Choose Love, Not War
The world is cheering: Egypt has had a relatively peaceful revolution. It could have been a bloodbath, but the people spoke loud and clear and they were heard.
In the same way, we do not have to have bitter battles in our own life. We can make communication, respect and peaceful means our modus operandi. But to do this, firstly, we have to recognize and take responsibility for the violence within ourselves and, secondly, we have to make love our priority.
We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves as well as with those we condemn if we wish to move towards peace. — Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Noble Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.
Violence invariably arises due to anger and repressed fear, and we all have some measure of both these within us. Unacknowledged, they can wreck havoc in our own lives and in the world around us, as we see in gang fighting, rape, or forceful and abusive behavior.
When we acknowledge and take responsibility for our own aggressive tendencies we have the ability to change not only our own lives, but the world as well.
And then we can make love our priority. Which doesn’t mean we are always in spaced out hippie bliss while ignoring the conflicts around us, but it does mean we have shifted our focus.
In truth, those people we have a difficult time with are really our teachers. For without an adversary—or those who trigger strong reactions such as irritation, annoyance and anger—we would not be motivated to develop loving kindness and compassion. So we should be grateful to them for teaching us acceptance and tolerance; we can actually thank our exasperating partners, relatives or colleagues for the chance to practice patience. What a gift!
Love is the main emotional job of the heart and it rarely flows smoothly. We all experience childhood conflicts, abuse, hurt or loss, and if the pain is too big to deal with we close our hearts and throw away the key. This keeps us locked out of our heart so that we become mistrustful, defensive, fearful, and even paranoid.
In England, where Deb grew up, many boys are raised not to show their feelings but to appear brave and strong: “Brave boys don’t cry.” They become uptight, repressed, and in adult life can appear cold and distant, unable to express caring or nurturing qualities.
Fear closes our heart so we cannot feel love, as when we cross our arms over our hearts and pull back in defense. Love comes from the open heart as we become more trusting of ourselves and the world, when we open our arms wide to embrace another.
Learning to open the heart, to listen to, respect and trust what we feel, is one of life’s most powerful teachings. For the heart is more than just the center of love, it’s also the core of our being, the place we point to when we refer to ourselves. When we say, “you have touched my heart” we are really saying “you have touched the deepest part of my being.”
We do not have to go in search of love, or fear giving away so much that we have none left. We can never lose love; we can only lose sight of it. Love could not happen if it was not already an integral part of who we are. How can we lose what is our nature? How can we be left with nothing when love is the source of all life?
The Indian government invited us to speak at a yoga conference in Pondicherry, South India. Ed was speaking about the beauty and awesome power of the love that is made manifest in meditation when a man in the audience raised his hand.
“Please sir,” he said, “what is this love that you speak of? Where can I find it? How do I get this love?”
Ed replied: “You awake in love, you eat in love, you bathe in love, and you walk in love. Love is within you, it is your nature, it is who you really are.”
“Oh sir,” the man said, “you have all the right answers!”
Meditation is a great vehicle for opening our hearts. Through it, the “me versus you” and the power struggles and one-upmanship dissolve. There is a dropping away of the superfluous, of the separation and hostility.
As the Beatles sang: Love Is All You Need.
How do you make love not war? Do comment below.