Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about a reality that he was struggling with. There is a lot of ‘bad’ in the world. Poverty, starvation, corruption, and trickery so prominent on a global stage it is seemingly around every turn. It is hard to ignore, and shouldn’t be. When we see so much suffering a simple, “but there’s a lot of good too” doesn’t ease the pain. Let’s explore an issue that is very close to my heart on a deeper level, so we can collectively use this as an opportunity to grow into something new.
1. It’s all perspective.
The lens we see this reality through is driven by our outlook. Type ‘happy’ into a search engine and you receive pictures of hugging, jumping, and smiles. Something that gives you this feel:
Notice the different colors, notice the body language. The results of our perception depend upon the input we choose. The way we hold ourselves and the way we share this world with others is dictated by our outlook.
To take it out of such a dualistic container, everyday life presents an overwhelming array of emotional stimuli, and it seems completely out of our control. This “outside” world can be so cruel and happening with such vengeance. You mean the only thing I can do just is wait and watch!? That doesn’t sit well with me.. not a bit.. and I’m guessing the same is for you. So then we are stuck. Now what?
2. Perception drives how we are, what we do, and what we spread.
The next question to ask is, “what am I doing to be the change I want to see in the world?” Emotions that are provoked and are ultimately hard to deal with can be seen as signals telling us we aren’t content with the way something is.
These provoked emotions have consequences on our bodies as they are manifested into the physical. The feeling of our stomach drop to the sight of mistreatment can follow with sweaty palms, dilated pupils, and an accelerated heart rate. The problem is not that we have these feelings, but the way we adapt and deal with them. A cycle creating stress and anxiety is caused by focusing our attention on what we don’t want, instead of what we do.
For example, I’m walking down the street listening to the birds and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. Out of nowhere someone driving by honks loudly and shouts vulgar things in my direction. Feelings of anger, confusion, outrage, and sadness are automatically evoked. “Why does such bad happen in the world?”
As I am still suffering from the unpleasant encounter, I hang my head and watch my feet as I contemplate the suffering not only in my life, but around the world. I have now allowed this event to be a catalyst toward the notion that people are just bad to each other all of the time. A woman on a walk with her dog passes, but due to my silent suffering her friendly smile and wave have gone unnoticed. For that matter, I no longer have my attention toward the beauty of the birds singing or the enjoyable weather.
The automatic response, is usually an unconscious one; a form of autopilot. We put our focus toward what we don’t want, instead of what we do, therefore attracting more of that into the world. More than just one person’s happiness was effected in this example. The woman previously enjoying walking her dog is now preoccupied with confusion of “why people are calloused, and unfriendly” since I didn’t even acknowledge her presence. See the cycle? How can we prevent this from happening?
3. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Let’s widen the perspective for a second. What was the trigger for the person who shouted out of the car?
While driving home from being laid off his job that supports the whole family, the driver’s unconscious expression of his rage was to shout out of the car. In reality, the insults were not even directed toward me.. I was just simply walking by to hear his outrage. The point is, unless you walk in someone’s shoes, we don’t truly know what is going on.
Practice compassion. Imagine the same situation consciously evaluated. Man, obviously that was unpleasant. I don’t have control over the fact that happened, but I do have control over how I adapt. Survival of the fittest.
Conversation I can have with myself:
“Shoot, well that didn’t feel good. At the moment I know I lack the understanding to why such an event occurred. But what control do I have?”
“To assure that unpleasant feeling doesn’t spread, I’m going offset it with a compliment to the next person I see!”
As the lady and her dog walk by, I lean down to pet him and right off the bat we start to converse about how awesome the weather feels. As the pleasant feelings continue, she kindly invites me to join a meditation class she is holding that very night! A new friendship, a new connection, and with it, a shift from a place of ‘bad’ to ‘good’.
It is crucial to understand the importance of balance in our lives. If we are always focused on the good and being ignorant toward the other side of the coin, we are blinding ourselves. Along the same lines discontent is the first step toward progress, but if our focus is shifted only to the bad we are simply sitting in the dark.
Be the light you feel is missing.
When engulfed in the darkness, do what you can, feed your flame. Balance your world with a little more light.
It isn’t an action of turning your back to the problems in a naive manner, it is the recognition of what is and the conscious effort to make motion toward a desirable outcome. To change the world, we must first start within ourselves.
With so much love,
Morgan & The Panic to Freedom Team