What Are We Striving For — As Individuals and as a Human Collective?
Some time ago I watched the third season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. One of the featured chefs, Jeong Kwan, is a Buddhist monk who lives in Korea and is world-renowned for her vegetarian cooking.
Everything she does is a mediation of sorts. Her day is a cycle of meditation and prayer, planting and harvesting, long-term food preparation (like preparing kimchi which needs time to ferment), and daily meal preparation for her fellow monks.
“Creativity and ego cannot go together.” — Jeong Kwan
In the Western world we are constantly striving
We are building things.
We are creating things.
We are solving the problems that we have created for ourselves.
We are trying to outperform others.
We are trying to create more then our neighbour.
We are attempting to have more income than anyone else.
While some of us are working to achieve balance, others are doing everything possible to increase their net worth at the expense of humanity’s and the planet’s well-being.
But what if?
What if instead of trying to outperform everyone else, instead of trying to create a new products or services that no one needs, we took part in mindful living?
Look at the world around us right now
There is less and less connection to others.
There’s a growing lack of empathy.
There is more hatred than love.
So long as people like Trump, the Koch Brothers, Putin, or Kim Jong-un maintain the greatest amount of power via wealth or dictatorship, the more perilous our lives become.
Letting go of anger
It’s easy to slide into the state of anger as a reaction to people or events that upset us.
This is very much a part of my personality, but that is also only a story, and one from my past. How I choose to respond or react in this moment requires presence, peace of mind, mindfulness, and the ability to exist in the gap — the place of no time and no thing.
In Zen meditation this is referred to as the difference between not thinking and non-thinking; a useful koan.
The “gap” is the place deep inside of you — call it your higher consciousness — where you realize that your emotions are an action and not who you are.
If I allow myself to get upset every time I read a news article about Donald Trump my reactive emotions don’t help anyone, myself included.
If we are going to make our world a better, happier, and more peaceful place, we cannot use anger as a form of retaliation. But we can use anger as the impetus for coming up with mindful and humane solutions to our problems.
Use anger as a form of motivation
Anger overrides clear and logical thought.
Trying to find a solution from within anger is like trying to figure out why the sun rises in the east.
I was having a discussion with Nate Miller in response to my recent article, Navigating Love, Sex, and a Mixed-Orientation Marriage.
The best examples of unbridled anger can be found on any social media platform. Comments on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. can be off-the-charts-reprehensible. It can literally make you lose faith in humanity.
So how do we respond to the haters, to the angry, without losing out wit, our senses, and our ability to create meaningful change through dialogue?
Here’s the conversation I had with Nate:
First, one has to be in the right mindset, i.e. calm, relaxed, and unthreatened. In the case of your interaction on Facebook, sounds like the other person or both of you were on the defensive. In that moment the logical brain (pre-frontal cortex) is being taken over by the ancient brains (comfort and safety).
It’s only from a place of calm that you can practice empathy, and a good practice is to pretend. Imagine someone else’s suffering. How do you think they feel? How would that feel if it were happening to you? How would you simply be there, without judgement, without offering a fix, to allow them to express to you how they are feeling?
It’s not always easy! We are trained to fix, to offer a solution. But the best solutions come from the individual (which is why I love coaching, since it helps the person being coached find their own answers), but in the case of trauma, this is not the time for a fix. It’s a time for compassion and empathy.
Stepping into the gap (that space of non-thinking) to get clear on the best course of action will yield the most positive outcome for potential transformation.
“I appeal to all who belong to the generation of the 21st century to be determined to create a happier, more peaceful world. Use your intelligence in a positive way, to cultivate the warm-heartedness that can be the catalyst of constructive change. When the education system encourages only materialistic goals with little concern for universal human values, cultivating warm-heartedness can make all the difference.” – The Dalai Lama