A quick story:
My wife was getting coffee the other day. The man in front of her was getting two cups of joe and asked for some brown sugar. The cashier apologized. They were out.
“You TOLD ME you had sugar!!”
“I know sir, I’m so sorry.”
“Are you KIDDING ME!”
He slammed the coffees down, pushed them back across the counter and stormed out.
Or was it?
We’ve all had tragedy and pain, stress, loss and disappointment. Sometimes these things are expressed in strange ways. We cry at a commercial. We furiously clean the house.
We freak out over sugar.
We are at odds with the world and the world is at odds with us.
Anyone who’s ever been in a fight knows a few things.
1. You’re going to try to win.
2. Your opponent will try to win, too.
3. Pain will definitely be involved.
Growing up, I bloodied noses and got bloodied too many times to count (that may be the concussions talking).
As an adult, navigating my way through pain and healing, I got in my fair share of disagreements with significant others. Concussions were close, but I got good at dodging the dinnerware.
After a few decades, you start learning.
I’ve learned that most arguments are lost in the first few seconds.
That’s all the time it takes for people to rev up their engines and start the Ego Drive. You know, that extra boost of power that comes from needing to be RIGHT and everyone else to be WRONG?
I know you know, lol.
Anyway, as soon as that happens, Whoosh! up go the walls and both parties get further and further entrenched in their positions the longer it goes. This can show itself as raging screaming matches, cold shoulders, sarcasm and sniping, or in the case of nations, war.
We live in what I call a debate society and laud it as civilized. My feeling, after experiencing it all my life is that a civilized debate is one step away from the knives being drawn, at least when it comes down to land and money.
In a debate society, someone HAS to be right, and someone HAS to be wrong. In other words, there’s no discussion. There are only arguments. This describes our legal systems, our sports, our business practices, and so on.
It’s in our very language.
“I’m fighting the good fight.”
“I’m joining the struggle.”
“Put your game face on, we’re going to war.”
And on and on. Any act of striving usually ends up being described in terms of conflict. It’s embedded in our thought patterns.
The result is a world where people take positions and then they become increasingly extreme until everyone is in their little castles lobbing fireballs at each other. Or literally trying to blow each other up.
The feeling is that if you get stronger, get more facts, make more money, amass more status more more more…you will eventually overpower everyone else and win.
It’s biological competition run wild.
For most people, the social struggles have replaced the physical struggles for dominance and mate attraction. Why else do you think everyone feels alone and always wants more money? To rise to the top of the mating ladder, so to speak.
The fact is, everyone’s fighting and no one is really winning. We’re so hell bent on amassing our stuff that we are stepping on each other and on the natural world. We are going to fight our way to extinction, one way or another.
So what if I told you that we could win every war, every battle there ever was, by simply not fighting?
You might mistake it for pacifism.
You might mistake it for weakness.
But what if it was the only workable and wise thing we could do?
What if, instead of fighting with someone, trying to be right, trying to protect your ego…you just chose not to fight.
What if you realized that the fight was really with your unchecked need to WIN everything, and not with someone else at all?
When I finally learned this in my relationships, everything changed.
The more I could leave my ego at the door and just nurture the relationship, the better it got. It didn’t take long before my partner began to do the same. For someone who grew up in a world that taught him to be defensive, decisive and unyielding, this was very difficult for me. It felt unnatural.
Now I see the unlimited power of it.
If you can keep cool around people who are frustrated or angry or abusive, situations calm themselves down. That also means you’ll potentially be the emotional punching bag for a lot of people to take their pain out on, but guess what? Understand it’s their pain, not yours. It has nothing to do with you.
Don’t get offended, why would you? You know who you are, right? No else knows you better. So what power do their words have over you?
None. Unless you let them.
What about physical altercations? Should you let someone physically attack you? Of course not. Step out of the way! Learn self-defence. Don’t become someone’s punching bag – physically or emotionally – you have to be healthy and safe.
Be like the water. Flow around those who would hurt you. If their rage is hot, be cool. If they are ice cold, be the melting warmth. If they are the stone in your way, move around them. If they try to capture you, find the cracks and be free.
We are mostly water, we strive to protect the waters. We should learn from the waters.
Water can change the very face of the land. It can be a torrent, a flood. It can bring change. It can bring life.
As long as you count others as friends, you can understand their disagreement. You can hear them. You can see where their pain is. We all have pain, and it blinds us to each other. If you don’t count yours as precious, you can allow it to fulfill it’s higher function: to teach you compassion.
If you are fully compassionate in your heart toward those who would call you enemy, you can anticipate everything they throw at you. If you are surprised, you can adjust effortlessly. You can gently correct every lie they tell. You can direct the course of things to the end you seek.
Or rather, the beginning.
You can win every war without fighting, without having an enemy.
You simply adjust, adjust, adjust. You wear away and polish. You cleanse and infiltrate.
Try to punch a wall of water and your fist will go right through.
Unless the water has galvanized, come together in solidarity. Then you will break yourself on the wall of ice.
Since Idle No More began over a year ago, I’ve thought a lot about water.
Maybe you will too.
It flows through your veins, it powers your body and mind, it is essential to the flowering and explosion of biodiversity.
When we lose the lessons of the water, things die. They wither, they atrophy. We see this in the world and in ourselves.
Try it out. Next time you disagree, don’t fight. Instead listen. If you need to apologize, do it immediately and with meaning. Instead of trying to satisfy yourself, see what’s really going on, what the real concerns are.
I’ll tell you what, when it comes to Indigenous people and the government, the problems aren’t really money or power or abuse or anger or any of that.
The problems are fear.
Fear of not having enough.
Fear of destroying the ecosystem.
Fear of losing power or face in front of friends, voters and funders.
Fear of being eradicated.
Fear of changing the energy systems, of losing money.
But we don’t address the real fears, the real concerns.
We dance around all the issues, thinking if we legislate enough or get angry enough, if we push each other around enough…then somehow things will work out.
The only way to fix things is to get to the root of the problems. And the only way to do that is speak ever more authentically, ever more humbly, ever more compassionately.
Speak as a human to a human. Speak as family.
No, you can’t force someone else to do that, but you don’t really need to. Become an ocean of power in and of yourself. Vast potential, but always calm. Recognize the limitless depth within you. And recognize it in everyone else.
You will soon and easily see the storms that rage in the souls of others. If you are not aware, not calm, that storm can pass over to you. Instead, just draw from your depths the placid currents, the ancient currents.
Then, if someone comes at you with a gun full of rubber bullets, you’re not afraid.
If they try to legislate laws that will erode your community or culture, you can stand without trembling, without rage, without ego. Your words will carry such depth that they will be difficult to ignore.
If you line up against the machines of destruction, or go to court to explain your need, then your love and your authenticity will act as a light for people to look to, to be inspired by.
We have tried arguing.
It leads to more arguing. It leads to imbalance and disruption.
It takes us away from right living.
Breathe, fill your lungs with air, release the air. Take down your walls. They don’t protect you, they divide you, keep your heart closed to others.
Become invincible through vulnerability.
Like the water.
Find the sweetness in life.
It doesn’t even take any sugar.