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Monday, November 09, 2009

Spontaneous Freedom: When the Wall Was Brought Down

In 1989 I was a college student majoring in International Relations. I had taken several classes on the politics of Eastern Europe and the general consensus among experts in the field was that change in the Soviet Union would be slow, but was certainly happening. My professors, many leaders in the field who had gained tenure at an Ivy League university, saw a gradual trajectory of change. They predicted that as government wanted more economic power in the world, it would have to grant greater freedoms to the people to stimulate productivity, and that as people tasted minor freedoms they would want more. Politicians would seek to appease them by carefully satisfying that tentative call of the people, but without granting any real freedom that would diminish the power of the state. Being a student, I tended to accept their predictions as likely to be true.

We were just as surprised as anyone else when suddenly one day the newspapers announced that the Berlin wall had just come down. News footage showed joyous people celebrating atop the remnants of what had separated them from the free world. I don’t think there was anyone in the U.S. State department or any political office within East Germany itself that was any less surprised. How is this possible, within a nation in which there was no right to freedom of speech nor freedom of association? How did such a huge group of people dedicated to bringing down the Soviet government manage to rise to such power without being stamped out long before they reached a critical mass? The answer will probably shock and fortify you, as it did me, when a friend told me his friend’s story of how he and a group of meditators served as the final straw that broke the back of communist oppression in E. Berlin one evening in November.


About 7 weeks before the wall came down, a small group of meditation practitioners decided to start a meditation group in one of theirs East Berlin apartment where people would come and sit in silent reflection, envisioning their hopes for their country. That first week about 8 people came. They all found it to be a worthwhile experience, so invited more people to join them the next week. That next week the group more than doubled in size. Each week people would come to sit in silence, meditating together and envisioning East Germany as they believed it could and should be. Each week they brought more people with them to peacefully sit together with hope and faith. After a few weeks the group had grown to be too large for the apartment, so they requested permission to use a public café. That worked for a couple more weeks, but then the group became too large for the café. Eventually they had to get permission to meditate in a public square.

One day, while sitting together in silence in the public square, by now a group numbering into the hundreds, someone stood up and began walking towards the wall. Others stood also and began following. One by one, they each stood and walked towards the wall. As they walked, people they passed silently joined the procession. By the time they reached the wall, which was about 4 kilometers from where they had begun in the square, their numbers had reached the thousands. The people at the front of the procession instructed the guards at the wall to open the gates. They refused. The meditators insisted, “Open the gates.” Overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, the guards decided to call their superiors to report what was happening and request instruction. Were they to open fire and shoot so many people? What options did they have? After explaining the situation fitfully, the instruction came back, “Open the gates.”

The gates were opened, the people flooded through, and piece by piece, they dismantled the wall that had separated their vision of what could and should be from the reality of what was. I share this story with you so that you will know irrefutably that what separates us can never be as powerful as what brings us together. If you wish to find that ecstatic connection to all within your life and unleash its unlimited potential, you must only sit in silence with hope and faith until the time comes to get up and walk into the future you have evoked. Namaste (I bow to the Infinite within you).

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