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Odete Martins Bigote

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the most interesting events in my life was to volunteer at Covenant House, in New York City, an institution to help run away teenagers.

My main task was to serve dinner. I was given about 150 big fat potatoes, and asked to distribute one potato to each resident, except pregnant women or individuals with children; they would get two potatoes. I had to count the potatoes, as I gave them out, and inform the supervisor of the total count.

At the beginning, I had no idea how much the potatoes would stir my emotions. Gradually, I started to wake up during the night dreaming of potatoes: counting potatoes, drowning in potatoes, and fighting potatoes, even with my fists. These images repeated themselves in the morning, afternoon and evening, until I started to serve potatoes again: they became my inner enemy.

I was at war with “potatoes.”

How dare those big fat potatoes interfere with my usual peaceful state of mind?

By the same token, how dare I allow such interference?

“How perilous it is to free a people who prefer slavery.” Machiavelli

After some deep thinking, I realized the potatoes were a symbol I had chosen to express the anger I felt within myself. I was angry at the parents of those teenagers for not loving them, I was also angry at some of the teenagers for not loving their parents. I was even angry at myself, as I questioned my relationship with my parents.

Indeed, we project our inner thoughts in what we think is “the world, out there,” when, in truth, the problems are within us. We all do this “projection” in different forms: I chose “potatoes” to fight the war within me, whereas another individual may choose, for instance, to commit a crime, therefore, allowing his or her anger to go to extremes. Then, we say that there is evil in this world.

Beware, evil is not in this world but within us. I’m not saying that we are all like Hitler, Stalin or Blue Beard, what I’m saying is that we all project our thoughts outward, in one form or another, and most of the time, without realizing how much harm we are doing to ourselves. In this insane attitude, we may not feel the pain we inflict on others but, sooner or later, we certainly feel the pain we inflicted on ourselves.


Can we use the war within to achieve peace?

Yes, we can and we must!

It is important to remember that as long as we are on earth and in this body form, most of us cannot get rid of emotions; however, we can learn to handle them. Anger, fear, hate, guilt, are all part of our so called “human condition,” which sometimes leads us to become anything but human. The big question is WHY? The more we insist on projecting our problems, the more we forget to look within: to try and understand who we are and, above all, to remember love.

Most of our relationships give us a chance to fear, to hate, to get angry and to love: in other words, to reverse our feelings. Even the most loving relationship, let’s say with a partner or with a parent, has its moments of love and also despair. This is the ongoing dance of life. This is a difficult dance for many of us. This is the war and peace within us.

“I can of my own self do nothing.”
John 5:30

This quote from the Bible, reminds us that we need help, perhaps more often than we realize. We are not able to understand ourselves fully, and even if we try, the ego will interfere and completely misguide us. Only our Higher Self is able to guide and understand us; it sees the whole picture, it knows exactly what each individual’s mission is, where we started and where we are heading. In short, the Higher Self has the script of our lives, of the universe and of the planet.

Only after many sessions of meditation and relaxation exercises, and always asking for help from our Higher Self, I was able to let go of the “potatoes” in my mind.

Today, I look back at my experience and I thank the teenagers for the chance they gave me to find peace again. I thought my job as a a volunteer was to help them, but I ended up helping myself too.

Article written by
Odete M. Bigote
Copyright, 2003

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