Cultivating peace ~ Coming home to the depth of our being in challenging times.

“When we hold on to our opinions with aggression, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more aggression to the planet and violence and pain increase. Cultivating nonaggression is cultivating peace." (Pema Chödrön, When things fall apart, p.141). 


In crisis is opportunity

I believe the world is calling for us to ask ourselves, what else is possible? Are we capable of leveling up our awareness to see the full potential that we are, to connect with and live from the depths of our true 'being' selves. Below the surface layers of opinions and strategies, us and them (mind), we can reveal in ourselves the shared qualities of the heart; our common needs, fears, longings and essentially what makes us human. Many people believe there are two sides to every good story but how many of us are aware of the third possibility? The option of opening to fully experience life without the limitations of our own minds filtering and controlling our experience. Untangling layers of conditioning and control alleviates suffering and creates space for us to experience more richness in life.

Each of us will experience moments of realisation and transformation through seeing things as they are throughout our lives. At a time in the world where agendas and opinions run riot, we see many signs of division in our society, and now more shockingly even amongst loved ones previously inseparable. It seems quite natural to feel sadness about this. Yet one can also see these moments of challenge as an opportunity for seeing with new clarity, which opens us to the possibility of personal transformation and evolution. Right now there is a huge opportunity for each of us as to contribute to the healing of ourselves, our communities, systems and the planet itself. From the micro to the macro, the fixations of the egoic mind, can be seen as a root cause of the division and suffering we are seeing in the world. By practicing connecting with presence we can empower ourselves to transcend our personal trauma's and lifelong conditioning of identification with all that is not our deeper self. Conditioning is so ingrained in most of us that it's like an invisible force of control over our lives.


Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother, Pema Chödrön offers a way to cultivate peace by practicing nonaggression towards ourselves. Pema invites us to practice seeing things as they are by simply becoming aware of our thoughts at any given moment, and then without judgement, without calling them right or wrong, simply acknowledging we are 'thinking'. We may notice that our self inquiry is not always so pleasant or ideal. When we notice our thinking, we may also see attached hope or fear, praise or blame. There is a part in ourselves that judges things as good or bad. However as we continue to meditate, just sitting with ourselves, doing nothing but being aware of our out breath and noticing our thoughts, our minds become more still. We may be swarmed by an abundance of thoughts streaming by us, but also come to notice gaps in the chatter. We may experience greater clarity about our attitudes in life. In time we may see the habitual patterns we live out, and how they affect our experience of life.


When we practice seeing things as they are we may notice just how many opinions we have. We may also see that we tend to take them as 'truth'. But actually they aren’t truth, they are just our opinions.


So what is this part of ourselves that can take us far far away from reality? Eckhart Tolle calls it the “voice in our head” or the egoic mind. This part of ourselves likes to feel safe and secure. While full of good intentions, the voice in our head when untamed can be unkind, self-doubting, judgemental in many situations. Kåre Landfald the founder of Zen coaching unwraps the three prongs of the 'inner troica': the inner pusher, inner critic and inner perfectionist. These parts of the egoic mind have evolved with us and our experience in the world, especially in our younger years. We learnt how to protect ourselves from pain and shame when we were too young and vulnerable to have the awareness or resources to process. The voice in our head that told us how to fit in and meet the demands of those around us in order to survive. This part of us was born in us when our primary need was safety. Knowing how things are gives a sense of certainty and safety to this part of ourselves. As such it is common place for us to divide things in life into categories, such as good and bad, right and wrong.


How does this affect our relationships? On the whole many of us don’t tend to question our own thoughts and over time our beliefs strengthen and we consciously or subconsciously start to identify with them, as if they reflect who we are. Whether we are deeply attached to a particular idea or not we easily question or attack others for having ideas different to our own. In this moment we are attacking our very own true nature of openness, love, compassion, individuality and freedom. We are creating a jail for ourselves and all the people we love. Unfortunately this tendency is also the cause of perhaps all the negative emotions we experience: fear, guilt, anger, jealousy, envy, hopelessness and depression. In short, living solely from this part of ourselves is not a good option for maintaining our health or the health of our relationships!


In contrast if we support ourselves to come back to the depths of our being we will find peace within ourselves, and naturally integrate a way of living that does not add to greater division and violence in ourselves, and in the world.


Connection with the ‘true self’ can look different person to person, however going beyond identification with the mind is an essential aspect. Becoming present with the self and having the embodied experience that we are more than our thoughts is a beautiful aspect. Discovering we can simply be a holding space for not only thoughts but all experience, can be a life changing. This brings us to the notion of egolessness.                 


Pema Ch​​ödrön describes egolessness beautifully:


“All ego really is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real and the absolute truth about how things are. To have even a few seconds of doubt about the solidity and absolute truth of our own opinions, just to begin to see that we do have opinions, introduces us to the possibility of egolessness.


We don’t have to make these opinions go away, and we don’t have to criticize ourselves for having them. We could just notice what we say to ourselves and see how much of it is just our particular take on reality which may or may not be shared by other people.”


If we are less acquainted with the experience of egolessness we may easily feel threatened when someone else challenges a belief we hold. When someone challenges a belief we hold strongly a danger response is triggered in us, and we respond reactively as if from a flight or fight response, rather than from our hearts. In reality when this happens we are not actually protecting our physical life, we are protecting the false self, the ego.                                   


Who I am in my immediate experience?

We can each ask ourselves the question: who am I? We can connect with the answer by being present with ourselves in the moment, being a witness to the experience of ourselves existing right here and now, in this moment. To do this we have to give space to all the thoughts, feelings, self-images and stories we tell about ourselves. We can acknowledge them and give them space to exist, without being identified with them. Utilizing the breath and focusing on the heart can help us to return to being a witness, a holding space for all experience. The egoic mind however, wants to maintain our focus on the false self. This is the noisy mind chatter that constantly tries to engage our attention. However if we continue to stop paying attention to these distractions, the illusion of who we thought we were will disappear, and we will start to discover our core essential self.


Many sages and wisdom speakers have shared that connecting with the immediacy of our actual experience in the moment can be a gateway to discovering who we truly are. Any day we choose we can come back to the now. Looking into the face of someone in front of us, tasting the flavour of a tasty drink, feeling the warmth of the water as we wash the dishes, the freshness of the morning air, we can enjoy a moment of presence. The more we bring our focus into the present moment, rather than focusing on our thoughts, the more we experience the joy of life and who we are.

In many cultures and traditions understanding impermanence is another critical ingredient for living a happy life free from suffering. In meditation we can see that an essential element of the practice is simply acknowledging and allowing things to be as they are. In our daily life we can also use these principles. For example if we are experiencing sadness, we can honour that there is sadness in us and offer it a compassion. This part of ourselves may be painful to sit with, however we can practice accepting it as it is, and soon we may notice it's intensity dissipates. However when we reject a part of ourselves or cling on to a particular experience, a deeper truth is left unacknowledged. When we look at this we see we wish the reality was different from how it is. We may struggle with ourselves or the world or we may try to bury the disharmony. The result is usually intensified suffering and/ or a build up of stuck unprocessed thoughts, feelings, emotions ~ energy.


If we come back to connection with our true self we will find peace within ourselves and naturally learn to integrate a way of living that acknowledges our experience and others experiences as they are. Using aggressive force to try and change things from how they are may simply add to greater division and violence in ourselves, and in the world. When we are attached to a particular idea and attack others for believing something different, we are attacking our very own true nature of openness, love, compassion, individuality, freedom. We are creating a jail for ourselves and all the people we love. We may see that "how we treat the world is how we treat ourselves".


The natural need for creativity and expressing ideas and beliefs is a beautiful thing. A question we could ask ourselves however, is; from which place do we engage with ourselves and others? Can we maintain our compassionate and curiosity, noticing if we are still connected to the qualities of our heart when we engage with others? In our own individuality are we still in openness, freedom, joy, compassion? Do we consider one particular outcome or are we open to receive unknown possibilities. When we are unable to share or receive from the heart it is likely we will suffer or suppress. When we are hurt we receive the task of giving compassion for ourselves and for those around us. We can attend to these aspects by staying present and acting from the heart. This will ensure we do not push our hurt onto others.


Integrating healing

How do we heal ourselves and our communities? In the modern world we see a huge pressure and conditioning to live from the egoic mind. Yet there are many who have shared the wisdom of the heart fearlessly throughout the ages, contributing to much understanding, peace and harmony. When each of us are ready to receive and embody this wisdom we will not go back. Yet the journey is far from simple.


Healing and self transformation requires constant diligence to return to ourselves again and again. Reprogramming the deeply ingrained patterns we have developed throughout our lives takes time. We can have deep insight about ourselves in a single moment. We can see it all so clearly, and yet in another moment we have reverted back to an old self destructive pattern. If you imagine your life to this point forming how you live, it may help with understanding inner shift as an unfolding journey to be compassionate with. Yet every day and every moment is the perfect moment to practice living in the moment with an open mind and a big heart. Every step counts and even if we ‘mess up’ it's just another perfect opportunity to reflect, learn and grow. We can remember that we are not alone in our fears and struggles and when we share our vulnerabilities we support not only ourselves but others to grow.


Let this be an invitation to remember the depth of our beautiful selves beyond opinions. Everyday may we remember to commit to living from a place of loving awareness, respecting other people's right to do the same. Giving space to our imperfection, breathing in and out with humility and deep respect for each other's personal journeys through life.


The global circumstances are highlighting the failures of a false self egoic approach to life. Rigid attachment to opinions that lack integration with our hearts and the depth our true nature is an underlying driver for division in our communities. Rather than buying into this fight of rightness, which feeds an outdated addiction to duality, we can consciously shift towards oneness and unity. What is needed is to meet ourselves and others in a space of wholeness, allowance and openness. Bringing the qualities of the heart to life everyday we can honour the depth of our being and cultivate peace in the world.






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