Coach Jeannette: April 2009
Making peace: Are you perpetuating what you don’t want?
by Jeannette Maw
Many of us have come to understand we won’t achieve what we want by pushing against what we don’t want. We know we don’t lose weight by hating our bodies; we can’t reach peace through war; and we won’t solve global warming by condemning those who perpetuate it. We know that we have to be the change we want to see because we can’t be in opposition to something and expect to achieve what we want.
It’s for this very reason that the war against drugs and terrorism just seems to have exacerbated both issues, and why, despite our best efforts to eliminate cancer, it’s estimated to overcome heart disease as the #1 killer by 2010. This is why Mother Theresa said she wouldn’t participate in an anti-war demonstration but would happily join a peace rally.
We know this stuff. And even if everyone else in the world doesn’t, we do – and we practice it, right?
Ah, there’s the rub. Many of us, myself included, who know inside and out that we will not get “there” by pushing against “here,” believe we practice it. Yet in every day moments we often miss opportunities to bring this intellectual understanding to real life.
Here are a few examples of that from my circle of committed peace-lovers and consciousness-raising friends:
• On Facebook a friend commented that if he were granted one wish, it would be that everyone would put down their arms and stop fighting in God’s name.
• Another friend shook his head disdainfully at the irresponsibility of the unmarried California mother who recently gave birth to octuplets although she already has six other children.
• Two coach colleagues were on personal missions to make sure everyone knew the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was horrifically violent and not worth seeing.
• Every time I see a restaurant using Styrofoam I feel frustrated, which is mild in comparison to what I feel when hearing an even slightly derogatory reference to homosexuals.
If you’re like many of us, you might read those examples and find nothing wrong with the reactions and opinions expressed. After all, it is good to know which violent movies to avoid, and Styrofoam is bad for the environment, and it would be best if war, and religious wars, would end.
Which just shows how natural this “opposition” energy can be. However, we know that by seeing something as “wrong” or bad or needing changing in some way, we actually flow energy that enhances the very condition we don’t want. What we resist, persists. Wherever our attention goes, that’s what we create more of.
So we can’t wish for people to stop fighting and expect that will do anything other than add energy to more fighting. That stance is “opposition” energy in itself. It’s not evolved or high-consciousness to point to problems, and it certainly doesn’t help change them.
In fact, by seeing anything as in need of changing or being different or judging something as “wrong,” we counteract our capacity to create change.
Seems contradictory, huh?
It’s certainly not in line with our habitual way of thinking – which is that we change something by first recognizing the problem and then taking action against it.
One might argue it’s immoral to not take action where we see a “wrong” being committed; that if we don’t speak out against Styrofoam or prejudice or genocide we’re remiss in our humanitarian responsibilities. But the understanding that “energy flows where attention goes” doesn’t ask us to be apathetic or to turn a blind eye to the desires we hold for ourselves, our fellow humans and our planet.
Rather, it calls on us to be very deliberate and conscious in our positive actions and responses. Remember, Mother Theresa wasn’t unwilling to speak out for peace, she just wouldn’t do so against war. Can you feel the energetic difference between berating a Styrofoam-using restaurant owner or organizing a restaurant boycott versus giving the restaurateur information for an Earth-friendly alternative or sharing positive reviews about the restaurant that does use green containers? It’s night and day energetically and as a result creates dramatically different results.
In a Salt Lake appearance a few years ago, author Gregg Braden said it’s for this very reason that we have more people than ever before praying for peace, and yet we’re experiencing more war and violence. It’s because when we ask or wish or pray for something to be different, we send a vibrational instruction counter to our desire. Asking for something is like sending a signal that “I don’t have it,” i.e. it is absent. That vibration can only attract more of the same – which is its absence.
Braden tells the story about his Native American friend who “prays rain” rather than prays for rain when it’s time for drought relief in New Mexico. Instead of just asking higher power to please send rain, his friend feels the (imaginary) rain falling on his skin, smells it in the air, tastes it on his tongue, feels it collecting under his toes, etc.
He vibrates what he wants, rather than focusing on what he doesn’t want. (And of course, the rains come in abundance.)
It might seem a subtle distinction, but it makes all the difference in the world. By “being the change” rather than just noticing that something should change or praying that it will, feeling it now as if it already happened is what allows the shift.
Step one to further any change we’d like to see is to give up our resistance to what is. To stop seeing it as wrong or bad or something that needs fixing. By doing so we retract our energy from it and are free to direct our attention toward what we do want.
The point is that even though we may intellectually understand the difference between an anti-war protest and a pro-peace rally, we may not be putting that knowledge to practice as well as we might think. When we’re in conversation with others or posting to our blogs or attending our activist meetings, it’s important to be aware of where we’re pointing our conscious attention and to realize that wherever our attention goes, that’s what we get more of.
The challenge for most of us (me included) is learning to disengage from the contrary energy that doesn’t serve our purposes while still feeling we’re making a worthy contribution with our lives. Some would say it’s a sign of a base society to not intervene when another suffers. It’s important to be clear about two things: 1) we can intervene without engaging negative energy and 2) we have no way of knowing what’s best for anyone else.
Recall the Zen story of the man whose only horse turned up missing, which his fellow villagers called a misfortune. The horse then returned along with 12 other wild horses, which the villagers called a blessing. Then the man’s son broke his leg while training the horses, which the villagers called a misfortune. But as a result of his injury, the son was not called to war in which many young men died. The ridiculousness of thinking we know what’s right or wrong or best or bad can be attested to by any divorcee who has regretted the breakup of a marriage only to later discover even more fulfilling love in life.
We don’t know what’s in store or what gifts are given or lessons learned by another person through their “negative” experience. Who are we to take that away?
Here’s what we do know: our attention is powerful. What we focus on grows. And it’s really easy to think we’re focusing on the solution when we’re actually dialed directly on the problem. Becoming aware of that subtle distinction and purposely moving towards what we want, rather than pushing against what we don’t want, allows our highest dreams to come to fruition.
Jeannette Maw is a Law of Attraction coach and founder of Good Vibe Coaching in Salt Lake City. www.goodvibecoach.com