Why we need an inner life

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 28, 2019 – 12:00am 4 shares

I am amazed at how some people never seem to lose it. I am talking about people who always seem to be in control of their own personal situations. You never see them lose their temper. They know when to engage in an argument and when not to. And yes, they also know when to end it. They are not ruled by their own emotions.

They have a calmness about them that seems to permeate the room. People often defer to their presence. They almost always dictate the mood, and many times, also the topic when they speak without being forceful about it. People look up to them as leaders they respect.

I am not talking about big CEOs who intimidate others with their position and power. I am certainly not talking about some corrupt political and religious leaders — these temporal and so-called spiritual warlords who wield great influence and rule over the lives and consciences of their weak and ignorant subjects.

I am talking about people who seem capable of holding everything together in a way that inspires confidence and inspiration. I use the word “seem” because we do not see them 24/7. I am sure they also have their bad and weak moments just like everyone else. But what they do have that many do not possess is that inner strength, calmness, confidence and strength of character. They are centered on values they hold dear. All this while remaining humble.

Such people are special. I have met some engaged in different fields of endeavor and I know they spend time doing inner work, knowing themselves in all aspects and accepting themselves as who they are. People gravitate towards them because they emanate a wisdom and a bearing that shows they understand what is going on. They are also good listeners. That is why people are attracted to them.

I don’t know of any great person who does not have an inner life. Leaders in different fields such as sports, business, the arts, politics, religion etc. invest in quiet time, meditation, contemplation, prayer, tai chi, yoga, journaling, or just enjoy their time alone. They reflect a lot on what they do and what they want to achieve. They are guided by an inner compass.

They need this solitude. Life has too many illusions and delusions. Egos can easily be tempted and make people feel entitled to so many things. They need this balance between their inner and outer worlds. With this right balance, they can be as comfortable in solitude as they are in a crowd without losing themselves.

A person with integrity must not just walk the talk but learn to walk a fine line. Learning balance is so important. One must know when and how to adjust. As the late entrepreneur-writer Jim Rohn pointed out, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

A leader who does not have such skills rules by division and intimidation. He likes to instill fear. He bullies his enemies into submission. And he brings out the worst in people.

In today’s world, there are so few leaders who are willing to do the right thing. Populist leaders will say anything just to play to the peanut gallery or to fit the mood of the times. They will exploit the people’s basic fears and convince them that they alone can save the country. In reality, they end up making a mess of things. Their proclaimed love for their country and people is a lie. The weaker ones buy into their rhetoric.

More than at any other time, we need leaders who can challenge and inspire people to be and do better. Leaders who are not afraid to say what is true and right at the risk of their own popularity. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” This was articulated by former US First Lady Rosalyn Carter. In short, he/she must not just be an astute leader who can recognize consensus; he/she must also be able to inspire and sell their vision. And we need this now more than ever.

There are tough issues that must be faced squarely and with resolve. It takes moral courage to do so. Angela Merkel allowed a million immigrants into Germany because she believed it was the moral thing to do. Whether you agree with her or not, one can’t call her a weakling for doing this.

Obama, despite a hostile and racist senate and congress that blocked practically all of his legislative initiatives, was able to inspire his country to move forward. Mandela was able to lead a nation whose racist government once saw him as a very dangerous man. And yet he was the one who put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

I have sat with Vice President Leni Robredo a few times. I have never seen a calmer person. No, she is not “laid-back” at all. In fact, she is always actively listening, connecting, and diving into a deep pool of personal experience to answer questions. She has a lot of practical knowledge about governance. Before she was chosen to be the vice presidential candidate, I witnessed her impressively respond to 35 questions about governance and politics before a group of about 40 people. Her answers were not general at all. They were specific and nuanced, implying that she had been thinking deeply about the problems of our nation for years. She did not play to her audience with flattery or motherhood statements. It was amazing to see up-close a genuine leader with knowledge, strength of morals and conviction.

There is a Zen saying that goes, “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” The superior man/woman knows where the levers of power really are and how to use them without losing oneself. There are too many small men in the world who have not invested in their inner life and believe that materialism and the acquisition of wealth and power are all that matters. That is very sad.

Sometimes, I like to gaze at the local political landscape looking for new leaders that will lead this nation into a better future. I see some promising ones who have started quite well. I hope they do not burn out too quickly.

And I do hope they cultivate an inner life. May their compassion awaken. May their strength of character, conscience and noble ambitions translate into good governance.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/travel-and-tourism/2019/07/28/1938344/why-we-need-inner-life#Z1f1uWBTOuW38I16.99