I thought the end of the year is a good time to focus on what is important. In my opinion it’s finding peace – inner peace as well as peace in the world around us. The latter doesn’t seem to be achieved easily considering the level of violence experienced worldwide – amongst countries, religious groups, racial groups, communities, and even families. There is everything from bomb attacks in Nigeria on Christmas Day, overflowing refugee camps, assaults, murder, women’s refuges at the maximum of their capacity, abuse of children, road rage, down to grumpy old (wo)men.
Finding peace appears to be a daunting task bearing in mind the extent of vented anger in the world. And yet, peace is not something that is determined by external circumstances, but solely created by thought. That’s all it is – just thought, an elusive “thing” without substance that continuously flows through our consciousness like waves washing up on shore. It’s just thought until we pick it up and give energy to it: making it ‘real’ through rumination, action, interpretation, or justification.
It comes down to “… because your opinions or actions don’t agree with my ideas of proper conduct I think I have the right to attack you!” Anger no longer fuels human survival mechanisms because of the presence of sabre-toothed tigers. Nowadays it’s enough for a child to drop a precious vase to unleash an angry response. A ridiculous use of survival mechanisms? Yes! Have you ever seen a happy angry person? People who are habitually angry, who are ‘trigger happy’ or grumpy all the time are not happy people. I have never heard of a happy gang member.
Negative thoughts turn life into hell and torment with no chance of relief…Venting one’s anger and understanding the cause of the anger are two different things altogether. People who insist on venting their anger remind me of a highly pressurised steam vessel that releases automatically at a dangerous pressure; however as long as the fire remains under the vessel, the same ongoing danger exists. So one must learn to extinguish the fire, the fire in this case being one’s own misguided thoughts such as greed, anger, hate, desire, jealousy, fear despair or any other negative feeling that stops us from finding the understanding and peace we seek. (Sydney Banks, The Quest of the Perl, p.81)
Syd Banks refers to our own misguided thoughts as fuelling anger. Maybe our attempts to create more peace in the world are doomed because we go about creating peace ‘out there’. How can joining causes, mediating between groups, advising people, or even occupying other countries all under the banner of creating peace work while our hearts are filled with anything other than love? Maybe the only place where we can, no, where we first have to create peace is within ourselves.
Once people understand that their angry feelings (angry is meant in the widest sense, encompassing all feelings from mild irritation to rage) are their own angry thoughts brought to life by consciousness they possess the turn-key for inner peace. They then can remind themselves that “…it’s just a thought, it’s not real!” Feeling angry is never about an event, an incident, or the behaviour of another person. Feeling angry is an indicator that the quality of people’s thinking has deteriorated and they are no longer in a state of inner peace, inner wisdom, and creative, effective thinking.
Remembering that “it’s just a thought” will stop the downward spiral into even more unhelpful thinking – or using the quoted example, it will extinguish the fire under the steam vessel. Make no mistake, our feelings convey very important messages and we need to pay attention to them. The error is when we believe it’s a message about the world around us. Nothing can be further from the truth. It’s a message about the quality of our own thoughts. Negative feelings indicate that the quality of our thoughts is bad. People who are feeling angry, upset, jealous, depressed, anxious, or hurt have left the realm of clear thinking and common sense.
I am often asked “Does that not mean that people can walk all over me, that they get away with murder if I don’t react or tell them what I think about them or their actions?” That’s not my understanding. Telling yourself “…it’s just thought” and letting go of angry feelings will help you to get back to your inner resources and peace of mind. Once you have reached that state of mind you can think about the incident with a clear mind and decide what actions you want to take.
Once the person is back in the default setting, or ‘the zone’, where common sense, wisdom, good ideas, and creative solutions live, the ‘problem’ that triggered the downward thinking/feeling spiral can be addressed if the need still persists. More often than not it doesn’t.
PS: the symbol above was seen here in a blogpost about “the real meaning of peace”.