When you find your peace there is one less person suffering. Swami Brahmananda
Why is there so much discord, unrest, and uncertainty, in both our own lives and in the world at large? Why are so many of us dealing with depression, unhappiness, or discontent? We undoubtedly need more kindness, more consideration for each other, and infinitely more peace, but it seems we first need to have this at home, or more importantly, within ourselves, before we’ll find it anywhere else
It’s a simple equation: if we are unhappy or angry then we’ll be angry with others and increase the suffering in the world; when we are in pain, that pain gets projected onto others or blamed onto everything around us: “It’s your fault I’m unhappy!” But when we find our peace then there’s one less person suffering and one less person causing suffering to others. Without inner peace there can never be outer peace; without peace at home there will never be true peace in the world. This should be our Universal mantra.
We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves as well as with those we condemn if we wish to move towards peace. Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.
This is totally within our grasp, available for each of us. We already possess the means to real happiness as it’s at the core of our being; it is innately who we are.
However, just as a single match can burn down an entire forest, so anger can spread far and wide, affecting all it meets, and fear can incite further fear, leading to both violence and war. There is no end to the way we can negatively affect each other.
Fear has many faces, many disguises. There is fear that is a natural response to physical danger, and there is fear that is self-created, such as a fear of failure, of the dark, of being out of control. We fear Muslims, Arabs, blacks, or any unfamiliar ‘other people.’ And such fear easily becomes racism. As Juan Williams said in 1986: “Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.”
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – President Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural address
We become fearless when we turn fear around, face it, get to know it, and release resistance to it. By acknowledging and taking responsibility for our own fearful and aggressive tendencies we soon see that the enemy within is actually more harmful than the enemy without. This acknowledgement gives us the ability to change not only our own lives but the world as well.
We can make tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness and love our priorities. Which doesn’t mean we are always in spaced out bliss while ignoring the conflicts around us, but it does mean we have shifted our focus.
Anyone we have a difficult time with is really our teacher, as without an adversary—or someone who triggers a reaction such as anger—we would not be motivated to develop loving kindness. So we can be grateful to them for enabling us to be more compassionate, tolerant and patient. We can actually thank our exasperating partners, reckless teenagers, competitive colleagues, or misguided fanatics for the chance to be kind. What a gift!
All this is possible through meditation that not only invites us to witness anger, but also to dissolve fear and get to know and make friends with ourselves. It gives us a midpoint between expressing anger and repressing it, a place where we can hear our feelings with awareness and acceptance.
Meditation may not be a cure-all; it is not going to make all our difficulties go away or suddenly transform weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable us to rest in an inclusive acceptance of who we are. This does not make us perfect, simply more fully human. And with that humanness comes greater humanity and humility.