Here we are – another December and chance to say “Merry Christmas!” and be in good cheer. We also hear “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women).” It’s tradition to utter these phrases and wish these ideals every winter... and in today’s massively divisive climate, it demands even more intention and inspection. But we have to ask: Why only in December? Why do we not wish and intend this good cheer and well-being year round?
It is vitally important that we do. At least the goodwill toward each other (It would just sound ridiculous to wish “Merry Christmas” in April or August). Without a doubt, I am not the first person to suggest this goal. However, when we look closer at it, we can understand why. The truth is really quite simple and yet incredibly profound: We are all connected and can have some measure of influence over each other. Though we would like to think we are separate and autonomous beings, the fact is we also contribute to a pool of mind and awareness, famously known as “the collective unconscious.” To think we are separate from this expanse would be a gross error of denial.
Although we may not focus upon it, each of us is swimming as a member in the collective pool. Whether we are consciously aware of this or not does not negate that whirlpools and eddies of the collective have an effect within us (even if it’s only teensy-weensy). Scientific studies demonstrate that we do have measurable impact. For instance, studies in Transcendental Meditation have produced some incredible results, suggesting this influence. The first published research on the society-wide influence of group practice of the TM-Sidhi technique (a slightly different form of TM practice that tries to train the mind to think from the mind’s source) was reported in 1987 by Dillbeck et al. They reported statistically significant crime reductions in Manila, Philippines, during two specific periods when large groups practiced the TM and TM-Sidhi techniques. There was an 11% reduction in crime from November 1980 to March 1981, and a 12% reduction in crime from August 1984 to August 1985.
In 1983, during the war in Lebanon, a group of TM-Sidhi experts went to Israel after submitting predictions in advance, in the presence of U.S. and Israeli scientists, regarding reductions in war deaths and other societal measures. In a 1988 study published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Orme-Johnson reported highly significant decreases in war deaths, war intensity, and numerous other measures related to stress, such as crime rate, traffic accidents, fires, and increases in measures of overall well-being and in the stock market. These results have been replicated seven times.
Lynne McTaggart in her research on the power of intention has held many group intention experiments where participants have had measurable effects on subjects separated by great distances – in some cases across continents. In a pilot experiment, McTaggart asked a group of 16 meditators based in London to direct their thoughts to four remote targets in a laboratory in Germany: two types of algae, a plant and a human volunteer.
The meditators were asked to attempt to lower certain measurable biodynamic processes. The scientific team discovered significant changes in all four targets while the intentions were being sent, compared to times the meditators were ‘resting’.
Of course, focused meditation and intention within the parameters of a scientific research architecture gives us a framework in order to measure results. This doesn’t mean that without focus or intention that our thoughts have less impact. On the contrary, one could argue that the more a certain type of thought and feeling is created amongst a large group of individuals and cycled repetitively over a long period of time could have an even greater impact overall than a single focused meditation. Continuous replay of thoughts and feelings sets a “standard” or “norm” that gets fed through the collective and picked up within the subconscious aspects of one’s Self, which then has to tend with “metabolizing” it within the greater aspects of one’s individual experience – yet the source is from this greater collective moaning on in a "hum-drum" never-ending drone outside (and sinking in).
This can also be likened to the story of the “100th monkey.” Adapted from a book by Ken Keyes, Jr titled “The Hundredth Monkey” the story goes: The Japanese monkey, Macaca fuscata, had been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years. In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant.
An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too.
This cultural innovation was gradually picked up by various monkeys before the eyes of the scientists. Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes.
Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes -- the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let's further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.
THEN IT HAPPENED! By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough.
But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea...Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes. Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind, (possibly through the collective unconscious).
Though the 100th monkey story is considered by skeptics to be wholly unsupportable regardless of the scientific research, we have theoretically seen something similar within humanity itself: Pyramids. This iconic structure didn’t stay confined to Egypt… It crossed the ocean to Central America with the Mayans and the Aztecs. When one looks at the history of humanity, even up to the modern age, we see various moments where it appears the same ideas and/or inventions are being created simultaneously around the globe, without any interactions among the various groups of people.
Naturally, not enough research has been done in working with the collective unconsciousness to know just how much impact it has on us as individuals. I’m sure it varies from person-to-person, but to think that we are completely immune to what is within the pool would be fool-hardy, as demonstrated from previous observations and experiments. To realize that even if the impact is small, it behooves us to consider the quality of that impact. Is it beneficial or ruinous? And since we all contribute to it, we must realize the even greater importance our thoughts and feelings have… Not only to ourselves, but to this collective.
This is why we must consider the intention and desire of goodwill towards others beyond even the holiday season. This may be why so many people love the holidays: for a brief moment within the collective, the energy has changed and does offer more acceptance and comradery, which unfortunately shifts again come January 2nd of the New Year (typically).
It doesn’t have to. We are all connected. As with the 100th monkey or those receiving thoughts from meditation practitioners, we can invite change. With deliberate intent, not only can we make our individual experiences more joyous, loving, and integrative personally, that beauty which we give to ourselves also feeds to the collective, meaning that in-turn, we have not only nourished ourselves, we have nourished everyone else on this planet. Take that in for a moment. Really consider it. The more we forgive, love, and feel compassion toward ourselves personally, the more we give that to humanity collectively… like water feeding the roots of a colossal tree. Being part of a collective, there is no getting around this truth.
So when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, realize that however you wish to improve yourself and your life in the coming season, your thoughts and feelings can also impact and help move the collective. I believe it is a responsibility that ‘til now we have not acknowledged, yet it is vitally important that we do. Knowing this, what resolutions are you inspired to make? This could be the biggest year ever -– for you and for others.
Feel and intend not with derision or divisiveness against your neighbors or the masses, but work to further evoke love and compassion. Let’s clean the water of the pool and still the waves. The process is no different than what we used to dirty it and make it chaotic –- except this time, we have a slightly greater awareness of our contributions.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!