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Will Wilkinson

Inner Peace: Something has to change — but what?

Surfing for interesting articles on line recently, I found one by Liz Proffitt Lemarchand, a guest writer for Huffington Post, entitled “Why I Left The U.S. 20 Years Ago ... And Why I Won’t Be Coming Back” (bit.ly/2wIrgNl). She describes her frustration as a young woman with a lucrative but demanding job and writes: “The tipping point came while I was sitting at home one Sunday evening. I felt a mounting sense of dread at the prospect of having to go to work the next day, and I started strategizing about how to stage my own kidnapping in order to get a few days off. That’s when I realized that I had been betrayed. I had believed every word of the American dream — work hard, make money, be happy — but it wasn’t so. Something had to change.”

She began traveling and settled in Europe. She doesn’t recommend that everyone follow in her footsteps, but her story inspires some deep thought about life in America today, particularly from the standpoint of the many challenges we face in our efforts to create and sustain a peaceful, happy community lifestyle.

At one point in her article, she focuses on a hot-point issue that tends to provoke deep, passionate argument in our country, guns. But, in reading what she says about this, the real eye opener came in the sentences that followed, as she described her current lifestyle. As you read along, contrast this with our current system.

“In the south of France, where I live, it is absolutely impossible to walk into a store, buy a gun and ammo, and leave with them in the same day. And beyond all of that, the military-grade weapons you can buy anywhere in the U.S. are illegal for ordinary citizens to purchase.

“Of course gun control is not the only benefit I enjoy living in Europe. I certainly could say more about the work-life balance provided by the 35-hour workweek, the five weeks of paid vacation I enjoy each year, the two years paid unemployment benefits I would receive should I lose my job, my access to free health care, paid maternity leave, affordable child care, free education from age 3 through to university or the state-provided retirement pension I will receive at age 65.”

Wow. That’s sobering. We’ve got some catching up to do. So, she left America. What do we do? The personal sense of powerlessness can be paralyzing. But there is always an avenue open to do something. The question is: What?

The phrase, “bloom where you’re planted” comes to mind. It’s so easy to live in constant distraction these days, eyes glued to some kind of screen, our attention fragmented all over the place. Meanwhile, we may be barely aware of where we are and who we are with.

I remember an email I received from a new friend years ago. We were developing a relationship of some kind, hadn’t really figured out exactly what it might be yet, but she wrote: “I can’t wait to have your full attention on me.” I puzzled over that comment, wondering if it was a compliment or a subtle dig. Had I been distracted during out last social contact or was she appreciating me?

I’ve never forgotten her comment and it strikes me now that attention is a powerful thing. What might happen if we decided to focus our attention exactly where we are, on who we’re with? Years ago my wife and I attended a workshop on happiness with author Robert Holden from England. He instructed the 300 or so of us to stand and move around the large ballroom, connecting with one person at a time. The simple exercise was to look in a stranger’s eyes and say: “I see you.” They would then reply, “I’m here to be seen.” We did this for about 15 minutes and I remember how the room filled with a sense of deep peace.

I’m not suggesting we try this technique, but what if we connected more deeply with those we’re with? This might begin to satisfy the hunger that so many of us have now, the feeling that something has to change. We could become peace makers, one deep connection at a time.

— Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant for Luminary Communications. He has authored eight books and has recently translated one of them, “Thriving in Business in Life,” into an on-line course for business leaders. For more, go to www.willtwilkinson.com.

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