THE BLOG

Falling Awake: The Power of Silence in a Frenetic World

24/03/2014 12:32 GMT | Updated 21/05/2014 10:59 BST

Here is my proposal for the next UN International Day of Happiness in 2015.

At 2pm GMT, all young people of school age fall totally silent for two minutes. Wherever they are, at school, at home, outside, in towns or fields, they all stop whatever they are doing, and fall completely still.

Language will never unite us, nor will ideologies, nor organised religion. They are all forces for separation. Stillness alone, and the love which is encountered in the depths of silence, will unite the world. Young people the world over know this. They are still in touch with the silence of the universe, which the noise of the world has not yet drowned out.

All children at school should be taught mindfulness, an ancient practice dating back to the Buddha, 2,600 years ago, but accessible to people of all faiths and none. It involves training the attention to be aware, in the present moment, of thoughts, feelings and body sensations that arise, without judgement or comment.

The practice gradually develops our capacity to respond rather than merely react to what's happening around and within us. Those who practice mindfulness say that it boosts their happiness, connections to others, and the quality of their work and daily life.

Mindfulness works by reducing random thinking or rumination and replacing it by connectedness in the present to the senses, to immediate surroundings and to other people. It was best described to me by a teacher many years ago as 'falling awake'. When we are mindful, we are fully alive, and we know it. We are able to act consciously and thoughtfully and from deep inside, rather than react with knee-jerk responses.

The UN has done much in its 70 years to foster peace and social justice for all people, especially the least fortunate. Happiness is not a luxury for the well off: it is the entitlement and indeed the birthright of all.

The young should not expect their elders, sadly, to bestow stillness upon them, because the lives of powerful adults the world over are frenetic. These adults may once have known stillness when they were children, or when they first fell in love. But it has become a distant memory, an unheard sound pulsing in the far recesses of their mind.

That is why young people must take the initiative in this seventieth year for the United Nations. It is true that 2pm GMT will mean an early rise for those on the west coast of North and South America, and a late night for those in the Pacific. But what a splendid thing if the young of every nation and state on earth joined together in silence at the same moment of time.

The stillness would be so profound and powerful that it would force adults to listen.