With the winds of change blowing across the world, I began to reflect on what, if anything, I can do. The Arab Spring, the Spanish Revolution – these are words that incite action. But what kind of action? If I sincerely believe that change begins within and that the most important work we can do to change the world is inner work, then what happens to action?
In an email exchange with one of my friends in Spain, I had to answer that. My friend felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the country’s problems, so much so that she was losing her customary enthusiasm, and giving in to the general belief that she was only one person and nothing she did would change anything.
That was the same argument so many people presented to me when I said I would be walking to Jerusalem for peace.
All I could answer was that walking was the only constructive thing I knew how to do, later adding that to change the world, I first had to change myself.
Of course, many thought I was crazy, to put it mildly. Most thought me an idealist and naïve, not at all pragmatic or realistic. After all, didn’t I watch the news with all their facts and images of what’s really happening? My walking, I was told, would only give them one more target to blow up.
If I had listened, I never would have found the most marvelous gift that I so yearned to carry to Jerusalem – peace.
I didn’t fight the system. I didn’t give in to conspiracy theories. I chose instead to do two things simultaneously and interchangeably: speak about what I believed (peace begins within), and build it within me. I had no master plan for what to do. I didn’t know the answers, and I made many mistakes. But I didn't stop walking. Slowly, I began to realize that the criticisms I made of others I was forced to confront within myself. The judgments I held about others were visited upon me many times over so that I could stop pointing fingers and making accusations. So in the act of trying to build peace in the outer world through walking and talking (i.e. through action), I found myself having to confront the barriers to peace that I held in my inner world.
I share this with you, especially those among you who are fighting against the injustices and the corruption that you see in your worlds. I admire your passion and zeal for change. I especially admire that you are expressing your desires for change peacefully. Since I see the world as a manifestation of what’s happening within me, I now find myself continually asking the following questions - what within me is resisting change? What structures within me, be they mental or emotional, are so rigid that I will defend them to the end? What ways of seeing things, what perspectives, do I refuse to negotiate on, and would rather beat into submission than try to understand and make peace with? If I believe all politicians are corrupt, then I must ask myself, have I never done a corrupt thing in my life? Have I never taken advantage of a situation because I knew I would never get caught? What am I doing to heal those things that I protest against, that I despise, WITHIN MYSELF? Could that change my perspective of those I fight against? Would I then act differently as a consequence?
These are hard questions to answer honestly; and the answers, harder yet to accept within one’s self. But how can we change our perspectives of another if we’re not willing to acknowledge those same aspects within ourselves? That’s why, to me, the hardest work is the work that we do on the inner planes because if we can heal and love those parts of ourselves that are rigid and inflexible, then we are able to do the same in the outer world. And when our inner walls crumble, then the outer walls cannot help but follow suit.
And that is the real revolution.
"You don't fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water." Author unknown.
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