Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It’s becoming critical. We don’t need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what’s already here. It’s becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times. The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence. This is the best way that we can benefit others.
– Pema Chodron, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”

Are you struggling with forgiveness?

My friend, G, has been struggling with forgiveness. He feels traumatized from witnessing the suffering of others during the past four years. Now that a new government has been elected and is calling for unity in the country, G is struggling to let go of a deep-seated bitterness and resentment. He wants peace and unity – but his emotions won’t comply.

I woke up thinking of G, wanting to encourage him to meditate on the many victimized heroes of the past: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hahn, Joan of Arc, Jesus Christ, just to name a few – people who were imprisoned, tortured or even killed – and yet, their lives were beacons of light in the darkness. They rose above the hatred that had been shown to them and spoke to others of peace.

How can we discover peace when all around us, chaos reigns? Where is the “peace in the midst of the storm” we so often hear about? Is it obtainable? And if so, where do we find it?

Peace comes from within. Or, if you prefer, from above.

My own journey…

I used to struggle with the idea that I could find inner peace. As a young woman, thoughts and emotions always seemed to be boiling within me. A natural extrovert in my daily life, if I had an audience, I was instantly full of fun, making jokes, encouraging others, often passionate, loud and certainly bold. But as soon as I was in bed at night, in the quiet darkness, the doubts would begin creeping in.

Surely, this amazing serenity that others defined as “peace” had to come from somewhere outside me – from some Divine Source. I was convinced that I was incapable of producing something so wonderful.

As a result, I clamored in prayer, begging the huge unseen God up in Heaven to pour peace down from above. I often found myself begging for relief from the torturous emotions that assailed me. Those, I knew, did come from within.

Anxiety about the future, worry about losing my loved ones, fear of failure or letting people down – these were my constant companions. While I may have inherited these tendencies from my parents, a vast number of humans on this planet suffer with uncontrolled emotions.

You have more control than you think…

Thankfully, with age we often gain wisdom. Life has taught me that I have a great deal of control over my world. Over time, I learned that peace does indeed come from within me. I do have some measure of control in what I think, how I react and how I choose to perceive everything that happens around me.

In the Buddhist tradition, “samsara” means suffering, and “Nirvana” is enlightenment, often equated with bliss. Yet, Buddha said that there is no difference between samsara and Nirvana – only in our perception of them. It all comes back to the adage “We cannot always control what happens to us; we can only control how we react to it.”

How do you want to live?

Regardless of your political or religious beliefs, how do you, personally, want to feel? Are you driven by your passions? Do you need a sense of fulfilment, a reason for being here? Is power what you seek? Do you need to feel important? Is being part of something bigger than you more important than personal gains?

Or do you long for inner peace? Is love important to you? And if so, how? Is it love for family? Romantic love? Love for the planet? Love for animals? Love for those less fortunate?

Life can be a tangled, complicated mess. We can struggle to separate our passions from our fears. Often, fear lies at the very core of what motivates us to act, to do things we later regret.

Life doesn’t have to be about “winning” or “losing”. For some, life is about survival. But for so many, life is all about being a winner or a loser – two labels we really need to recognize as being imposters that lead many down a road of suffering and regret.

How can we separate our personal pain from the global pain we are currently experiencing?

How do we differentiate between our own struggles and the struggles of those around the world? And why do we humans constantly feel a need to have enemies? We see the face of our pain and our struggles and we find someone to blame. Even when we blame ourselves, we become filled with anger or self-loathing.

It is a pattern: Pain Fear Anger Blame Conflict Death

When there are diametrically-opposing points of view swirling around us all the time, screaming in our faces via the news and the vocal opinions of those on social media, it can be confusing. If you are not those who are firmly entrenched in their own opinions, you may be one of those who look inward to continually check in to see whether or not they are right or wrong.

Getting off course…

Much as the terms “winner” and “loser” are false labels, I find that “right” and “wrong” are often nebulous. Even when I am sure I am correct in thinking a certain way, I do find myself doing a gut-check to be sure I haven’t swerved off the path somewhere, a few miles back. That is easy to do. We get a tiny bit off course, and before we know it, we are lost in the wilderness.

As I was pondering this recently, point of time throughout history suddenly came to mind: The Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Catholic Inquisition and the Civil War in the United States. When these events were occurring, how did those affected feel? They didn’t realize then that they were an important part of a historical moment.

After WWII, many Germans were filled with guilt over the part they played in the horrors that occurred in their midst. Even those that did nothing felt guilt for not taking a stand.

During the Civil War, family members often found themselves on opposite sides, brother against brother, father against son, in a tragic decimation of unity.

That could be any one of us today. Often, we are swept up in a tidal wave of emotion, and we lose ourselves in the chaos. We take on the opinions of others and leave our own sensibilities – and the love of our family — on the side of the road.

What is your role?

Now you are an important part of history. What is your role in the events that are affecting us all? How will history see you and your actions? How do you want to be immortalized?

Words we have often taken for granted, like Liberty, Truth and Justice for All — have lost all meaning.

No matter how strongly you believe you are right, today, I invite you – and ALL of us – to take a moment to pause and look deep within.

What is your truth? How do you want to be remembered? What do you stand for? Only you can know. And as you take that deep look within, find out who YOU are, separate from anyone else’s opinion.

Most important of all, as you look inward, I encourage you to allow LOVE to be your guide in deciding what your truth is. Love is the standard whereby we must measure all of our actions.

Have a wonderful week! I wish you peace, fulfilment and good health in the days ahead.

Warm regards,

Lori

Lori Williams Signature

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