The Ripple Effect: Change From Within
Surveying the state of the world, we seem to be in a pinball machine being slammed by some unseen force into target after target and ultimately ending up in the drain. We see so many problems in the world. Financial crises, natural disasters, mass shootings… this list continues. They collide, creating a jumble in the brain. A compassionate person could understandably throw their hands up in despair announcing “This problem is too big, what can I do? This world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing I can do about it, so why even try”. Yet change is needed, so the real question is, where should we start?
Change on a grand scale would be a difficult task. But we can work within our area of influence. Leo Tolstoy said “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”. What we can change is our self. If individuals change the way they interact with others and the environment it can make a positive impact. Like small ripples that go out to create big waves, change can be at our fingertips if we can shift our consciousness outward and away from just me-centric thinking. The philosopher William James stated “act is if what you do makes a difference. It does”.
The Bhagavad Gita (the handbook of yoga science) teaches that the most potent and lasting change happens internally. Changes from within ripple outwards, creating waves of change in the subtle body (mind, ego), physical material body, our community, society, and even the world. External and bureaucratic changes can only go so far and have limited longevity. Nothing can really change until the population has a change in consciousness.
Most of the population is frantically endeavouring to find some kind of happiness. Locked in and accepting the status quo, we look to home, work, family, relationships and money to satisfy what is actually the deep longing of the soul. In the absence of an ultimate goal for life, we are simply just trying to get by. The mantra of ‘work, buy, consume, die’ permeates our lifestyle and for any change to happen there needs to be an internal paradigm shift. Jahnavi Harrison (Bhakti yoga practitioner and musician) said “a global change in consciousness is needed. To truly change the way we relate to the world around us we need to address the ecology of our own hearts”. If we can change not only what we are doing but also why, how, and for whom this will make a deeper impact on the heart.
The Bhagavad Gita questions “how can there be happiness without peace?” (Bhagavad Gita As It Is 2.66) Anyone can see walking down the street that in the rush of the city, people are not peaceful. Inner turmoil manifests in external disturbance. We search outside for peace but in truth it is to be found within. The stress of work and life makes it hard for people to widen their field of vision beyond what ‘I’ need for satisfying ‘I and mine’. The yoga texts describe that true and eternal peace can only happen when we work in alignment with dharma (universal law). It is compared to watering a tree: if the tree is watered at the root then all the leaves are satisfied. Similarly if we work in ways that contact us to the supreme energy who is called Krishna, then automatically we will also be satisfied.
Writer: Kalyani Radha