I’m back in the UK after a five-week stint in the US, where I ran two Living with Intention workshops, had meetings and retreats with spiritual leaders of all persuasions, and spent a much-needed two-week holiday in California with my family.
I also spent a great deal of time speaking with my team of scientists to examine many of the issues involved in setting up the Peace Intention Experiment.
As a mass group experiment to promote peace in a particular hotspot has never been tried before, at least in the very rigorous way that we’re planning, the biggest challenge is to figure out how exactly this experiment should be run.
For the first one, we have to set up a hypothesis and then test it. If it works, we’ll know we have modelled our study well. If it doesn’t work, we will know only that one of the following is true:
In other words, with any scientific experiment, you start out by stumbling in the dark.
Help from TM studies
Happily, in this instance we have some scientific work that will help to light our way. As you may know, the Transcendental Meditation organization carried out a great number of systematic studies examining whether the passive act of meditation in a particular area, when carried out by a large group of people, can have an effect on lowering violence levels and also terrorist activities. Many of their studies showed a 10-20 per cent drop in violence levels in particular areas populated by a critical number of meditators. Their studies have been analyzed by a team of statisticians and published in reputable scientific journals.
These studies are invaluable to us because
Examining their study design can give the Peace Intention Experiment a basis blueprint that we can tailor for our purposes. And our work, in effect, will extend theirs.
Besides the scientists on my panel, I spoke at length with David Orme-Johnson, one of the architects of the TM studies, and John Davies, of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. Davies worked with Orme-Johnson in helping to find the statistics used for the TM studies, and has offered a great deal of information about how to find reliable data.
The most important question of all that we have had to consider over the last two months in designing this first experiment is simply this:
How long should we send intention?
Should we do our customary 10 minutes, or more? And should we just send intention one time, or more than once? And if so, how many times?
Jessica Utts, the professor of statistics at the University of California at Davis who will be analyzing this data of the Peace Intention Experiment, says that just seeing one dip in the statistics (corresponding to the time we sent intention) isn’t going to be very impressive. We need to see a sustainable dip, or a series of spikes corresponding to times we send intention, for our experiment to be statistically convincing.
All the Intention Experiments run to date have asked participants to send intention for just 10 minutes. Nevertheless, in those instances, we’ve sent intention to a simple target — a jar of water, a leaf, a set of seeds – and tried to change something simple.
With those experiments, we were taking baby steps. We’re now about to take a giant leap in terms of the complexity of our target.
Gary Schwartz, the professor of psychology at the University of Arizona who has partnered with me on the early experiments, believes that a single 10-minute intention is almost certain to fail with the Peace Intention Experiment. He argues strongly that our intention needs to be sustained over some days or be run at random intervals. That way, if we see spikes in our data corresponding with times we send intention, we’ll know that our intentions are having an effect.
In the TM studies, the minimum amount of time for meditation was 40 minutes, although they also ran studies examining the effect of 7000 people in the same place carrying out daily bouts of meditation for 10 minutes.
Nevertheless, the meditators were always asked to meditate over a sustained time period – one week to one month.
That suggests to us that our 10-minute model can work when carried out over a number of days.
Same time, same place for one week
So for this first study, it’s likely that we’ll ask you to send intention every day for 10 minutes at the same time for one week. If this is finally agreed (and we’re still working on study design), we’ll ask you to come on our site at the same time every day (see below) for a week to send the same intention to the same target.
We’re still working out the times, but it’s likely they will be the following:
All other main time zones will be listed and sent to you
John Davies and I discussed something else interesting about use of the internet for this experiment. The TM studies discovered positive effects with two group sizes. When 1 per cent of the population in any given area was meditating, the crime rate went down.
Nevertheless, when the square root of 1 per cent of the population was together in the same place, this also had a positive effect on lowering violence. In the experiments with international terrorist levels, the TM people were able to lower terrorist action when 7000 people t were meditating at the same site. At the time, 7000 represented the square root of 1 per cent of the population.
In a sense, by gathering together on our website all at the same moment, we will be, in a sense, in the same ‘place’. If we have 8000 participants or more, we will have the square root of 1 per cent of the world’s current population. At the moment 5000 have already signed up and that figure is going up by hundreds every day.
So please, if you haven’t signed up already, do so here. And get all your likeminded friends to participate as well. Let’s surpass the TM’s definition of a critical mass and speak with one thunderous voice.