My effort in the world is to walk soft and gentle, especially after walking so many years harshly. To 'walk softly' implies both a gentle physical step that is present and aware, enough to observe the snail on my path, or to pass a fawn undisturbed; it is also an inward awareness of being gentle and soft in every thought, which then carries outward into every action. So whether I'm writing, teaching, cooking, traveling, or speaking and engaging others, I'm doing so fully aware that I'm part of the compassion and peace possible in the world. The more we observe this, the more we can catch the moment of our own disruption or discord, and offer instead love and gentleness.

 

A good place to observe the gentleness we're capable of offering is through the food we eat. Slow, gentle food, for instance, has its own vibration of loving-kindness; likewise, food that is hurried or prepared in a blur of harsh actions can also be felt. (Those who ingest animals have the added vibration of fear and violence that is generated with the taking of life.) The more we're aware of walking gently, the more we can recognize opportunities everywhere at any time to be more gentle and loving, both inward and outward, in every single thought and action, until it is a way of life.

Even a cup of tea or coffee made at your favorite restaurant can reveal if the person loved their work or created it with incoherence or rush. If it's the latter, we can choose not to take the emotion on, while offering compassion back for the one who was busy, reminding ourselves that we can and do have similar moments. We can also learn to make tea gently and test our ability to gift love in a cup. We each carry so much potential to share our gentleness. So be revolutionary, create the next meal, conversation, painting, story, or (fill in blank) with a slow, gentle action and be amazed at how powerful you are to make change in the world. 

Love is a walkway to everywhere, guiding our steps, in order to understand our world and the people around us. Given, without condition, we have an opportunity to experience our humanity, to conquer fear, doubt, worry, and hate. Dr. King said, love is our "most potent weapon for personal and social transformation." Each moment, we have the opportunity to choose love over hate, to transform our lives and world. The question is whether you have the strength to do something different with the next moment you live. I believe we all do. 

How do we hold loving-kindness in our hearts for all people, even the ones that are different from us? This is the beautiful gift of life to explore and come to an awareness: that all humans and living beings are 'one.' This knowing is available to everyone and is found by having compassion for your self, which then extends to your family and friends, and gradually, by pushing the circle outward, you can arrive at accepting and loving those who are different. It doesn't exclude 'those terrible people doing terrible things,' nor those mosquitoes that bite you. No, in fact, you'll have to work a little extra to open your heart to include the people and living beings that on the onset revile you, like the human trafficker, the murderer, or the violent-carriers who are otherwise considered separate from you.

 

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "When we see that the traffickers have suffered, we can help them wake up and stop what they are doing. Our compassion can help transform them into friends and allies of our cause." Open your heart and let the love in for self, then everyone. It has the power to change the next moment and the world. 

History is a tool. When we look at the world from a historic standpoint, everything falls into place. We can begin to see who we once were, as a people, which is not too far away from who we are today. When Thucydides talked about history repeating, it was more so that under the same circumstances it could repeat. With the knowledge of history then, we can prevent things--like war, famine--from happening. In our personal lives, history allows us the opportunity to chart new courses.

Peace is possible and much easier than people think. We have a tendency to look outward and assume peace is something impossible. I hear people all the time weighted down by the tragedies of the world; they see the world in war and ruin, and completely miss all the beauty. They talk about 'those' people doing 'bad' things, and wish it would stop, but rarely see their own participation in creating it. The world we live in, and its future is created by human action, (e.g., "To know the past, observe the present consequence. To know the future, observe one’s present conduct.” Master Sheng Yen) 

 

Peace can happen if we were to focus on our own lives, our own families, our own communities, and most importantly, our interior lives. War happens when you're at the checkout and you're impatient; it happens when you cut someone off on the highway; it happens when you fight with your neighbor, your family, or the people around you. We fight daily wars with those around us. The more we notice what we're doing, how we're doing it, the more we can begin to notice how aggressive we are to those around us, and start to work on it. Aggression comes from fear and the need to control, and non-aggression arrives from letting go of both.

 

If I can bring harmony to the relationships I have, to those I encounter on a regular basis, then I can bring harmony to the world. If everyone did it, there'd be peace. There aren't two sides in war and aggression, only our own perception which rallies to win battles for itself. When we recognize that the everyday people we encounter are our opponents (and opportunities), and that those same people are just like us, we can start to have compassion, and let go of the fighting. As Sun Tzu put it, "To fight and conquer consists of breaking the ego's resistance without fighting." 

If we're taught that war is something fought with guns and bombs somewhere on a battlefield, we'll miss the real wars existing daily, right in our own home base. Peace in its simplistic form is finding the middle-road of accepting things as they are, and liking who you are in the process.

I practice the way of compassion. My motto is 'respect for differences.' The more we can recognize our sameness, the more we can open our hearts with compassion to create new bridges into each others' lives. 

Two books that are worth reading on tolerance are Karen Armstrong's, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, and H.H. the Dalai Lama's Call for a Revolution. There are so many teachers that have walked this Earth that talk about harmony with one another and ourselves, and how we can live our lives in service to others. Some I found particularly helpful include: Sun Tzu, Chokecherry Eagle; Pema Chödrön; Plato; Dr. Martin Luther King; Paramahansa Yogananda, Ajahn Chah; my mother; most strangers; my elders.

 

Give gratitude as much as you can. Very little we do on a regular basis is done alone. One bowl of soup has a thousand roads connecting to people and actions that helped make it possible to eat. Walk with gratitude for those simple things.

The natural world is forgiving. We can play a simplistic part in its harmony every day with small measures. We don't need a formal invitation to plant trees and create habitat for animals. We can simply give back for what we take from it. Each day, I'm mindful of what I'm taking, be it food, resources, gas, land, space, air... you name it, and I find a way to give back, even in a small way. DAILY. I plant trees and flowers wherever I go--literally--especially on property that has fallen to ruin; near the police station is fun too, or in old cemeteries that time and people have forgotten. Most of all, I'm attentive: I watch the rhythms of the earth, of animals, of sun and moon, which Plato, called the 'artificers of time,' since they do well in convincing us that time is moving forward; but if you look closer, you'll find something more. Watch and give back for your existence.

 

Generosity is something we don't need to hold back.

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