Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.” ~ Rupi Kaur
When it comes to changing our lives or changing the world, it all begins with a conversation. Building harmony or creating conflict often results from the approach we choose when engaging in these dialogues.
During this week’s field trip to Ayutthaya province to explore Buddhism and non-violence, we learned about “Metta”, the first of four Buddhist virtues. Metta removes clinging to a negative state of mind by cultivating an attitude of loving kindness towards all beings. When we are able to consistently lead with this approach, it’s possible to overcome all social, religious, ethnic, political and economic barriers.
Without peace of mind, it’s difficult to find harmony in our communities. It also makes it difficult to resolve any personal challenges we may be experiencing. As a psychologist, I have the honour of walking beside clients as they navigate change. Another way to look at therapy is as a process of mediating conversations between different aspects of the self. Embracing the parts of our own inner being that we may not be comfortable with as we find ways to build bridges between opposing needs or priorities is part of the journey of becoming someone who walks through whatever we may be facing.
The monks we had the opportunity to visit with taught us that “if you want to solve a problem, first it’s important to have right-thinking, then express bodily action”. Conflict is often fueled by high emotions. To free ourselves from being controlled by our reactions, it’s important to learn to be curious and observe our own judgements before expressing them in the world. According to Buddhist philosophy, meditation is the source of compassion. It empowers us through the understanding that our own thoughts are responsible for our emotions. The practice of turning inward for guidance helps us to receive an answer to what’s challenging us, and build trust in our own ability to make good choices.
By cultivating our capacity to listen to our own inner dialogue, we also deepen our ability to be present and listen to others. Successfully navigating difficult conversations becomes much more challenging when we are caught within the blind spots of our own positions and perceptions. Nabil Oudeh, this week’s guest lecturer on interfaith dialogue, reminded us that while it’s okay to disagree with each other, we need not convince others to be like us. Expecting others to comply with our preferences imposes our own belief system on another way of being, and can set us up for disappointment. Part of Metta is accepting others independently of agreeing or disagreeing with them. When we have trust in ourselves, it’s possible to see things from another perspective without fear of losing who we are. Being willing to take a tour of how the world looks through another person’s eyes can bring the gift of understanding, and does not mean that we negate our own values.
By having the courage and humility to listen to where others may be coming from, we can often see pieces of our own humanity in their story. Where we focus our attention determines our reality, and we have the choice to put our energy towards highlighting differences or building common ground. These same principles apply to the relationship we have with the parts of ourselves it can be difficult to accept. Our mind has the power to create our reality, and taking a deep breath can be the first step towards supporting peace within our own inner landscape. When we find more love within ourselves, this is what grows and spreads to others.
(Photographs credited to Diana Bonar)
Meaghan Farquharson- Canada
Rotary Peace Fellow- Class 23