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What do you and I think we mean when we say things like “My life is a mess, and I hate it”? We behave as if our lives were like play scripts, written and directed by someone else, which we have somehow been forced to participate in without ever having been consulted. We think, if only we could exchange them for another, the way we do a movie videotape at the supermarket, we could stick the one of our choice into the cosmic VCR machine, and then we would be happy!
But it is not like that. Our lives are not going on around us, or unfolding on top of us, or being shoved at us. In fact, our lives are not in any way separate from us. Our lives are ourselves. We are our lives. We and our lives are one and the same thing. Wherever we go, our lives go with us, because we’re them, and they’re us. That’s why, however many changes we make “out there”, nothing seems to change. Our lives will not change, because they cannot change, until we change.
Our lives are a complete, accurate, and, at any given moment, current reflection of ourselves. Our lives are a mirror. And they are a very good, perhaps even too good, mirror. Obviously, if we do not like what we see in a mirror, there is no point fiddling with, much less cursing, the reflection. We must change ourselves.
Every year, dozens of new books appear in stores, bearing titles like “How To Make Your Life Work For You” or “Getting Your Life in Order” or “Fixing Your Life in Three Easy Steps” (typically, with an introduction by the best-selling author of some other, similar book). These and their cousins in magazine articles and workshops all promise instant solutions to whatever problems our lives have created for us. Unfortunately, most of them are no help at all, because, the fact is, there are no solutions — because there is no problem.
Our lives are working just fine. In fact, if there’s a problem, it is that our lives work too well. It is because they reflect our state of mind, our current state of being, our convictions about our nature and the nature of the Universe, who and what we think we are, so effectively, that we don’t like them!
What we do not like about our lives is ourselves. Thus, the source of the anger and the violence and the confusion and the frustration and the chaos which you and I see all around us is not “out there”. All of that stuff is coming from inside us. The impatience you felt today from that teller at the bank was your impatience. The jerk I had to deal with at the hardware store yesterday was me. Because we do not like those traits or tendencies in ourselves, because too often we do not even admit to having them, you and I unconsciously project them outward, and then perceive them in others.
Think about it. If I am a harbor of repressed anger, and I stand in front of a mirror, what will I see? If you are full of cheer and joy, and you stand in front of the same mirror, what will you see?
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Why should we? Because our enemies — those people and those things to which we attach the label “enemy” — are indicators to us of what cleansing work we still need to do on ourselves. As the cartoon character Pogo used to say, “I have met the enemy, and he is us.” If you and I wish to have peaceful lives, we must make peace with ourselves within ourselves.
Ask a Teacher, a Realized Master. He or she will tell you: Even while being stoned or nailed to a cross, they love everyone and everything around them, because they love what they are, and they are at peace. Peace is all they know and all they see. Likewise, you and I will see the lion and the lamb in the jungle lay down together the very same moment the lion and the lamb within us lay down together.
Search deeply within, and find out who you are. Ask yourself why you think the way you do, behave as you do. What is the source of your likes and dislikes, your inclinations and your prejudices, your habits and tendencies? Everything you believe about everything. Who taught those things to you? Suppose you had been born of different parents in a different country, attended different schools and had different teachers, would your beliefs be the same as they are now? Might you then be friends and allies with the very people you now distrust and despise? What does that tell you about the nature — the depth, the permanence, the validity — of your convictions? Remember, all of this stuff is being reflected back at you every single day, as your life.
If we do not like what we see, we can change it. In fact, only we can change it. But we must do it from the inside out. There is no other way.
Here’s a thought: True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess. Louis Nizer