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Monday, June 11, 2007

The State of Neutrality

Lessening the negativity in our lives is an act of balancing and cleansing. The ultimate goal is to reach an inner neutral state; it is a re-orientation of attitudes and lifestyles. It is a creative endeavour that involves a shift in our consciousness that helps us reach a state of creative calm.

We must not confuse this detachment with a renunciation of life, where we do not feel anything, or care about issues that matter strongly to us. This is simply a different way - a more positive way - of reacting to them. It is an attitude of thinking before acting. Next time we are faced with a hostile situation, let's pause and take a step back. When we are overwhelmed by thoughts, emotions and events, we should try to withdraw into our centred calm. Then we can observe ourselves objectively, and make a conscious decision on how to react to the situation at hand.

In some emergency situations this might not seem a practical method. How do we find the time to take a step back and think on how best to act in matters of life and death, for example? Yet, think how much much better we will react if only we took even a split-second to think, rather than just rushing headlong into a catastrophe.

Last year my mother nearly died from a serious asthma attack. It is not an easy thing, to witness one of the few women who is a constant in you life almost dying in your arms. Though if there were ever a time that called for calm, it was at that moment when she needed help the most. Even as I was reacting to the situation, I took a step back in my mind to assess it. No need for details, but suffice to say my mother is alive and very much well today.

I didn't thank my "quick thinking"; quite the opposite of being quick, being calm saved her life. Moreover I didn't save her. Circumstances saved her. I'm not setting myself up for the title of "hero" here, it just means it wasn't her time to go.

The neutral state isn't easy to achieve or to maintain. Even those with the best of intentions have relapses. I certainly do. Yet, if we strive daily to accept responsibility for our circumstances and learn from experiences and events, we can rise above any situation. This way we can relate to circumstances without losing our balance.

Being centred, yet non-attached, is an art. To correct the imbalances and disturbances in thought and behaviour, thus becoming more neutral, we have to expect less of others and challenge our prejudices. We should also start to listen to others more, or stop speaking and simply listen to ourselves, for cultivating silence is a means of renewal. We also need to shed the burden of the past and chase away the demons of the future, and see it as a form of self-purification.

In this way we are not becoming less, but becoming more, and these methods are also a way to bridge the gap between our real self and the projected self we show to the world. The more we evolve, the more confidence we'll begin to have in ourselves.

Know Balance

Another aspect of achieving a neutral state is maintaining balance. It is a given that the asymmetrical make-up of life means that nothing in life is equal; it is up to us to make it balance out. That is one of the tasks of humanity.

Imagine life is a set of grand scales which must be employed to get a sense of balance. We bring the dualities of disproportionate parts together to create equilibrium, like a myriad of negative and positive pieces that we weigh against the other to get a level setting.

Love is the best example of this. If all people were equal in an absolute sense then there would be no need for love. Love is the striving of two complete parts coming together to give their souls equilibrium. A state of neutrality will make that relationship better, because love will not be limited by jealously or suspicion. Love will be limitless.

The treatment of others is relevant here, too. The fair treatment of individuals is our responsibility, even though sometimes it seems impossible to treat people equally. However, we must strive to treat everyone as fairly as we can, and justly with regard to their individual circumstances. We can only cultivate our soul wisdom to appreciate this in a state of neutrality, where our actions are less coloured by prejudice.

Governments with large minorities that are taken hostage by a hostile fringe - and with displacements and global migrations this means most of the developed world - need to also find ways to balance national security with civil liberties. What are we protecting a country for, if ultimately we end up hurting our citizens more than we protect them? Successful countries are those that can balance the rights of its citizens and the need for state control, and can also balance its traditional face with a more modern one. A successful government will try to achieve a balance between the two sides, by respecting certain religious or regional sensibilities and upholding the recognised international rights of its citizens.

For example, as with any country, Turkey has two "faces". One of them is half traditional - a quasi Islamic face - and the other the modern face of secularism. Let's briefly take the issue of women in Turkey in this context. Consider that Turkish women gained voting rights before many in Europe. Turkey has also had a female prime minister. Women are free to sunbathe topless and go nude at certain beaches and resorts. When you compare this with the situation in other Islamic countries, where in Saudi Arabia the women are not even allowed to swim in public for example, Turkey is not an "Islamic country" by any definition, but when we compare the rights of women in Great Britain to that of Turkey, it still has a long way to go. Turkey is still striving to find its balance.

UPDATE: Sliding back on women's rights? (2015) >>

As someone with Turkish heritage, I always attempt to approach Turkish issues from a neutral state, even issues that have personally affected my family. If I don't, how can I hope for others to understand me? A stance far from neutral hinders us from understanding others, but a neutral stance will lend a validity to our personal perception of the issues in question.

A final note on perception: After having read this article, go and play the "What We See" game again. Try and imagine pictures from a neutral state this time - with a clean slate. It's possible you'll find that those images I provide will not surprise as they might have done initially.

You see, that's evolution.

My Life Handbook: Epilogue: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Read more: about Turkish culture | about my Parents | on love >>

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