If you don’t have the qualities of stability, peace and freedom inside you, then no matter what you do, you cannot help the world. It is not about “doing” something it’s about “being” something- being peace, being hope, being solid. Then every action will come out of that, because peace, stability, and freedom always seek a way to express themselves in action.
Thich Nhat Hanh
After several years, I could no longer dredge up the same feelings of release and emotional satisfaction by aggressive expressions of my frustration and rage. I also began to see that little was being accomplished by these expressions, and that, if any thing, I was only causing mutual entrenchment. Over the long term, what changed was not my analysis, but the emotionalism and attachment with which I expressed those analysis.
The impetus for this series of posts was to help myself learn to express my analysis beyond rage and frustration. I hope that by convincing myself that I am “being” peace, I will be better suited to help others achieve a level of insight to help promote social action. Like I said in my earlier post, I am finally starting to realize that I cannot make any change in the way the world is run, until I am more mindful of how I handle my own emotions.
One of my biggest frustrations is that I often feel I am living too regular a life. By regular I mean that it is not very revolutionary. I am not out protesting the IMF or World Bank, I am not exposing sweatshop labor, shit I am not even boycotting it, I am not organizing union workers. You can feel quite ineffectual living in the suburbs and working at a private school, and I often do.
One of the first steps toward building peace in myself, I feel, is to identify and shed light on the things I am doing to help myself be peace. I think it is important for all of us to start with what we are doing in our everyday lives to promote peace. Here is a list of things I am doing that I feel help promote peace, first in my own life and subsequently in the world. I hope to add details to all bullet points that lack explanation in the future.
Being a Father:
Nothing up to this point in my life has taught more patience than being a dad. Nothing has diffused my anger, selfishness, and inability to deal with not having my way more than being a dad. Being a parent is the ultimate lesson in selflessness. No matter what it is you are doing with your child, they come first. Always. The ability to put your child’s needs before your own is a pretty easy concept for most people to handle, although a look at child abuse statistics and a look at the nature of childhood worldwide, would prove otherwise; I think it is safe to say that most people want the best for their children. What does this have to do with world peace you might ask? One of the main tenets of Buddhism is the there is selflessness. We are not separate beings. When we can see that there is no separation between us, we understand that we all suffer in some degree and that only by helping others ease their suffering, can we ease our own. Fatherhood has taught me to put the needs of my daughter before my own. Although, I may be exhausted, I cannot vent my frustrations on her when she wakes up at three am. I cannot project anger towards her when she is hungry and being fussy. I must love her unconditionally, because I realize there is a cause to her suffering. She is tired or hungry. The hard part is applying this simple lesson to people with whom we are in conflict.
Understanding that all human action is caused by suffering, and that this suffering has a source is part of the four noble truths in Buddhism. It is important to see people on the opposite side of our political divide as we see our crying child. All their actions have reasons, which we must be open enough to see. We must be open and compassionate enough to help them find the source of their pain. We must be able to love them back to sleep, or to feed them when they are hungry. This is not easy to do. It is much easier with your own child, but if you are able to understand that your enemy is also your child, he is you; we are all the same. We are simply trying to find the source of all our suffering.
Being a father has taught me to love unconditionally. Being a father has taught me to be selfless. Being a father has taught me to be patient and handle my frustration with things I cannot control. These are very important first steps in being peace. So when I ask myself, “What am I doing to help make the world a better place?” I can now say, “I am being the best dad I can be!” Another added advantage to this method of building peace at home is that hopefully these lessons will be passed on to my daughter.
I will add explanation to these points soon.
- Being a teacher
- Being a husband
- Being an artist
- Being a vegetarian
- By living overseas
- Studying the Buddha’s teachings