Power, genocide, and inner peace: the real secret to changing the world

by Jack on February 2011

The world is perfect as it is, including my desire to change it. (Ram Dass)

People often think that being at peace with what is, now, is incompatible with wanting to change the world or change oneself (which are really the same thing).

“Jack”, they say, “if I were completely at peace and didn’t have any anger or disagreement with reality, then I wouldn’t be motivated to work for justice, or heal the sick, or improve the world. Therefore, these kind of negative emotions are necessary in order to motivate people to take action.”

But can we really know that this is true? How can a tortured mind that has always known anger, conflict, and opposition know what lies on the other side of peace? How can one who is asleep and dreaming know what it is like to awaken from the dream?

Have you ever experienced a dream that was so realistic that you were certain that it was real? Suppose a part your mind prevented you from waking from the dream? How would you be able to distinguish between the dream and reality? Read on.

Anger, judgment, fear, and other negative emotions only emerge as a response to angry thoughts, judgmental thoughts, and fearful thoughts. Thought creates your world. Believing your thoughts, taking them seriously, and treating them as real is a path to suffering and misery. Thought has the power to create a prison of illusion and lies, and to distract the believer from reality.

Infinite forgiveness

We live in the best of all possible worlds. Why is that? Because that’s the world that we live in.

You can forgive reality to save your own mind and soul. You don’t have a choice about reality, so you might as well choose it. And forgive it. We don’t forgive other people (or the world) for their sake. We do it for our own sake. As Nietzsche wrote:

As composer, riddle-reader, and redeemer of chance, did I teach them to create the future, and all that HATH BEEN – to redeem by creating the past of man to redeem, and every “It was” to transform, until the Will saith: “But so did I will it! So shall I will it.” – This did I call redemption; this alone taught I them to call redemption.

By your choice of forgiveness and choice of this reality, you redeem all your false stories of the past, and make the exact circumstances of present moment the desired outcome of your own will. You start to walk on the path of truly loving reality as it is, as you have now willed and chosen it to be.

When you live the reality of the present moment as a reality that you have chosen, and live into a future that you will into being, you create a space of possibility, free from judgment, free from anger, and free from conflict. The act of forgiveness creates a space for inner peace and happiness to grow naturally.

In the end, all forgiveness is really self-forgiveness. When you forgive something external, you are actually forgiving yourself for telling a false story in which you condemned and judged some part of the world, and thereby created disharmony and conflict within your own mind

Reality is

As well as forgiving it, you might as well love reality too. Why? Because it never fails to win every argument and every war. If you fight reality in your mind, then you’re going to lose. Every time. And you sure can’t fight reality in the real world. What is is. And what isn’t isn’t.

Every “should” that you say is a defilement of your own purity and equanimity of mind. It’s an argument with reality. It’s the stories that you tell yourself in your thoughts and in your spoken words that creates your suffering. The more “shoulds”, the more stories, the more suffering. It’s a law of nature. Or psychology. (Same thing, since your experience of nature is created by your thoughts.)

Arguing with the way things are is like betting against the house. Suppose you’re at a big Vegas casino. See all those cameras on the ceiling, the three billion dollar building around you, the thousands of employees. Suburban housewives from Omaha, Nebraska using a “lucky number system” that they found in their fortune cookies aren’t going to clean up betting against the house. Same deal when you argue against reality.

Still want to place that bet?

But what about war, genocide, personal tragedy, rape, murder, cancer, rare genetic diseases, child abuse, drug addiction, and all other things in the world that we experience and judge to be terrible? Are we expected to love them as part of reality?

These “bad things” are real. And we multiply suffering a thousand times, a million times, infinitely many times, when we argue against their realness and claim that they “should not” exist. We take the pain that already existed, and we amplify it in our own minds and suffer over it and through it, repeatedly. It’s as though we place these things that we have judged to be bad into a hall of mirrors, to make their impact amplified endlessly by the suffering that is caused within our thoughts and the thoughts of others.

Practicing this discipline is easy during periods of smooth sailing. It’s proportionally harder the more pain or adversity we encounter. And loving those parts of “all that is” that involve tremendous personal discomfort and upheaval, or large-scale “very bad things” like war or genocide, is going to be the hardest of all, for most people. Perhaps you may even think me to be evil for explaining that the path to happiness is to love such things. (“What are you, some kind of heartless monster?”)

“Evil” or not, it’s a fact that loving and embracing “all that exists”, unconditionally and without reservation or hesitation, is the most direct way to enduring happiness. When you’re in love with all that exists, anything and everything that ever happens is just another target for your unlimited love. Don’t shoot the messenger, just express your love.

I’m not saying to condone or support those things that you have judged to be unkind, or unjust, or against the wellness of living beings. On the contrary, strive to help out. Go work for human rights in Africa, donate money and time to worthy causes, and help people in your own cities and towns who are living with poverty, oppression, and disease. But do it from a standpoint of surrender, forgiveness, love, and gratitude, rather than one of conflict, anger, and opposition.

And when you are in love with all that is, every blade of grass waving in the wind, every tiny vibration of a single atom, every photon of light connecting one electron to another, each of these vibrations represents a prayer of infinite gratitude that you experience in your dance with the universe. How could it be otherwise?

Live your life with kindness and give your gift to the world

Enlightenment means being in love with reality, including your own intentions to be kind and to change things for the better. Obviously, as a human being you are going to have ideas about how to change things – yourself, your immediate surroundings, and the world as a whole. It’s not right or wrong to want to do this – it’s just inevitable. It’s human. But how is a desire to transform the world compatible with the promise of infinite inner peace when you have already fallen in love with reality now, just as it is?

Simple. When a person feels an inexhaustible source of well-being and inner peace inside, he feels a power to give away, to express his generosity, and to share his gift with the universe. Nietzsche described this sensation correctly:

In the foreground there is the feeling of plenitude, of power, which seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of a wealth which would fain give and bestow: – the noble man also helps the unfortunate, but not – or scarcely – out of pity, but rather from an impulse generated by the super-abundance of power.

The enlightened mind is a powerful mind. It disbelieves its thoughts, and is therefore unaffected by negative emotions. Because of this, it operates out of a fundamentally deep and infinite loving-kindness. Such a mind is far more able to drive change and transformation in the world, than a mind affected by the churn of the emotions that emerge from believing thoughts and treating them as real.

It’s like the difference between a meaningless flash of light and puff of smoke, and a bullet speeding toward its target. When you empty out a cartridge on the ground and ignite the gunpowder, the explosion does nothing. A gun focuses the exact same explosion in one direction, for a focused purpose and intention.

In much the same way, the enlightened mind focuses a person’s effort and will in one direction. Anger and other dissipative emotions represent useless churning – they are the symptoms of a mind divided against itself, opposed to itself. The clear, balanced, thought-free mind can do what is necessary to execute on the intention of the will – to give its greatest gift to the world, to play for real stakes in great and significant games, and to transform and heal the world on many different levels, in ways that are best for one and all.

To claim that these adverse emotions are necessary, therefore, is tantamount to embracing powerlessness as a virtue, and playing the game of life at a much lower level than necessary. We awakened human beings are capable of far, far more than this.

Thoughts flow in every mind, whether awakened or asleep, in an uninterrupted and uncontrolled stream. While it’s possible to tame the stream through methods like meditation, it’s impossible to control the stream completely. And while intentional “positive thinking” is fine – after all, it’s usually more pleasurable to think positive thoughts than negative ones – it’s not something to depend on. It’s like making your happiness conditional on things going your way – it means that you’re consciously placing the control panel for your own happiness outside yourself. Let me know how that strategy works for you.

Angry thoughts are inevitable. Stressful thoughts are inevitable. Sad thoughts are inevitable. You don’t control what’s in the stream.

The key to bypassing these unresourceful ways of being is letting go of all thoughts – both “positive” and “negative” ones. Hold on to nothing, not even thoughts of happiness or inner peace. Let them all go. None of them are real, anyway – they are just thoughts. Sanity, happiness, and peace are the only things that remain when every last one of your thoughts is released, disbelieved, and ultimately forgotten. That is the true ground state of your being and of your very humanity.

You don’t have to like what I’ve written. You don’t even have to believe what I’ve written. Just try it out and see what happens.

Try the experiment – let go all thoughts, and love reality without condition or hesitation. You may already be experiencing the truth of these words as you start to release your hold on your stories and experience the flow of being, the space where judgment and conflict are now replaced by infinite love, forgiveness, and gratitude.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Srinivas Rao February 21, 2011 at 21:06

Jack,

This is one of the more profound things I’ve come across in quite some time. Wondering if by any chance you ended up taking the Advanced Course for the Landmark Forum. You brought up some incredibly powerful and thought provoking ideas, and ways to view the world that if somebody did n a regular basis could fundamentally change the way they experience reality in a positive way. I’d say, that’s a a pretty damn good way to see the world :).

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Jack February 22, 2011 at 12:36

@Srini
Thanks for your feedback! I had a bit of trepidation posting this one since a superficial reading could elicit a pretty negative reaction – “you’re saying people should love terrible things”.

I haven’t taken the Advanced Course. I am still at the very start of the LF in Action seminar series and I’m seeing how this goes before signing up for the AC. I can see how this could look like some Advanced Course distinctions and perspectives, however,

I feel like my LF experience was generally very positive, but I am also a bit trepidatious about the repetitive embedded sales pitches (“enroll your family… your friends… your dog… your cat!”).

I also dislike the aggressive blurring of “doing something unreasonable to empower yourself” and “talk to three friends about the forum”. It’s not a one size fits all thing. For example, maybe pitching the forum to a few friends lies well within a given person’s comfort zone, while pushing back on some demands from their boss or their spouse would be really uncomfortable for them.

But overall, I think there’s still definitely something to be gained from Landmark, so I am continuing to participate in the LFIA seminars.

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Doesn't matter November 23, 2011 at 11:56

I am wondering if you really are an ‘awakened human being’, even though I don’t really have a proper definition of it, or you are just a guy who it happens to be smarter than himself, his ego, the little voice in the back of his head or call it as you wish? Oh no, the other way… you are smart but the voice is even smarter. Anyway, something like this. Please forgive the confusion.
I myself unfortunately am the second one. Most probably that’s why neither landmark, positive thinking nor anything else seems to help me totally.

Reading your article, which I actually found quite good, a few things caught my eyes. And I would like to reflect on it… maybe you think about it and it will help you in your ‘process’. I thought a lot about it, if I should actually comment at all or just keep it for myself. If this is just my ego trying to ‘be smarter’ then you? But I don’t think that it’s the case now. 🙂

Anyway, second part of the post! Why do you say that it is impossible to control the stream of thoughts? IS it a thing that you know that you don’t know or it is something that you don’t know that you don’t know? I am curious which would it be. Cos on the one hand, you know that you don’t know how to speak Japanese. But on the other hand you say that the Japanese language doesn’t exist so if it would exist you wouldn’t know that you just simply don’t know. LOL complicated.
Just like in your ideology “How can one who is asleep and dreaming know what it is like to awaken from the dream?” Personally I belive that if you can think about something, than it exists, it’s possible. One might not know how it is possible to do something but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. The very proof of it that you have the idea of it.
And the very thing that you disregarded, Positive thinking, it might be the key for it.
Because this is what you actually do. When a negative thought pops in your head. You replace it with something positive. And instead of being angry, upset about something for an hour, you stop it in the very second it appears and replace it with a positive one, therefore you are in control of your thoughts. And as you practice it goes easier and easier. Can you achieve a total control of it? I have no idea. But I wouldn’t exclude it just because I don’t know how to achieve total control.

And I don’t think that positive thinking is like “making your happiness conditional on things going your way” .Actually it’s the contrary. If you are a positive thinker and something doesn’t happen your way, the last thing you will do is become sad or angry…. therefore it cannot affect your happiness at all.

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Jack November 25, 2011 at 10:05

Hi “Doesn’t Matter”,

I appreciate your comment. Much to consider there!

I think we’re all awakened – all of us have Buddha-nature or Christ-consciousness or whatever the equivalent guru of our faith teaches us. In a lot of cases though, there’s a lot of noise that occludes this awakened state of inner wisdom.

In the words of George Pransky:

Our wisdom is always playing like a soft flute in the background; the rest of our thinking is like a brass band. When the brass band is playing we can’t hear the soft flute. As soon as the band in our mind stops, even for a second, the flute of wisdom can be heard, because it never stopped playing in the first place.

When I declared it’s impossible to control the stream of thoughts, I was referring to involuntary thoughts. Actually, I don’t know if I had considered the distinction until now, but it’s an important consideration. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. The idea being, we have some thoughts that we consciously decide upon, and have by choice, and we have other thoughts that just “occur to us”, emerging from somewhere down in the unconscious mind.

I do believe that it’s possible to influence and change the overall tone and content of our thoughts over time. The part that I think is impossible is to control is the details of the stream on a thought-by-thought level.

I don’t mean to criticize positive thinking as a big picture practice. I think it’s a useful mind training exercise to learn to reframe negative or pessimistic thoughts – right there in the moment. And I think this process can also make negative thoughts less common over time. I also believe that a person can shape the average content of their thoughts by action at a higher level of abstraction – for example, by consciously meditating on qualities like love, gratitude, and inner peace, and working on letting go of negative emotions like anger, resentment, or envy.

These practices don’t mean that an involuntary negative thought will never occur. But the good news is that such a thought is a lot less likely to multiply or cascade and trigger a negative mood.

I may have mischaracterized “positive thinking” also. My picture of what I meant with that phrase was something like repeating happy mantras or affirmations (e.g. “every day in every way I am getting better and better”), forcefully pushing away negative thoughts, and thinking constantly of some hypothetical better future (the conditional happiness part). Certainly, having positive thoughts in any given moment is better than the alternative.

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Victor Gagnon February 1, 2013 at 14:37

Jack, do you think you are falling into the money trap with Landmark. You know the recruiting business! Its one we all fall into and so we become blind about the profound teaching it has but in order to see it you must first let it go. Contemplate why it tugs at you, if it does.
I absolutely love your sight and the way you think and I am very grateful for it.
I would like to offer a comment and please do not take this as wrong.
Remember knowledge is simply a philosophy until you have had the experience then you can call it your truth and quite often we are not able to explain it. Kind of a paradox.
Life is a blast and it only just gets better and that is my truth. You are young and just keep moving forward as there are some amazing things in your future.

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Victor Gagnon February 1, 2013 at 14:26

Well in my experience you can change by continually catching your thoughts and changing them. It is a work in progress. Just keep doing it. Its a bit like starting a sport, say like running. At first its tough and before you know it, it becomes easier and easier but one must never give up if that is what we want. Once you get it you cannot turn back. If you go to science you will find out that most of our thoughts are connected to emotions and our emotions are engrained within each of us. Our emotions are chemically based so you might say we are addicted to our emotions until we learn to change them.
What I got when I took the Curriculum for Living with Landmark years ago was “POSSIBILITIES”. So my life is possibilities and it becomes a way of thinking that no one can take from me. Every day I challenge myself to learn about myself. I seek knowledge wherever I can find it and what will speak to me. You see its my journey in life and there is nothing I can tell anyone that will change their journey. Reading these articles on this web site always makes me reflect as to where I am in life.
“Doesn”t Matter” You are amazing and I honour your life. We need more thinkers of your caliber in this world.
“Conquer Mind conquer Self”
Love yourself into life

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Colette January 12, 2012 at 16:22

I just really Googled and found your web-site along with lots of others their are so many self help books and audio and ect but amaizlingly everyone of these self help/self improvment all basicailly say the exact same thing !!!! I heard and about the book called the Secreat by Rhonda Bowls just weeks ago never heard of her before then, & actually bought a audio book and listened but alot or some things don’t make sence or don’t understand!!! So what makes you differant in how you not only learn from others but also teach where one area lacks you can carry over into anyone’s life?

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