I have been in Thailand quite a bit the last several years and Buddhism runs the theatre of religion. There is much focus on “people’s goodness”. That is to say, to improve society we don’t have to focus on institutional reform or societal laws and behaviours, we only need to look to the individual to do good. From that state of “goodness”, harmony will flow and all will be well.
In Thailand there is a lot of love going around but it is this belief in “people’s goodness” without cohesive and well run institutions that renders the population easy to manipulate and control. Out of fear of persecution or being trampled upon, the people become submissive and give up their power to religion and the established social/political structures. This I believe creates a deep sadness pretty much everywhere you go. As a result, every now and again the population gets so upset that it erupts which leads to a lot of argy bargy on the streets rather than smiles. In fact as I write protests are starting to pick up again after a few years of relative peace.
A conundrum and a question: How do we love and accept humanity without giving ourselves over to manipulative forces, in a world, that if we are not careful, can push and pull us all over the place? In short you can’t completely because if you believe in the goodness of humanity you are naturally vulnerable and from time to time people will take advantage of that. In certain situations you will end up giving your power away. It’s a fact of life. We can’t control everything. We need to accept that.
But there are ways to protect yourself from incursions, without becoming cold to the world, and they all relate to one another.
Skim the Lake
Firstly, “skim the lake” as my old teacher would say. And that means to be constantly working on yourself and updating information by deliberately seeking out different challenging ideas and opinions. Read widely; cultivate a nimble mind. If you keep your mind flexible in this way you are less rigid and negative influences can’t readily glob on to you.
Secondly, have a place you can call a sanctuary. I have covered this in other jottings and I know it will be familiar with many readers but I can’t stress enough how important it is. A sanctuary could be your home or a special space in your home — a comfortable nurturing space. Or it could be a garden, or park or a beach. Wherever you feel you can create a space to go within and settle your energy.
If you don’t have a physical sanctuary — you may be travelling or between worlds — then create one in a meditation so you can visit whenever you like.
If you already have a sanctuary then maybe it needs a sprucing up. Give it some energy. Change the carpet; adjust the lighting; sit in a different spot in the park or whatever.
See People As Hazy Waves
When you meet someone, see them as a hazy wave of probabilities (or possibilities even). You might think this a bit whacko but we tend to judge people in a binary fashion — they are mean or kind; masculine or feminine; generous or stingy. But people are not binary — they are a hazy wave of all sorts of strengths and weaknesses. If you see them in this manner you can melt away any antagonistic forces or uncomfortableness and relax into the space you have created with them.
This fourth aspect is the most important of all. It is amazing how few people truly understand their feelings. They often have a good grasp in relation to their loved ones but when it comes to making their way around the wider world they haven’t got a clue. It’s all just too complicated and confusing.
With feelings you need to be able to step back and observe. Feelings and emotion are intertwined but different. I touched upon this in a previous post which you can read here — well worth it.
There is another important way to see this. We can ask ourselves why do people want power and control over others? Maybe they are simply scared and cannot connect — they don’t understand their own feelings in relation to those of others. Society forces them to connect but it’s through the media or people who think exactly like them. And because when people are so out of balance, a kind of madness takes over.
Just look at the media and those in charge — they are all kind of going potty are they not? They are selling their own fears and others absorb that and also get scared, anxious or angry and feel they are losing control. They react in ways that probably surprise themselves including becoming bigoted or hateful. Or they prance about pretending they are squeaky clean, projecting this aura of niceness, but to selected people they are cruel and manipulative.
I digress a bit but the point is when we truly connect with someone we are connecting to their feelings so never lose touch with the feelings of others. Not what they say or how they behave but how they feel.
If we need to clarify we can ask people how they feel. If you do, most will unconsciously avoid the question by letting you know what they are thinking.
So if you are confronted with adversity or uncertain situations it’s good to ask: what is the feeling here? After lots of practice, understanding feelings will be so natural you will rarely need to ask.