I’ve been spending the last 7 months focusing my attention inward. When the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown started, I noticed how fear of the unknown permeated my state of mind. I was incredibly anxious and afraid of this invisible intruder shutting down the world around me. I realized if I limited my direct exposure to news relating to the pandemic that I felt better, more optimistic, less afraid.
…The more I believe who I am as a person is contingent on external forces the more insecure I feel when my external reality is compromised by uncertainty and chaos.
When George Floyd’s arrest and death where publicized, I retreated inward. In the past I had deeply internalized the commentary surrounding other black men’s publicized arrest and deaths and found I plunged deep into a state of fear, distrust and anxiety. This time, I observed from afar. I allowed myself to feel compassion for all parties: the officers involved in George Floyd’s death, George Floyd himself, his family and the world-wide community. Because my response was that of love and compassion and not anger, I felt emotional neutrality towards the event. I wasn’t afraid or angry.
Now with the election results pouring in, I am resigned to confronting what will happen next with the same type of approach: Notice what thoughts arise within me and the emotions stoked and actions contemplated. Because I, like every human on earth, interprets external events selfishly (according to its impact on my identity, possessions and feelings of security) I realize the more I believe who I am as a person is contingent on external forces the more insecure I feel when my external reality is compromised by uncertainty and chaos.
I’ve been learning through meditation, mindfulness and yoga that who I am is not linked to external realities or material goods that will inevitably decay, die or fail. But this truth is unknown by millions, if not billions of people. Thus, we live in a world of scarcity, injustice, suffering and pain as people clamor and struggle to obtain more power, status and wealth.
My question to those who fight to make things “righteous”, “just” or “fair” is: Have you made peace with the ways that your very existence creates injustice, unfairness and suffering?
Is going inward a cop-out? To those who find their identity anchored in ideologies that dictate the standards for a safe and secure world, the answer is “yes”. If you aren’t actively fighting against “evil”, “injustice”, “the Republican party”, “poverty”, “fair wages” etc., you are complicit in their existence.
However, my question to those who fight to make things “righteous”, “just” or “fair” is: Have you made peace with the ways that your very existence creates injustice, unfairness and suffering? Have you found parts of your own darkness living in the “darkness” of the “other”? Have you learned to embrace your own imperfections, shortcomings and mistakes while simultaneously excepting your “enemies”?
I believe that no external work can truly be long-lasting and beneficial if those conducting it are blind to their own humanity. In order to create true change you must love yourself unconditionally and also the ones you deeply disagree with.
Do you think that “going inward” is a cop-out? Or do you feel that the only valuable action against injustice and suffering is to do external work?
One thought on “In a World of Chaos, Is Changing One’s Self a Cop-Out?”
This was an interesting read. I think it’s important to do both! Work on yourself inwardly, but also contribute to make the world a better place, even if it means facing some difficult things. xx
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