Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Opening eyes, ears, heart

Published in the Fiji Times Wednesday, January 27, 2010

THE term "navel gazing" refers to some religious practitioners who stare at their navel to enter a deep meditative trance.

It is certainly true that some meditation poses place people in a prime position for navel gazing and contemplating one's navel can have powerful connotations in religions where people view the navel as the centre of life or as an energy source.

A specific term has even been invented to describe religious navel gazing omphaloskepsis from the Greek words for navel and inquiry. The term can also be applied to people who seem to be extremely self-absorbed or unaware of their surroundings because they are too focussed on their own issues.

In this sense, the term is generally meant to be derogatory, implying that someone needs to open his or her awareness a bit to think beyond the current situation or to consider others. In this sense, navel gazing is viewed as rather self indulgent.

In an attempt to ensure that my own navel-gazing is not considered the second of these definitions, I make a constant effort (and I admit that sometimes it is an effort) to pay attention to what is happening in the world around us. As we observe world events, the patterns of power, oppression, peacemaking, justice and reconciliation become clear and help us focus our attention and intention during our navel-gazing. As I looked from my navel to the world, this is what I saw:

The World Council of Churches has called on the international community to cancel quake-stricken Haiti's foreign debt, hunger, racial violence, natural disasters, the continued destruction of eco-systems by pollution and an increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. The latest figures on the impact of the global economic crisis show more than 80 per cent of families in the most vulnerable communities in Tonga and Tuvalu do not have enough money for food.

As I returned my gaze from the world to my navel I thought how small, how solvable our problems are in Fiji. It reminded me of a story a preacher shared in church some time ago.

One day a man complained to God that his cross was too big and heavy.

God took the man to a large warehouse with a small door and said: "Go inside and leave your cross by the door. Inside, you will find crosses of different sizes and shapes. Take whichever one you like."

Leaving his cross just inside the door, he went into the warehouse. Inside were hundreds of crosses and, yes, some were bigger than the others but even the smallest one he could find was much bigger than the cross he had been carrying.

After searching through the crosses for several hours, the man headed back toward the door in disappointment. Nearing the door, in a darkened corner, he saw a small cross. It was smaller than any other cross he had seen in the warehouse. Joyfully he picked it up and carried it through the door and showed it to God.

"See what I found!" he cried with joy as he approached God. "It is just the right size for me. I can carry this cross."

"I'm glad you can handle it," God replied. "It is the cross you brought here."

The start of the national dialogue process is another opportunity to attain mutual understanding on how to move our nation forward. As citizens of Fiji we all need to accept that for any exchange to take place, those sitting at the table on which the future of Fiji rests need to practise active listening, take onboard what other parties are saying, rather than merely waiting for their chance to speak.

Participants in the national dialogue forum are given the responsibility to genuinely enter into dialogue with those they may not normally sit at the table with. This may be a cross to carry but compared to the other crosses being borne around the world it is a small cross.

The weight of this cross can be made lighter by active listening. The reward of this cross is that understanding can be achieved. Jiddu Krishnamurti (Indian theosophist philosopher, 1895-1986) said: "When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely -- the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears -- when you give your whole attention to it."

As we raise our gaze from our navel, as we engage with other human beings, let us make an effort to open our eyes, ears, and minds.

Let us recognise the common soul-force within our different physiologies, let us speak to each other the common language of love. Let us set free the power of the positivity within us, caged by fear.

* This article is the opinion of Reverend JS Bhagwan and does not necessarily represent the views of this newspaper or any other organisation or institution Padre Bhagwan is affiliated with.


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