What is Meditation and Prayer Good For?
How effective are prayers, meditation, and contemplation in moments of violence? Is it merely a belly button reflection, where all the peacemaking happens only in your own head. While you feel great about it, in reality are you doing anything? Do meditation and prayer have power?
I keep asking myself this question. In quiet times, I am convinced that intentional thoughts of peace combined with strong emotions and passion for an adventurous peace create a change in the morphic field (à la Rupert Sheldrake), and thus in the consciousness of the people. It works for individual people and small groups. I have seen that, and Durga’s Tiger School ®s work with yogis and yoginis centered on this belief. We can change the world as we change ourselves and our consciousness. But does that still hold true amidst an innocently and peacefully protesting crowd challenged by violent attacks? Whereby the fight or flight instinct is triggered in the cerebellum? How much peace consciousness must there be in the crowd, so that she does not attack, in spite of fear? And again, can meditation and prayer help?
Ecuador, the navel of the world,13 October 2019.
The 12th day of the Indian – popular uprising is Sunday and it’s a full moon.
For 12 days the country is paralyzed. Everywhere, from the jungle to the highlands, from the sea to the big cities. There are strikes against the harsh austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund, which mainly affects the middle class and the poor.
On public television you can see small groups of young people throwing stones wildly. You hear about vandalism. And that now the police and the military must create order, a state of emergency is proclaimed. (*see link below)
Social media shows masses of people. The Indians came from all over the highlands, with women, children, old and young. After a few days, pictures surface of how indigenous people from the jungle arrived, on foot, because the military had not passed the buses. They are insufficiently dressed for the highland climate of 2850 meters altitude.
The universities and the cultural institute open the doors. The population stands in solidarity, supported with food, clothes, mattresses. Commercial kitchens arise. People are calling for the deletion of the decree, which activates the austerity measures. And it’s not just the Indians, the protesters come from all walks of life.
Anxiety seems to be increasing from the videos on social media. From the first day, the police provoke aggressive responses. They blast through crowds on motorcycles, they shoot rubber bullets. They spray tear gas at night in the universities where women, children, and the vulnerable elderly are sleeping, they spray tear gas into peaceful demonstrations outside of the Maternity hospital, where it is said that newborns have died. They throw three teenagers off the bridge- all dead? No, two are in the hospital, one is dead. The individual that died lived at the other end of the bridge and was just coming home from work.
Why so much violence? Social and indigenous leaders are asking the government for dialogue on the matter. The president just holds a brief televised address, surrounded by the military. “Everyone should go home, there is nothing to negotiate.” And the military at his side threatens to intervene with full force, suddenly calling the legal demonstrators “terrorists.” Fear is spreading.
Divide and conquer
There are racist comments on the part of the oligarchy. After a week, the state speaks about the “indigenous uprising,” giving the impression that only that only uneducated peasants are on the streets, separating the “people” from the “Indians,” though we are one. A propaganda trick to make it seem that all the good citizens are at home, this is not a fight to be worried about. Stay home. Stay divided.
In such a short time, you feel incredulous that for the first time in Ecuador a civil war is very close. “Why are you helping the Indians?” A reporter asked the director of Universidad Catolica. “Are you kidding?” He responds. “The indigenous people are helping Ecuador in this historic moment, they are helping me- not me helping them.”
In the 24 years we have lived in Ecuador, there have been three significant uprisings. Each time the corrupt president was deposed without the blood flowing. It is increasingly felt these days that the command to act against so many ruthless authorities against women, children, the elderly and peaceful demonstrators, comes from the outside. The president seems to have become a puppet of foreign interests.
What are we doing, the teachers of Durga’s Tiger School ®? These days we are preparing to receive 22 yogis and yoginis from all over the world. We meditate a lot, pray, send light and peace impulses. We all bathe in this light: all demonstrators, the military, the police, the president, even the World Bank officials included. We envision how the whole high valley vibrates in the light of peace. Still I feel helpless, useless. We send mattresses, cook food, and send it to Quito with a colleague who helps to cook there. Other teachers in Quito are helping as well: cooking, cleaning up garbage while our musicians are leading a demonstration with drums and flutes.
Yes, the “Durga’s Tiger” teachers tell of quite different situations that are heroic in their simple humanity. Often the eyes are wet, as they are deeply moved.
After a tear gas leak on the part of the police, an Indian mother goes to the policemen, crying and sniffling, begging to eat. It sticks to its truth: we belong together, on both sides people are from the same country. Plus, many of the policemen come from poor families. “So tremendously strong,” says the musician, who tells of it. “Where does she get the strength, the trust?”
Men and women and children kneel and pray loudly. And again, police officers appear, racing through the crowd on motorcycles, throwing tear gas bombs.
-There is a young policeman laying down the shield in front of his commander: “My brother is protesting on the other side. I can not shoot my people.”
-A picture is sent around: An Indian woman in a traditional skirt and a colorful blouse stands alone in a tear gas cloud, her hands on her hips, her face tears, swollen. Everything about her expresses her message: “and if you kill me – I stand here and hold the position, fight for a better life of my people.”
-The Military beat a man wearing the doctor’s mark. Later this doctor treats one of these men in the civil service.
-The Military men escort a group of protesters, proceeding to “shake them up.” The result is a fight between the soldiers who protect the demonstrators and the aggressive police.
-A rumor goes around that the Indians took police as hostages, saying, “If you continue to shoot us, we’ll let the cops feel it.” Then a release from the Native American organization: “We’ll force the cops, the coffin to be carried by one of the demonstrators who was killed by the police- that’s our kind of justice.” Then you see a moving interview with these men: “We did not kidnap. We want to carry the coffin voluntarily. We are also against the violence imposed on us by the police.”
Policemen volunteering to carry the coffin of one of their victims- a strong image that transformation is possible. It is a symbol for me that people are no longer simply being provoked and respond to violence with violence.
As for myself, I realize how difficult that is. I watch the videos. I am outraged. I am angry. This unjust, inhumane violence disrupts my internal world. It then becomes hard to build a peaceful field during meditation.
“WHAT? Tear gas in the middle of a rainy night, where the indigenous families sleep, in the university? Shooting at peaceful children, nursing mothers? NO, I do not believe it. These assholes, damn… All this under pressure from the World Bank. So “my” world STOPS… “and if I could, I would scream…” Yes, what? To shoot back?
This burning fire and wild throbbing in the third chakra wants action. To bring this energy back into a powerful calm, which is supposed to radiate a peace-power, is work. I once run up the mountain until I can no longer, the heart races and the blood rushes in the ears.
I return to the Yoga Sala breathing consciously now to lead one of the meditations. Then there it comes suddenly, concentrated peace and concentration mixed with deep respect and gratitude for the people who defy the violent impulses, and that in the middle of the action.
It is striking. There are small and large prayer rituals everywhere, Christian or shamanic. In our village too, everyone I speak with is praying for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and for the President to engage in promising dialogue.
The population remains in solidarity. Day by day the improvised commercial kitchens function, food is distributed, blankets, clothes, mattresses…
As I said, I am split. I would like to help actively to Quito, and of course, that is also part of my self-image. I am a journalist and “fighter.”
And now? My team is holding me back.
“In such crisis situations, you have to do what your passion is. Your passion is Durga’s Tiger School ®. You are doing transformative work with the people who come from far to Ecuador, so that they can go back to the world more consciously and actively shape them. That’s your job at this moment. Our new students are arriving in this chaotic situation, and some are already here. You are scared. We have to see that there is no chaos here. Our team is small and we need you. You can not leave here,” says Rosa, my deputy.
To accept non-doing as another kind of “tantric activism” and to take myself seriously that our meditation, prayer, and contemplation is also a peace-doing that is just as important on another level as active action outside on the road is hard at the moment. I am feeling guilty.
I mean, in Colombia I was in the midst of a civil war zone, letting people speak for television, who officially had no voice reporting on terrible atrocities against them, filmed peace marches that were threatened by military and paramilitaries, was or is on the blacklist of paramilitaries, outlawed…
And now I am just sitting here, meditating, sending light. Hmm.
A consolation: I see that today I do not need it on the level of the media “witnessing,” there are so many good little movies and sequences on the net, almost all protesters have cell phones that can spread pictures. That was not so at that time, 10, 15 years ago.
Much noise about what
On the 11th night I hear loud noise from my neighbors down the mountain. When I arrive, I see: the whole family clatters with pots and pot lids. I get two lids, and see people everywhere standing in front of their houses, banging pot lids too. I join the chattering women and children, we go to the highway bridge, which is blocked by other villagers by burning tires. Yes, you can also send signs from home. I realize how much it makes it easier for me, in addition to the meditation, to do a little concrete action. Even so I do not know if it helps or not.
On this full moon night following the 12th day of the strike, the sky is clear, and our little park is bathed in the bluish moonlight. Finally, the dialogue between Indians and the government, which the population has been calling for days, has come about and is being transmitted live. You can see on the television as the Indians wait under the policemen who look down from a parapet above. With rifles and shields, they throw mandarins to the people.
At the same time: In our Yoga Sala we sit in a circle, it is the entrance ritual of the Yoga teacher training. We meditate all night long, and that is a lot of power in our joint meditation, even the yogis are aware of the historical moment. Of 22 yoga students, 14 have managed to be there. Others are stuck at the Quito airport or in other cities in Ecuador, in Miami, or Madrid- the flights to Ecuador have been canceled for 3 days.
It’s a moving night…
Walk your talk
The population is deeply impressed. The government had only allowed 4 indigenous leaders to speak. The other social groups such as the director of the University did not speak. Did you think the indigenous peasants could not speak publicly? Not even close. The leaders spoke clearly and well, and they deliberately speak for all Ecuadorians and social groups. These are men and women who have something to say and something to defend- their land, the water, the forest, and a future for their children and grandchildren. The arguments are striking. They say they are their words with all their power- and you feel it is true. A woman who speaks says, “Mr. President, they alone are responsible for the deaths of our children- peaceful and legal demonstrations. You have to live with that weight.” Yes, it’s impressive.
The members of the government speak generalities. It is sad to listen.
Then the decision is announced: the government withdraws the decree. The crowd cheers, women hug the policemen who are lowering their shields, and all rigid minds soften. Yes, it is now for all people. The Ecuadorians have not allowed it to be shared with perpetrators and victims, they have not played the game. In the military and the police force, there are many indigenous people and many men from the poor classes.
“The attitude of the Indians is Gandhi-like,” says my musician from Argentina. We hug each other laughing. We hope that in the future we will remember the images of the peaceful resistance that has reached its goal precisely because people have not been provoked by the aggression. They have stayed at their destination. Ecuador’s popular uprising in 2019. A myth.
Today, with everything going its “normal” course, I am confident again that we can rely on meditation, prayer and peaceful action to build a peace force that has enough power to put an end to the madness of our normality and to begin a paradigm shift. I think it needs both- acting outside and inside. May everything happen so that our planet can remain a home for our children and grandchildren. For all people. Aho.