Yesterday was a pretty depressing day, judging by the posts I was reading on Facebook. Dozens of posts about how to respond to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and who's to blame (I read one article that blames the shooting on Carrie Underwood's music!). Lots of tributes to Sen. Dan Inouye and other people who have recently passed away. Snow on the ground in Oregon. On top of that, the world is supposed to end on FRIDAY!
I had enough negativity for the day, but decided to roll down to the end of the page. At the bottom was a post from my friend Michael Crabbe. It was a picture of the Dalai Lama with these words next to his picture: "Don't let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace." The picture made me pause. I took my hands off the computer and just sat there for about 5 minutes. I thought about all the tragic things I had just read, the pictures I had just seen and videos I had just watched on my daily roll through Facebook.
The Dalai Lama's words made me realize that I have ZERO control over what actually happens in the world. I can't even control the behavior of the people that are closest to me, the people I love or even the people in my own family. The reason these events are so horrific is that we have no control over them, we were all helpless to stop it. So what happens when we don't have control? We circulate petitions for gun "control" and the sale of guns goes off the charts. If you ask most people what "peace of mind" means to them, the common answer you'll get is "when everything is the way I want it to be."
But the "inner peace" the Dalai Lama was talking about has nothing to do with your external circumstances. It has nothing to do with how "right" things are in your world or the problems you've yet to resolve. Inner peace is the belief that in spite of the horrific events that happen everyday, the crushing losses that we experience and the hurt and pain inflicted on us, the world is still a beautiful place, full of joy and gifts that we are so fortunate to receive. When we put so much of the responsibility for our happiness on the behavior of others we set ourselves up for disappointment, frustration and anger because no one person has the power to make us truly happy. Only God and the person in the mirror can give you that answer.
In the last month of my mother's life, she was amazingly peaceful and serene. She let go of all the things she used to be fanatical about (getting the garbage out on the right day, having enough food in the house, making sure the house was clean in case we had visitors, etc.) because they just didn't matter anymore. She simply relished the visits from her children and grandchildren and even found the strength to attend my brother's wedding a few days before she died. She found her "inner peace" by simply appreciating and acknowledging the love, beauty and kindness that surrounded her entire life.
I suppose I could wait until the end of my life to make that realization. But I'm a believer that experiences, information and people arrive in your life at the exact time that you need them so I'm grateful that the Dalai Lama's words (thank you, Michael) appeared precisely when I needed them. So I've decided not to buy a gun or sign a petition.
I'm going to see the love and beauty and kindness in my own life. Today and everyday.