THE POWERFUL FORCE

The last few posts we have looked at how we as different faiths share the common bond of love and the desire to mature spiritually. It is when approaching someone who is not only different than us, but one that we may be at odds with that this becomes most paramount.

If our desire is to forge a bond with those who are considered our enemy we can only do so by relating to them on a level that we share. Using the power of love, which is a feeling everyone desires and everyone has the ability to give, is the most powerful way to do so. Looking back in history can only serve to prove this correct. Starting with the above example Martin Luther King jr. He did not curse those who persecuted him based solely on the color of his skin. No, he preached love, equality and acceptance. Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for a quarter of a century could have very easily moved to start a revolution upon his release and nobody would have blamed him. Instead he said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” That my friends takes a lot of love, but look what he was able to do.

As we think of those we consider enemies, let us begin to consider ways in which we can use love instead to make them our friends. It will not only be better for creating a result, it will be better for our heart and better for the world as well.

TOGETHER IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD

Today we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. American minister and civil rights leader. This gentleman is someone I greatly admire. He had the bravery to stand up and bring to light the deplorable treatment of his race. Knowing standing up to speak his mind and do what is right may very well cost him his very life is something I cannot grasp. Not only to do so on a personal level, but in the national spotlight so that every person full of hate would know exactly who you were and where you lived. Risking not only your safety, but that of your family and friends. How many of us would be willing to do that just because it is the right and just thing to do?

That bravery, as amazing and mind-blowing as it is to me, is not what I admire and respect most about this man. It is something entirely different and something we can learn from his legacy. His bravery to me is easily trumped by a skill that I think has gotten lost in those who crusade for causes of both racial and social justice – compassion. In everything he stood for, Dr. King never advocated revenge, he never proposed the use of violence or crime. He never asked to be given anything other than equality, which all people, everywhere, so richly deserve.

Reading this may sound like compassion is nothing to difficult, but think of this, in the time Dr. King was alive, he was spit on, called vile unspeakable names, physically assaulted, had his life and the life of his family threatened, and as we all know, ended up having his life taken.

Throughout all of this one would not blame him if he screamed things in return such as, “You owe me!” or wanted to burn down their houses and threaten their families in return. I certainly do not want to imagine what my reaction would be if I were treated in the same fashion.

What impresses me most about Martin Luther King Jr. is his not only willingness, but insistence on working together. Dr. King understood that to make equality work we need not only the qualities of bravery, strength, and persistence, but also those of compassion, faith and understanding. Much like Nelson Mandela when he was released after having 25 years of his life taken away solely because of his race, he did not seek revenge, but said “Let us work together to lead our country.” When I read that my first thought was, “he said what?!” How many of us would be able to put our egos and feelings of vengeance aside for the greater good? How many of us would be able to understand that violence and crime are not protests and will not lead to a solution.

Which brings me to another thing I deeply admire about Martin Luther King Jr. He always encouraged every member of his race to be the most upstanding individuals they could be. There is nothing that takes away the validity of prejudice, than proving their venomous opinions wrong through right action. Just as there is nothing that feeds the fire of hatred propagated by those filled with racism and prejudice than behaving just as they describe. There is nothing that shows these traits as being archaic and asinine as forcing someone to say, “See that person helping the homeless over there with a smile and compassion? We should hate them because they are gay/black/Muslim/left-handed or whatever idiotic hatred I feel like spewing today.” Then they are the ones who look foolish.

Any intelligent person knows there are good and bad people in each and every group you examine. In today’s world where hate can often steal the front page, we must work harder than ever to love and understand one another. We must do so by not only passing laws to punish discrimination, but more importantly by addressing beliefs and behavior behind the actions of hatred. Real change happens first in the heart, then in the court of law.

It will take all the strength we have not to respond to judgment and hatred thrust upon us with hatred of our own, but we must be vigilant in our fight to make the world a more peaceful and loving place. We must do that by not only being the best person we can be, but having patience, understanding and compassion for those who need it the most, those who hate.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. that I feel captures what we have been discussing here today.

“Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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THE SECRET TO A PASSIONATE LIFE

Everyone wants a life filled with joy and vitality. I believe the quickest way to accomplish that is to increase your passion. How do we do that? Find a ‘why’ to your life. What does that even mean? What it means is finding a reason you want to get up in the morning. Why going through all the tough times will be worth it.

I have asked a lot of my good friends what their ‘why’ is. When asked most of them don’t know. Some give me answers such as “If I don’t I will be fired”. That is not very motivating.  Ask yourself that very question. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning. I must confess there are days not much will get me out of bed. Still most days I have a compelling reason to put both feet on the floor and begin moving. This blog is part of it.

We all need something that stirs our soul. Usually it is something bigger than just ourselves. I am not advocating you quit your job and move to the tropics, although I must admit that thought crosses my mind several times a day. No, you don’t even have to change your career. You may eventually want to, but you can always begin chasing a dream part time. Maybe begin writing that book you have always wanted to? Start your own YouTube channel doing videos on a topic that excites you. (Mine can be found by searching Neil Panosian). There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities. My mother recently retired and will begin volunteering at our local zoo.

The point is all of us, I don’t care who you are, were born to do more than just pay bills and die. We each have a unique gift and passion to share with the world. Nelson Mandela once said “Action without vision is only passing time, Vision without action is merely dreaming, but vision with action can change the world”. I don’t care if your passion is attending state fairs. Perhaps you can recommend ways in which they can be improved. Maybe write a book about your different experiences, or create a photo book? The point is no matter what your passion is, sharing it with the world will accomplish 2 great things. One, it will bring joy and fun to countless people who share your passion and most importantly it will set your soul on fire. These are two things the world desperately needs, people sharing their passions and people living their passions. Once you start, your life will never be the same!

UNLOCK YOUR PRISON

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This is one of my favorite quotes. We hear far to many people bent on “Paying back”  people who hurt them, or worse, they just carry around the anger and resentment from the someone, or the world at large has done to them. What many of us fail to realize is that by doing this we are allowing that very same situation, or person,  to continue to hurt us again and again.

It makes sense to be more cautious around someone who in the past has shown they cannot be trusted to have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you must even do your best to eliminate them from your life. Continuing to harbor resentment or hurt after the fact does little, if anything, to affect the offending party. Quite often they are either ignorant of your discomfort or in extreme cases take pleasure in it.

Nelson Mandela did spent over a quarter of a century of his life in jail for nothing other than belonging to the wrong race. When the people who put him there finally released him if he were bitter, or angry I think we all could understand. What he understand was feeling that way would only affect him.

It was Buddha who said

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”

There is great truth in this statement. Your actions and feelings may eventually cause harm to the one who hurt you, that is you may ‘hit’ them with that coal, but by the time you do so you will already have been burned.

I see two major ways in which this happens. One, the physical way anger or hurt affects your body. Your blood pressure is elevated. You often feel lethargic. Quite often it leaves you feeling sick to your stomach. You can develop a terrible headache. These symptoms are also the same as a body who has been poisoned, and for very good reason. When you harbor a negative emotion it is literally a harmful poison put in your body. So not only can these people affect your emotional state, which you may transfer to others only to compound the problem, if you hang on to those feelings they can affect your health as well! Who would want to say to someone “you have just hurt me emotionally, allow me to help you hurt me physically as well” Sounds crazy but that is just what we are allowing them to do.

I mentioned there is another cost to hanging on to negative emotions. The other being mental focus and production. When your time and energy is spent on revenge, anger or depression it not only steals the joy from that moment, it costs you moments of happiness, productivity and creative creation. Projects you are working on will take twice as long and prove twice as difficult. Nobody wants that.

So do yourself a favor and get rid of all the negativity in your life. It is true what they say about forgiveness, it is not only the gift you give the other person, it is more the gift you give yourself. So give yourself that gift and free yourself from the prison of your own creation.

TRUE FREEDOM

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, Ju...
President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart that its opposite”

– Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

I interrupt my current string of blogs because of the passing of one of the truly great men of our times. Nelson Mandela was a man who understood what freedom was. After being jailed for a third of his life for nothing more than the color of his skin he was set free and went on to become his country’s first black president. Years later when being interviewed by then US president Bill Clinton Mr. Mandela was asked if he felt anger and hatred for the people who had imprisoned him. He said as he was walking out of jail he did feel that as those people took away his wife for all of those years which ended up ruining his marriage. He also was deprived of the privilege of watching his children grow up. These feelings are understandable. I think any of us would feel the same way. What sets this man apart was his answer to the next question. He was then asked if he did have those feelings, and rightfully so, how did he manage to put them aside and work with those same people who put him in prison for the good of his country. His answer speaks volumes and is something we should all pay attention to. He said he knew if he did not leave those feelings of anger and hatred behind he would still be in prison and never be free. Wow. I don’t know about you but I do not think I could take that high of a road. It has been said that forgiveness is not a gift you give the other person, but a gift you give yourself. Through his compassion and understanding a nation was healed and people came together. What could we do in our own lives if we did not let our feelings of anger and hatred stop us from doing what we should? We may not be able to heal a nation, but we could heal a family, a workplace or even our community. Buddha said being angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Our feelings of hurt, anger and sadness that we hang on to and let rule our present are our poison. Do yourself a favor and let them go. Not only will you honor the member of a truly great man and leader, but you will free yourself from the worst prison we can put ourselves in.