As a long practicing yogi, true inner peace is something that has alluded me. And cultivating it so that it flows through my veins as easily and fluidly as blood has been a somewhat dubious journey as my mind, body and soul seek to become something I cannot quite grasp.
I decided to kick off this year with Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute, an organization that specializes in conflict resolution.
It focuses on seeing humans as humans, not objects. And says that the justification needed to support self-betrayal that happens when we go against our natural will to treat people as humans – and equal to ourselves, is what causes and perpetuates conflict.
This shifts the problem from a problem with others, to a problem with oneself.
I love this.
So much of what I believe plagues us today as a global community, is the notion that change in others is necessary to bring about resolution. This is impossible. And the reason that conflict with differences in opinion, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation etc. etc. etc. continues to persist so aggressively throughout the ages. We can influence, guide, teach. But change is ultimately up to each individual.
The book says that while actions can be inherently right or wrong, the way in which we go about them (our way of being) reflects either a heart of war or a heart of peace. This puts the onus squarely on our own intent. Booyah! And the way in which we truly feel about something more deeply and accurately determines the trajectory of the situations that we encounter relative to what was actually said or done.
For instance, you might tell your son to clean his room and be right. That taking care of one’s things is important. But if you’re coming at it with a heart at war, and are angry or annoyed or critical – seeing him as an object and not as a human being with their own perspective just as worthy as yours. Than your heart of war approach will perpetuate a cycle of conflict by inciting negative feelings in him to resist, see you as an object, and so on.
Even in the face of anger or frustration, we have the ability to disseminate good vibes instead of bad. And this simple fact illustrates how critical inner peace is in the face of the most egregious of acts, even war.
Like the person who looks past the religious beliefs of another, even after witnessing his family being slaughtered by a group to which the man belongs to by name alone. A name that defines some, but not all of who that person is. And which may not reflect any part of those people who caused him so much pain.
No matter what the situation, we can choose our way of being. And that starts with seeing every human as human, exercising empathy for their story which has just as many flaws and exceptions as our own without judgement. And most importantly, with compassion.
I have some work to do, to get to the point where my instinct calls to this mindset combating years of being someone who has led with force as a means of strength. As a means of protection. But the edges have definitely been softening, as I learn my way through a few lessons of my own. Mostly that being right doesn’t mean shit if you’re handling it like an asshole. And that coating your asshole feelings in sugar is no more effective to yourself or others. That there is no shortcut to inner peace. You have to be it through and through.
So the next time you encounter someone with a viewpoint or identity or a label that is so completely different than your own. Understand that their perceived crookedness has been shaped by perspectives and experiences and definitions as powerful as the ones that make you, you. And treat them the way you want to be treated. Like a human being.