“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” –Jalaluddin Rumi
Violence and incidents of terrorism on the planet are escalating, making our inquiry into the question Is Peace Possible? timely and deeply compelling. Perhaps the best definition of peace we’ve ever heard is the one USM’s Founder, John-Roger, has given: “Peace is the cessation of against-ness.” Now, the way some people deal with definitions is to either agree or disagree with them. And usually if we agree, we decide that the definition is true; whereas if we disagree, it’s untrue. This may seem a very neat and tidy system. The fact is that whether we agree or disagree with something is no indicator of its truth or falsehood.
The way we like to deal with definitions is, as they say in Vermont about friends, we “got to see how they wear.” We like to “try them on” and “see how well they fit” for us. In other words, we don’t agree or disagree; we simply check it out and see how it works.
Our reasoning goes like this: If we want to cease being in a state of against-ness, a good place to begin is finding a way of determining the degree to which we are in against-ness. There are only two places we know of to look for indicators. One is observing our outer behavior, our actions. The second is observing the thoughts and feelings we are experiencing. Further, doesn’t it follow that what we do outwardly is almost totally determined by our inner reality? Wouldn’t we agree that what we think and feel about something influences tremendously what we choose to do in relation to that particular person, situation, or circumstance?
You might say the answer seems obvious, and the logic goes like this: If you want to cease participating in against-ness, just enter a state of for-ness. The way to stop being against things, people, and situations is to simply be for them. So, for example, if you want peace, be for peace and not against war. Makes sense … or does it?
These days, it is not uncommon to see news coverage showing hundreds of protestors yelling and angrily waving their fists in the air while carrying large signs proclaiming PEACE. Their actions were not a demonstration of peace. And likewise, the police responses they provoked were not peaceful.
We see similar situations in other stories. Can we be for pro-life yet not be against abortion? In fact, both sides claim for-ness: pro-life versus pro-choice. Pick one and you set yourself against the other. It’s set up as either/or, one or the other. Correspondingly, we’re told, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Hmmm!!! This is not so easy to clarify or resolve.
How can we choose any position without automatically placing ourselves against its opposite? How can we choose a position for peace without being against war? If we’re against war, we’re engaging in against-ness and, since all positions of against-ness involve judgment, it is virtually impossible to be in against-ness and at peace at the same time. We’re starting to step into some sensitive areas. How can we choose a position of being for feeding the world’s population without being against hunger? Can we choose a position of being for child kindness without being against child abuse? Can we be for taking care of the environment without being against pollution?
It could appear as though there is no way out. Taking a position for anything seems to automatically polarize us against its opposite. But wait! Perhaps one answer lies in finding a way that doesn’t involve taking any positions at all. Is this possible? Can we live in this world of duality and apparent opposites without taking positions for or against anything? What about integrity and standing up for what you believe in? What about the rightness or righteousness of our position? Are we promoting spinelessness, wimp-consciousness, or peace at any price? Far from it!! Facing our own negativity and against-ness in service to moving beyond the mind’s ego-based duality of right and wrong requires great strength of heart and courage.
There's a quote from the Gospel of Mark, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Might this mean that if we don’t like what we’re seeing when we look at the world, perhaps the first thing to consider is the possibility of transforming the filters through which we’re looking? What happens if we consider sacrificing our perceptual filters colored by the duality of the mind, the reactivity of the emotions, and the limitations of our conditioning? What happens if we answer the call to transformation by standing in the strength of our heart and seeing through different eyes? What if we consider that we are more than our mind, our body, and our emotions? Is there indeed another Way of Seeing? Might the mind be simply a tool to be used in service to the heart?
A spiritual teacher we know tells a wonderful story about how he would enter into judgment every time he saw a certain very high-ranking government official on television. The teacher felt that the official was actually promoting attitudes and actions fostering war while giving lip service to being for peace. The teacher also knew that he might meet the official someday, and that if he met him with inner judgment, then he, the teacher, would actually be fighting his own private war internally, feeding his own inner negativity, separation, and against-ness toward the official. He was aware that holding a judgmental attitude (no matter how seemingly justified) only meant adding more negativity to the sum total of against-ness already present on the planet.
The teacher recognized the wisdom of Einstein’s words: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” In service to transforming his against-ness, the negativity and judgment within his own consciousness, he added a specific focus to his daily spiritual practice. He placed a picture of the official on his prayer table where he meditated. Every morning as he did his prayers and meditation, he would look into the eyes of the official with the intention of being as loving and accepting toward him as he could. As he did this day after day, all of the judgments he was holding toward the official came bubbling up to be cleared. As he became aware of each judgment, he worked with Compassionate Self-Forgiveness. “I forgive myself for judging X as a hypocrite and warmonger.“ He knew that judgment contributed to separation that reinforced the consciousness of duality—good/bad, right/wrong, or for/against. He also knew that truly moving into the experience of Compassionate Self-Forgiveness would dissolve his judgments so that he could more clearly see and accept what is: he and the official are Spiritual beings having a human experience, each doing the best he can given what he knows.
The teacher knew that judgment is never justified. He acknowledged his judgments as resulting from an inner attachment to a particular position, in this case peace versus war. By sacrificing his righteousness and focusing his efforts on releasing his own judgments through Compassionate Self-Forgiveness, he moved into the experience of Inner Peace. He did this not by holding a position of “I'm for peace,” but rather by consciously choosing to reduce the sum total of negativity on the planet by sacrificing his own against-ness through releasing his judgments. He transformed the against-ness in his consciousness into peace and acceptance, independent of any considerations as to what he was for or against in the physical world.
These days we’re seeing many situations that challenge our Inner Peace: terrorist threats, bombings, poverty, and starvation, to say nothing of the conflicts and challenges closer to home with our spouses, colleagues, children, etc., to name only a few. How do we find equanimity and Inner Peace in the face of what we see and hear and our responses to it? Our answer is by choosing to sacrifice judgments, wrong making, and against-ness.
During a class we were facilitating shortly after 9/11 called Heart-Centered Living in Challenging Times, a USM graduate stood up and shared that she realized that the most empowering response available to her in the face of the pain and horror of the event was committing herself to the inner work of healing her own Inner Terrorist. She is standing forward as a Peacemaker, using the principles and tools of Spiritual Psychology she learned through a Soul-Centered educational process at USM to continue resolving the issues within her own consciousness, to transform her against-ness and heal her Inner Terrorist.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t it extreme, even rather radical, to think that I have a terrorist inside of me? After all, I’m basically a good person.” Consider this: Is it possible that judging others is actually a form of psychic attack against them? Might these judgments be analogous to lobbing a negatively loaded energetic grenade in their direction? And further, what if the judgments you place against others, you’re also placing against yourself? Are our internally spoken unkind thoughts and negative beliefs, our toxic pronouncements, in fact, weapons that attack and weaken our own consciousness and body? How do your negative attitudes affect you and others? Are they polluting your consciousness, constricting the flow of Love inside you? What if these same energetic missiles create the experience of separation from your heart and Soul? Research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology has correlated life-affirming attitudes with health and has shown that judgment weakens the immune system of the judger. Autoimmune diseases involve the white blood cells attacking themselves. Need we say more?
The title of this article is Is Peace Possible? Our answer is, “YES, very much so,” and by now you’re probably realizing it just may come in a form different from what you thought it was going to be. As we see it, the only way we will ever truly have peace on this planet is by ordinary people like you and us accepting responsibility for healing our own inner disturbances. In accepting this responsibility, we open ourselves to an extraordinary new way of living life—what we refer to as Soul-Centered Living. Our experience with thousands of students over 35 years confirms John-Roger’s definition that Peace truly is the cessation of against-ness!
Here’s a key—at the University of Santa Monica, we say, “Every time one person resolves one issue, the whole of humanity moves forward. P.S. An ‘issue’ is anything that disturbs your peace.” If you find yourself moving toward taking any position fueled by a negative emotional reaction and a judgmental point of view, simply ask yourself this question: “In order to be for this position, is there anything I have to be against?” If your answer is, “yes,” and something inside wants you to take the position, be cautious. We suggest you immediately look for any judgments you may have regarding the person, situation, or circumstance. Then center your awareness in your heart and move into Compassionate Self-Forgiveness. “I forgive myself for judging X (can be a person or situation) as ___________. In doing so, you become a Peacemaker, opening yourself to another Way of Being, to Peace, Acceptance, Loving, Compassion, and Joy as experiential realities within your own consciousness. From this place inside, you are free to participate in good works not because you perceive them as “right” but rather because you desire to be of service simply because you care. Your example-ship becomes your demonstration of Peace.
We’ll close with this story: A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”
“We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of Peace.”
–William Ewart Gladstone
Copyright © 2016 Ron and Mary Hulnick