How can I possibly slow down and enjoy inner peace when the world is filled with so much suffering and turmoil?" This is a question I hear often in meditation sessions. It seems as though a common belief is that one doesn't deserve inner peace unless every aspect of the world at large is resolved in perfection.
But what if the way to outer peace -- and even world peace -- is through achieving inner peace?
Hypothetically, imagine there is a nation made up of individuals who are predominantly stressed out and kept in a constant state of fear by horrible events happening and being reported by a readily available media that never sleeps. What might happen to the people of that nation? Well, the nearly permanent state of fear will send their nervous systems into a constant state of "fight or flight." Emotions and reason are paralyzed in favor of immediate survival. This stress response, when kept intact for prolonged periods of time, is destructive to the body and mind. It prevents clarity, creativity, health, and the natural feeling of being connected to others in the community. The fight or flight response also releases extra cortisol hormones, which put into play a nearly irrepressible hunger, which can lead to obesity. I wonder if it is a coincidence that obesity has reached epidemic levels here in the U.S., even in children?
Fear leads to increased nesting urges. This means more shopping for a temporary feeling of safety, overspending, which gives a false sense of control. This kind of behavior could lead to excessive debt, hoarding, an economic crisis, and even more stress. Wow, that's another coincidence: we've also got those here in the United States. Excessive stress leads to difficulty sleeping. This can effect productivity, creativity, and one's sense of well-being. Beyond the obvious crankiness associated with sleep deprivation, there's often consequential chemical dependency: coffee or other stimulants for wakefulness, and sleeping pills or alcohol to get at least some sleep.
This is getting a bit disturbing, so let's imagine a different hypothetical situation: what if there were a nation made up of individuals who had a substantial hold on their inner peace? Who perhaps had some kind of meditation practice, leading them into the "relaxation response" instead? Well, with decreased cortisol, there might be less overeating. This would lead to less waste, more resources, and fewer medical issues and expenses. And what if that nation was made up of people who, instead of being stuck in "fight or flight," were regularly in a state of homeostasis, in other words feeling a sense of peace and well-being most of the time? There would be better sleeping, leading to more creativity and less overspending. Hmmm, that could lead to a healthier economy with less debt. Also, coming out of the state of fear, one is more likely to feel an inherent connection to others and the world around them. This could even lead to less greed, and more of a collective movement in favor of the common good. In fact, individuals with more inner peace are likely to know how powerful they are, and so not be afraid of government nor involvement, and therefore protest when it's called for, and vote out of clear reason instead of fear.
It seems to me that finding a form of meditation that works for you and leads you to a deep sense of inner peace isn't secondary to solving the world's problems. In fact, based on the hypothetical examples above, it seems to be obviously primary to achieving balance in the outer world.
I don't advocate that one form of meditation is better than any other. I feel that everyone is different, and so you must explore the many meditation methods available to find what works the best for you. Experiment until you feel at home in a practice that reveals your deepest inner peace.
Inner peace will strengthen individuals, and therefore strengthen our nation, better our world. Inner peace will bring power and clarity into your every decision and action. Can it wait until all of the world's problems are solved? Perhaps your inner peace is the beginning of the solution.