Steps for Higher Action – Lessons Learned from the Arizona Shootings

“We are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth what matters is not wealth or status or power or fame but rather how well have we loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.” 

Pres. Barack Obama at the Arizona shooting victim’s memorial.
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As I listened tonight to President Obama’s speech at the memorial in Arizona I was moved.  At a time when a lesser man would have made a fiery, vindictive speech our President instead took the high road and demonstrated his capability for spiritually minded action from his place of leadership.  This is where Barack Obama shines and we needed his light today.

He called upon us not to continue the vitriolic and hateful blaming that has got us into such a mess.  He called upon us to live up to the dreams of our children.  He called upon us to let go of old ideas and embrace a different type of conduct and problem solving.  It is this collaborative approach that my life is devoted to, both in my spiritual practice and in my technology career.

Years ago, at the prodding of the Universe and several key people, I was encouraged to look at my life in a different way.  It was time for me to put down my warrior shield and sword and begin to embrace my life and people differently.  It was hard – excruciatingly painful at times – and now in retrospect very well worth it.  When you spend your life fighting against things rather than building things you can find yourself spiritually exhausted with little to show for it.  My experience is that many battles in life are never won.  We simply wear each other out and collapse on the battlefield. 

I now know there is another way.  Each and every day I make an effort to do what Pres. Obama asked of us collectively.  In some small way to make someone’s life better, including my own.  This idea and attitude is not about selfless service.  It is about how we resolve conflicts in our society.   As he said, “How we treat each other is entirely up to us.” 

I know many of us look at the world around us and feel overwhelmed by the issues, difficulties and violence we see. Each of us has the power to impact our world in many ways.  Learning to handle conflict in an open, neutral and productive fashion is a skill that takes time but pays great dividends.  Here are a few things I have learned to help me in that process:

1.  Breath – Yes, I know you’ve heard it but its true that taking a deep breath puts you and your body in a more receptive state.  Try it.

2. Remain Curious – It helps me to be authentically inquisitive about the motivations of people who are different from me.  Sometimes those motivations are simple – fear, possessiveness, feelings of self loathing and sometimes more complicated.    When I find those things in other people I am able to have more compassion for their different opinions and allow myself to learn something from them.

3.  Find Your Tribe – Isolation, intellectual or otherwise, is not healthy for human beings.  Finding others who share your sensibilities in the world can give you a sense of purpose and belonging.  Getting active in the world around you will allow you to combat those overwhelming feelings of depression and hopelessness.

4.  Stay Neutral – Those with different views can not – and I mean that they simply CAN NOT change you.  Consequently you have nothing to fear or be defensive about.  You are in charge of you, so relax.  Defending yourself against competing ideas takes time away from building a strong foundation of worthwhile works that benefit those you care about.

5.  Compromise – Whether at home or work only compromise can truly craft solutions when there are competing priorities.  Everyone wins when a solution is found. Stubbornness will not save a sinking ship, get your project approved or get your spouse to put the cap back on the toothpaste.  Allow for unique and innovative solutions to reveal themselves. Personally I’m a fan of the Metadent pump for those toothpaste woes.

6.  Cultivate Patience – Issues are not created or solved overnight.  I often find it useful to step back and approach a situation from a different angle on a different day. Forced solutions rarely stand the test of time.

7.  Believe – Opening our hearts to the possibility of a better future is our first step in creating it.  We can choose to allow  for a greater sense of “moral imagination” to expand us to higher levels of activism, compassion and harmony.

I earnestly hope that more people in our country will take up this challenge to engage in higher action and leave behind the anger and dissention that is so destructive to our country, our communities and our homes. 

There is another way.  I’m sure of it.