Be the Change; the Way of Love

For more than a week now, the death of George Floyd via police brutality and the resulting widespread, vocal, and persistent call for police reform and the end of racism has pre-empted the prioritized space of the Covid-19 in the news.  Most of the protests have been peaceful; some have been violent and destructive.  Protests have been held in small town parks and cities worldwide.  Protests are still continuing, politicians have weighed in with their stances, and proposals have been put forth for completely eliminating the police, to demilitarizing the police, to more anti-racial attitude training.  Serious thought is also being given to increased funds being allocated to issues such as homelessness, mental health, food deserts, education disparity, and other issues which effect the poor, but mainly the poor of color.  We have yet to see if any or what will be a permanent outcome.

Protests are necessary, but they are only the beginning of change.   They serve to wake people up, to make as many as possible aware of the change that is needed and desired.  That is as far as they go; protests are dramatic, but they do not in themselves create change.   Political action and legislation can be helpful, but they, too, are limited.  Legislation can control specific actions, such as stopping for a red light.  It cannot govern attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, such as road rage.  For permanent change to occur, the perceptions, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions of people must change.  These are what underlie conditions; they create the conditions that the protests and laws are trying to change, and they create the change.   Negative emotional pressure, such as guilt, shame and fear cannot alter underlying conditions; in fact, they reinforce them.  Logic can inspire people to want to change, but the change must come from inside people themselves.   Change is truly a grassroots endeavor.

Most of us are familiar with the adage, “Be the change you want to see.”  Jay Shetty, in an interview in the September/October 2019 issue of Unity Magazine, explains, “When you start with being, you end up doing more effectively, but when you start with doing, you sacrifice being.  Everything is a byproduct of being.”   He advocates making to-be lists, rather than to-do lists.    Achievements, then, flow not from what is done, but from the being that underlies them.  The concept is not too difficult to understand; the application, however, can be a bit more confounding.
For example, it can be quite clear that one’s home needs organizing, but understanding what it means to be the organization, to be organized, is a bit less clear.  Being organized does not come from doing organizing; it is the other way around.  Yes, one can require oneself to do some organizing, and even achieve the result of an organized house.   However, if the being organized is not there, the result does not last.   Exactly how to change oneself from not being organized to being organized is still a mystery to me.  However, I know it does not come from shaming or guilting myself for disorder or fearing judgments or results of the disorder.  I can accept the logical desirability of being organized, and on rare occasions can even feel organized for a short while, but I have not yet learned to make organizing a central part of my being.  (It is also a virtue to be able to respond spontaneously, even in no visible organized order.)

To return to the topic of social order and social change, let’s pick three topics to explore.  Racism, the underlying motivator of “Black Lives Matter”, the practice of war, and the restoration of life and health to our Earth are three good examples.

Given that the more gradual method of being the change is the surest way of making lasting change, how would we proceed to change subconscious institutionalized racism into a social construct supporting the humanity of all and granting an equal status to both the needs of all and the peaceful expressions of all? How could we change our own being in such a way as to support the larger change we wish to see?   Perhaps, if one is white or of a group perceived as privileged, one way would be to make a true friendship with someone who is black or of another color.  By this, I do not mean befriending someone who is black.  That is the stance of the privileged helping the lesser person.  It is not bad to befriend someone, but that will not end racism.  By friendship, I mean becoming vulnerable to that person, in an equal emotional relationship.  Becoming a true friend means hearing the hurts and anger of the other person without judging, and appreciating even if not participating in the cultural expression of that person.  It means taking joy in the achievements of that person, and letting that person know of your joy.  It means accepting and acknowledging help from that person, as well as enjoying activities together.  It means feeling the human connection between you and recognizing the dignity of the other.  It means learning to love the other.   Conversely, if one is black (or of another underprivileged group), it means setting aside the assumption that someone who is white is not trustworthy (a kind of reverse racism when broadly applied) and making a true friendship with someone who is white.  In the movie Remember the Titans, the coach understood this when he integrated the team.   It is this kind of thing, multiplied many times over, that will bring about lasting change.  I think it has already begun.

War has plagued humanity since tribal groups encountered each other and competed for what were perceived to be scarce resources.  Over the lifetime of humanity, war has increased in virulence until it now can destroy not only humanity but Earth itself.   It is time for this to change – but how?  Agreements and treaties have been made, but because the underlying perceptions have not changed, the treaties have been manipulated, ignored, broken and betrayed innumerable times. That method is not viable.  War persists, more destructive weapons are developed and distributed, and more people are being trained to kill.  Here is something many people do not know; in order to be able to kill another human being without overwhelming damage to oneself, one must first become convinced that the ‘other’ is somehow less human than himself.   Boot camp sergeants are well aware of this.  The soldiers in any one army are taught that the soldiers in the other army, the ‘enemy’, are somehow less human than themselves, and permission is given to kill them.  This is the underlying assumption – that the ‘other’ is evil, barbaric, dangerous or in some way lesser, and therefore, it is OK to kill him and take what he has.  How, then, would one who wishes to transform war into peace go about this Herculean task?  How can one be peace, on a deep level?  It is easy to see how this is related to the root of racism – the idea that another human can be less human, less valuable than oneself.   Being friends with an enemy is certainly a possibility; there are stories about this which involve almost any war.  But the instances are presented as exceptions, not the rule.  In addition, the “enemy” keeps changing, depending on the era and the circumstances.  Somehow, we must give up judging the other entirely, give up the idea that we are better or more valuable than anyone else. On a personal level, this would mean not judging the person one considers to be one’s worst enemy or biggest threat.  It would involve not wrong making the backbiter who one perceives is destroying one’s reputation, or the one who cheated to get the higher grade on the test or the desired promotion.  It would mean finding compassion in one’s heart for such a person.  That is a tall order, but it is the underpinning of lasting peace.  Be the peacemaker, be peace; do not expect a government to negotiate and implement lasting peace without the underlying change in the majority of people, starting with oneself.

Healing our Earth is now of critical importance, to the extent that the survival of our own species is at risk if we do not do it.  The topic has been discussed, debated, and pronounced upon for nearly a century without any appreciable progress being made.  Yes, protests are held, activists are persistent, volunteers plant trees and examples have been made by communities who have discovered sustainable living.  Laws have been created and rescinded.  Yet, the Earth is in even more danger than before.  How can one be the change of a healed Earth?  Everyone can do something – even small children can raise their voices and remind adults of what needs to be done.  How, though, can we be the change?  Others wiser than I may have better answers, but it seems to me that the start of being the change of a healed Earth is to love that Earth – to spend time in nature, to enjoy and appreciate wildlife, to treat the Earth with respect, as one would a friend, to feel the earth under bare feet, to feel the energy of the Earth inside oneself.    How can one be the change of something of which one is unaware?  Secondly, a being agent of change would mean looking upon the Earth with the vision of Earth in its state of glorious wholeness, as a lover looks upon the face of the beloved in all its perfection.  The objections to the perfection – the scars of pollution on the Earth, for example, or the blemishes on the face of the beloved, would not be the central focus of perception.  That does not mean an unawareness of what needs healing; it means the vision would not be of the wounds, but of the wholeness.  We need more people who can do and are willing to do this.  No, the being is not the doing; it is the wellspring of the doing.  When we can be the change, the steps will be taken and the change will be done, and it will be lasting.

For most of us, this being is difficult; for many, it is also counterintuitive.  We have been trained to accomplish, to do.  It is time, now that doing has seemed to accomplish little, to raise our awareness to the level of being, and to begin our creations there.  It would seem to me that the level of being is also the level of love – not romance, but that love which considers the other as equal to and at one with oneself.  The time is now to go within and call upon this awareness.  In this way, we can make lasting desired change.

Peace, Diane

Fear Not

If there is one message that has resonated throughout the ages, forming a base for the millions of other messages given to aid mankind in spiritual or evolutionary growth, it is this:  Fear not; do not be afraid.  It is quoted by spiritual leaders, philosophers and statesmen.   Fear is recognized in psychology as a precursor to anger and a host of other negative assumptions.  From Ghandi comes, “The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate, but, it is fear.”  Jesus of Nazareth, according to John, declared, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  From Lao Tzu and Buddha come, “There is no illusion greater than fear,” and, “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”  Thoreau claims, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”  Mahmoud Mohammed Taha asserts, “The greatest obstacle to love is fear.” Franklin D. Roosevelt declares in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  For years, mankind has been exhorted to release, let go of fear, and for years, mankind has mostly ignored that.

We currently live in a kind of Alice in Wonderland world, and we are already down the rabbit hole.   It seems that anything can happen, and that reasons, arguments and common sense make no difference.  Events occur in rapid succession, without apparent order, and in complete disconnect with any former idea of order.  Emotions rule, and the bandwagon is king; not much quite makes sense.  This is the breeding ground for fear.  We do not know just what will happen, and we are unsure of how to respond.  What will happen to us?  Fear raises its head.

One example of this is the current coronavirus outbreak, which, according to authorities, may become a pandemic, and which has already sickened and killed many and devastated economies.  The messages in the media accentuate its threatening nature, sometimes suggesting ways in which we should be prepared.  Fear grows.  We either ignore it so we don’t have to feel it or devote energy to watching out for it and trying to prepare.  Theories of the origin of the coronavirus abound.   Officially, the outbreak originated in a Chinese meat market which was selling wild killed meats; the virus first affected the Chinese and grew to epidemic proportions.  Much of China is now on lockdown/isolation, and movement of people from China is under high restriction, with flights being canceled, mandatory quarantines and the like.  This official summary is well reported in the news, together with the further spread of the virus.   Other theories hold that the virus is manufactured.  One purports that the disease was created to be vaccinated against by vaccine manufacturing companies that already had a vaccine to sell in the pipeline.  “Buying” this explanation requires acceptance of cold-blooded murder as a prerequisite to such an action, but in an Alice in Wonderland world, anything can happen.   Another theory of manufacturing asserts that the virus was developed as biological warfare and escaped from a laboratory in China.  Accidental, but not very comforting.  Aside from theories of how the virus originated are the speculations on why the media continues to cover it in detail, emphasizing the doom and gloom.    Granted that the media often loves the emotionally negative in order to attract attention, there is a lot of fear generated.  What might be the result of the high dose of fear?  Might people then give up their civil rights in order to ask the government to protect them and give them security (one result of 9/11 as well)?  Whatever one thinks about it, the message is clear: be afraid, and let anger and paralysis result.

If we refuse to fear, much of the power that events, or governments or oligarchies have over us is eliminated.  That does not mean that we close our eyes and refuse to see, or that we neglect to prepare in the best way we possibly can, or that we distance ourselves from others.   It does mean that when we are seeing, preparing, and acting compassionately towards others, we are doing this not because we are afraid of what is, or of doing or being wrongly, but because what we do is the best, most loving thing we can do to build a healthier, kinder, more just world.  If that means seeing the undercurrents of what goes on, then it is not because we fear those undercurrents, but because the understanding is needed before we can lovingly act.  If we are preparing, it is not because we are afraid of what will happen if we do not, it is because we are in the process of creating a world that does not hold in forefront those things towards which our preparations are geared.   If we try to help others, it is not because we are bad people if we do not, it is because helping them is the most fearless, loving thing we can do.  We see and strive to learn more; we understand and try to grow in wisdom; we object to that which destroys life – human, animal, plant or planetary – not because we are afraid of being destroyed, but because we love that life in all its aspects.   We do not grovel or cower.  The intent is key; to act lovingly erases fear.

Granted, it can be difficult to overcome fear.  Fear has been with us for generations.  The saber-toothed-tiger of today is far more complex and amorphous than that physical threat our ancestors could run from or fight.  Nevertheless, our growth as people, even our survival, depends on our overcoming ingrained fear.  Fear responses, including secondary fear responses such as anger and cruelty and war, are no longer viable.   The healing will be a grassroots effort, the combination of many of us actively growing towards a greater courage and love.  It will not come from governments, from the top.  The top perhaps fears more than any of us, and has the hardest time letting go of fear.  It is time to hear the message of our prophets and pundits, philosophers, artists and statesmen – Fear not!   Do not be afraid!

May we each encourage others, give and receive support as we learn as quickly as we can to let go of our fear and to grow in the courage of love and its qualities.

Peace, Diane

Pausing to Be

A few weeks ago, I took a week off, which is unusual for me.  I took a road trip to visit family, renew a nurturing connection, and enjoy a much-needed change of pace.  That week of almost no digital connection, sufficient sleep, spontaneous activity and conversation, and time alone listening to birds in the trees or reading, among other things, was a most welcome time of renewal.  Some might call it doing nothing, though the time certainly did not seem empty.

Doing nothing …is a feeling of presence and truly enjoying the moment as it is. It is simple and pure….

It serves an important purpose as well, probably unwittingly to most, in that it provides a sense of connection, not only to each other but with yourself. As a result, you end up gaining greater clarity about what is important to you at your core. This is a stimulating, always on-the-go society and it has become the default form of living, especially in the West. There is so much pressure to perform and meet expectations, creating a treadmill of stressful activity day after day….

Somewhere along the way society gave up on notions such as relaxation, idleness, and living in the moment as an important part of daily life. Having periods of time with little activity has always been a part of life (until, perhaps, the rising energy of the past few decades).

The quote is from an email communication by the Deepak Chopra Center.  It caught my attention because I, like others, experience the fast-paced chaos of modern times.  Chopra is correct.  However, slowing down to find enjoyment is often easier said than done.

Few among us have not experienced the rising pace of life and the ensuing rush to accomplish ever more in a dwindling time frame.  The most fortunate among us have managed to carve out moments of stillness within the frenzy.  The truth is that we all need those moments of stillness; we need them more frequently than most of us realize.

Some may object that doing nothing is not possible, because even if very still, one is still existing.  That is something.   OK, got it, but that is not what is meant by doing nothing.  If one is doing nothing, one is engaged in whatever degree of stillness for no ostensive purpose other than the act or process with which one is engaged.  This is key to understanding nothing.  One is in the moment, and not out to achieve or accomplish.  For example, if one is sitting on a cliff, wind blowing on the face, watching the distant sunset, one might say that is nothing.  If one is sitting on that cliff with the purpose of generating relaxation, or recording/remebering the details of the sunset, or even drying damp clothes in the wind, that person is not doing nothing.  If all there is is in the moment, and is simply the experience of what is happening, without purpose or a sense of having accomplished a challenge, then that is doing nothing.  It is being, not doing.

Being is not necessarily the absence of activity, but the attitude in which any activity is occurring.  It is centered in feeling and intuition, rather than in thinking, planning and accomplishing.  It has no purpose, in the sense in which most people understand purpose.   It is easy to dismiss, yet is a prize of great value, value which goes often unrecognized.  Peace, growth, health, relationships have their roots in non-doing.  Being has no counting or comparing.  In the moments of being, time does not exist, just as it does not exist in the far reaches of infinity.  We cannot DO outside of time; we can BE in those moments in which we can relax and devote attention solely to the present, without judgment.

People try to do this in meditation, but this is not the only way to experience moments of being.   Listening to inspiring music, without analyzing, judging or looking at the clock, simply to experience the music is being.   Coloring a mandala, walking in nature, soaking in a tub, staring into the fire, even the act of caring for a pet or another are entrances into being when they are done without exterior purpose to do them, without needing to accomplish them, without expecting result of them or analyzing them.  They are entrances when they are simply the experience of the moment, when we are experiencing the present in a focused way.

If being is simply experiencing the present moment, whatever it is, then it follows that in order to be, we must let go of what we normally cling to – our expectations, judgments, desires, or thinking about what is going on  Not thinking does not make us dummies.  The mind is always thinking; it does not seem to be able to turn itself off.   To be, we need for a moment to cease to identify with the mind, to simply let it do its thing, knowing it cannot define us if we refuse to be defined thereby.  Inspiration is rarely a result of thinking about things; it comes instead after moments of releasing thought to simply be.  Technology is much like the mind.  When we use it, we are normally thinking, doing something that the technology helps us to do.   For me, the break from even the limited technology I use helped me for a few moments to simply be.  It helps me to write, but it does not help me to be.

It is so simple, yet being (in the moment) is surprisingly difficult for most to do.  One cannot try to be, because trying is doing.  One cannot be angry with oneself for not being, because the anger is judging and doing. It is worth it, though, to set aside times to practice relaxing and releasing, simply experiencing what is.  I do think that practice helps.

I wish us all experiences of being.

Peace, Diane