CULTIVATING A HEART
AS WIDE AS THE WORLD
By Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith
Excerpts from “A MANIFESTO OF PEACE”
Dr. Michael Beckwith is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California, one of the world’s largest and most rapidly expanding transdenominational communities. A pioneering organization in the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom philosophy, Agape is the result of Dr. Beckwith’s own explorations into the emergence of consciousness. After just 15 years, Agape facilitates a network of ministries which provide service such as feeding the homeless, serving prisoners, providing hospice and grief support, partnering with community organizations and preserving the planet’s environmental resources.
Dr. Beckwith was recently named President of the Association for Global New Thought (“AGNT”). AGNT sponsors A Season for Nonviolence, 64 days between the anniversaries of the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King — January 30th to April 4th. The Season promotes “ahimsa”, the principles of nonviolence expounded by Gandhi, King and other visionaries. Each year Dr. Beckwith addresses the United Nations on behalf of The Season, providing a vision of global nonviolence and world peace. AGNT also convenes annual Synthesis Dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These Dialogues bring together world leaders in a variety of social, scientific and spiritual areas.
In January Dr. Beckwith was honored with the Gandhi-King Award by Dean Lawrence Carter of Morehouse College, recognizing him for “providing the most powerful spiritual voice for nonviolence in America today.” Thousands gather at the Agape International Spiritual Center each Sunday and Wednesday as Dr. Beckwith shares his compelling messages, matched by the evocative music of the world renowned Agape International Choir. He provides a passionately unique and rational voice in this time of turmoil and conflict.
The following text is excerpted from Dr. Beckwith’s new book, “A Manifesto of Peace,” which is now available through the Agape website, www.agapeonline.org or http://www.agapelive.com/ or through The Quiet Mind Bookstore at Agape International Spiritual Center, 5700 Buckingham Parkway in Culver City, California. (310) 348-1260.
This is a time for each of us to open our hearts in great honesty with ourselves. Perhaps we are convinced that our abhorrence of violence prevents us from practicing it. A closer look will reveal that not only do we practice violence on a daily basis, we often escalate it in our personal inner and outer environments. One may be a mental terrorist, inwardly sending bombs of judgment, anger, animosity or prejudice towards a particular person, race or culture. Outwardly, it may manifest as spiteful words or actions. However and wherever violence expresses, it pollutes our environment with toxic vibrations of harm.
Stopping the cycle of violence begins with our relationship with ourselves. If we have a nuclear war going on in our head, we may expect to have a corresponding battleground in the affairs of our personal life. So ask yourself if you escalate self-violence through negative self-talk, desecrating the divine image in which you were created. Introspect on your thoughts, motives and actions. Excavate the contents of your mind so that any mental or emotional habit patterns that undermine a healthy, mature thinking and response to life may be eradicated. Check in to see — without self-condemnation — where an attitude needs adjusting in order to live more compassionately, to make room in the heart for oneself and others.
I agree with President Bush’s poignant statement that “adversity introduces us to ourselves.” Adversity gives us a clearer picture of who we are individually and collectively. During and immediately after the tragedy hit some individuals moved toward a heroic response, volunteering their services, gifts and resources — sacrificing even their lives. Others moved further into hate and crimes of hate such as throwing rocks at mosques, attacking anyone whom they thought reflected the face of the enemy, wore a turban or had a “suspicious” sounding last name. In the process of being introduced to ourselves, we must be courageous enough not to project our own inner shadows onto other individuals or cultures.
Unless we come clean and take responsibility for our individual and collective biases and prejudices, coming together in heroic gestures of generosity, self-sacrifice or patriotic flag waving will not be strong enough to permanently shift us to a new paradigm of world citizenry. Each of must bravely walk through our own unresolved issues of fear, doubt, worry, insecurity, blame, selfishness, greed, ignorance — all of it! Unless we are willing to do that kind of inner work, the seeming unity we are now witnessing in America will be only temporary.
Tragic occurrences in our country such as the mass murder at Columbine High School, news reports of parents murdering their children, children murdering their parents — reveal violence flowing in our national bloodstream. Violence in our country did not just begin September 11th! Nor can the causes of violence be wrapped in a tidy package of blame on the movie industry, drugs imported into America, rap and heavy music or rave concerts. It is the mind within the individual that creates the popularity and demand for violent movies, music and drugs. As the sage Krishnamurti pointed out, “The inward strife projected outwardly becomes the world chaos. After all, war is the spectacular result of our everyday life.”
The events of September 11th have left us nowhere to hide from the violence in our own society. What are we going to do? How are we going to respond to the Universe’s plea to allow peace to find a foothold in our individual hearts so that collectively we may give birth to the possibilities seeking to be born through us? Is our question going to remain at the level of “What is the meaning of a person’s death?” Or will it become “How can I give my life meaning based upon the deaths of so many; what is the purpose of my life?” These questions emerge so that a more profound meaning may come from the heartbreaking loss of so many lives on September 11th.
Asking the right questions activates the universal spiritual law Jesus was referring to when he said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the doors will be opened.” If we want to have a heart as wide as the world, if we want the vibration of global care to express through us, there are penetrating questions that an emissary of peace places before the tribunal of his/her conscience.
There is a method of questioning that directly opens one’s consciousness to Divine Guidance. Every scripture confirms that God responds. God’s response corresponds to its own nature inherent within us. To receive the broadcast of a bigger answer, we must correspondingly provide a bigger receiving station within our consciousness and give our consent to Divine Guidance.
Here are some questions to gently ask in the mirror of your own consciousness:
What feelings did I meet within myself when I first learned of the tragic events?
Am I experiencing a temptation to become snagged into mob thinking?
Is there a desire to retaliate in a violent way? If so, where is the desire to lash out originating from?
Where am I in the grieving process?
Have forgiveness and compassion seeped into my heart and thoughts?
Do I need to reach out for support, as well as to give it?
Do I expect applause for my contributions, or am I willing to be of service for its own sake?
What kind of world do I want to live in?
What must I release from my own consciousness to create that kind of world? What must I do to create that kind of world?
Some individuals may view the questioning process as an assault on the “mom and apple pie” view of our American way of life. Or, perhaps the suggestion to question the actions of our government may appear to be hinting that our capitalistic way of life is to blame for the events of September 11th. On the contrary! One of our most cherished rights is to question. Throughout our history, questioning has preserved our demographic way of life and contributed towards the development of all that is right and good within America’s dynamic society of freedom.
So these questions are not meant in any way to indicate that the American way of life drew to itself the terrorist attacks, for that would be casting blame on the victims as well as all Americans. It is ignorance that is to blame. This devastation is a crisis, and crisis provides an opportunity to wake up on many levels of existence. We might consider it a “911” call from the Universe to take responsibility for birthing a new way of being on the planet.
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