One evening we were drinking tea and talking about the state of the world, the good and not so good things, and realizing the preciousness of it all. We imagined a world without suffering and agreed that people needed to unite in greater connectedness. It became obvious to us that this could be done by meditating together, which inspired us to create a book to enable others to discover the magic and power of meditation.
From then on everything began to fall into place. We contacted the Dalai Lama, Robert Thurman, Marianne Williamson, Dan Millman, and Jack Kornfield, who all agreed to participate as did so many other amazing people: Nobel Laureates, scientists, activists, and spiritual leaders in all walks of life. Each one showed how meditation can transform both ourselves and the world, that it is an exciting, integral, and intimate part of being alive.
Seven of the dynamic and luminous women and men from our book, Be The Change, are included here. William Spear has compassionately brought help to many areas in the world devastated by natural disasters. From the experience of her own awakening, Byron Katie discovered the four questions that have turned around the lives of countless seekers. The Dalai Lama has tirelessly sought a peaceful resolution to the Chinese invasion of Tibet. By the time she was 19 years old, Kiri Westby was a women’s rights activist, working in Africa, Nepal and the Congo. Marshall Rosenberg brilliantly turns conflict into dialogue through nonviolent communication. Yoga teacher Seane Corn works with children, poverty, and to prevent AIDS in some of the most needy parts of the world. And Jon Kabat-Zinn has fearlessly taken meditation into the world of hospitals, thereby enabling thousands of people to find pain relief.
William Spear is the author of Recovering Original Ability and counsels individuals overcoming illness and trauma. He directs the Fortunate Blessings Foundation in Connecticut, which, among many activities and in an effort to relieve human suffering on all levels, assists orphaned and traumatized children following natural disasters, wherever they may occur. “Meditation has been a crucial and essential part of my daily life in helping me to do the work I do, whether it is being with people who are dying, or in an area that has just been obliterated by a tsunami or earthquake. I am often asked how I deal with all the dead bodies, the people who have lost their limbs, children who have lost their parents, or the women I have seen who took the lives of their own daughters to prevent them from being raped and horribly abused. The only way it is possible to witness this, other than totally numbing myself out, is to just keep gnawing away at the edges of my own heart, to keep melting over and over again until I can expand my heart to be big enough to compassionately embrace all that is in front of me.
“If we are in the presence of something that we just cannot bear and we find a way to get into our hearts, then we can begin to soften. When I find myself holding a child who has just lost everything she has ever known, or playing basketball with guys who have had their legs cut off with chain saws and are tied to a board pushing themselves around on the ground, or talking with those who have just been diagnosed with cancer or HIV, then I try to just be present and compassionate with my heart open, even if it is unbearable. My meditation practice is a practice of constantly opening my heart so that I can be unconditionally present.”
Byron Katie is founder of The Work, a process of inquiry, and the author of Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are. “The apparent craziness of the world, like everything else, is a gift that we can use to set our minds free. Any stressful thoughts that you have about the planet, for example, or about life and death, shows you where you are stuck, where your energy is being exhausted in not fully meeting life as it is, without conditions. When you question what you believe, you eventually come to see that you are the enlightenment you have been seeking. Until you can love what is—everything, including the violence and craziness—then you are separate from the world, and you will see it as dangerous and frightening. When the mind is not at war with itself, there is no separation.
“I live in constant meditation, and if a thought should ever show up as anything less than goodness, I know that it would spill over to other people as confusion, and those other people are me. My job is to enlighten myself to that, and to love the spent rose, the sound of the traffic, the litter on the ground, and the litterer who gives me my world. I pick up the litter, do the dishes, sweep the floor, wipe the baby’s nose, and question anything that would cost me the awareness of my true nature. There is nothing kinder than this, nothing.”