We're Grasping Too Tightly

Photo by  Sunyu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

Everywhere you turn, people are holding on too tight. Grasping at things that don’t serve them for no good reason other than fear, pride and ego. Much of this is because they’ve been hoodwinked into believing it matters. Of course, to a certain extent it does because the implications negatively affect the lives of billions of people. 

But if, one by one, we realised that the things we’re so tightly attached to are often meaningless and even detrimental to our wellbeing and progress, there would be a real opportunity for peace and happiness. Both on a personal level first, and a global level later.

Take, for example, the issue of immigration. We are in the middle of a global refugee crisis as people flee war, poverty, disease and famine. Politicians to the right of centre would wish us to believe that these people are invaders. There are an enemy at the gates, and they threaten everything that is good and holy. We are led to believe that these people are very different to us, and that we must build walls to defend our borders from them.

We are holding on tightly to the idea that what is inside the walls – on our side – is good, and what’s on the outside is bad. Anything that is different to us and what we know is there to ruin us and our way of life. But if we were to let go of our notions of fear and pride and national identity (ego) for just one moment, we would see that those people on the other side of the wall are people like us, people who would not be seeking help and a new home if the place they had just come from could give them the life they deserved. The life that we all deserve.

If we were to let go of the political and media rhetoric designed to stoke the flames of fear and prejudice, we would offer support rather than hostility. We would seek solutions to the problems, rather than aggressively attack the symptoms.

 Because the problems themselves are caused by people holding on too tight. War is caused by two or more parties who are more attached to their selfish notions of pride and ego than they are to the idea of peace. People go to war to prove a point, not to make the world a better place.

 On a personal level we all hold on to things far too tightly. We know this because there are times when we find ourselves angry, sad, or in situations that don’t serve us, or indeed which cause us harm. All this pain could be released if we could just stop holding on so tightly.

I once worked for a charity as a telephone fundraiser, and I spoke to a man who was devoutly Christian. He angrily announced that he wouldn’t be making a donation because a recent edition of our organisation’s magazine had featured an advertisement for yoga retreats. What, he asked, was yoga – if not the occult.

I was lost for words. Here was a man who was so dogmatically attached to his faith, that not only was he unable to think for himself and explore things he didn’t know about, but his world was so narrow, so filled with negativity that he was harming himself. We see the same with political dogma too – politicians and supporters so unquestionably attached to their parties that they are no longer interested in what is right for the people, only what is the right way to win the argument and maintain a sense of pride.

Even if they’re wrong.

Debate falls down at this point. When we are so unquestionably attached to something that we can’t be argued with then the conversation is over.

We see the same thing on a global level between countries too. So much effort goes into what works and what is best for the individual nation that it doesn’t matter the cost to other nations. This is why African nations are kept poor while richer nations pillage their natural resources, rather than empowering them to become equal global trading partners. This is why some countries become so poor they break down into poverty and civil war, and their people flee to rich the rich nations who have benefited from the weakness of their home countries. 

Our own jingoism comes back to bite us when those we have hurt in the pursuit of our own goals come to us for help.

All our bigotry, our prejudices, or national borders, our political rhetoric, our refusal to budge on ridiculous issues and the satisfaction of our own selfish needs may feel like victory, but not only does it cause harm to others, but it chokes us too. When we refuse to let go, we hurt ourselves as much as we hurt others.

Maybe it’s an ironic, paradoxical notion, but when we let go of all of these things life becomes better. Not just for us, but for everyone else. By releasing all the things that we are so attached to there is a real chance that we will find peace and prosperity. Neither of these things are zero sum. Our happiness does not rely on the unhappiness of others.

When we stop fearing people who are different, we start being interested in people because they are different. When we stop being so dogmatically aligned with one team or other, our world gets bigger, we learn that yoga is actually great exercise and good for us mentally and spiritually, and our world becomes more colourful, more full of texture, more open, more exciting. By allowing someone else to go first, coming second is actually the winning position. Or third, or forth. Because, who’s counting?

When we stop closing the door in the faces of others we find a world of people to talk to, who can help us, who we can help, who can enrich our lives, make us more prosperous, more informed, more open minded. 

Happier. More content.

When we let go of fear and ego we are left with love and opportunity. We are left with the intention of making the world better for everyone, and when that happens it becomes better for us too. When we let go of all the anger, all the greed, all the pride and all the ego, we all benefit exponentially.

There can be peace as soon as we learn to let go. Both in ourselves and around the world. It may take a hundred years, or it may take a thousand. But when it comes border walls will turn to dust and the world will know happiness.

And we don’t need to wait a thousand years to know it in ourselves.