DEAR READERS: Today is a day of remembrance. Because “war” seems to happen “over there” somewhere, many of us didn’t connect to the visceral realities of war and tragedy in an immediate way until this day, 9/11, 18 years ago.
There is hate in the world, and it can devastate us right here at home. We reserve this moment to express our sorrow that thousands of people lost their lives on this fateful day. We honor them and their sacrifice as we also resolve to find ways to make our world safer.
One of the things that I have liked about this election cycle is hearing so many ideas about what can be done to make our country stronger. Though I am not espousing one candidate over another, I want to point out a great idea that motivational speaker and author Marianne Williamson has offered -- to create a federal Department of Peace. I love the idea of making a conscious effort to invoke peaceful action from the top down, and to create programming and other activities to promote the sharing of peace among us.
I learned long ago from my parents that whatever we focus our attention on is what we bring to bear in the world. What if we focused on peace? What would our actions be if we used that as our lens?
I have been practicing meditation for many years, and a principle that we follow is “see God in each other.” Think about that: In most spiritual traditions, there is the belief that however you understand God, you must also believe that what invigorates you -- what makes you conscious and alive -- is that which God ignited within you. Consider that idea. If the life force inside you and me springs from God, then what if we look for that goodness in people when we engage them? Especially when we are facing friction, discomfort, strong emotions or anything negative, what if we choose to speak to God within those people rather than to grasp the worst in them and call that out?
I have tried this many times. It is not easy to practice looking for goodness in someone when you are angry or upset. It is much easier to have thoughts and feelings and sometimes express words that stoke negative reactions. But what if you choose not to let the bad thoughts in? What if you choose to search for goodness and peace? What if you practice forgiveness rather than holding onto negativity?
If this sounds way too theoretical to you, make it concrete. Think about a person or situation that upsets you. How have you addressed it in the past? Did you let your emotions get the best of you? Were you level-headed? What happened based on your behavior? What control did you engage or relinquish in that experience? Notice how you behaved and how you felt afterward. My experience is that when we do not fall into the depths of negativity, we create space for peace, love, forgiveness and possibility.
Even in the worst situations -- like the aftermath of 9/11 -- when we make space for love even when we experience pain, there is room for healing. We may never know why people had so much hatred for our country that they would choose to hurt us in this way. But maybe offering love even to those who want to hurt us may help to heal those wounds and neutralize that hate. We can make the choice to do what many church congregations do every Sunday -- pass the peace.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)