What's it like to be you?
A recipe for the resolution of conflict
Could all of the conflict in the world be fixed with one simple question?
I contest that it could.
All conflict comes from one person or group of people putting their needs above the needs of others or the collective.
The opposite of conflict is compassion.
The practice of compassion raises this question:
What’s it like to be you?
The more we practice compassion, the more we find ourselves naturally pondering this profound question.
Compassion isn’t about feeling sorry for someone—it’s about cultivating genuine curiosity for the motivations behind their behavior.
When we consider this question from an authentic place and really open ourselves to the answer, the only practical outcome is understanding.
Compassion is structured in consciousness—meaning the extent to which we’ve developed our consciousness is the extent to which we’re capable of understanding others.
If we can consider the overall context of a person’s actions—their family history, generational and cultural trauma, childhood upbringing, societal conditioning, religious or political indoctrination, geopolitical environment, personal challenges, and current circumstances, and most importantly, their state of consciousness, then the only practical outcome is that we begin to understand them.
Even seemingly savage killers and warmongers can be understood by those whose eyes are opened wide enough to see the whole picture.
Nobody is born evil.
No child enters the world with malicious intent.
Socially irrelevant behaviors are driven by stress accumulated through childhood conditioning and trauma. I spelled it all out in a previous letter [link].
It doesn’t excuse socially irrelevant behavior.
It doesn’t justify violence.
It may seem unfathomable to imagine ourselves engaging in some of the behaviors we’re seeing people engage in right now.
But when we consider the story of the person behind each action, it becomes a lot easier to understand why they are.
The truth is, each one of us is only capable of acting in accordance with the state of consciousness we’re in—and that state of consciousness is limited and shaped by the amount of accumulated stress we’re carrying around.
Now that we have a tool to systematically dissolve our own stress and expand our conscious awareness more and more each day, it becomes increasingly easier for us to practice compassion for others, to understand their motivations, to see the good in them, and to approach things from that place.
Plus—you are them. Not just through the lens of Vedanta, but literally, through the lens of science. As I mentioned in the last letter [link], you are not your body. You are about 70 trillion cells, which are made up of atoms, each of which gets exchanged every year. With every breath, we take in an unimaginable number of atoms that were previously in other people, meaning that our fundamental composition is constantly being exchanged with that of everyone else around us. [Source]
So this is the recipe for the resolution of conflict.
Compassion begets understanding.
Understanding is the basis of love.
And love is all you need.
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you
I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty you are
But if you don't, let me be your eyes
A hand to your darkness so you won't be afraid
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” by The Velvet Underground & Nico
If you’re interested in cultivating more compassion in your worldview, there’s a practical technique for this which is taught as part of the Mastering the Siddhis course series, available to those who have completed the first four installments of Exploring The Vedas. Learn more about advanced training here.
If you’re called to do more to support world peace, my colleagues David Lahav and Emily McCarthy have just launched the Meditate for World Peace project to help bring peace to conflict through the power of meditation. Get involved.
Music today is by Andy Warhol-managed band The Velvet Underground, with I’ll Be Your Mirror—a song about reflecting the good we see in others. The song was actually written by Lou Reed, produced by Warhol, who also supplied the cover art, and performed by Nico.