I ran across the quotation on Facebook the other day, from Pema Chodron’s book, “The Pocket Pema”:
“Am I Going to Add to the Aggression?
Every day we could think about aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles, Darfur, Iraq, everywhere. All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?’ Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?’”
This got me to thinking about how, in just about every moment, we face choices about how we move through the world, how we choose to express ourselves in a multitude of situations and circumstances. Even when we are in a situation like the current pandemic, where most of us stay at home much of the time. As we move through our daily experience even at home, endless moments arise, each offering choices about how we are going to respond to whatever may be unfolding.
Because I believe that we are part of a larger collective consciousness, one to which we contribute and from which we draw all the time, I also believe that it’s impossible not to affect ourselves and the collective through the choices we make as we respond to the world around us. I’ve written before about experimenting with orienting to heart perception and intelligence by asking ourselves, “What would my heart do right now?” Or, “How would my heart respond right now?” This doesn’t mean we will never be angry, distressed, embarrassed, or outraged. What it touches on is how do we choose to handle these feelings.
What Pema is asking is, can we notice when we inadvertently add to the situation that may already be causing us and others distress or anger. In the case of the quotation from her above, she wonders about our adding aggression to our world. When she asks if we want to practice peace or war, I think she offers us a chance to be more deeply aware of the choices we make moment to moment. To help with this, I recommend that you ask yourself, “What would my heart do in this situation? What would my heart say about this? How would my heart see this?” Orienting to heart perception and intelligence can offer a new slant on both what’s happening and our responses to it.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to carry Pema’s question with you: “Am I going to practice peace or am I going to war?” Then, notice what options arise or what choices present themselves when you offer yourself this moment of reflection. Then, pay attention to what happens when you include your heart’s perception in your awareness. As always, there aren’t any “right” answers to this. It’s just an opportunity to notice where you land when you include Pema’s question as you move through your world. Be sure to include your time at home in this practice because there may be countless moments during the day when you discover that irritation can turn to patience, or frustration can become curiosity.
Also, I think that choosing peace over war doesn’t mean not to be aware of upset and outrage. The key here is what you do with it—how you express it, the actions you take and, in terms of our collective consciousness, what qualities you radiate into the environment around you.
Please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them. They’re just the next thing floating along as part of your ceaseless stream of consciousness.