“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
When I was younger I raged against the injustices I saw in the world. The tragedies, the losses, the violence and cruelty. It kept me up at night, preoccupied my thoughts, made me feel hopeless and sad many times over. I always wanted to do something, anything, so that those seemingly insane and terrible things never happened again.
I’ve never understood (and still do not), why people fight and kill each other over religious beliefs, political ideologies, differences in skin color or sexual preference. I don’t understand deliberate cruelty to people, to animals, physical or emotional. I don’t understand that choice (and I think it is one, even unconsciously). I don’t understand cruelty and indifference to our world, the only place we have to call home
It is overwhelming to me, the suffering I see if that’s the thing I go looking for. And it is there, I know it. I only have to listen to or read the news everyday to confirm its existence.
And I do understand anger. I used to feel it keenly. I used to feel hate (and sometimes I still do) when I would see or hear about suffering or injustice, when I felt it happening to me. It feels justified then, that anger, in the face of my definition of cruelty, abuse, insanity. But I imagine the people that do harm in the world feel justified most of the time, too. And if I am not going to be like them, then I have to find another way to deal with my feelings, my outrage, my own despair.
Yoga and mindfulness helped me learn to manage my emotions, my stress. I try to keep my own life in balance. I try to eat well, get enough sleep, take satisfaction in my work, cultivate loving relationships, live more in tune with nature. They seem like small things, but to me they have made all the difference. I take care of myself, so that I can take better care of others, so that I can live and move in the world more responsibly, coming from a place of good energy instead of harm.
But it remains a choice I try to make every day, every moment, in my own life, not to respond or react out of anger or fear or hate. And it’s very hard sometimes.
What I do now, what I’ve realized, is the best way to help create change externally is to begin internally. To question my thoughts, my actions, my beliefs continually. To try and live according to the conclusions I come to. I want to live as an example to others, and hope they might follow my lead someday. Not that I think I am the best person out there. But I’m trying to be better, to myself and others, to our world. And that I think is a worthwhile goal.
I will be glad at the end of my life if I can say that I believe I became the kindest, most compassionate, and wisest version of myself possible. And if I live to see the rest of the world follow suit, it will be a blessing, a true life’s achievement.