December 07 2017

In the past 48 hours, I have composed three entirely different versions of this message. I wish I had time to give it more thought. The 600-word limit probably saved me from a panic attack, but there are so many things I want to share with you.

I am a publicly-schooled, 33-year-old INFP American male from a small-town/suburb. I have a degree in something practical from a local university and a job that is rarely demanding, allowing ample time for my undisciplined mind to wander. My parents were both from poor families. My father (ethos), mechanical whiz but emotionally immature, was helping to support his divorced mother financially while still in high school by working at McDonald’s. My mother (pathos) lives in fear that she will inherit her mother’s mental illness. They sought simultaneously to escape their families and to save each other. Their relationship is a cycle of eruptions and volcanic winters, and their unhappiness colored my early life. I love my parents and I no longer blame them for unconsciously passing their unhappiness to me. I have an older brother who does not speak to me-- I don’t know why-- and an older sister who makes me feel sane.

I have wrestled with what to share with you – wrestling with questions of quality vs. quantity, the urgency of net neutrality and inequality and global conflict and environmental collapse, and the many resources by which I have been nourished. How have I struggled? What have I learned? What do I have that is most valuable?

I have struggled with depression and fear. My parents gave me a fear of hell, and nothing-- not even their religion-- ever alleviated it. As a teen, I was suicidal. As an adult, I have wasted so many days in bed, not able to persuade myself to get up. Fear of failure has kept me from many opportunities to learn and grow. For a long time, I was isolated and insecure – thinking that I was unlovable.

However, at times in my life, I have also had the privilege of experiencing a profound inner peace. I remember first, a confusing feeling of simultaneous joy and pain. I remember in tense moments accepting the imminent possibility of my own death. I remember being called a “cancer” by a supervisor at an organization I cared deeply for, breaking down in the bathroom, and feeling an abiding inner reassurance during the whole episode.

Many of these moments of peace have resulted from meditation. Meditation has given me hope, insight, joy, space to hold troubling emotions and a tool for working through them, creativity from parts of my unconscious that had become numb, and empowerment to choose my responses and my impact on the world around me.

Now, I see so much commonality among teachings from different religious traditions. For morality, the Golden Rule is simple and universal. In slightly different language, weekly dharma talks echo daily Catholic reflections. I believe so much of our conflict is a matter of us getting stuck on the words, and missing the spirit.

I believe peace is possible. Its enemies are ignorance, fear, apathy, and despair – all arising from the illusion of separation. I believe that if we see the cycle as it is-- if we realize we are not our thoughts-- we can make another choice.

Thank you for listening.

If you would like to share thoughts about peace, examples of love in action, visions of enlightened society, ideas for a better world, fiddle tunes, or just to compare notes on our favorite things, please get in touch.

Stephen Hebert
Louisiana, USA
[email protected]

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