It is your mind that creates the world – Buddha
The Fourth of July is an opportunity to take a break at the mid-point of the year and assess our lives. Generally, rather than simply viewing it as a time to wave the flag, eat too many burgers and dogs, and watch a riotous display of fireworks, I see it as a chance to free myself from any constraints or burdens I may have knowingly (or unknowingly) taken on during the first half of the year. If they no longer serve me, I must walk away. I declare my independence from sloth and bullshit and sadness if that is what I find on my plate. Today, I declare my independence from the apathy, paralytic depression, and fear that is so palpable these days. Everyone is vibrating with fear about gas prices and food and the cost of cooling their homes. I can understand their fear, but I am currently making a conscious effort not to join in the collective tendency to buy into the “hard times” society as a whole is “selling” us. The more we are bathed in negative news, the worse off we believe we are; and what we believe becomes our reality. There is truth in the adage: what you focus on, increases.
The Reality You Experience Comes From How You Choose to Perceive Reality
The older I get, the more deeply I believe that we do, in fact, create the conditions in which we find ourselves. Reality reflects the inner life condition of every human being on this ephemeral jewel of a planet. In one of the Buddhist sutras, Shakyamuni illustrates this concept by noting that when looking at the Ganges River, an unenlightened person might see nothing but filth and suffering in the dirty, polluted water; while a Buddha (one who is filled with light) looks at the same river and sees “amrita” – the water of the Gods. Both people are looking at the same thing, but see it completely differently based upon the perspective, or life condition, they approach it with. I can literally feel my energy deplete when I listen to rampant negativity about life on this planet. It is almost as though I shrink in size, trying to keep from touching the burning edges of such a mindset. We each have a choice and must choose to believe in and act upon our highest ideals, rather than our lowest expectations. Yes, there is crime, poverty, and hopelessness almost everywhere we turn. Yes, 50% of our high school students (particularly in urban, blighted areas) are dropping out of high school. If we don’t find a way to instill hope in these kids so that they stay in school and are able to get an education, they will (without a doubt) end up as another several hundred thousand members of our already burgeoning prison population. As a society, we need to adopt a more “enlightened” view of our circumstances so we can see our way into solving our problems. Burying our heads in the sand or drilling for oil off every coast of this country will not turn the tide. A revolution in the way we think about and live our lives is necessary.
Life has many burdens, not the least of which is earning a living and taking care of a wild array of personal and collective responsibilities. But the thing that is most needed in each of us is a sense that we can prevail over our problems and we can build lives that we want to live.
We must believe in the human spirit’s ability to rise up and overcome difficulties. We must.
Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.– W. Clement Stone
So, on this Independence Day, I am laying down the sense that it might be too late to truly transform our future. I am walking away from the feeling that there are not others who also believe in the resiliency of the human heart.
I choose to embrace the idea that the universe is a benevolent and kind place of beauty, blessings, and, yes, challenges. But like the individuals who built the country we celebrate today, I am capable of digging deep and working hard. If we start to see others around the world as our fellows, not our enemies (no matter how different they may appear to be) we will be well on our way to altering the path of humanity. I believe that if we put our minds and hearts into solving the global climate crisis, into adopting alternative ways of living in and seeing this world (as something more than a source of fuel to be pillaged and drilled and mined, but as a living entity), and into believing in our children’s capacity to overcome challenges and disappointments (without giving them a trophy to shore up their self-esteem), we can solve this.
This is a country of great innovation, new ideas, and boundless creativity.
I believe we can do it.
© 2008 Shavawn M. Berry
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