In recent days we have seen again how a few individuals can create localized terror and global fear. Experts say that the kind of terror cells that carried out the attack in Paris are smaller and harder to track than large organizations planning 9/11 type events. Terror cells, large or small, create a tax on the simple joy of living for all on our planet. It is easy to feel helpless about such events--to think that the best we can do is go back to our own lives where at least we have some sense of influence and control.
In a series of famous experiments that began in the 1960s, psychologist Martin Seligman subjected dogs strapped in place to a series of random electric shocks. When the dogs were later unstrapped and free to escape the shocks, many just lay there and continued to take them. They had learned that unpredictable shocks were something they could do nothing about. They had become, in Seligman’s term, “learned helpless.” Seligman used these experiments to develop the learned helplessness model of human depression.
I think the vast majority of people on Earth have become learned helpless in the face of the horrifying activities of terror cells. These cells are a cancer growing in our collective human experience. They create dis-ease in us all, yet we feel we have little choice but to stay busy while we await the next random shock.
I propose that there is something you and I can do about terror cells instead of falling into learned helplessness: we can decide to become compassion cells. Each of us, by practicing what I call “oneness consciousness” daily, can be an important part of humankind’s immune system response to terror cells. When a critical mass of people have become compassion cells, terror cells will find it more and more difficult to thrive in our midst.
What might be involved in becoming a compassion cell? Here are a few thoughts from a book I’m writing titled Compassion Cells: A Daily Practice for Inner and World Peace:
Pause daily to think of the breath of Life flowing through you 20,000 times per day as the same breath flowing through every other human being;
Remember that all wars are civil wars, and all terror is internecine terror;
Decide to practice seeing the sacredness in all human beings daily, starting first with those closest in your inner circle and then expanding the circumference of that circle in the “love your neighbor as yourself” direction;
If you are religious or spiritual, begin imagining God as an energy of love and compassion instead of a being who demands certain beliefs or who favors members of one religion over another. (It may help to spend time with Gandhi’s words: “God has no religion.”)
Withdraw your energy from any group that seems primarily about creating an us versus them energy in the world while at the same time holding itself out as the answer to humanity’s problems; invest your energy in activities and groups that are part of an evolution toward oneness consciousness.
With humility, remember often the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “...the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” By maintaining awareness of the shadow material in ourselves and always working to move it toward love and compassion, we become less likely to perceive darkness as residing only in other individuals or groups.
After the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein wrote that humankind would need “a substantially new manner of thinking” if we were to survive. He advocated for a world government that he felt could bring an end to nationalism. I believe he underestimated the tension between good and evil that exists in every human heart. A top-down solution will never bring us world peace. But when enough people become compassion cells by practicing oneness consciousness and raise their children in an “all one family” perception of the human race, we will be making real progress toward that ancient and universal human dream: a world at peace.