Author’s Note: This was written in response to Elephant Journal’s founder, Waylon Lewis’ note in a recent newsletter.
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“The most important question in the world isn’t how to be happy. It isn’t how to solve climate change, or end war. The most important question in the world is more fundamental than that, and it’s the most important question because it would, if answered, solve all those other problems.
The most important question in the world is,”How do we get ourselves to pay attention to important things?” Instead of, say, Kim Kardashian’s latest whatever.
If we all paid attention to climate change, we’d solve it in the way we mobilized for WWII, seemingly overnight, moving from a nation with a small military and broom-handles-in-training to tanks and airplanes. We addressed a mortal danger, and fast. With clear leadership and popular support.
If we all paid attention to sex trafficking instead of Netflix, or local food instead of plastic-wrapped, processed food products…the list is endless. And that’s what we’re here to try to do at Elephant: make important, good news interesting and inspiring to read and share and act upon.”
~ Waylon H. Lewis, Elephant Journal Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I agree that one of the most important questions in the world is: “How do we get ourselves to pay attention to important things?” And I also agree that if answered, it could help to address climate change, war, and happiness.
But then, we get to ask the question: “What are the most important things to pay attention to?”
And I would offer that it begins within.
To quote Eckhart Tolle:
“Happiness is actually quite superficial, whereas peace is deeper. Peace is immune to the polarities of life: the highs and lows, the hots and colds, the so-called goods and so-called bads. This is why peace is so crucial. Nobody goes through life without encountering all these experiences, inspiring or upsetting. When someone close to you dies or you have a health problem or you lose our possessions, you probably can’t feel happy. Nobody could. But do you need to feel in absolute despair? Do you need to feel devastated? If you are at peace and connected with that deeper level in you, those kind of emotional extremes don’t occur. You’ll have a calm that is not affected by whatever happens in the world, because you have an acceptance and understanding of whatever happens in the world.”
And when we find peace within, there will be peace without.
Like the old Chinese proverb:
“When there is light in the soul, there is beauty in the person.
When there is beauty in the person, there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there is honor in the nation.
When there is honor in the nation, there is peace in the world.”
And how can we be at peace with ourselves? How do we fully love and accept all of who we are? It’s not easy when cultural conditioning asks us to be “perfect” and “perfect” doesn’t exist.
Brene Brown has done enormous work in pushing the cultural narrative forward in choosing authenticity over perfection. To learn to fully embrace our shadows without shame. Knowing that like the lotus flower, we blossom because of, not in spite of, our muck.
When I truly do love and accept myself, it becomes harder for other people to “trigger” me. Peace within, peace without.
If there is a time when someone succeeds in doing so, it’s an invitation to look within at what I’m disowning in myself. What is the other person expressing that on some level I would love to express, but I don’t allow myself to?The fact that someone else has the audacity to express whatever I’m disowning in myself, triggers me and pisses me off.
Along with that, I find it irritating when other people try to control a situation. When I fully embrace and accept that there is a part of myself that loves to be in charge, I don’t experience that same reaction when someone else wants to be in control. I can observe their behavior, but it doesn’t hook me in. Their behavior doesn’t disturb my own inner peace.
When we spend time with other people, our thoughts, words, and actions have a ripple effect—like a stone thrown into a lake. If we bring ourselves to a place of peace and connect with our joy, that peace and joy ripples out.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons we’re here, as “spiritual beings having a human experience,” is to learn how to experience peace within.
“We’re all given to each other to learn,” interfaith minister Reverend Stephanie Rutt teaches. While we’re learning to find our own peace within, and hopefully having some fun with it—we also experience both the joy and the pain that life will offer.
Author: Camilla Sanderson
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman