Changing the World

You may be asking yourself, in the wake of all the violence that is invading

our lives lately, what can I do? I ask that while I watch the news, while I hear the nearly endless repetition of shootings, explosions, terrorism at home and abroad and death in our inner cities. It is a grim tableau and it is very easy to get caught in a spiral of helplessness, fear and sadness.
It’s one of my ongoing complaints about our newscasts—that they fill us with fear and have no ideas, suggestions or strategies about what we, as ‘ordinary’ citizens can do.
I’ve decided that I can do some things. Maybe these things are not enough, but they are better than being a victim to the flood of negativity we’re subject to.
I can be mindful of the impact I have on others.
I can treat everyone I meet with compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.
I can examine my judgments about others and temper those with an open mind to their experience.
I can stop believing I am right all the time.
I can reduce my grumbling about traffic and the behavior of other drivers.
I can refuse to gossip.
I can speak out against bullying of all sorts.
I can vote. I can vote against racism, sexism and the naming of scapegoats.
I can understand myself more deeply and move closer to a peaceful, loving existence every day.
I can refuse to be a victim to the irresponsible views of individuals who have the media’s attention.
I can become more powerful and responsible for my own behavior.
If I can do these things, so can you and you can talk about this to others.
Instead of spreading fear, judgment and blame, we can—we need to—nurture compassion, understanding and open minds.
One by one, person to person, this is the way change happens.

ALL OF US

 

 

I’d like to show you a pair of glasses through which you can see the world. Those glasses, with two lenses, will show you how things work in your relationship, your family and your workplace. Clean and sharp, this lens will help you toward understanding, acceptance and compassion.

Look at the people around you as continually striving toward love and power. We can say that humans have two basic urges common to all of us: the expression of power and the successful attainment of love. They are, of course, related, but let’s first look at them separately.

When I say we have a basic urge for power I don’t mean control over others or authority based on roles. These are two misunderstandings about the meaning of power and contribute to our staying away from our own power. We don’t necessarily see power as a “good” thing. Let’s change that.

Power is the capacity to fully experience yourself and act out the full potential you have as a person. That’s two faces: experience yourself fully; act on your experience in an effective way. Everyone has this going on in his or her life. Everyone.

When you understand and accept this you can see the people around you as continually striving to be powerful. Look at your children, your spouse, your colleagues, people in the news, your employers, your parents. Everyone is walking around wanting to have impact, wanting to be significant in some way.

Given our personal history and the context we find ourselves in, that urge may be twisted, misguided, denied or frustrated. But the urge is still there. It is a huge part of the human condition: I am and I want to be significant. I want to be powerful.

As you see this in the people around you, you will find it easier to accept them and perhaps even help them in expressing who they are and what they want. It is fairly easy to see this in a two-year-old and the same drive is operating in the 40-year-old sitting next to you.

The more powerful we are, the more able we are to find and give love. The deeper we know ourselves and are able to articulate who we are and what we want, we will find it easier to see that and make a connection with another person. Two powerful people make a powerful relationship.

This second critical urge in humans – the desire to bond with others – follows and is dependent on power. We all enter this world with the desire to form bonds with someone else and often lots of someone elses. Acceptance, empathy, compassion are all part of that loving bond and these conditions or practices are things we all need to learn and often struggle with.

Learning, both conscious and unconscious, is critical to power and to love. While we are born with these urges, the practice of each is learned and most of this happens in the crucible of the family in which we start out.

It is in the early years of our lives that we come to terms with how we are going to be powerful and how we are going to give and receive love. The family is the training ground for power and for love.

Take a good look around you and a deeper look at yourself. See how we are all still learning and all still trying to express these two human urges: to be powerful and to love. Each of us wants to have impact, to be significant to at least one other human and to form a deep bond of love.

When you look through these lenses, life becomes a little more joyful.

 

John Thomas Wood

The Mystery

I spent a good deal of time early in my life learning from love. Unconsciously at first and then gradually opening my eyes, I learned from the love of my mother, father and extended family. I watched, listened and learned how they treated one another and felt how they treated me. That love was steady, naturally given and without any “ifs” or “buts”– unconditional in today’s language.
Later on I devoted a lot of attention to looking to be loved. I wanted the same kind of feeling I got at home. I wanted someone to regard me in an uncritical, all-accepting way. I knew it was possible, after all I had just come out of the greenhouse of my family’s love and had not fully discovered how different this other world was. So, I hurt some and got hurt some, asking that someone love me. I had the script and I wanted them to follow it.
That was not successful, to understate the facts, so I turned my attention to learning about love. I figured the more I knew about the subject, the more able I would be able to love and be loved. I thought hard about love, talked about it, read about it, led classes on love and even wrote a book about it. Now, I had a firm foundation of experience and knowledge and relationships would be easy.
Ouch.
Perhaps the pain turned me around and at some point in my life I decided (was it a decision?) to give love, just to love. With all my experiences, with all I’d gone through and learned, I could give my love to someone and we’d both be happy. In fact, I felt so strongly about this, I reasoned I could probably save someone with my love. All I had to do, no matter the health or responses of the other, was to devote myself to their well being. Right. Let’s move on.
Currently, nearing the end of this life lesson, I am learning to be love. I am learning to be the brightest candle I can be, in a room with other bright candles and not in competition with or need of the other candles. I am getting to a place where I can just be all that I am and the essence of who I am will be enough. It will show. That essence will be felt. And if it’s not, that can’t be helped. I don’t have to earn love. I don’t have to know a lot more about it. I don’t have to demand love. And I don’t have to love someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t love themselves and can’t accept what I have.
AND I hold the distinct possibility that this is not the end of my learning.
Perhaps beyond being love, there is simply being, no reference to other.
Perhaps love is a delightful, twisted, amusing, painful and totally rewarding mystery that doesn’t have heroes or villains and we never know how it ends.
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The True Journey

The true authentic journey all of us face is to fully inhabit the body and soul of the person we are, to fill it as the air would expand the inside of a balloon. This is a journey of courage, imagination and the claiming of our own identity.
This is the only journey worth taking and it must be taken without anyone or anything outside of ourselves defining who we are. We must live in our true nature.
This work, this path, means meeting the place where we and the outside world convene and taking from it what we need and what rings true to us. This is not a selfish act, for it means that we can then realize and act from a fuller self and have more to give the world.
Everyone who lives undertakes this journey — this ongoing dialogue between your growing edge and the outer world — and it calls for keen attention and the willingness to face our fear. Some give in to the fear and turn from the path.
If you question this, look at the plant in your garden, continually growing and interacting with the outside world, taking in nourishment, weathering drought and cold and continuing to fill itself out, becoming what it was meant to be.
This process must take place where we are and with what we have. It is how we will make any meaning of our lives. This is about simple courage and perseverance and everything is at stake.
We are – like it or not –facing a severe test that will continually challenge us to be fully who we are. Love, leadership, family, work –all of this is dependent on how we live out this journey.

John Thomas Wood