A Split Second to Peace

match strikeIt happens in an instant–love and acceptance snap to anger and unrest. I’ve seen/felt it a hundred times each day on battlefields, street corners, at dinner tables, but, most importantly, in my own mind. This is where peace starts and ends, and we have the power to choose.

I was walking with my kids on a sunny day, smiling at the world and every passerby. Suddenly, a car flies by at twice the speed limit for a school zone. My shoulders tense, my eyes squinch, and my mind runs through a series of tortures to inflict on that selfish SOB who put my kids in danger.

Just now, I got a notification of a comment that had nothing to do with the conversation on the post. After reading the comment twice, I realized it was spam. “F#*ker,” I whispered as I deleted the user. See how easy it is to lose peace of/in mind. (Is it just everyday gurus or has everyone been getting more spam that “replies” to a comment already posted?)

Sometimes a word will set us off–Obama, Newtown, Nanking, Holocaust, Homosexual. Depending on your history, politics, ethnicity, or religious background these words can start a fire in your mind that will prevent you from loving unconditionally.

“If the earth were your body, you would be able to feel the many areas where it is suffering.”–Thich Nhat Hanh

taxi jamI’ve found that the body will tell us when the first shots of anger are fired. Pay close attention to your shoulders and hands. Are you gripping the steering wheel tighter when someone refuses to make a right turn at a stop light?

Breath can be a great fire detector. Are you breathing deeply or is your jaw clenched as you exhale steam? Everyone has a different physiological reaction. What is yours?

Once you recognize the fire, start by relaxing the physical indicator first. Massage your shoulders, hands, or jaw. Close your eyes and breathe deeply–keep eyes open if you are driving.

Once you are physically relaxed then focus on the mind. Step into the shoes of the person you are “at war” with. I often recite “we are all one” or “we are all just trying to be happy.”

“If we want to understand a person, we have to feel his feelings, suffer his suffering, and enjoy his joy.”–Thich Nhat Hanh

It may not be politically correct, but I note the person’s race, gender, and/or ethnicity and think of similar people that I love. If they are Asian, I think of Thich Nhat Hanh or Aung San Suu Kyi. If they are an Indian woman, I think of Amma. I use these two examples because where I live a number of bad drivers SEEM to fit these profiles. (How’s that for politically incorrect?) Just trying to keep it real.

Which reminds me, you can’t put out the fires of anger and unrest if you are not honest with yourself. You may think you are not racist, but if your daughter starts dating a person from a different race, how will you feel? Awareness of our prejudices leads to understanding and hopefully love.

When I was a surfer, all of my friends and I hated Brazilians. They were loud, aggressive, and clannish–kind of like Americans. (Funny how the things in ourselves that we see in others irritates us the most). So when I planned a trip around the world, I included a stop in Rio De Janeiro. I didn’t want to hate an entire country. After a month in Brazil I realized two things: 1) Brazil is made up of a diverse group of people from different races, classes, and cultures and 2) I love Brazileiros.  I was basing my view of an entire country on a few traveling surfers from one particular segment of their society.  tenho saudade de brazil.

tenho saudade de brazilPhoto credit: wili_hybrid / Foter.com


Photo credit: wili_hybrid / Foter.com

Body check, did any of the previous statements cause your shoulders to tighten? Did you think “F#*k you, Kozo, you’re the racist”?  We are all part of the problem and the solution. We are all one, but we need to honestly clear away the thoughts that prevent us from manifesting this reality.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.

Am I the only dreamer of a color-blind society who still struggles with impure thoughts about others? Please share.

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66 comments on “A Split Second to Peace

  1. Self-honesty is a bitter pill, but it does the job. Thanks for this up-close demo. This prayer-song expresses our yearning:”Where have all the flowers gone?
    Young girls have picked them everyone.
    Oh, when will they ever learn?”
    Thanks for this very touching post for Peace!
    with Love,
    Tomas

  2. Another great one Kozo, I think we all have things that make us mad, almost uncontrollably and if I was held accountable today for the uninformed opinions I had about other groups when I was younger I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone. Separating us from them is the first step in discrimination, as you said “we are all one” or “we are all just trying to be happy.” and that my friend is the truth of it all. Have a great day!

    • Kozo says:

      Thanks, Jonathan. When I was younger, I felt justified in my prejudiced views. Now I am aware of them. Hopefully, some time in the future, I will just love unconditionally. When I read your blog and your comments, I always think “we, bloggers, are all one.” haha.

  3. What an honest and touching post. I found myself thinking along simular lines just yesterday when I witnessed an act of violence in the street near my kids school…. A young teen who was white or asian was crossing the street and 3 African-American teens ran at him and started punching him and then, just as abruptly as they came, they ran off laughing. The young man was not hurt, just shaken up. (thank goodness)
    My first reaction was to lock the car door next to my 15 year old daughter to protect her, as they were right next to her. Then before I could react, the attackers had ran off.I feel ashamed that I couldn’t act fast enough, although it would have been stupid to confront them, as I am a smallish middle-aged woman but still; my fear and anger rose up in me and I found myself thinking about race–and how unfair it all was–just for a moment.
    It had nothing to do with race, I know….but…honestly that’s how I felt.
    Your post reminded me of that. Your courage to be so honest prompted me to do the same. Thanks. You are a good person. 🙂

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you for this honest comment, Strawberryindigo. This is exactly the type of awareness that I am talking about. Can we have compassion for the kid that got hit AND the perpetrators regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, political party, etc.? I really think that we need to take these steps to create a lasting peace. I appreciate your empathy and courage to share this story. Let’s keep working, hand in hand, towards more awareness, love, and compassion. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  4. Taochild says:

    Love this! The first step to growth is to recognize the need for it within ourselves. If we cannot recognize our own issues, what right do we have to judge others?

    • Kozo says:

      Exactly, Taochild. I tend to judge before I confront my own glass house. I find that when and where judge the most is exactly where I need to be more aware of my own shortcomings. For me, judgement can be an indicator of the need for self-introspection. Thank you for your wise comment and generous reblog.

  5. Taochild says:

    Reblogged this on Welcome to a New World and commented:
    Ideas such as these are what will make a difference in the world. First we need to make the necessary changes in our self, whether it is perception or simply undesirable behavior, before we can change the world.

  6. grandmalin says:

    Your honesty is a beautiful thing. I often think after I’ve posted some wise and preachy blather that the people reading it will assume I’ve got everything all figured out. HA! I’m really just talking to myself. I struggle with fear and anger every day. All any of us can do is try to be less of the problem and more of the solution, stumbling along and getting it right more than we get it wrong. “We are all one” is a good mantra.

    • Kozo says:

      You never post blather, Grandmalin. haha. I think this awareness of our fallibility will eventually lead us to a higher consciousness necessary for peace. I recently heard a talk about a Bodhisattva whose grand realization boiled down to “I am imperfect.” Once we recognize this, then we can forgive ourselves when we stumble and forgive others when they stumble–“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Isn’t it amazing how the path is so clearly before us,yet we resist walking it. I’m ready to stumble trip with you, Grandmalin.

  7. I’ve been hesitant to join B4Peace and then I read this. See, aside from not being sure I can keep up with all the posts (slow reader I am), I struggle to be at peace. I guess (some) people see me as peaceful. I think they misinterpret being quiet for being at peace. Sometimes I’m resting like Buddha. Other times, I’m wrestling with angels. Either way, I’m glad you were honest about your human struggles.

    • Kozo says:

      Trust me, GM, you don’t have to be at peace to join B4Peace. You also don’t have to read everything. I am struggling to keep up as we speak. Just do whatever you can. Every thought counts. 🙂
      I love your “resting with Buddha/wrestling with angels” dialectic. I feel the same way as you can tell from this post.
      Thank you for your honest and thoughtful comments.

      • Well, that makes me feel much better. I want to thank you for being such a cool person and being so approachable. That’s why you get all these glorious (wink, wink) comments on your site.

  8. jmgoyder says:

    Love the honesty here!

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you so much, Julie. I was hesitant to post this since I wasn’t sure how people would take it, but I realized that if I cannot be honest about my own fallacies, then how can I truthfully write about peace. Your support gives me courage to forge on. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  9. diannegray says:

    You are beautifully honest, Kozo and this is why people love you. It’s so easy to judge an entire country on the acts of some when we’re young. As we grow older we realise that not everyone in the same country is exactly the same. I struggle with my mother over this. She still thinks of the war when she is around Japanese people and it can get quite embarrassing. One of mine (and my siblings’) favourite sayings when we go to a family gatherings is ‘don’t mention the war’ 😉

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you so much, Dianne. You are such a good mate. I hope to meet your mom some day when I return to Oz. I won’t tell her I’m Japanese American until I give her a huge hug first. 🙂
      I still have tender spots towards people who have hurt me or my family. Many are class based rather than race based. I recently had to meditate on forgiving the drunk driver who ran a red light and killed my grandfather.
      What I have found is that the person who suffers the most from holding a grudge is me. 🙂
      P.S. You can tell your mom that one of my favorite songs was “Tojo never made it Darwin” by the Hoodoo Gurus.
      {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

      • diannegray says:

        She’s a classic and it’s really sad that she hangs on to the past so bitterly She lost family in the war and needs to blame someone. I hate the blame-game and always have for anything from tripping on the dog to being robbed. I want to see a world of the future where wars are the thing of history books (ahhh – to dream the impossible dream).
        I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather – that must have been horrific (particularly trying to forgive the selfish and stupid act of the drunk driver). Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things in the world to do – but hatred is like spiritual cancer and to survive this life we need to search for ‘that place’ in our hearts. Extra big {{{hugs}} to you today, my friend.

  10. Thanks for the link. 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on Wildmen: Explicating Irrationality and commented:
    “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath….”

  12. oliviaobryon says:

    So true! Part of the healing I am undergoing has taught me to focus on my when my body starts to tighten up. I now notice when this happens while I teach, which in turn reminds me to breathe, be calm. etc. Amazing how our mind and body are so connected. Thank you for the good reminder, (and, you didn’t come off as racist to me at all ;).

    • Kozo says:

      Thanks, Olivia. I’m really starting to see how the body can alert us to impure thoughts. Hope you get some great relaxing treatment on your road trip. {{{Hugs}}}

  13. Dieu says:

    Great post, Kozo. It is hard to control our impulses and bad habits or preconceptions. I remember I once had a incredibly rude and abusive customer at work who reduced me to tears. I later found out she had just come from her mother’s funeral. Now, it wasn’t an excuse for her to be a jerk, but now I realize that often people who act out in a certain way, do so out of pain.

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you so much for this comment, Dieu. I was just talking to Dianne about forgiving the drunk driver who ran into my grandfather after running a red light. I now see that she must have been suffering to be so drunk.
      This will make forgiving her much easier.
      Thanks for the enlightening comment. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  14. What a treat this post is Kozo…The truth of your words and the knowledge that peace starts within each and every one of us is what we all need to focus on. Every time I start feeling myself tensing in anger…I take a deep breath and think…peace starts with me…until I feel calmer. It is something I have to do time and time again until I become much more at peace…within and with others
    Thank you again for all you do and for your honesty. 🙂

  15. rarasaur says:

    🙂 Great post full of important reminders! I use the body signals all the time to control my temper…. especially breathing. It’s amazing how effective a conscious breath in and out can be in regards to managing your emotions. 🙂 Honesty is a crucial part of peace, Kozo, thanks for spreading some more around. 😀

  16. theINFP says:

    I become a person I don’t like when I drive, so now I take the bus and train. It’s surprising how much more calm I feel when I get home after work.

    • Kozo says:

      Great point, INFP. Driving does drive us crazy. Taking public transportation is like surrendering to the now because you have no control of when you will arrive. You just sit back and let it happen. 🙂

  17. We all have predijuces (can’t spell it lol) but we are not always aware of them or the suffering of others. as we grow older hopefully we become more aware and correct our behaviour. I remember writing an essay in university about anti discriminatory practice where I had to give examples were I had seen it happen. All of a sudden I had a light bulb moment remembering when I lived in an area in Liverpool UK. The white and non white communties were spilt the whites living in a better area but on each others doorsteps. I realised to my shame that all the local amenties such as the libary, swimming pool etc were in the area I lived. That was my first wake up call to an awareness institution racism. Like to say it is easier to react, rather than sit back and think and have love in your heart for others.

    • Kozo says:

      Thank you for your honesty and awareness, Athena. I love your last line. When I become aware of my reactions, I can start to think and love. That is the road to peace for me right now. Thank you for reminding me. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  18. Tracy says:

    I was introduced to prejudices early being a ginger kid! Then I started work in HR where subjectivity is a no no. After 10 years I developed an openness to others and adopted Coveys ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ I now have a diverse circle of friends, African, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Pakistani, Thai… and more. I suspect my 10 year learning curve has something to do with it. Some people laugh at me… They make remarks about having a friend of every colour. I just think so what, I love my friends very much for who they are and their ethnicity enriches my life. I learn from them. Johari windows also proved very beneficial in helping me learn more about how I see me and what others see. Introspection is always harder than jumping to conclusions about others, but as you so rightly point out once we understand our triggers we can chose to react to them differently. Ultimately the reaction to any situation likely to undo our inner peace is almost always a choice. I still struggle with this if someone threatens or endangers my son, but guess its a more primitive reaction designed to protect and preserve our future generations so something of a survival instinct.

    • Kozo says:

      Tracy, It doesn’t surprise me one bit that your friends look like the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coke commercial from the 70s. You are such a loving and accepting person that people from all backgrounds can feel your grace.
      I have the same struggle when someone threatens my sons like driving too fast in a school zone. I have to just be more vigilant and forgiving. I can’t imagine how many hours I would have to meditate if someone hurt my sons.
      Thank you for the comment and for being such a wonderful friend.

  19. It’s a very honest and relevant post, Kozo! I’m happy you brought up these subjects!

    Yes, we are telling ourselves each day “I’ll be more accepting of all people”, “I’ll be shifting my thinking horizons”, “I will learn to neither judge nor react with resentment”.

    We set and develop this program in our mind to attain the human picture of ideal self in this given body, social circumstances and settings.

    In our minds this program sounds great, totally applicable and ready to go.

    And then we go out on the streets, get to interact with people and our first instinctive reactions kick in.
    The reaction that comes second is a feeling of guilt and self reproach – I didn’t react ideally, i should have been more tolerant etc.. Now the law of attraction will bring me a hard negative ‘reward’ etc.

    And that’s totally ok to think so! That’s ok to react in the most natural way you are reacting. Because even if you occasionally get mad at a rude driver on the street, your inner self development doesn’t stop here. Never doubt it and punish yourself with a thought of how you ideally should have reacted.

    A rude driver is just a small challenge on your way. Remember, the more expectations your nature and divine purpose behind you puts on you, the more challenges and tests it is likely to face you up with.

    And the bittersweet news here is that the further you develop, the more sophisticated challenges you are going to occasionally meet.

    We can’t influence the kind of people and everyday tests we are about to face, but with every one of them we can learn to influence the reactions we give.
    And the best way to think of every person and a passerby you exchanged some words with is “What precious lesson did this person teach me today?”

    Racial and cultural stereotypes are even bigger a challenge for our ideal “humanized” us, because they are deeply rooted in our minds since early age by media, folklore jokes etc etc.

    I was recently reading about an interesting research conducted by one psychological institution on the workers of multinational company. It offered employees a test to try and see how prejudicial they actually are, even though they thought they were at all not.

    People answered some tricky questions that seemingly didn’t hint at any racial issues or preferences.
    And the result was overwhelming. It showed that even dealing with people of various ethnic backgrounds shoulder to shoulder each day, we in fact do not see everyone as similarly ‘responsible’, ‘capable handling complicated intellectual tasks’, ‘friendly’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘smart’ etc.

    Good thing is that we Know what our treatment and respect of others should idally be, and in meanwhile, we must not forget about a good treatment and respect of our own selves, because even the most tolerant and altruistic ones of us are in fact not ideal.

    I saw my role models flipping out at times and my sister’s yoga instructor – published respected ‘guru’ – was not deprived of a healthy dose of Ego :))

    We should be tolerant to others and as well be tolerant of our own human selves, because we are the products of our societies, as well as everyone else is the society around us.

    Really long comment :))) But your post was thought provokative! 🙂

    You rock, Kozo {{{Hugs}}} ! 🙂

    I actually keep referring to you while giving people {{{Hugs}}} ;)))

    • Kozo says:

      Sofia,
      I am so blessed to have you as one of my blogging best friends (BBFs). Only you would spend the time to post a comment that is worthy of its own post. {{{Hugs}}}
      I agree with so much you are saying here, especially the need to forgive ourselves and be kind to ourselves when we slip up.
      I love that someone did a study to prove that even though we feel like we are completely color-blind, we still hold some subtle forms of racism. This is why I try to be aware of every thought.
      Finally, your statement ” Remember, the more expectations your nature and divine purpose behind you puts on you, the more challenges and tests it is likely to face you up with” stuck a chord deep in my heart. I was once told by someone who knew some hardships I faced that God had a purpose for me. Your statement reaffirms my faith that whatever I am facing is for a bigger purpose.
      Thank you so much for your generosity, wisdom, and love. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  20. “provocative” i mean :)) i’m also a master of typos 😀

  21. I admire the “inside on the outside” nature of this post. (If that makes sense.) We all have our issues with everything, but the beauty is when you realize it. As you did here. I believe when you realize you are tensing up and acting “unfavorably” the growth has already started. It’s the ones that don’t realize they’re doing this at some point I feel sorry for.
    On a different note, racism is a touchy subject for me. I am in an interracial relationship and we made a beautiful mixed child. Both of us have experienced racism from both ends. At first it made us bitter..and we almost started being closed-minded towards some people ourselves because of it.
    However, our son made us see the light. You see, we don’t ever want him to be treated the way we were. Even though, I know it’s somewhat inevitable, as his parents, we want to protect him from the world.
    & For the record, if he marries his best friend (An adorable little girl that happens to be a different batch of mixed herself) in the very distant future, I wouldn’t have a problem in the world. In fact, I hope he does! She couldn’t come from a nicer family! & They’d have some gorgeous babies!

    You have tremendous strength, Kozo. Hold on to it tight. 🙂 *hugs*

    • Kozo says:

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes, DDIW. It started with “inside on the outside” and just got deeper and deeper.
      So much to talk about here. I have lived half my life not realizing how incompassionate I was. I am grateful that I have finally woken up to my thoughts and how to change them.
      I too had bitterness from racism. My mixed-culture sons have also taught me to see the light.
      Your openness to your son’s choice in a partner gives me hope for the Dream of MLK. Thank you for everything you are. {{{Hugs]}} Kozo

      • *huge, huge hugs* You wanna hear the crazy thing? He was born on the anniversary of MLK “I Have a Dream” speech. & He’s black & white. 😉 Even though MLK didn’t get to live to see his dream come true…I know he is smiling down. 🙂

      • Kozo says:

        That is wonderful. I’m sure a lot of people are smiling down on your son and the changes the world has seen. 🙂

  22. […] A Split Second to Peace at everyday gurus […]

  23. Sunshine says:

    i just lost it when i went to hit the like icon here, wham, i get the “log in” notification! also, i am commenting first before i read all your dear readers otherwise i get so discombobulated after reading that writing something coherent is almost impossible–as you probably noticed. (it’s alright to think, Kozo: “what’s wrong with this Sun?!)

    you are not alone with impure thoughts about others. really. i suffer from this constantly! maybe that is why the word equanimity came to be in my life this year. because of you, thanks, i meditate ten minutes every morning seeking my thoughts to stay balanced/calm all day & eliminate labeling people in a bad way in my head. i know 10 minutes sounds so puny but i figure small is better than failing at the end because i started out too big.
    okay…now i go up and enjoy your reader’s thoughts….<3

    • Kozo says:

      Yay, Sunshine. I love that the sun meditates every morning before shining good thoughts on the world. 10 minutes is not puny as long as you are consistent. I heard that 12 minutes a day causes biological and genetic changes for the better, so you might want to find two more minutes. haha.

  24. 1EarthUnited says:

    Kozo, you are so right and your (internal & external) observations are spot on. We are all products of our environment and the unconscious programming sets in deep, esp during our childhood. Growing up in NYC, I’d just assume that racial diversity and tolerance was the norm, but sadly that is not the case. We can all learn from that old adage – hate the sin, not the sinner.
    My big “waking meditation” is practicing to watch my speech. I’ve been realizing that sometimes, I would respond to people inauthentically. By that I mean responding to people without really listening to what they are saying. I understand now that my communication is worthless if I don’t pay attention to the intention that the other is trying to convey. Now I realize how idiotic I was to answer people with conditioned “learned” responses, I’m no better than a mindless robot – garbage in/ garbage out.
    Now I make it a point to really listen 100% and be very specific in my speech. Less is definitely more! Your post are amazing relevant in today’s world, we learn so much from you – please keep up the excellent work Kozo! Much love to you and your family. 😉

    • Kozo says:

      Maddy,
      I love your waking meditation. You are such an amazing gift to everyone who has the pleasure of interacting with you, be it on wordpress, twitter, face-to-face or on the runway. haha.
      Thank you for your encouragement. I feel like I can really create what I need to create knowing that you, Sofia, Sunshine, Rarasaur, and so many others got my back. Thank you for your love and support. {{{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  25. […] Everyday Gurus – Who is always ready to point toward the brighter points of life. […]

  26. Great post Kozo. Thank you for your honesty! We all have prejudices and we all have very human emotions. They goal is to work to overcome any judgement we may have and open our mind and hearts. But, we are not perfect. No one is. As long as we strive for acceptance, that is al that matters.

    • Kozo says:

      Right On, Tasha. I’m with you 100%. Overcome judgement and strive for acceptance/tolerance. Words to live by. Thank you for commenting. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  27. […] Everyday Gurus: A Split Second To Peace […]

  28. […] A Split Second to Peace […]

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