If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies
-- Author Unknown
The world is going through great change right now and no one knows what will happen next. Change is the nature of reality but we often resist and even fear it. It's easy to complain, to moan that things are bad and wonder why doesn't someone fix them. And yet we all know we need to "be the change we want to see in the world." So what stops us from stepping outside the box, from taking fear by the hand so it turns into fearlessness?
Sadly, self-centeredness and selfishness -- the hallmarks of the ego -- affect not only our own lives but also the way we behave in the world. They easily limit our ability to reach out to another in need. We can see this to the extreme in Libya's apparently insane ruler Gaddafi whose ego, after 42 years in power, can't let go, even at the detriment of over 1,000 people who have been killed and putting his own life and family in mortal danger. We also see it in arrogant Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin whose desire for power is, as Senator Dick Durbin says, "aiming to destroy a basic American right."
Meditation is often accused of being self-centered and even selfish, but when we were writing "Be The Change," we talked with over a hundred meditation practitioners and teachers and found the exact opposite: that the simple act of being still inspired numerous acts of service, generosity, kindness and even activism.
It would appear that silence and contemplation enable us to go from being self-centered to other-centered -- concerned about the welfare of all and not just ourselves. We become more acutely aware of how we treat each other and seek to become a positive presence rather than a negative one. Rather than focusing on the problem, we are inspired to become the solution.
Although there are many people around the world who are movers and shakers, we want to bring attention to just a few who have blown us away. We have chosen three deeply passionately inspired people motivated by meditation who have stepped out of the box and done great things to make life better for others. May they also inspire you to become more than you think you are!
Kindness can transform our world from the inside out and is the most precious gift you can offer to yourself and to others.
Activist Kiri Westby is a young mother who, from when she was 18 and saw her first Red Cross camp, knew that the impulse to be of assistance gave her no choice -- she had to help. She spent the next 10 years working to help women in war zones and in some of the most difficult areas of the world. In 2004, she was working in the small town of Bunia in the Northeast of the Congo. This was a U.N. stronghold, but rebel armies were not far away. As a Women's Human Rights activist she was there to witness and provide support:
We spent the day hearing testimony of the grotesque sexual and physical abuse that many of the survivors in the camp had experienced. Disfiguring and mutilating women was one of the ways the warring factions laid claim to their territory. Mary, only 12 years old, had been badly mutilated, having had both her arms cut off from the elbow down. She spoke bravely, her testimony heartbreaking. Afterwards she came up to me and asked shyly, 'Do you know my friend Angelina? She's from America too.' I had to say I didn't, wondering if she understood how big America is. 'Oh,' she said dejectedly. 'I was hoping you could tell her I said hello and give her this,'... and with that she fell into me, clutching me with her leftover arms. It was the best hug I'd ever received, and I vowed to pass it on. After asking around, I learned that Angelina Jolie had recently visited with these same girls.
For author Marc Ian Barasch, great insight came through his own writing:
When I wrote my book, 'The Compassionate Life,' I never suspected the words I'd put on the page would get so deep under my skin. But hanging out with the folks who do the heart's heavy lifting -- homeless shelter workers, kidney donors, people who forgave their mortal enemies -- subtly changed me. I needed to get out from behind my desk and actually do something for the world. But what?
A chance meeting with a devoted tree-planter, led Mark to found the Green World Campaign, a nonprofit whose purpose is to plant trees and, in so doing, to turn degraded lands green again, raise the living standards of the rural poor and combat climate change, and that's just to start with. With his kitchen table as world headquarters, and despite being flat broke and nearly dying from malaria, Marc persevered. Trees are now being grown in countries around the world, such as Mexico, India, the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Marc's vision of green compassion is changing lives:
Compassion is, at bottom, just the ability to see the connection between everyone and everything, everywhere -- and to be willing to act on it. Each sapling the Green World Campaign plants feels like a resurrection of hope, an emissary to future generations that says: We never forgot about you.
Seane Corn is a beloved renown yoga teacher who realized that whether her practice was 15 minutes or four hours long was irrelevant because "it was not about how yoga can change me, but how I, through this practice, can begin to change the world." She went on to work with child prostitutes, in the U.S. and then in some of the most challenging areas of the world, working for YouthAIDS. At one point, she was taken to an 11-acre garbage dump in the middle of Panam Pen, Cambodia:
I'm talking to a group of children, and suddenly a young boy grabs hold of my hand. He looks to be eight or nine, but because of malnutrition he could have been thirteen. It's boiling hot, but he's covered from head to toe in scarves to keep the flies off his body. What I could see of his face was matted in dirt. I looked at him, expecting him to say three words in Cambodian: one for water, the other for food, the third for the orphanage. But he says nothing. He just looks at me right in the eye and smiles this little tiny smile. He squeezes my hand, lets go, and walks away. But he left something in my hand that was covered in dirt. I flick the dirt away and it was a bright red, heart-shaped charm, surrounded by silver. It was one of those moments where I was utterly humbled, because this kid had come to me and effectively said, 'Remember, it's about the love. That's all that this is. It's about the love.' That heart reminds me every day of what my job is.
What can you do to uplift your world? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Tuesday by checking "Become a Fan" at the top.
See our award-winning book, "Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World," with forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman and contributions from Jack Kornfield, Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie, Gangaji and others.
Our three meditation CDs -- "Metta: Loving-Kindness and Forgiveness," "Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight" and "Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation" -- are available at www.EdandDebShapiro.com.