We all want peace. We want to live in a world where peace is common and yet, inside each of us various wars rage daily. We imagine that if only “they” would do this or that, we’d be closer to peace, to justice, to each other.
The world that the better angels of our nature demand will not be given to us and it’s not “their” fault, those beyond the walls of ourselves. The world will evolve or not in direct and strict proportion to amount of peace we are able to cultivate inside ourselves.
In her unsettling and honest book The Body Is Not An Apology, Sonya Renee Taylor prescribes what she calls “The Three Peaces” as guides in our journey toward radical self-love. The first of these peaces is simple, but so much harder than it sounds. “Understanding is not a prerequisite for honor, love and respect.” She asks, about so many of our destructive habits, “What if we stopped?”
So, what if I did stop? What if I stopped letting those things happen inside me that keep me from peace?
What if I stopped acting like it’s hard or “not worth it” to love another person unless I understand their point of view? In my own skin, I know that I want love more than I want understanding. Our culture has made it so that “who” and “what” I am makes me hard for some people to understand, but I’m damned lovable, so even if I don’t make sense to you, my deepest wish is that you love me.
I want to spend more time in that space beyond this one. This space I share with so many others, but in which I feel quite alone is a space that too easily gives way to division and sanctimony. If I stop defending the worthiness of my very existence with each breath I breathe, each stitch of clothing I wear, each meal I eat, what will happen? I do know it will go a lot better if you’re willing to do it, too.
I’m reminded again of the teaching of beloved teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. “The mind creates the abyss. The heart crosses it.” Isn’t this true?
So, then how do we actually live like this?
We start by noticing. Noticing leaves room for what is. It just observes. When I notice how I dislike, for instance, the way people who I believe truly love me can vote for a man whose policies put me and my family in specific and real danger, I don’t have to do anything in that moment but notice. It’s painful to notice that. It creates deep sadness inside me and I do feel rage and a sense of disconnection, but I can notice those things, too. This is what stymies so many of us. Sitting still with pain and sadness is nobody’s idea of a good time. But is raging back any fun either? Not for me it isn’t and certainly not with and at the people I love most.
When I leap from the pain and sadness to catastrophe and imagined dialogue in my head, nothing good happens. When I choose to notice, there is more space. Space for me to remember the humans who made that choice. Space to believe in the beautifully complicated and nuanced human experience of which I claim to be such a big fan. Space to feel peace and then, from that peaceful space I can continue to work for the change I want to see in the world.
The things that currently and maybe always have divided us are not things we can reason through. I will not move to higher ground with my mind. The solution lies in a deeper wisdom that enlists our shared desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and that is willing to trust that understanding is not essential to seeing.