Brahma Kumaris

Meditation group learns peace, eases stress

It’s early Saturday morning, and a group of eight people are sitting around in a circle with their eyes closed at the Carver Ranches Library. Leading the group on an inner journey is African-American meditation instructor Ed Stevenson.

“Think about the positive traits that define you,” he says, in a soft voice. “Everything that happens to you depends on how you see yourself.”

Among those sitting side by side are an executive, a chef and a writer. Some are return visitors, while others have never taken a meditation class before. For the next 45 minutes, the group follows Stevenson on breathing and relaxation exercises and grapples with philosophical questions such as, “Who am I?” “What is it that I need to improve to have a better relationship with myself and others?” “What values not encouraged by this culture must I work to develop?”

“I come because sometimes it is too painful to acknowledge what is really going on, deal with it,” said Gladys Francois, 60, a native of Haiti and regular attendee. “Meditation keeps your mind peaceful; you learn how to be calmer, forgiving, and forget about what others may think of you.”

Stevenson’s Raja yoga meditation group has been meeting since January at the 10,000-square-foot library in West Park. The free sessions, said former Miami-Dade College teacher Roz Reich, who helps run the group, are meant for deep spiritual contemplation, and to help unwind and connect with reality.

“It has been said that this is the age of rage, we see the levels of anger rising. Peace of mind is something so precious, and many of us find that in these troubled times we have lost it.”

Elizabeth Lindley, the library’s manager for the past five years, says that as the unemployment rate has risen and people have sought refuge from the harsh economy, spirituality-related materials have become increasingly popular — not only among those whose lives permit extended time-off, but also recent college graduates and professionals.

“These meditation sessions offer tools that are helpful to ease the stress, pain, and fear that come with these difficult economic times,” she said. “Participants learn how to get rid of negativism, develop good qualities — they learn that this too shall pass.”

For Laura Larriviere, each meeting offers a brief respite from a chaotic life, a glimpse of self-awareness, and a chance to connect with others “also open to improvement.” Once overwhelmed with depression and the rigors of motherhood, she said she found a haven in the meditation groups.

“Since the first time, I have an instant feeling of coming home, being where I wanted to be, in peace with myself and others.”

The positive effects of meditation in her life were many: by learning to slow down and acknowledge her thoughts, Larriviere says she learned to keep sadness from snowballing and stopped taking medication. A more respectful stance towards her body followed — she got rid of cravings, adopted a healthier diet and, over the course of a year, lost some of the weight she had been struggling with.

The 33-year-old said Stevenson’s teaching is particularly appealing as “he speaks up front, is not scared to tell you something you don’t want to hear, which encourages discussion and a deeper personal journey.”

Stevenson, 54, has been teaching Raja yoga meditation in South Florida for 20 years, and juggles the teacher role with his job as a chef at the French kosher restaurant Weber Café in Aventura. A regular student at the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in Mt. Abu, India, he says that practicing meditation and teaching meditation are different packages, and both provide vital input into his life.

“Teaching is sharing. Guiding others to watch what they are thinking, stay present, catch emotions and address them helps me think deeply about my knowledge,” he says; adding that meditation is particularly useful as it helps one move away from automated thoughts, and encourages creativity. “Any hard time one has is because of negativity – fighting or resisting is wrong, learning to deal with things is the right attitude.”

His classes, loosely structured, are filled with dialogue and anecdotes. Participants are encouraged to partake in discussion, but can also choose to keep their thoughts to themselves.

“Whether you come to just listen or to actually improve yourself, there’s always some sort of experience that is beneficial to come for,” Larriviere said.

This is a sentiment that Etta Stevens, who took on meditation 7 years ago when hard times struck her family, said she understands. Committing to a more spiritual life brought her awareness on how to contribute in meaningful ways, even when the economy does not cooperate. She became more aware of her values, more accepting of others, and reaches out by writing about her experiences in a local newsletter.

“When we change, the world changes,” she says, with a smile on her face. “We must make the change.”

[Juliana Accioly, South Florida Times]
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Meditate and cut crime (Trinidad and Tobago Express)

Trinidad and Tobago Express: Will the citizens of the country ever enjoy a crime-free environment? Will this world ever find peace?

These are some of the questions that drove the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre to publicly launch World Peace Hour recently at its Chaguanas branch.

The centre hopes to spread, through prayer and meditation, a peaceful attitude that will help reduce crime.

Attendees included co-ordinator of the Divali Nagar, Deokinanan Sharma, and feature speaker, Assistant Commissioner of Police for South and Central, Dennis Graham.

Most people do not take seriously thoughts on meditation, much less as a way to bring more order to society.

But can meditation have a tangible effect on crime? At the Raja Yoga Centre, people of all races and religion are taught the art of meditation – free of charge.

Such is the commitment of those at the centre to share mental peace.

With centres all around the world and many members who are part of the scientific community, the Raja Yogas have conducted several experiments over the years to test the effects of meditation.

In June 1999, the Social Indicators Research journal reported one of the most dramatic sociological experiments ever undertaken.

Intense group meditation was done over an eight-week period in Washington, DC, during the summer of 1993.

Researchers, before the experiment, had predicted a reduction in crime of at least 20 per cent.

Findings later showed that violent crime-including rapes, murders and assaults-had decreased by 23 per cent during the June 7 to July 30 experimental period.

The odds of this result are two in one billion.

The study was led by John Hagelin, Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

The demonstration had involved nearly 4,000 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation from 81 countries.

Hagelin stated: “Previous research had shown that these meditation techniques create a state of deep relaxation and coherence in the individual and simultaneously appear to produce an effect that spreads into the environment, influencing people who are not practising the techniques and who have no knowledge of the experiments themselves”.

Hagelin, an eminent physicist, drew terminology from quantum field theories to refer to the results of meditation as “a field effect of consciousness”.

“It’s analogous to the way that a magnet creates an invisible field that causes iron filings to organise themselves into an orderly pattern,” Hagelin said.

He also said that meditation has been shown to create high levels of coherence and orderliness in individual practitioners.

This “orderliness” appears to spill over into society and can be measured directly through the positive changes that occur.

Dr Ann Hughes, a professor of Sociology and Government at the University of the District of Columbia, later said of the experiment: “What we are looking at here is a new paradigm of viewing crime and violence. Hughes was part of a 27-member project review board composed of independent scientists and civic leaders who approved the research protocol and monitored and the process.

Sr Jasmine, co-ordinator of the centre, said that the most powerful instrument known to man is the power of thought.

“Crime begins as a thought,” Sr Jasmine said.

Changing these thought forms before they begin a definite way, she said, begins curbing crime.

“Our world is crying out for peace and thirsting for love.

“The call of time is here for each of us to make a meaningful contribution,” Sr Jasmine urged.

“Our once-sweet and loving T&T is fast becoming unconscious and filled with fear, hopelessness and sorrow.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police in South, Dennis Graham, said that the institutions of family, religion and education also hold a great responsibility in the prevention of crime in this country.

He referred to the biblical saying: “Train up a child when he is young that he may not depart from it when he is old.”

“There is an increasing dependency on the Government to provide services that should be provided by the family,” Graham said.

“If the family fails, other institutions will fail,” Graham said.

“The police cannot do our jobs successfully without the intervention of these institutions. We must join hands and hearts.”

He said that most officers are trained to simply deal with a crime on hand without taking a deeper look into the criminal mind.

He is a firm believer in prevention, and cited the disparities in the social and economic classes as being one of the root causes of crime.

“The disparity between the upper of the upper class and the lower of the class are wide.

Those of the lower of the lower class sometimes seek to attain the things of the upper of the upper class by illegal means.”

He said that one of the main purposes of education is to socialise children through the use of a country’s culture and values.

Graham also felt that spirituality needs to be taught to younger people.

“We must pray daily,” the policeman said.

“Children need to be taught that people are more important than material things. Some have virtually abdicated these values.”

He said, though, that there has been a noticeable drop in criminal activity from where he sits, since the provision of more patrol vehicles to the police force.

He pointed out that the once pandemic kidnapping trend has abated.

The centre will continue to hold World Peace Hour on every third Sunday of the month and all are invited to attend.

Original article no longer available

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