Some are saying that this summer is the bloodiest in history. Brutality and war seems to be flaring up all around us. What is wrong with the world today? I have one answer that is certain and simple: Catherine Ann Lombard.
Yes, that’s right. Me. I am partly responsible for what is wrong in the world today. Mr. Iyengar, the yoga master whose practice I have followed since 1988, died last week at the age of 95. More than any other practitioner, Mr. Iyengar was responsible for the spread of interest in yoga in the west over the last half-century. He always insisted that yoga is a spiritual discipline, describing it a “the quest of the soul for the spark of divinity within us.” As to its wider benefits, he maintained:
“Before peace between the nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.”
The small nation of my being is usually managing okay. Love still maintains the strongest foothold. But there are times when a violent war seems to have overtaken my consciousness. I fight to be nice to someone I envy. I struggle not to be lazy. I blame another for my personal failings or frustrations. On the outside, I look sweet and understanding all the while brutal battles are being fought inside my soul. The only way I can conquer these warring factions is to go deeper and honestly sink myself into the true origins of my anger, sadness, abandonment, and fear. And then to joyfully accept, allow, and attempt to act in a new and creative way whenever that particular war begins.
Not easy. Not easy at all. That’s what’s wrong with the world today. We are all looking for the easy way to end our wars. More than anytime in history, many of us have access, time and money to pursue the many distractions that keep us from making peace – both inner and outer. Where’s the app to take care of my inner battles that leave me feeling depressed? Where’s the exotic holiday? What’s the latest fashion craze? What can I eat, drink, pop, inject, smoke, snort? Who can I abuse mentally, physically emotionally? Who (and even what God) can I use for my own self interest?
Maya Angelou is another great soul who recently died at the age of 86. A brilliant American poet, writer, actress, dancer, and singer, she said:
We need the courage to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily– as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings. I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honourable.
I am now thinking of Clare, one of my former clients (not her real name). During an amazingly beautiful session together, Clare related how, for the first time, she became aware of the inner war inside her during an innocuous conversation with her boyfriend. They had been discussing where to live together when he started to talk about how much he would like to be in Amsterdam. Amsterdam wasn’t really the best choice for Clare, and suddenly she felt overwhelmed with feelings of rejection and never being good enough.
Physically, Clare felt energy stream down her arms and her fingers tingle. Soon she was choking for air. Feelings of rage and anger flooded her heart, what Clare called a “meltdown.” But then, Clare was able to recognize that her meltdown had little to do with her conversation with her boyfriend and everything to do with her feelings of abandonment when her Dad threatened to leave the family when she was 13.
Out of Clare’s awareness of her inner war, we were able to more deeply move into her feelings of abandonment and recognize them in other instances of her life. She ended up identifying a subpersonality called the Abandoned Child, which she further explored, accepted, and began to integrate into her everyday life.
To confront the evil in ourselves is the only true way of confronting evil that exists collectively in the world. Once we are willing to pursue peacemaking in our own lives by compassionately and joyfully confronting the evil in ourselves, only then can we “by dint of will” transform it into something positive for both our personal and collective development.
This is scary! To face our own evil within. To be honest about those negative thoughts and feelings. To follow them back to the dark recesses where they all began. To admit that we too can be evil! Oh no, who wants to do that?! It’s always much easier to point the finger and yell about somebody else, especially somebody whom you never met, don’t really understand, and can’t really change. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Change can only start one heart at a time—joyfully, willfully, and without fear.