An extract from Ancient Teachings for Modern Times; the way to a rich and deeply satisfying life, by Peta Morton
“To have, give all to all.”
- A Course In Miracles
When the welfare of a community becomes the central focus, rather than that of the individual, then everybody gains. Consider the human body. When 100 trillion atoms or so cooperate in harmony, exchanging their energy freely, then the cell functions perfectly. When 100 trillion cells or thereabouts do the same, then the body experiences wellness. When an individual cell or group of cells stop giving and receiving, keeping everything for themselves at the expense of other cells, then dis-ease sets in. It is a cancer. We have many names for the different expressions of it, but it all boils down to the same thing. As the disease spreads, whole sections of the bodily community – the organs, the skin, the bones, the blood, become affected, losing their ability to function, until ultimately all is lost. Nobody gains. It is futile to fight disease with yet more disease. The only possible solution is to restore harmony and the perfect bodily conditions, caring for each aspect of the body and its environment, providing nourishment and sustenance despite the onslaught of violent attacks. We thrive when we live within a community that shares and we feel appreciated and loved. Our bodies, our planet, are no different.
Love. There is nothing in existence that is more important than love, and the sharing of that love with those who touch our lives. A supportive glance here, an encouraging word there, a hand held, a hug, a cheer. These are the foundations of the sort of communities that can move mountains together, built by people who care deeply and who are prepared to stand in solidarity with others when they are most in need. The generous don’t conceal all they have to offer, afraid that it will be lost or stolen. Instead, they share their gifts and watch them multiply.
Our obsession with the self, in all its many fearful guises - self-seeking, self-serving, self-delusion, self-esteem, self-pity, self-interest, self-absorption, selfishness in general – and our lack of regard for others, lies at the heart of the majority of our difficulties. If we are to evolve as a global community so we must learn to put others at the centre of all that we choose for ourselves. In so doing we will find that we, too, are at the heart of everything.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Choosing for the well-being of others does not mean renouncing our own needs. On the contrary, every act of self-care is radical. We cannot provide water for another if we ourselves do not have water. Nor does it mean sacrificing our uniqueness. There is not a musical work on the planet that can adequately describe the diversity of the human species. Not even if there were a million instruments, each capable of playing a thousand octaves. But just as in a piece of music, there will be times that there is discord, when we disagree and the discomfort of the clash will urge us to move towards something that feels more soothing. There will be other times when the introduction of a new element brings everything back into resolution, to the relief of beautiful harmony. We each contribute our own personal sound to the music of life. No one will see things in quite the same way that we do, each will view life through the filters of their own experiences. The extent to which we are able to express our distinctiveness, in collaboration with others who are also able to fully express theirs, is the extent to which we are truly free. It is the very essence of freedom.
The leaf has a very different form and texture to the branch, but they are both part of the same tree. Without the branch there would be no leaf, and without the leaf there would be no photosynthesis, and thus the tree would not live long. If one part suffers then all suffer. Better, then, for all to flourish. We all bring different gifts that are of benefit to a greater whole, we are all of service in our own way, and each of us is breathed in different rhythms by a life force far greater than any intellect can comprehend.
Our personal well-being is entirely dependent upon the well-being of the communities within which we are actively participating, whether that be a school or a village, a tennis club or a political party, a country, our planet or the cosmos itself. Not one of these communities exists in isolation. Each is nested within another. From the fungus that grows in the forest, to the man who labours hard to collect the rubbish for local government, each is a system within a system and has a role to play. Enable each to view things from their own perspective, to fully express their own unique voice, to unfold in their own manner and to live in peace. Live and let live without imposing. Ensure the respect of healthy boundaries, be allowing whenever it is reasonable to do so, but never forget the interdependence of all things.
The notion of the self-made man is nothing but a fallacy. We are made of the stuff of stars and the kind deeds of others. We breathe air that has filtered through the lungs of trees. We are moulded by words of encouragement and chastisement. We are disciplined and trained like trees in a productive ornamental garden, shaped by the societies within which we live and the opinions of others. Those that thrive will not be the ones who fiercely battle to defend their differences, but those with open minds and open hearts who doggedly seek and develop what is held in common and who establish authentic connection.
In African philosophy the concept of Ubuntu speaks to the sense of belonging and interconnection with others, to the very essence of being human.
“We say a person is a person through other persons. I can’t be human in isolation. I need you to be all you can be so that I can become me and all that I can be.”
- Desmond Mpilo Tutu
The thread of humanity within each of us is inextricably bound together in a vast bundle of life. When we are concerned with the general welfare of that which is greater than the individual then we become generous, warm-hearted and loving. We are compassionate, hospitable and we wisely share what we have. We lose all fear that someone might do better than us, because we understand the value that comes from enabling others to live to their full potential. The terror of failure fades into insignificance. We realise that when someone is oppressed then we all become smaller. We achieve that sense of connection that we all yearn for, a sense of purpose, of being a small part of something infinitely bigger.
“Everyone is God speaking.
Why not be polite and
As we seek to identify, rather than compare, we find that no matter what our differences, our blood is all the same shade of red, and it is stirred by the same vital life force. As we look deeply into the hearts of others and love the world just as we would love ourselves, then we realise that we are not so very different after all. When we look at others, we will only ever see ourselves reflected back and the way of love becomes the only way, the ultimate way.
“There is nothing more lovable than myself in all directions.”
- Udana Varga 5:18 – Buddhist Sacred Text
This is the way of the heart. Know that this is the way.
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