February 2, 2011 on 10:00 am
Practing Peace in Times of War
As we mature in life, it is a common practice to review our lives and reassess our accomplishments during our lifetime. Sometimes we have regrets and feel that we have not lived up to some of our desires for prominence or accomplishment. With those thoughts, we vow to once again make the same promises that perhaps are not very realistic such as hoping to become wealthy or lose weight, two very popular aspirations, or make other radical changes in our lives. It is during this time that I think of what constitutes a real potential for success and what perhaps constitutes a fantasy that eventually winds up with our feeling disappointed in ourselves. On a personal level, I have thought of my own preoccupation with losing those pounds that I have carried around for many years and have not lost yet. This time, however, I realized that I had a choice to either berate myself for that disappointment, or perhaps take a page out of Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War where she talks about exploring the origins of aggression and war, explaining that they lie nowhere but within our own hearts and minds. She further talks about how we respond to these challenges can potentially create a culture of compassion or one of equal violence.
On a personal level it makes me think that sometimes we do violence with ourselves when we require a certain standard and struggle against our own personality and habits with aggression also. I am beginning to understand that what is needed is to cultivate compassion towards ourselves primarily for what we have considered as our failures or frailities. This does not mean that we just sit back and become apathetic. No, I feel that what is needed is that we begin again; we get on that wagon or bicycle again and emulate Sisyphus who rolled that boulder up the mountain only to find it rolling back as soon as it reached the top. For those who don’t know, Sisyphus stole fire from the gods and was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain that when reaching the top, rolled down again. The point was that he would never enjoy the fruits of success or accomplishment. That great existentialist Albert Camus speaks of how Sisyphus, aware of the futility of his burden, eventually “let go” of his hopes of accomplishment and enjoyed the trip for what it was, allowing himself to feel the sun on his back and the view of the trees as he labored up the mountain. Some would say that story epitomizes the existentialist viewpoint where the very fact of existence is celebrated. Like many existentialists, Camus rejected religious sensibilities that the work we do now is but a preparation for the “afterlife,” rather than enjoying it in the present, just for the work itself.
We are such a success-oriented society that we forget to appreciate the learning and experiences that we are incurring in our journey in our lives and are still weighing (no pun intended) and measuring ourselves against difficult expectations. As a person who attempts to live a spiritual life, it is my present desire to extend the same compassion towards myself as I would do for others.
Would I do less for anybody else?
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