Looking back and reflecting on moments in our lives can be deeply revealing. Seeing an event in retrospect offers us a unique vantage point not always available when we are caught up in the drama of the moment. Whether it is something we have said, something we have been told, someone we have judged, or some struggle we are facing, when we give ourselves the time and space to reflect on who we were being at the time we can dive into our own wisdom and emerge a little wiser and a little less reactive.
I had the great privilege and pleasure of attending the 2013 World Music Festival in Adelaide last week, WOMAD.
Over 100, 000 people from cities and villages from all over the world came together to stroll through the botanic gardens where old lamp shades had been strung up on beautiful trees. They came to listen to the sound of old and new instruments played by some of the world’s best musicians and to taste food created by those very musicians as they shared their countries unique flavours. They came to dance and move and sweat in the blistering sun and share shady corners under the wide and outstretched branches of ancient trees. They came to meet other people from countries they probably would never visit, like Senegal, Mali, and Tajikistan and hear instruments they have possible never heard, like the Creten Lyre played by seventy year old Psarantosis from Greece.
Over those four days I felt I had truly experience a taste of peace on earth. More than 100,000 people shared, ate, danced, talked, smiled and laughed together and not once did I experience an upset, an argument an angry voice. Even when the technical system broke down in the middle of one performance no one worried about the heat, or the delay. There was as far as I could see a genuine sense of acceptance. What Is is simply what is.
What I loved was the way we, ( yes me too) danced, skipped and sang whenever we felt like it without a modicum of self-consciousness. Hundreds of children joined their parents and I was so touched by the universal care and attention to each other’s children. As Khalil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow…”
We are all a reflection of each other. What I see in my partner I can only see because it is in me. What we judge in another we judge only because we have not come to a place of non-judgment with ourselves. What we criticise in our neighbour exists within ourselves perhaps unnoticed and definitely un-addressed.
In those four days, I saw the greatest potential for our planet realised albeit very, very briefly. We can live in harmony and we have the power to accept each other differences.
Recently I mentioned this to a friend and she said you can only live in peace when you have loving neighbours. I don’t agree. The only way we can live in peace and harmony is when we find ways to communicate with our neighbours from a place of loving kindness rather than defend ourselves from them. Byron Katie says, ‘Defence is the first act of war.’
As I look into the eyes my partner of 33 years, I see myself reflected back to me. It is like that with those you love, those you like and those you can’t bear to be around. If you let yourself look into another’s eyes, I promise you, you will be there, looking right back at you.