There’s no superficial answer to the question of family or racial abuse or the subjugation of women to an inferior status. Women can blame men, and men can blame women, until both sexes discover that dysfunction is rooted so deeply in the human psyche that superficial answers don’t touch the core of the problem. There will be no equality of gender status or termination of physical abuse until people begin to transform their own deep-rooted anger and prejudice into a positive force that can do some good in the world. One has to look into the mirror and say: “I am the problem. I am this miserable unhappy son (daughter)-of-a-bitch that has to live with himself or herself every day.” Of course this isn’t going to happen because people won’t look their dysfunction in the eye, they won’t open deep enough inside to ferret out the monster that hides behind years of self-imposed pain. They don’t know how. They are swept away by rip tides of anger, insecurity, shame, and fear that dominate their interactions with other human beings. The people closest to them – family, friends, etc. are the immediate recipients of their outpourings of rage. Instead of fulfilling an oath of love, compassion, and responsibility in their everyday interactions, insecurity gets in the way, and they become annoyed with tensions that linger on the surface. Sometimes, the exact qualities they once adored in loved ones drives family members to distraction.
Scholars and wise men have been telling us for millenniums that love is the answer, kindness is the answer, compassion is the answer, non-judgment and forgiveness is the answer. Yet, the problem of abuse has only gotten worse. I agree with the scholars and wise men, but it’s one thing to know the answer and another to put it into practice.
The minds and emotions of people are so twisted by anger, fear, and unhappiness, that it’s almost impossible for them to hear these answers. Wisdom that’s provided for them is like water flowing past a rock. Nothing absorbs, nothing breaks through the barrier-walls built by fear and insecurity, by righteousness and indoctrination. People can only listen to their own half crazed thoughts. The words of others are like static on a radio. They only see an external world that reflects their own dysfunction. They strike out at other people as a means of destroying a twisted vision rooted deep in themselves; they play into this game by trying to fix the external world instead of going to the root of the problem – unhappiness that exists within all of us, in the fixer and the person who needs to be fixed, in the psychologist and his patient, in the healer and the person who has to be healed.
Hippocrates said: “Physician heal thyself.” We live in a society in which the mad lead the blind through a tumultuous storm at the edge of a cliff. Politicians are a joyless, ego-filled bunch with shifty eyes and a penchant for power. Most of them love their positions more than they love the people they lead. The joy of teaching has buried itself in a comfort zone that insulates a person from his or her true self; it has buried itself in repetition that dims the creative spark and no longer inspires students. Overwhelming economic pressure has gripped people by their gut – an insatiable need to make money, and substitute it for love and inner peace, to bury oneself in a corporate image of wellbeing that tells us that money and power will solve all our problems, only to discover, twenty years later that our hearts and souls have been reamed out and we are easily replaced by some younger person who buys into the same corporate jargon.
When I was a teenager, I looked inside myself for answers and saw a great deal of confusion. When I looked outside myself I saw even more confusion. I saw dysfunction as a disease that riddled the entire society – a madness that never gives a human being a moment of rest. It seemed to me that the political, economic, and social structure abused people; but it also seemed to me that external abuse was a reflection of dysfunction buried deep inside of myself. I also realized that if I could build an inner life that was solidly rooted, that had harmony and balance, that could keep my heart open, and allow universal wisdom to translate into a compassionate way of living, I could master my own dysfunction. The question was: How to do this? The answer came to me: a surgeon needs training or he’s dangerous; a concert pianist needs training; an actor or artist needs training; a lawyer or plumber needs training. They all have to learn to master their crafts. The single most difficult thing to master in this world is our inner lives because we almost always remain a mystery to ourselves. Tension runs rampant through us, be it mental, emotional or sexual. We are constantly looking outside ourselves for relief: a pill, a doctor, alcohol, drugs, money, whatever, but the external world cannot cure dysfunction in a human being. It can give momentary relief, but it never goes deep enough to root out the problem. It rarely, if ever, can stop us from abusing ourselves and other people.
I remember asking myself what can quiet my mind and allow my heart to open, what can give me inner balance and teach me to transform my tensions into love. I spent nine years traveling half around the world looking for someone who could teach me this, and, strange as it may sound, I found him in my hometown. I was shocked to discover how simple his techniques were. All I had to do was focus my mind and learn to breathe properly. I was also shocked to discover that the only person that kept me from mastering it was myself. I had to dredge up layer upon layer of inner dysfunction and free myself of a lifetime of fear. I discovered that on the other side of my tension, there was deep quiet, there was joy, love, and a compassionate person who could live happily in this world. I also discovered that I knew little or nothing about life. This was a wonderful discovery because I no longer had to be right all the time. I could learn from any person I met; I could defer to them; I could stop my brain from judging others; I could be grateful for every breath I took, for a glass of water, a cup of tea, for life itself and a heart that is full of love. I no longer had to rearrange the world according to my own limited vision. I discovered that people who are full of love never abuse other people. I also discovered that the journey to the center of the human heart is one of the longest on earth. Those willing to take that journey are like knights in medieval tales that are in search of the Holy Grail. They have to slay many inner demons; they have to struggle with the one force that refuses to give in: the multi-layers of self that cover the heart – a devious self, a self that refuses to let go of negative energies that keep one from being happy. This is perhaps the most difficult task on earth. As I said before, the technique to do this is simple, but the actual mastery of self requires deep and continuous work over a long period of time. I discovered that I was the problem, but I was also the solution to the problem. I just had to learn to transform my blocks and inner tensions into an open heart.
Happy people don’t abuse other people, they don’t rape and pillage and terrorize the world. They don’t distinguish between male and female, and divide the world according to race, religion and gender. They let the world be. They welcome every living being to life’s magical playground; every living being has something wonderful to offer. But, finding a happy person is the most difficult task on earth – someone who, like a child, can discover joy in the simplest of things, someone who can “lean and loaf” and see beauty in a “blade of grass”; someone who embraces life and learns from whomever he meets. The question is where does one find a person of this nature? The answer is simple. When we free ourselves of tensions that keep us from being happy, we take the first step on a long journey that puts an end to self-abuse. We change the world by changing our inner lives. That is a real beginning…