I recently witnessed a disturbing scene of violence. A little girl about 5 was getting a drink from a fountain in a waiting room where I sat. She looked bright and curious. She told me she was not allowed to speak to strangers. She was examining a blood pressure machine when her mother arrived and yelled “Who said you could touch that?” She then took her into the bathroom and smacked her. She came out crying. I felt like crying too. I tried to look sympathetically at the child, and said, “She is a good girl. Be kind” as the mother angrily left the room. I did not know what to do for the child, the mother, or my own sorrow. So I am writing this essay for us, for all of us. One of the causes of suffering in this world is that humans do not recognize that at their core they are good. They do not know what they are. We do not recognize our children because we do not recognize ourselves.
This is because of the childhood experiencing of events and conditions that appear to be destructive, insensitive, critical and harsh. Such events create a confused and defensive energy field within the body, and lead to a belief in the need to protect, defend, fight and judge others. These events often begin very early, while a child is naturally curious and open, seeking to find a welcoming world, and instead experiences neglect or fear, or a critical attack or a blow from a parent. It continues on in the dynamics with other wounded children who have learned from adults to push, hit and bully one another, and on into the adult world. By a certain age each forms a position and image they hope will allow them to navigate in an unsafe world.
Because we have minds we all live in division, since one function of mind is to differentiate, divide, evaluate, select and explore the nature of opposites. One of our mental divisions is between the sense of being good or bad. This tendency to division has magnified to such an extent that even religion tells children they are born with original sin or have evil in them, making them inherently bad for no obvious reason except birth. Even apparently good people who reject abortion can find it acceptable to hit this same life at age 4 or kill it at age 18 as long as the government asks it. The belief in badness allows entire groups of people to be called enemies even though they are mothers, fathers and innocent children just like our own.
Badness as a concept is so ingrained that politicians refuse to cooperate in finding solutions for difficult problems, some corporate managers feel justified in cheating others, and some parents feel comfortable attacking their own children. For some people violence is entertainment. For others it seems like the obvious condition of the world. When our true nature moves into the play of the world it moves a long way from its home, which is peace and love.
This situation of human suffering, exponentially expanding itself, calls for our deepest alignment with compassion and universal truth, which is rarely owned because of the human tendency to hold that one group of concepts is more true than another. These concepts, based on the unconscious attachment to self-defense and self-enhancement, are framed around the concept of a “me” who ought to be able to have it’s own way in life and can’t because of the behavior of others, who are "bad."
The basic problem is not in the concept or belief about how things should be, it lies in the belief in this “me”. The “me” would not be a problem itself if it had not witnessed such struggle and suffering and so many challenges in life. But it has formed a whole set of patterns of defense that cause it pain and difficulty. It responds often from the confusion of its conditioning, instead of the essence of its true nature. But this is the human experience. It is what is.
Until we begin to question our conditioned identifications and the concepts we grasp in order to feel safe in the world, we cannot know the true goodness of what we are. It is the seeing through of the conditioned “me” that allows the pure essence of consciousness to be felt as a living and positive force in our bodies. This consciousness links us all together and has a potential to express itself with the openness, wonder and goodness inherent in the newborn. It is what loves unconditionally and finds the world a blessing.
The awakening to our true nature can look threatening to some who have spent a lifetime creating ways to be safe in an ”unsafe” world. This is why many people do not begin an inward search for truth until they are in so much pain they can think of no other alternative. But considering our true being to be goodness, love, innocence and openness offers a passage into our true heart. Examining this possibility, and especially cherishing it in our children, can free us to end the perpetuation of violence in our lives.