Do you ever find yourself frustrated on your daily commute? You are not alone. Following January’s tube strike, it was reported that The British Association of Anger Management were receiving up to 500 hits per day on its website.
This figure corresponds to what we already know; that rush hour commutes are stressful. This is something we have learnt to accept as an inevitable part of our lives, to be endured every day, twice a day. Many of us live in large cities where the infrastructure simply cannot accommodate our ever-swelling populations, no matter what method of transport is employed. So, to get through this endurance test we often rely on technology to distract and take us out of our discomfort zone.
Technology is an unparalleled resource in every area of our lives but it is a bit of a double-edged sword. While we are in one way more connected than ever to our associates, friends and loved ones by way of the internet, we are paradoxically, more isolated than ever from those outside of our intimate social circle. Engaging in a casual conversation with a fellow commuter is a thing of the past.
Instead of technology being the delivery system for a toxic sea of alienation, it can become the delivery system for remembrance of our own humanity. Peacebeam is a new technology platform that trains the user to access their inner peace when feeling stressed. We are currently conducting an experiment among commuters globally, using the platform to improve a user’s capacity to handle stress and to tap into the inner calm during the most stressful parts of their day and, crucially, to improve the atmosphere they generate around them.
Our first 10 day experiment completed in April and our second runs in May. The data we have collected so far shows that over 90% of participants noticed an improvement in feelings of peace and connectedness during stressful parts of their day.
In Anthony Painter’s excellent blog: “Technology plus lack of belonging equals Trump” he describes the forces that underlie the polarised world we live in and sees cultural loss and social dispossession as the tinder box and social technologies as the spark.
This is particularly pronounced during the commute. Our immediate trigger to anger and stress when confronted with ‘other people’ going about their day is now an acceptable societal norm.
As our traditional systems of communication have changed so has our traditional sense of community. Anthony Painter says that if “‘technology plus a sense of loss equals Trump then we, as a society, have to rewrite the equation.” We agree, and suggest that the equation must be ‘technology plus a sense of belonging equals peace’.
This is an opportunity for community building to get to belonging. We know what happens when we are consistently reminded that we are angry; we believe that if we are consistently reminded that we are peaceful a new worldview can be constructed from the atoms of those individual thoughts.
If we are reminded of the hallmarks of our humanity rather than how much there is to hate and fear in people, then a psychological shift can begin to take place. We can start to see the person right next to us as our community and that is where it must begin. We cannot hope to have a peaceful inclusive worldview if we can’t bear to include the person crammed up next to us on the tube as part of our world, part of our community, and worthy of our kindness and compassion.
Georgina Austin-Ellis and Jane Murray
We are looking for people to sign up for the next experiment that will test some more of our hypotheses and help us get to the next stage of development of our technology. If you are interested you can sign up at www.peacebeam.com.