There’s a video circulating on Facebook at the moment in which Waleed Aly from #TheProjectTV invites us to react with forgiveness instead of outrage to the atrocities we have witnessed recently in the world. The video is good, and broadens our minds as to the power we have to react differently to violence and crime. Yet it also speaks to an innocent but pervasive misunderstanding about the way in which we, as humans, universally experience life.
What if we could begin to see that the experience of fear in itself is not a given, no matter the circumstances? What if we could see that fear, outrage, horror, although entirely understandable and natural (and I feel them too), are in fact internally-generated states of mind; different flavours of thought ebbing and flowing naturally of their own accord, and operating independently to the circumstances of our lives?
When we think about being afraid, we experience fear. When we think about being angry, we feel anger. But we also have the equal capacity for fresh thought and new feelings, in the midst of the exact same circumstances, and just one simple thought away.
This is how the mind works – we have one thought and then we have another, and then another. We live in a world of thought, and we experience that thinking through our senses. Our feelings feel like they reflect reality, but they are still an experience of thought, operating independently to what is going on in the outside world.
Fear itself is not a given, no matter what. And if fear is nothing but a transient experience of thought, then we are left with nothing to react to. We allow the winds of our mind to blow one way or another, we go about our lives, and we begin to see past our fears to what is actually real. We – as leaders, as governments, as communities and as individuals – are then in the responsible position of being able to consider our reactions and actions from a place of clarity, not emotion.
I hope for a day when we can all see this as fact – and truly understand that nothing can make us afraid but our own thinking in the moment. This does not condone the atrocities that we are witnessing right now in the world, but it does offer up a whole new perspective on resilience, and allows us to take action where action is genuinely needed, and to not react when reacting would in fact make things worse.