Reference Point

Starts with me

I checked out a book on Buddhism from the library. It’s an attempt to force myself into stillness and to expand my mind, and spiritual understanding. This next passage illuminates my sense of motivation for reaching out to thousands of people, enduring hardships with optimism, and experiencing the sense that we are always, as a species, so close. So close. So close and on our way to ‘getting it’. The author is Robert Thurman, and the book is called Inner Revolution.

” We can retrace for ourselves the steps the Buddha took by beginning where he began: with the reality of our own situation. We are highly organized socially, relatively well educated, have great technological power and industrial productivity. We have myriad forms of entertainment. the sun rises in the morning, the rains come, the water flows, the wind blows. We stay cool in summer, and warm in winter.

In the United States we live in the first country on earth with founding documents that formally guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet we are miserable. We may blame our malaise on circumstances-our jobs, our families-or see everything around us as the source of our unhappiness. But the question arises” Will we ever find happiness from within this frame of reference?” A good meal leaves us stuffed and uncomfortable. Attachment to a spouse leaves us worrying about being left alone. Pursuit of good health leads us only to the inevitability of dying. We’re chasing shadows, but we see them as real, as holding the keys to our happiness.

To take responsibility for facing our living condition, we must look at who we are and how we see the world. Everyday, we wake up in the morning and are hit by the biggest intuitive lie known to human consciousness. That lie goes like this: “It’s me, it’s me, I’m it, I’m the center of the universe. I come first. I hold it all together.” The bottom line is “me.” It is not just that we are selfish; it is deeper. We perceive the self as the one sure thing, the only thing, that we can count on. I am sure of my own ideas, my own dictates. I know without question what I want, what I hate, what I fear. I think; therefore I am

I worry about myself all the time-we all do. Am I happy enough? Can I get some more? Can I get ride of that concern? Is this good for me? Is she treating me right? I am self preoccupied, self-obsessed. Sometimes I am selfish in an obvious way; sometimes I am kind and selfless. But in either case there is no possibility of my not being self involved.

Such self-involvement is natural, given that we see ourselves as the most important thing in the universe. Moral condemnation of it is beside the point. But I question its accuracy. While we may wake up “knowing” that we’re the center of the universe, the minute we walk outside we will not encounter one single person that agrees with us. If we could hear everyone’s mind speaking out, we’d hear choruses of “It’s not you, it’s me! I’m the center.” We are thus in a state of constant disagreement, all in the grip of that little dictatior inside telling each person that he or she is the center of the universe.” Robert Thurman


The pure seed in the ride for Peace this summer was the idea that asking people to define peace with me would accomplish two things: 1)take our minds away from its daily preoccupations 2)empower themselves to envision a broad concept like Peace and in its revelation, recognize, that it must start within, but it is fiercely interdependent with the lives of others. And that this displacement from self preoccupation might catapult us into a “we” space-a space where we contemplate the effect of our actions, and thus deliberate more viable solutions than war. Oh, and offer compassion, for we recognize the role of we were playing in our head, that perpetuated suffering, and what that must feel like to others.


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