In today’s world, it can become incredibly easy to lose sight of what’s important. By being inundated with everything from constant digital distraction to ultra-hectic work and home lives, we may feel like we’re barely even in control of our own existence and we just become sick and tired, even complacent, with our routine and the way that we feel about ourselves and our world.

When we’re caught in the vicious cycle of self-loathing, frustration or extreme busyness, what can change for the positive? Not much. And not only do we suffer, the ones we love do, and from an even grander perspective the world does too. We shut ourselves off, becoming oblivious to the grander atrocities and improprieties in the universe. Staving them off for fear that we can’t handle any more strife or disappointment.

The key is to experience an awakening. As Lion’s Roar, formerly Shambhala Sun, examines in their article On Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender. Enlightenment is a deeply personal and sometimes precarious journey. One that takes bravery, patience and belief that change is possible through small accomplishments. The author, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, notes that when she began her journey to Buddhism she was drawn in from a feeling of great pain—not pain for herself, however, but an underlying heartbreak for the sad state of our world back in 1988—a world that we know has become even more overwhelmingly difficult to understand as nearly 30 more years has passed.

Calling herself “different in appearance,” Manuel explains, The world had structured itself around appearance. The way in which I was perceived and treated depended on a structure of race, sexuality, gender, and class. The perverse power of these structures made my embodiment unacceptable to others and myself. As a result, I was paralyzed by feelings of isolation in my younger days.”

She continues that she had bitten into oppression’s poison apple, falling into the notion that nothing can change. It wasn’t until she found herself introspective enough to examine her “true nature” that she began to understand how to reconnect with the universe and find her spiritual peace with everything around her.  She continues, explaining that we may desire an “out of body or other extreme experience” that will bring us to awakening, but in practice, all we really need is to examine the external struggles of the universe, and let that be our guide to inner peace.  

She astutely points out,  “If we were to simply walk past the fires of racism, sexism, and so on because illusions of separation exist within them, we may well be walking past one of the widest gateways to enlightenment. It is a misinterpretation to suppose that attending to the fires of our existence cannot lead us to experience the waters of peace.

With the anniversary of Selma upon us, we can still see a very clear picture of what we’ve still got to do when it comes to race relations. With National Women’s Day just passing, we’re reminded of what an incredibly integral role women play in the success of our society and our greater world and the respect, equality and dignity with which they should be treated. With the ever-widening socioeconomic gap we see where we’ve got to do better in making sure that everyone has a fair shake.

It is time to take a look—are your eyes open? Are you aware to what’s going on outside of your own 3-foot circle? Let what keeps you from peace and happiness actually bring you to it by sharing a larger concern for us all. If each of us spent a little bit of time taking better care of others, isn’t it quite possible that we may see it returned to us, maybe even exponentially? We’ve heard forever to ‘treat others as we’d wish to be treated;’ we just may not have been aware of what the power of understanding that perception really holds for us. Enlightenment is the bright and shining beacon of hope for equality and attainable prosperity to all—follow that path to light.