The war in us
There are days when I can yell at the neighbour when she forgets another appointment, grumble when someone in the queue cuts in and beat myself up when I forget to cover the firewood properly.
And sometimes I can do nothing but feel especially guilty about why I do things a certain way. Every time this happens to me I notice: I am actually at war with myself.
This entry I wrote a year ago, and I feel it still stands true: even though things might seem more hopeless then ever, peace on earth we can only get when found inside ourselves first. I hope my take on it makes you feel powerful again.
Last week things didn't go well for me. The world did not turn the way I wanted it to, things fell out of my hands, I bumped my head a little too often and got my fingers stuck in the door a couple of times. When that happens occasionally, I can laugh about it, but that week it was rife. And it had an effect on my mood, but especially on my internal voice.
Besides all the ranting I then throw out, because I think the world could do with a helping hand from time to time, I also swear at myself indirectly. Because of course I could grip that sign a bit better, be a bit more present when I walk somewhere and close the door a bit more quietly behind me. All that kicking and punching doesn't really make me any happier either, and there is bound to come a moment afterwards when I have to confess, whiningly, that I want too much again.
That I was at war with the world, but mostly with myself.
“We see you. See the subway train
Stalled at the station, the indefinite
Pause of commute. We see you
Huddled from the thunder
Of bombs whose distance from you
Is incalculable but near enough
To tremble the heart.” - Hila Ratzabi
We have a friend who occasionally comes to us to blow off some steam. Not because his life is so busy, but mainly because his head is so full and he went down the rabithole after nights of watching videos and documentaries. He comes to visit with all the news of the world, pours it over us and tries to convince us of the latest theories. Afterwards, with his dark eyes full of panic, he looks at me: the world is dying.
I can't help but to only look back.
Because what do I say to that? What can I do when someone goes so deep and gets stuck there in the dark, when they dig in deeper and deeper and can't get back to the light again? What can I do when I see that he is at war with himself, but especially with the world?
Then I light a candle for peace, especially for him. Then I light a candle for peace because I believe that what I give attention to grows.
"Alas, two souls are housed in my breast, and each will struggle there for dominion." - Johann Wolfgang Goethe
The Cherokee Indians have a legend that tells of the battle that goes on inside every human being: that between a black wolf and a white wolf. The black wolf is bad, angry, sad, jealous and arrogant, but is also full of self-pity and false pride. The white wolf is good, brings love and hope, is benevolent, empathetic and generous. The story ends with the question which wolf will win. The answer is simple: the wolf that you feed.
The idea, of course, is that we feed the white wolf. That we make the right choice between either paying attention to our fears, our dark thoughts or paying attention to love and positivity. This legend tells us that by feeding the white wolf, we eventually get the feeling that we matter and that we can do something about it.
"Whether everything is really lost or not depends entirely on whether I am lost or not." - Václav Havel
We hope that good will always prevail, so we wish for love and light, but is that actually possible on a planet where there is an opposite for every trait? Besides, we live in a society that suggests to us that these opposites cannot exist together, that it is me against you, us against them, man against woman.
And so white wolf against black wolf.
If we keep labelling one of the opposites as good or bad, I think the fight between the two wolves will always be there. Because no matter how hard I would like to, the black wolf is not going away and I notice that, for example, in my extreme emotions.
I was therefore happy to discover that there is another version of the story of the two wolves which ends quite differently. Where there was no good or bad. Indeed, when asked which wolf will win, the answer is: if you feed them well, they both win.
From duality to oneness
The theory behind this is that if we only feed the white wolf, the black wolf hides far away, we forcefully push it away into the dark basements of our unconscious self. And a cornered wolf makes strange leaps: it demands attention at the most inopportune times and in the most annoying ways. It emerges from the darkness when, for instance, I feel like everything is working against me or when our friend sees the world coming to an end.
Do we feed them both the right way then we no longer experience internal strife, because there is no good or bad, there is only ‘is’.
When there is no more war inside, we feel peace. And peace, according to the Cherokee, is the greatest mission in life. After all, according to them, a person who is at peace inside with all parts of themselves has everything.
"Only together can we be human. Only together can we be free." - Desmond Tutu
So if I want more peace within myself, I have to acknowledge and accept all the contradictions within myself. Letting the black wolf be there as much as the white wolf. That means admitting and acknowledging that I have everything in me: the love and the hate, the light and the dark, my shadow sides, the parts I don't allow to surface. The parts of myself I am secretly at war with, which may mean I am at war with my neighbour, the door, refugees from foreign countries, humanity and our earth.
This is difficult. After all, it is so much easier to feed the black wolf, to complain, ignore what is happening around me and give up on the world. It is easier to run away from problems by disappearing into addictions, drowning in drama and gossip. But running away from my own problems makes things worse, not only in my immediate environment, but also globally.
"When you make peace with yourself, you make peace with the world." - Maha Ghosananda
Go figure: if your behaviour stems from fear or panic then you sprinkle that around you too. Then you usually exacerbate a discussion or a situation, instead of creating peace and a solution. If you react to world events in this way too, you unintentionally increase a conflict. It doesn't seem logical when you look at the aggressors on the world stage, but by examining where you yourself think, feel and act this way in your own life and by changing that positively, you help the world become a little better every time.
"...To love life, to love it even when you have no appetite for it and everything you held dear is crumbling..." - Ellen Bass
We are one
We are connected in ways we do not see. In fact, quantum physicists have discovered that we can manipulate reality with our thoughts and change collective consciousness, for example. They measured the electromagnetic field of people in meditation and found that it helped calm others, even at a distance. This means that even if they are small, insignificant changes can have big, global consequences.
So what I do in my own life affects the bigger picture. If I want peace in the world, I can start doing so today by creating peace in my relationships, in my village and in myself. Instead of powerlessness, it gives me a sense of power. By no longer looking for peace outside myself, but finding it inside myself, despite negative feelings or difficult times, I get the feeling of having an impact on a better world.
Staying optimistic in dark times is not weird, it is necessary!
“We tremble with you.
From across the world
We hold you close
Not with thoughts or prayers
But the presence of the heart
A commitment to witness
A dedication to peace.
We see you. We hold you.
We will not leave your side.” - Hila Ratzabi
I can do nothing but look back
I decide not to scroll on too fast, but to look at the pictures and really see how torn humanity is at this moment. Crying, I feel their hearts breaking and at the same time mine breaks too. It is confusing but healing to be able to be so pure and raw in pain, in pain for myself and the world.
I decide to connect with my broken heart, with you, with them, with the man, with the darkness and with the shadow sides of our humanity. Where we would rather not look, where the black wolf hides, there it is where I send my love, where I hang my wish for peace and unity on the wall. Where I place the hope that we recognise that that black wolf will always be there and that we better may be at peace with it.
But I also send my love to the thousands of people in marches, to show their disagreement with what is happening in the world. Or the people who, despite the danger, risk their lives to save others. Because through that, I know we are slowly realising that we are inextricably linked, as we feel the pain of war, the abuse of creation and the erosion of the earth in our own bodies, even though we live far away.
Sending love to that is how I feed the white wolf.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "We will move from love to love and peace to peace, until finally all corners of the world are covered with that peace and love that the whole world consciously or unconsciously longs for."
Let us start with moving peace and love in every dark corner of ourselves.
I want to share with you two poems for contemplation: It is I who must begin, by Ukrainian poet Vaclav Havel and We See You by Hila Ratzabi (which in my oppinion should be for all the people, animals and nature in any of the 60+ warzones we have on earth today).
Let me know what insight they bring you in the comments.
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