Ed and Deb Shapiro

What could an astronaut who walked on the moon, a brilliant doctor who has proven that yoga and diet helps heart disease and an actor who is committed to helping the environment possibly have in common? They all care about people and want a better world and are doing what they can to make it happen. And they have all found that one of the best ways to work with our limitations is through meditation.

What is it that stops us from being the best we can be, from giving unreservedly, from caring for others more than ourselves? Self-centeredness and selfishness, the hallmarks of the ego, affect not only our own lives and relationships but also influence the way we behave in the world. There is no limit to the damage a strong ego can do, from the arrogant conviction that its own opinions are the only right ones, to wielding and abusing power at the expense of other people's lives or liberties.

Through meditation, from being self-centered we become other-centered, concerned about the welfare of all rather than being focused on just ourselves and our families. We become more acutely aware of how we treat each other and our world and seek to become a positive presence rather than a negative one. Meditation can do more for the world than all the money and good works, as we are no longer contributing suffering to the world but offering our peace. This gift is priceless.

Here are seven men who are making a difference to our world.

Edgar Mitchell
When we look at the world from the moon, as astronaut Edgar Mitchell explained, it is just a small, round ball. As Apollo 14 moved closer and the earth became larger, Mitchell's life changed forever. From exploring the far reaches of outer space, he began to seek a deeper meaning for his experience and turned to explore his inner world, which came to include meditation. He co-created the Institute of Noetic Sciences to encourage and lead research into human potential.

Robert Thurman
Robert Thurman, professor of Indio-Tibetan studies at Columbia University, New York City:

"When I see my attitude about my own egotism and I realize that I am just one of all beings and I am interrelated with everyone else, then meditation is like a weight that pushes that realization down deeper into my gut until it finds the 'I, me, mine' level where it transforms it. Meditation is what makes my understanding experiential."

Dean Ornish
Dean Ornish, medical editor for the Huffington Post:

"People who have had a heart attack sometimes say it was the best thing that ever happened to them, and I say, 'Are you crazy?' They say, 'Well, no, but that is what it took to begin making these changes that have made my life so much more profoundly joyful and meaningful.' Change is hard, but if we are in enough pain, the idea of change becomes more appealing and we will try just about anything. When we make these changes, the pain subsides, and not only the physical pain like angina from heart disease or back pain, but deeper levels of pain that are more difficult to measure but are often more meaningful. When we can focus on something, which is what meditation does; it enhances our inner communication, giving us more personal power and peace of mind.

"When people are stressed out, they may say, 'My fuse is shorter and I explode more easily, but when I meditate on a regular basis, my fuse is longer. The situation does not change, but how I react to it does.' Meditation allows us to experience more of an internal sense of well-being. It dampens our sympathetic nervous system. It enhances our parasympathetic nervous system so we can relax. Our mind quiets down. Our breathing becomes slower and deeper. Our metabolic rate balances."

Marshall Rosenberg
 Marshall Rosenberg, director of the Center for Nonviolent Communications:

"In 60 percent of the television programs watched by children, the hero either kills somebody or beats him up. History teaches about the good Americans who killed innocent people. I believe engaging in self-empathy supports us to stop and transform the thinking that creates violence. It is a very important part of peace on our planet. We need to take time each day to remind ourselves of the preciousness of compassionate giving and receiving. If we have played violent games with other people—guilt games, shame games, anger games, punishment games—then we can grieve for this in a way that changes us and creates a more caring world."
Palm trees and ocean

Ed Begley Jr.
Ed Begley Jr., an actor nominated for six Emmys and an environmental activist devoted to green living:

"We can make it a saner and happier world if we just slowed down and had less focus on wanting or needing more stuff. If stuff made you happy, there would be nothing but happy people living in Bel Air and unhappy people living in Fiji, where they have nothing. But I have been to Fiji, and there are plenty of happy people there. I have never seen a hearse with a luggage rack on top. We have got to get away from stuff and appreciate what is here."

Matthew Fox
Matthew Fox, the founder of the Friends of Creation Spirituality:

"Meditation is calming the reptilian brain. We have all got three brains in us: One is a reptilian brain, which is about 420 million years old, our mammal brain is half that old, and our most recent one is the intellectual creative brain. The reptilian brain is very prominent; it runs our respiratory and sexual systems; it is action and reaction. We have to calm this reptilian brain so that the mammal brain, which is the brain of compassion and is here to bring kindness and kinship and bonding, can function. I mean, reptiles do not make good lovers; that is not their thing. Meditation allows us to treat the reptilian brain well: 'Nice crocodile, nice crocodile.' When we calm the crocodile, then the mammal brain can assert itself. Meditation is not just for professional monks; it is a survival mechanism for us all, especially in this time of crowdedness and rubbing shoulders with people of different faiths and traditions. We all have to learn to calm our reptilian brain."

Bernie Glassman
Bernie Glassman, founder of the Zen Peacemakers:

"Take care of the person next to you. It might be your spouse, your child, your parents, or it might be a stranger. It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't matter who it is and it doesn't matter if they have nothing to give you; you just do it because it is there to be done. Meditation leads us to the experience of oneness. In that state, we automatically take care of everything we see because it is ourselves; it is not separate from us. That is the bottom line for me: Once you take care of the delusion of separateness, then everything else is taken care of."

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