• 84th International Peace Meditation “Spending the Night Alone”

    “Spending the Night Alone”

    December 7, 2003 — Today we remember all those who have given their lives for their country. This is relevant to every country, because all have had great heroes and heroines who gave all that they had to serve their country and their people. Although their philosophies and beliefs differed, all gave with the intention of a greater good.

    War is difficult because those seen as the enemy are seen as wrong and we, whomever “we” refers to, are right. Some people fight for freedom from oppression, while others fight to keep old customs and cultures. Some fight for land while others feel invaded. In each case, those who fight have, in their own minds, legitimacy. One of the great difficulties is that humans often have been unable to resolve the discrepancies in philosophy, and this has led to great bloodshed in all periods of history. While some countries are experiencing peace, others war. And so it has been. The night of war has been long, and we say that we want peace. But, do we really want peace?

    For us to sincerely want peace, we would have to be able to stop our inner aggressive natures. This inner aggression has many expressions. For example, a sport provides an outlet for competition, physical exertion, and a sense of pushing ourselves to the limit. Without that outlet, energy, in the form of inner aggression, would need other outlets.

    Many of us speak of stress, and we characterize stress as external and internal. We look at external stressors such as driving in heavy traffic, tight schedules, pressure to perform to often-unreasonable standards at work, and societal pressures to be all things to all people, or so we may feel. We talk of internal pressures such as our beliefs in perfectionism, living up to parental expectations, and possessing beauty as determined by media standards. We also speak of internalizing external pressures. Some of us practice yoga or other forms of meditation and breathing that help us resist this internal pressure. We look for ways to slow down our internal clocks that tell us that we must always hurry or we’re not accomplishing enough. However, we can look at stress differently, and try to begin to understand its roots.

    Stress is energy out of control. Stress occurs when we allow events and beliefs to create inner turmoil, which often leads to physical manifestations. We are energy. We live, breathe, and move because of energy. We teach, care, protect, and heal because of energy. But we also hurt, abuse, and kill because of energy. Energy is neither bad nor good. Energy is directed toward outcomes that are either productive or non-productive. When energy becomes self-destructive mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually, it has negative outcomes. When energy is directed toward others, often magnified by philosophy and principles, it can become negative.

    Consider the current concerns about terrorism. Everyone has been, or will be, affected in some way by terrorism. Terrorists believe in their cause. They use destructive energy to get what they believe to be a desired outcome. They are protecting tradition in the face of evolution. They believe in oppression, and seek to oppress. They believe in fear to create and maintain oppression, and therefore use means that create widespread fear. They reign by terror because they believe the end justifies the means. They use their energy, magnified by their philosophical perspectives, to attain their objectives. We call them terrorists.

    We can look at those who gave their lives for the sake of others, and regard them as heroes, heroines, and sometimes saints. These people gave all that they had to liberate and heal others. They used the energy they had, their lives, toward the betterment of mankind, as they understood it. Whether by going off to war, or staying behind, each chose to live by their own understanding of life and its responsibilities. In other words, each person, terrorist, warrior, conscientious objector, who acts according to belief sees himself or herself as following the correct path.

    So, how do we turn that energy to positive outcomes? One way is to recognize that evolution cannot be stopped and we cannot return to a time in the past. Evolution is the forward moving of human progress over time. The movement will be seen as negative at times by some, and positive at times by others. Yet, the movement continues. We cannot go backward. Styles change and new ones develop from the old. That is an easy concept and provides seemingly endless new forms of dress, music, and art. But the philosophy of freedom is an evolutionary movement that can only temporarily be stopped. This freedom is expressed in movement toward self-government and self-actualization. It may appear in more absurd forms such as teenage behaviors, or extreme media, but it is still a movement toward freedom in the form of freedom of expression. All movements begin with the extreme and as they gain acceptance, become more mainstream. One can look at the women’s movement in America over the past 40 years to see the break from tradition in the roles, jobs, philosophies, choices, family structures, and use of leisure time and resources. Movement toward freedom is natural because evolution leads us to greater freedom. But greater freedom also leads us to greater responsibility. Without responsibility, there will be no freedom. Without freedom, one is often not free to contribute one’s life in service to that in which one believes. The path to greater contribution is the path of freedom.

    If we look at the world from the perspective of evolution, we can see that it is to be expected that there will be those who do not want to move forward with evolution and will choose to fight it. Holding on to the past is difficult because what may have worked in the past will not work in the current time, and what works now may not work in the future. Life changes. When we try to return to an earlier period in our lives, we are generally frustrated. The middle-aged person who tries to reclaim his or her youth by acting irresponsibly is inevitably disappointed, and is often viewed as foolish by contemporaries. This is because as we age, our life changes. Although we may want to return to our youthful image, health, or relationships, it cannot be. Life moves forward. This does not mean that we should accept new behaviors that we believe are wrong. It does mean that to remain relevant we must not live in the past.

    Terrorism is occurring, at least in part, because energy is being directed toward protecting the past. On a larger scale, freedom and oppression are at war. If we look at the bigger picture, we can see that freedom will eventually win. More countries are experiencing some form of self-governance. More people are able to vote. More people are able to go to college, whether at home or abroad. More people are multi-lingual and able to participate in others’ customs. More people are going out of their traditional religions, age groups, social groups, and cultures to form lasting relationships. More people, making more choices, breaking down more boundaries, traveling to more places, creating new relationships. This is part of evolution that will not return to previous times. Where there is turmoil and war, some will return for a period of time such as we have seen in Iraq. But, eventually the people will become self-governing. Movement toward freedom, often manifested in some form of democracy, is the direction of evolution.

    When we “spend the night alone”, we wait for the right opportunities for freedom to occur. Those who are living in oppressive conditions, whether governmentally or in families and jobs where they are unable to express or contribute their full talents, are spending the night alone. But, night is always followed by daybreak. And opportunities for freedom will eventually emerge in each situation. Sometimes it means that we must be patient and wait for answers. Sometimes it means we must trust that all evolution moves toward freedom of choice, and that time will eventually appear. Sometimes it means waiting until just the right moment to make a decision toward greater freedom, whether leaving an abusive spouse, reacting against an oppressive government, or confronting terrorism or corporate inappropriateness. It eventually comes to pass that an opportunity will present itself, and a person has the opportunity to choose a direction. And when that opportunity is acted upon in the form of a vote, shelter, military response, or legal or career options, that moment of truth allows for a decision toward freedom from oppression.

    And when the night is over, the rewards are great. Freedom means that we can choose. It means that we can give of our own unique talents. It means that we can contribute to making the world a better place. It means that we can raise our children without fear. It means that we can begin to more fully find peace in our lives. ‘Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is the presence of God.’

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    Sue Kidd Shipe
    Executive Director

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    International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc.
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