From the beginning of the twentieth century, a slow, gradual and quasi-imperceptible process began to evolve, creating a greater and greater impact, in fact, the greatest in history, on the life of Western man. Everything connected with our daily lives is becoming more and more complex, more and more differentiated and more and more complicated, affecting our physical, mental, social and economical environments. By the inexorable and inevitable trend of the progress of technical civilization, Western man has created such enormous complexities of life that his nervous system has started to disintegrate under the weight and stress of these complexities. The omnipresence of stress is a specific twentieth century phenomenon.
If we analyze the origins of this stress with its concomitants of nervous tension, insecurity and gradual inability to cope with problems, we will find the following factors: greater and greater complexities in time, in place, in human activities, in the speed of these activities, in mental activities, in emotional activities and in bodily degenerative processes. For instance, in previous civilizations, man usually lived in the same area his whole life, without the necessity of constant travel in the performance of his daily functions. In previous civilizations, the activities of a man were few and simple and did not extend to a great number of diversified activities and problems, in contrast to Western man, whose timetable is parceled into countless heterogeneous fractions of activities. In previous civilizations, the speed of all these activities in time and space was quiet, slow and not so exacting. In Previous civilizations, the mental functions of man were also very simple and concerned only the few basic necessities and aspirations of life, without the need of continuous calculations, preoccupations, and decisions and solutions of innumerable problems. In previous civilizations, the emotional life of man was rather uncomplicated, contrasting severely with the great number of increased emotional reactions of today.
Finally, the last important factor in the origins of stress, the bodily degenerative processes, are accelerated By a sedentary way of living, and aggravated by a continuous source of synthetics from the air we breathe and the foods we eat.
It seems that stress, with its concomitant factors of nervous tension and insecurity, has become the greatest problem facing Western civilization in the middle of the twentieth century. We are not concerned with that minority who need professional psychiatric treatment, nor with the other minority of those who enjoy perfect health, bu with the vast majority who, in between the two minority groups, are not so mentally ill as to need psychiatric care, nor are yet completely healthy mentally. I speak of the great majority under continuous or periodical stress, with nervous tension and feelings of insecurity. This majority does not yet need professional help, only a simple, preventive program which they can practice themselves.
It is evident that we cannot turn back the clock, nor the trend of progress, evolution and history. We cannot go back to the natural simplicity of life in previous civilizations, and we cannot eliminate the continuously increasing complexities imposed by the inexorable forces of constant expansion of human knowledge and activities. No unrealistic, Utopian approach can give us the solution to the problem of stress. The only realistic approach which remains for us is to realize the origins of stress, which are inseparably and inevitably connected with our twentieth century Western civilization. We must realize and accept the fact that stress is as inevitable as the factors which are causing it. But if we cannot eliminate stress completely, at least we can alleviate it and decrease it by excluding the stress-causing factors of our century, from time to time, trying to escape from them periodically and returning now and then to the non-stress-forming practices of previous civilizations. It is possible, even in the twentieth century, to reconstruct and enact all the beautiful practices of ancient civilizations, achieving for us at least a temporary immunity from the stress-causing factors in our hectic lives. And there is tremendous psychosomatic value in recharging our batteries from the great sources of harmony and knowledge of previous ages. We want to emphasize that it is a mistake not to live in the twentieth century, but it is an even greater mistake to live only in the twentieth century.
The above considerations are the reasons why we emphasize the utilization of all the finest thoughts, feelings and practices of ancient civilizations, through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, and touch of muscle and nerve, to contact and utilize these great sources of energy, harmony and knowledge of eight thousand years of traditions. We can recharge our batteries eight different ways to counteract the multiple stress of the twentieth century living. Through the eyes, we view the wonderful panorama of nature, with its primeval feeling of peace and beauty. Through our ears we can contact the sounds of the wonderful orchestra of nature. Through our olfactory sense we smell the fragrance of the air. Through our skin we touch the air, the sun, the rain, and occasionally the plants. Through our gustatory sense we taste the refreshing water of the springs. Through our nerves we absorb the many sources of peace in Nature. Through our muscles we enjoy hiking on the gentle slopes of the hills, and participation in various ancient games and activities. Finally, through the mind and its cortical processes, we penetrate deep into the texts and symbols of ancient wisdom.
Through all the multiple avenues of the senses, we are led to the achievement of two great purposes, eventually becoming the means of liberation from all stress-causing factors.
First, we will successfully exclude all the multiple stimuli of our stressful environment: the visual ones, such as the billboards, the headlines, the neon signs; and the acoustic ones, such as the traffic, telephones, television, intercoms, loudspeakers, radios and machines, all the sounds of the daily turmoil which constantly fill our minds with haphazard and irrelevant contents. Through this first step we will free ourselves from the continuous slavery of permanent external stimuli, and finally become the masters of our own minds -- in one word, we become ourselves. We regain our own personality, which, in the words of Goethe, is the greatest gift of the Gods to humans. Only when the ephemeral noise of the Grand Central Station around us is transcended can we accomplish this ultimate freedom of the mind.
Second, now that we have successfully created a vacuum in our minds, we will be able to fill them with contents of our own choosing, according to our inner dispositions. And this we can accomplish through the above-mentioned eight paths of the senses. And to enable the pilgrim to successfully utilize the eight paths of the senses, we have created a powerful multilateral instrument: Mille Meditations.