As the nation experiences fear and uncertainty about its economic future, a quiet, unexpected phenomenon is spreading across the country. According to FBI reports, violent crime has fallen for three straight years, with the murder rate now the lowest in four decades. These statistics defy predictions; police authorities had braced for a crime wave, expected to be unleashed by the recession, rising home foreclosures and social despair.
Federal law enforcement officials neither anticipated the sustained drop in violent crime nor have they been able to explain it. The Washington Post states, "Criminologists describe the trend as baffling."
Historically, economic recession and crime go together, yet we seem to be handling it better than in the past. Is there a shift occurring in collective consciousness, toward greater harmony, calmness and resilience?
Crime and violence are an expression of national levels of stress. More and more people are finding ways to manage stress and chill out rather than allowing it to escalate in their lives. Reports of increasing numbers of Americans turning to yoga, meditation and natural health spas during the recession reflect this growing trend.
Though charitable donations are down, people are still choosing to give and are volunteering time and talents to make a difference in their neighborhood, community and world. Volunteerism is up -- showing the biggest increase in a single year since 2003. Many more people are pulling together rather than away from each other, weathering the recession through cooperation, creative thinking and giving.
Why the unexpected positive trends during such punishing times?
One possible explanation, if true, may be more surprising than the shift itself. It comes to us from a quiet, yet progressive little town in America's heartland. Every morning and evening in Fairfield, Iowa -- seven days a week -- 2,000 volunteers from 50 countries and all races and religions come together to practice group Transcendental Meditation. Their endeavor, called the "Invincible America Assembly," is based on the ancient tradition of maintaining large group meditations to neutralize negative societal trends. "In the vicinity of unified awareness, hostile tendencies disappear," say the Yoga Sutras, compiled some 2,000 years ago by the venerated sage Patanjali.
Since the start of the Assembly, scientists have monitored crime rate and other social indicators, tracking possible correlations between the number of meditators and societal trends. Some people see the rising positive trends, such as the inexplicable drop in violent crime, as evidence that the group meditations are working.
Is the power of coherent, unified consciousness greater than we realize?
Some interpret findings in quantum physics to suggest that all the fundamental components of the natural world -- all the forces and subatomic particles -- are in fact nonmaterial waves traversing nonmaterial fields. Could meditation be a way to access an underlying, nonmaterial field of consciousness to create an influence of harmony and orderliness throughout society?
Whatever the reason for rising positive trends amidst this economic downturn, it's something to be thankful for. As our government struggles with political gridlock and economic reform, people in one Midwest town are volunteering their precious time to offer a silent gift of peace for the nation.
Gifts given in silence are sometimes the most powerful.