I have always wondered how human beings can be so cooperative that they can build great civilizations and yet they can also become so antagonistic that they can stage terrible wars that cause destruction to millions of other humans. What I have observed is that when their shared ideal, idea or physical existence is under threat, people band together but once the threat is gone, people tend to fight amongst themselves. Why can’t we band together as one all the time so that the world can be a more peaceful place?
The irony is that being human by itself presents a conflict: between the cooperative and the hostile parts of ourselves. And we are constantly called upon to choose between the two.
Like computers, we have programs which run our every thought and action. Our behaviors are controlled by these programs which determine what we do and how we do it, for example, how we get up from bed in the morning, prepare ourselves for the day, take our meals, do our work, talk with people, drive the car, etc. At the end of the day, we find that we have been in motion the whole day but we have not achieved anything different from what we did yesterday. And then we wonder, why is my life the same every day?
To know that we do not really have a conscious choice because of these programs is the first step to reclaiming our power to choose.
Unless we are aware, we do not have real choice about our thoughts, emotions and behavior because we will be thinking, feeling and acting automatically according to our implanted programs.
These programs were implanted when we were children: by our parents, environment, school, culture, etc. We are basically “factory” – programmed inside (genetic tendencies) and also programmed from outside (environmental influences). But fortunately, we have the power and can change these programs with conscious choice.
The power of choice comes from being aware. Awareness broadens our view of ourselves and the universe and gives us more choices.
Like the rest of humanity, I have been under the control of my internally run programs. I used to be a very intense and emotional person, taking offence at the slightest provocation. My thoughts were always scampering about, telling me to be careful of this and that, to fight this and that and to always come out top in every argument. That was very tiring. My emotions were triggering off every time something bugged me.
Life was chaotic and I had very little time or space for peace and clear thinking. I spent my nights thinking and worrying and found I did not have very good sleep.
All the endless activity in my head made me perpetually exhausted; sleepy in the day but an insomniac at night; and my nerves were highly strung from drinking too much coffee to stay awake. In other words, I was under a lot of stress and was not at all a person at peace with himself.
Following my search for a solution to my stress problems, I learned basic meditation. That was upon a friend’s suggestion and found that meditation helped me calm my nerves.
I practiced awareness where I watched my thoughts without reacting to them, and I learned to observe my emotions dispassionately without judging them.
By simply being an observer or watcher instead of a participant in my inner world, I have learned to calm my busy mind.
To live in awareness is to be mindful of your thoughts, emotions and actions in every moment.
A thought leads to an emotion, following which the emotion leads to an action: this is the chain of human behavior. A positive thought leads to a positive emotion and action; while a negative thought leads to a negative emotion and action.
Notice that when you are aware of the thought, you find that you have a choice of whether to pay attention to the emotion that automatically follows. When you pay attention, you feel it stronger. When you don’t give attention to the emotion, the emotion dissipates.
Similarly, when you are aware of the emotion, you find that you have a choice whether to pay attention to the push for action that automatically/habitually follows. When you pay attention, you are strongly motivated to act. When you don’t pay attention to the push, it dissipates.
This is the power of a single thought, how it can lead to an action; action which sometimes leads to our great pleasure and at other times our utter regret.
Think of a thought: perhaps a recent event that made you happy.
How do you feel? Do you feel lighter and more open i.e. happy? This is a thought causing an emotion.
What do you want to do? Do you feel like getting up and doing something, perhaps saying “Thank You!” to the person who made you feel happy that time? This is emotion causing action.
Repeat the experiment, this time with an event that made you unhappy.
Be aware and follow the train of thought, emotion and the push for action that follows the thought.
Caution: Please do not actually take action on the unhappy thought! Carry out this experiment in a safe and quiet place where you will not be disturbed. This is only an experiment for you to experience your feelings and to be aware of the chain of causality that starts with a thought.
The power of thought comes with the power of choice.
As you can see from the experiment, you can choose to either:
(a) Continue paying attention (“attaching” as they say in some practices) to the thought or emotion, or
(b) Drop your attention on the thought or emotion.
Continue to pay attention and you will enhance the thought and feeling which could lead to action of some sort (although at the point of action, you still do have a choice whether to act or not).
Drop your attention and the thought dissipates without further fuss.
The power to choose what thoughts you think, what emotions you feel and what actions you take are always in your hands. It is only a matter of your attention.
Peace is innate and you only need to be aware of it.
Therefore peace is always available to you when you want it, but you must want it.
It is your choice.
Many people I know declare that they want peace but their actions do not show that they really do. “I have no time to meditate.” or “How can I sit down and not think of anything?” are some of the replies I hear when I suggest that one meditates to relieve stress and experience inner peace.
Strange as it sounds, people find solace in their problems. They do this by playing the “victim” role in their lives. They tell themselves how miserable their lives are, how the world is so unfair and then they wallow in self-pity and exchange misery with friends. So it becomes true: misery does love company!
Just as liking is not the same as loving, solace is not the same as peace; it is only a crude imitation of what peace is.
Know that peace is always there within you. All you need to do is connect with that deeper part of you that is within your heart and you will experience it.
And one of the easiest ways to get to that place within is through meditation.
No tool, no instrument, no machine, no app – just you and your awareness – and you are already on your way to the peace that you have been longing for all your life. This is the universe’s promise. It is that simple.
May you find your peace so that your world too, may find its.
♥ Inspired by Ho Kong Fatt
Ho Kong Fatt has a strong passion for self-awareness. He currently dedicates himself to helping individuals live happier, healthier and holistically empowered lives through realizing their life purpose. His vision is for a world of self-empowered people living in peace, happiness, and blissful fulfilment. He is easily reached at email@example.com. Do write in as he’s most happy to have a chat, anytime at all!
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