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Cliches

Monday, August 31, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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There are a few phrases that have become so well-used that their meaning seems some days to have been worn thin. But some of them are used so much because they touch on simple yet powerful truths and it is worth pulling them up into the light and really thinking about what they have to say to me.

The first is "be the change you want to see in the world", from Gandhi. This one is perhaps the most well-used of all. A google search for the entire phrase threw up 276 million results. We see it used in marketing slogans, on bumper stickers and – over and over again – on blogs. It has become so ubiquitous that it is easy to stop really hearing what Gandhi was saying and, perhaps more importantly, what the words themselves say to each of us right now.

I know that these words are the words that come to me when I am fuming in frustration at a friend who is once again running late for lunch, dinner or a movie. They are the words that come to me when somebody cuts me off in traffic or pushes past me to get the last seat on the train. They are the words that come to me when I'm feeling threatened or insecure about a situation or person in my life.

In those moments I am reminded that I always have a choice, and that if I say that I want to see more love, more joy and more compassion in the world then I have the opportunity in each of those moments to choose to bring more love, more joy and more compassion.

What I've learned through meditation and yoga practice is that I don't have to overcome my inherently jealous, angry, insecure nature by putting on some external mantle of loving kindness. If I practice regularly the scales of attachment start to fall away from my eyes and I can see the world more clearly, I also find myself resting down into my true nature – which is loving and joyful and compassionate – unencumbered by the distractions and confusions of fear.

It's not a kind of utopia, though. Fears still arise, my insecurities still get triggered, I still worry that my boyfriend will wake up one day and realise what a total geek I am and run away with one of the cool party girls. But little by little the practice seems to be giving me quicker access to the truth that lies beneath these passing fears, and I can find my way back to compassion faster and with less suffering.

That's what it means to me to "be the change that I want to see in the world". That's conscious activism.

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7 Responses to "Cliches"

  1. Ayurveda says:

    Hi.
    This is very adorable blog.
    Thank you to share this one with whole world.
    This is one of my articles about Ayurveda..
    http://healthmad.com/alternative/ayurveda-2/

  2. Andi says:

    Once again a thought provoking piece! I agree that this extraordinarily powerful quote by Ghandi has become a cliche. However, like you said, if you take time to really reflect on the words and LIVE them they are a meaningful cliche.

  3. Stefanie says:

    I know very few people who make as much of an efffort for themselves and to educate other – like myself – about loving, giving and kindness. So I find your comment about your inherently jealous, angry, insecure nature comment fascinating. It shows just how far you have come to acheiving Gandhi’s words.

  4. Marianne says:

    I just realised – reading this post again and reading Stefanie’s comment that my writing was a little bit ambiguous on one point. I don’t believe that my or anyone’s inherent nature is jealous, angry or insecure. I believe the opposite, that our true nature is love, compassion and joy. But it sometimes feels as though my nature is to be petty or insecure and I have to overcome it. What I now understand is that my true nature is boundlessly generous and joyful and I only have to let the other stuff fall away to be able to reside fully in that joy. Make more sense that way? Shesh – Who’d believe I’ve just taken a leap of faith on my ability to write a book?

  5. Anne-Marie says:

    “I still worry that my boyfriend will wake up one day and realise what a total geek I am and run away with one of the cool party girls.”
    Oh – and I thought that was just me 🙂
    Marianne, I just wanted to let you know how inspirational so many of your posts are for me. I don’t often comment because I am pondering on your words and I’m not sure what to say.
    I admire so much your decision to give up a good job and do what you really want to do with your life. That’s where I’m headed – not quite there yet, though …
    Thanks for sharing.
    Arohanui.

  6. Leana May says:

    Maryanne,
    I *love* this this follow up post, as well as the question of conscious activism you posted. Gandhi’s quote is one that I repeat over and over to myself. I love it so much that I named my blog, where I try to highlight examples of conscious activism, Be the Change (http://leanamay.wordpress.com). I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts on consciously choosing activism. I love your blog. Keep up the thought provoking posts!

  7. gypsy Alex says:

    (I am smiling as I read this… After weeks of running around “late for my life” (in ways which I’ve committed to change btw), I decided to wake up today and come down to the studio with a cup of tea to catch up on your writing, which turns out, is just what I needed!) The necklace I asked Stacy to make for me a year or two ago, says “be the change” and I cannot tell you how much power it holds. It was so helpful to hold it and have it close to my heart when I most needed in my recent transition! At every moment I was triggered, it meant: Take the responsibility! A constant reminder of who I was and what the work was… These are indeed the big words in my practice. Thank you for the reminder, sweet friend. I can definitely use it.

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