I took this photo when we were in Bilbao, it hangs outside the stunning Guggenheim by the river.
'If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it change your attitude but don't complain'.
It reminds me of St Julian's Prayer:
'God grant me the courage the courage to change the things I can change,
The serenity to accept the things I can't,
And the wisdom to know the difference'
How much energy do we waste worrying about things we can't influence? When we watch the news, filled with images of violence and suffering, we can feel so powerless and so anxious. 'What can we do' we ask ourselves and shrug and go to bed with a niggle of discomfort in us.
I can not go to Syria, I can not offer medical aid or money to refugees. I can not end famine or corruption. But I can give to charities who do that work, I can raise awareness of issues that are important to me and influence other people.
More importantly, I can help the people in my life now. I can give my stressed friend a break by taking her kids out with mine. I can listen to the colleague who is at breaking point with stress and overload. I can hug my kids when they have been hurt by their friends.
If I want the world to be using more sustainable energy, then I have to use sustainable sources when I can. I need to invest in solar panels and buy a rainwater water collector to use on the garden. If the wanton waste of the world disgusts me, then I have to buy less, waste less and recycle more.
Then there in the inner work. If I want world peace, then I have to practice peace. I have to know when to walk away from a pointless row, I need to choose which is more important; to be right or to get on. I need meditate and find my own inner peace so that I can be a peaceful presence in the world and with the people I come into contact with.
If I want a fairer and less judgemental society, then I need to spot my prejudices and judgements and question their truth and fairness. I need to work on my own ability to be compassionate and tolerant.
So whilst the flag has wise advice, as does the prayer, neither of them go far enough because they are both focusing on the changing our external world. Change comes from inside and although we can accept that we can't change the world, we must never accept that we can't change ourselves; our self is the only place change can happen.
Mandela knew this when he refused to follow the path revenge and violence when he came out of prison; he knew if he wanted justice and harmony for all, he had to embody those qualities himself. Mother Teresa's care for the sick and poor in India was not just an action, it was born of an inner sense of compassion and connection.
Change comes from inside us. As Gandhi said:
'Be the change you want to see in the world'.
- What change would you like to see in the world?
- What change would you like to see in your world?
- What can you do to embody that change in your day to day life?
- How can you develop the inner qualities to promote that change?