Peace Above Outrage

Lately I feel like I’m being pushed to the emotional edge of anger and annoyance because of people who choose victim-hood and feed the feeling of hopelessness, or ignorant people who perpetuate fear by spreading misinformation. The outrage and annoyance comes from all levels. So here are three things I try to remind myself during the mental chaos:

  • Outrage is easy because anyone can do it, but it creates more problems than solutions.
  • Anything that comes out of my mouth or through my actions with anger will always regrettable. I try not to confuse the blindness of anger as the clarity for meditation.
  • When I choose to reject anger, the reasons why peace is better become apparent. There is seldom collateral damage for acting rationally; plenty others have regretted acting fearfully or harshly.

Choosing not to react out of anger has been helping be get back to my center. The reasons for our suffering might be different, but we feel pain similarly. I’m right here with you as well.


 

Crowd v Individuals

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Is it ignorant of us to look at small, positive things when there is a global pandemic going on? Maybe its more acceptable to talk about the latter because it helps us relieve our anxiety by joining the panicked crowds. If we focus on the bad, we don’t have to change the way we’ve always done things, but rather follow what everyone else is doing and feeling. We buy things because others buy. We feel our spirits dampen because everyone else’s is too. We feel more connected to others because we think we feel similarly. But this is an illusion.


To think differently from the crowd requires us to be more accountable to our emotions and logic. Yes things seem bad, and rightfully so. But do our actions contribute to making things better, or just joining everyone else in the hysteria? Solutions are found thinking differently from the crowds where the problems emerge from–and this begins by looking at the positive things that people easily ignore. 


Removing The Knife

Image by Reza Hasannia

We each have good and bad days, but lately even the good days seem to be overshadowed with some virus dread. Most days for me now, I might wake up feeling positive–that things are getting better–but towards the evening, I worry if things will become worse. After a few days of this anxiety, I exhaust myself so much that barely have energy to think clearly; and I can imagine others feel similarly. So I’ve been trying to use more logic in these emotionally trying times. Here’s the best I could come up with so far:

When a situation becomes challenging, fear makes us aware that we can be harmed. If harmed, pain tells us that we can do something about it. But if we choose irrationality, it will say to push the knife all the way through to take it out. And suffering is the resulting consequence of the choice we make.

If we pause to act rationally, we realize that the knife doesn’t need to go deeper. We can assess and act accordingly. But if all we focus on is trying to remove the knife any way possible because of the pain we might do in the worst way possible: pushing it all the way through, even though there are many better ways. As Mike Tyson was famous for saying, “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.” When we are in pain, it’s difficult to remain coherent. But if we accept pain as part of our lives, we can learn to respond–and not just react–whenever we feel it.


Time Slows, Never Stops

The world is not ending, but it is slowing down. Many of us until now haven’t had the chance to experience living at a slower pace, so the transition many of us are going through is shocking. Maybe we were struggling to stay positive before, and now it feels like there is less hope.


But when things slow down, it forces us to look at details. Many of us were looking for happiness outside ourselves in the form of distractions…but now, since we are all at home, we have no choice but to come to terms with ourselves. Some of us would rather not look inside ourselves, and instead sedate ourselves at home with food, drinks or entertainment while biding our time. But choosing entertainment over self-educating comes with a couple great costs.


The first is that we spent valuable time entertaining ourselves versus knowing ourselves. We wouldn’t have changed much coming out of this virus quarantine panic, and when things finally blow over, we will return to life the same. And then the next crisis, the same pattern. But those of us who choose to learn during this crucial time, fortify ourselves as independent people who unwillingly become the source of help and positivity during the next crisis.


The second cost is health, which erodes with anxiety. If we are already cooped up, uncomfortable, annoyed, exhausted and everything, not knowing when this quarantine will end will make it seem like the feelings we have now will last indefinitely as well. In this sense, the environment in the head becomes much worse than the epidemic we are actually facing.


Things are slowing down, but far from ending. We need a breather, to become accustomed to what it feels like to not live a rushed, routine life. As the saying goes, “The devil is in within the details.” This is a rare chance for many of us to examine our life in detail, and maybe to also absolve some demons that plagued us even before this plague.


You can be anything. And you choose to be this.

Is the title statement full of judgement or praise? Our choices can really change the way we see things. It depends a lot on what a person is feeling; and feelings often change. At any moment, we can turn things around. Or we can continue down the same path. For this reason, life is seldom a linear journey. We can be anything: kind, but we worry about suffering. So we become suffering. Open, but we worry about our feelings being exploited. So we become exploited victims. Happy, but we worry for how long? And so we become uncertainty. Pick one, cast away the other.


Open Hearts, Open Hands

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

If we spend time being angry at irresponsible people for not acting mindfully in crisis, we become distracted from being helpful ourselves. It’s really wasteful to use precious energy being frustrated and angry at the selfish and ignorant actions of others; ugliness is often obvious, and it doesn’t need a hype-man. Shaking closed fists angrily at injustice has its place, but during a time when friends and loved ones suffer uncertainty, be an open hand. An open hand comes from an open heart, and becomes a place of giving and receiving; a place of no ego. We all are in need of something, and can always give something. Try to keep both heart and hand open, and let’s overshadow ugliness with action.


The Panic Of 2020

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So many of us, since grade school, grew up taught the the idea that it’s important to make a difference. It’s one thing to hear about the great deeds of people like FDR, Dr. King or Gandhi during difficult times; but it’s another experience to be a person who acts consciously when things are difficult. The greatest difference is made during times of difficulty, because kindness becomes a scarce commodity. A great deed can be just calling a friend, to see if they are okay. It could be posting on social media where supplies are still available, and offering to pick some stuff for others. It could be picking up and donating excess supplies to senior communities.

Every act from kindness is a source for greatness. Instead of shaming the people who are acting impulsively and adding fuel to the fire, perpetuating the story of how the world has gone crazy, I suggest another solution: be courageous enough to be the sanity in this passing storm. Because when it all eventually subsides, we will have to look at ourselves and either regret, or be proud, of the people we acted as.


Ahimsa Is The End

When M. Gandhi or Dr. King spoke of civil disobedience, they were greatly aware of the consequences of “an eye for an eye.” It does make the whole world go blind, but not just literally.

There’s a well known experiment in which monkeys in a cell were given electric shocks each time one of them tried to climb a ladder for a banana. This eventually conditioned the monkeys to prevent (even resort to fighting) anyone else who would climb the ladder. One by one however, each monkey was replaced with a new one; until the entire lot was of new monkeys. The electric shock was removed as soon as the first one was replaced, but the memory was already conditioned into reactionary behavior. So now, when one of the monkeys climbed for the banana, even though the electric shock was removed, the monkeys would fight out of reaction instead of reason.

Everyone was fighting and the reason was long forgotten. If we keep seeking revenge long enough, or fight with ourselves for a long enough time, we often become blind to the reason we started in the first place. An eye an eye, but why was the first one taken? Most of the time, the thing we believe taken from us is often still within our possession.


Pricking The Thorn

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Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

If you were pricked by a thorn, would you touch it again? Or would the pain the first time be enough to stop you from doing it again? Most of us would be smart enough to learn the first time. But most of us also choose to think about things repetitively that have caused us suffering. If we experience some kind of pain like the thorn, we have the nerve endings to experience it once and learn from it. But to continually do so will be extremely uncomfortable. There will eventually be blood loss, your finger will develop a gradual numbness to the anticipated pain. There will be a scar. Your body will send white blood cells, platelets and everything else required to help heal it. But if we don’t allow time for healing, we cannot expect to heal. 

Stress is a really big factor in our society today. Stress depletes the immune system so much, and takes away time from doing the things we wish we were doing. It creates resentment and absence in the lives of others we care about. It’s a lingering virus that erodes us away faster. And the cause of the virus is most often recurring painful thoughts that we have yet to lay to rest. They are the thorns you keep pricking your finger on, disallowing healing into our lives. 


 

Be Audacious

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Uncertainty is a terrible thing to wake up with; uncertain if we want to go to work today, uncertain about the partner we wake up with, uncertain if we are doing the best we can for ourselves. It diminishes our enthusiasm for the day, as if our car tires hit a patch of quicksand. When we are slowed down, instead of choosing what to do, we revert to old habits (and by extension, our old life): brush our teeth, have our coffee–then autopilot–end up at work again. Years go by because we become accustomed to the uncertainty, habits and worrying. I think the answer to uncertainty is audacity. Ask for that raise, apply for a better job, tell people how you truly feel, go after the things and prove your self-doubt wrong. It might feel like familiar things are breaking down at first, but we can’t create something new unless we move on from the old.