Understanding.

I miss writing. I miss having time, unused space in my day, where I could just let thoughts flow. Now when I do get space there are too many things competing for it that I have to choose one of the many things I could be doing and make the most of that. Most nights binge-watching YouTube or Netflix, or video games win out but tonight I miss writing in particular.

Recently I read Living Buddha, Living Christ and it changed my perspective. I think everyone should read it because Thich Nhat Hahn, in a very simple way, clearly shows the beauty and necessity of understanding other people. The importance of looking at people who think and believe differently than ourselves and really listening to them; seeing things through their eyes. Not doing this is, he claims, the cause of our suffering.

I wish I still had the book so I could pull some quotes but he references Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” When you really listen to someone and seek to sincerely understand them, you see the world from their perspective. You see them as they truly are–as they see themselves. Then there is no difference between you and them–there is no “you” and no “them”. We are the same. This is a fundamental Buddhist claim. But it is also a Christian claim, and a universal claim. 

We are all “star stuff”. Every element in your body was once part of some other being on Earth–some plant or some animal, maybe the dirt. At some point all of that was part of a star and at some point before that all of our “stuff” was crammed into a single point. From a cosmic perspective we’re all the same, we were all “stuff” from somewhere else in the universe that got recycled over and over again until it came together to form “you” and “me”. Jon J Muth, one of our families favourite authors says, “[we] are alive and connected to everything right now.”

It is this realization that creates peace within ourselves and saves us from our conflicts. There is no conflict between you and me, or us and them, if we are attentive and seek to understand, because then there is no “you” “me” “us” or “them”. As a peace activist, this is the only way that Thich Nhat Hahn believes we can achieve peace. When you sit and realize that you are connected to everything in this moment you can feel a calm, refreshing easiness. You can quiet your mind and silence the distractions and obstacles that get in your way.

Seeing things from this perspective–someone else’s perspective–has been incredibly impactful for me and I want to encourage others to try to do the same. Don’t remain stuck in the mindset that you’ve had your whole life, thinking about and seeing the world from one angle. Look around and be mindful of the viewpoints of other people with different beliefs. When you do you start to see that the world has a much wider landscape than we sometimes are lead to believe. You don’t have to change your belief, or get rid of belief all together, but you don’t need to change anyone else’s either; you can just talk and understand and go on believing different things.

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