others heal. There are variations, but the gist of the concept is that one person healing, ripples out to heal thousands of others.
In 1976, the Indian spiritual leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi proposed that just 1% of the square root of a population meditating, would significantly decrease the incidence of crime in that population by creating coherence, or the peaceful unification of body, mind and spirit, among the inhabitants of that area.
By 1983 the world population was 4.9 billion, and the Maharishi claimed that just 7,000 people meditating would create greater coherence on the planet.The scientific study that followed revealed a 16% reduction in crime across three major metropolitan areas around the globe. Subsequent studies in the 1990’s went on to confirm the accuracy of his original theory.
According to the Maharishi Effect, we only need a little over 1,800 people meditating to create more coherence among the population of the United States. In the entire world, we need just over 8,000. I think we can trust that we have that amount, and far more.
(You could argue that our world is a shambles, so what’s my point? I would counter, let’s consider what things might be like if we didn’t have so many people meditating!)
We now know for certain that groups of people in meditation have a calming and unifying effect on their neighbors, based on the collected results of repeated studies of the Maharishi Effect. Economist Steven Leavitt, author of Freakonomics, reminds us that numbers don’t lie. Sitting in our homes, quieting the mind and moving energy, we have an effect on the collective! Our classes and meditations, workshops and church services, all create more coherence. When we move out discordant energies and bring in higher and more supportive qualities, we heal ourselves and we give others permission to heal.
That’s just meditation. What if small, daily acts of kindness and awareness toward others has as great an effect? What if that kindness creates yet more coherence? Maybe it’s those little acts you might forget in a week or a month, the moments that take 2 minutes, or 5 or even 2 seconds – that are as much the glue that holds us all together, as a devoted meditation practice?
I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin. As the years went on the neighborhood changed profoundly and parts of it turned into lower income areas. In their retirement my mom and dad ran a food bank in the neighborhood and two blocks from our home were the roughest apartments in the city. My mom would go to the local pharmacy and the library and I remember her telling me stories about how she’d get out of her car in the middle of winter in an icy parking lot, and sometimes one of the many young people loitering around the storefronts all day would come over and offer an arm to help her walk to the door.
I let my hair go gray a few years ago and since then I get called ma’am all the time. People open doors for me and I’ve decided I like it. I’m especially delighted when it’s a teenager or a young twenty-something because I know they’re at that age where they might not be very conscious of the world around them. My brother gets annoyed because at 64 he’s a masters level mountain bike racer, very fit and conscientious about his health, and he tells funny stories about the teen that ran to beat him to the door so he could open it for him, and the 40-something clutching a Big Gulp and a bag of Cheetos, jumping up to offer my brother his seat on a bus. But I say, doesn’t it feel good to know there are always people out there that are polite and attentive to others? They’ve witnessed kindness in their lives and they’re passing it on. I think it’s hopeful.
However influential those little moments may or may not be, they remind me to be kind, hold doors and smile at people when I’m out and about. To ask strangers about their day and to admire someone’s little dog, or their sweater, or their good manners. We don’t have to meditate, we just need to be aware, and be kind. One smile at a time, we’re creating coherence.