Updated: May 31
Dear Sensei: This is Carla. Given everything that is happening in our nation and world right now, how can I become an active part of the solution?
Hi Carla. I think we always have to begin with defining the nature of the solution that we are seeking. Often we have either a very vague sense of what we feel that should be, or we have unreasonable expectations as to outcomes. This vague sense comes from being moved mostly by emotion and our unreasonable expectations come from the belief in some sort of perfection. For the former, I would advocate that we refrain from trusting our emotions to guide us, and for the latter, that we examine the beliefs and thoughts underlying our wish for perfection.
The best example I can give is from my decades of experience as a pastoral counselor. Most of the time, folks will come to me and tell me how they are suffering. They will explain who or what they believe is causing their suffering. My task is to very compassionately help them to understand that real relief from their suffering will never come from without. Sometimes we are able to address an outside source of pain and alter it, like choosing to end an unhealthy relationship, but at other times, like in the case of someone diagnosed with a terminal illness, we cannot. Even if we change a relationship, unless we understand what went wrong we will probably repeat it. Even if we are dying, we can still know inner peace. This means that we must seek our solution from within.
Looking within to solve our problems will keep us from judging others. In my experience, the most judgmental person is the one with the longest psychological shadow. It will also prevent us from being self righteous, which causes us to separate ourselves existentially from those whom we believe are wrong.
Finally, it helps us to have the courage to accept the things we cannot change, the creativity to make changes we need and the clarity to discern the difference.
When we start by working on ourselves, we put our own house in order and seek to gratefully embody wisdom before we start telling others what’s best for them. This living example of our own sincere spiritual journey is the greatest message that we can bring to the world and honestly, the most influential.
While we are doing that we can also offer compassionate action with those who are suffering. We can begin by learning to listen to all of the voices involved and not just the ones we immediately identify with. We can offer them shelter, solace and succor, sitting, sauntering or standing with them through the storm they are facing. My ultimate conviction is that we must personally awaken and then help others to awaken to the reality of Oneness. When we realize that all life is interdependent and everyone is interconnected, and really bring that into our daily lives, we begin to see things more clearly. We also act differently, seeking not impossible paradisiacal panaceas, but heuristic healing solutions that engage with the whole and not just the half we belong to. We learn from the past about what doesn’t work and instead of trying to repeat the same failed attempt, we experiment with new approaches that change the conditioning and are based on what actually works.
Finally, I believe that Oneness calls us to become peacemakers. We begin by realizing that the peace we seek already exists, and what we need to do is remove the hindrance that prevents it from naturally occurring. If I have a wound and there is an object in the wound, it will not heal. Adding more objects will make it worse. If I remove the object, the wound will naturally mend and I am restored to wholeness. Peace is not our practice, it is the very Way. The peacemaker ends conflict by understanding that more hatred has never ceased hatred. And while violence may kill the hated, it does not end the hatred: hatred only ceases through love. This is the Eternal Way.