How to Reach for Peace in Troubled Times.

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The gap between wanting and having is often huge, and warrants examination, right? Where does the problem lie? What is the nature of what I want? What is preventing me from having it, and what is the lesson I can learn as I strive to bring more harmony to my relationship with the world?

One thing most of us can say with certainty is: I want peace.

World peace.

Peace within.

Peace among friends.

Peace among neighbours.

Peace among us all.

After a time, though, and especially in light of current world events, it becomes tiring living with two seemingly irreconcilable facts: 1) we want peace; and 2) we can’t seem to achieve it.

It’s time that we inquire: what’s going on here? Why can’t we make our way to peace?

First, we find that it’s too easy to blame society, or the government, or other forces “out there”. It’s too easy to say that we are advocates of peace, but that we are powerless in the face of what the powers that be choose to do in this world.

Why do we think we are separate from the world, and the other people in it? I think the answer to this question holds the key to the true and lasting peace we are always dreaming about.

The reason why peace eludes us is that we seem to have a mistaken conception of peace. First we need to notice that we think about peace most when we feel we are under threat, say, the threat of war. In this way, then, we are putting peace and war on the same playing field; they are dancing together in our field of consciousness, so that the specter of war is never far from apparently innocuous desires for peace.

So we say it: why can’t we just have peace? But what kind of peace are we imagining? Are we really projecting ourselves into a whole new world in which peace is the very foundation? Our first thoughts, if we are honest with ourselves, are not about some kind of Eden, a place characterized by genuine harmony, where we are unencumbered by every form of conflict large and small, where we have full freedom to be who we are and are simultaneously full acceptance of everyone else, where the very idea of “non-peace” does not even arise in consciousness. Rather, “peace” becomes more of a reactive concept: we long to go back to “better times”, to how things were before the threat of war appeared.

Hindsight tends to look more golden. Our youth, or even the preceding few years, become soft around the edges, a safe space we have distilled for their better moments. Scared of the present, we re-imagine the past as Eden, without really trying to go back there to remember the very same fears that now plague our minds.

The way things were: there, we might find comfort, stasis, perpetual fear of the status quo being upset, along with thwarted dreams, anxiety, dissatisfaction, a situation in which we were dwelling even further back in the past, or worrying about what was to come. In other words, the same things we find in the here and now, regardless of exterior circumstances.

We need to see the violence in this. Our minds can be very violent places, not at all at peace, but torn, divided, running amok, complacent, isolationist, subconsciously fearing and also wanting the upheaval that surrounds us, because we don’t truly believe it can be any other way. We may have grown up with it. We may have inherited it. We may have absorbed in from any of various environments and situations. We live it, because we are humans, and humans are replete with embattled interior worlds, until we find our way to a path toward peace.

So upheaval comes: we have war, devastation, harrowing events we fear but have long, maybe secretly, suspected were inevitable.

We seem not to be able to accept either what we have created, or what IS, right now, in this moment, in the world or in the deepest parts of ourselves. If we explore within, we will find fear-based reactions to world events; we feel, for example, that we don’t deserve the natural disasters that ravage the world and its inhabitants, but upon further inquiry we have to see that deserving has nothing to do with it. Natural disasters don’t happen to us. They simply happen. This is one of the laws of nature, and we somehow think we are removed from the laws of nature. Even above them.

Do you see how this amounts to a form of violence? To feel separation from what we are so intricately bound to, to see isolation, me versus you; how can this not be construed as violence? Am I not more likely to react in negative and harmful ways to things I feel are separate from me? Would I be as likely to hurt something that is essentially myself?

Yet this is what we are doing, because the war is within ourselves, and we don’t want to confront the more self-destructive aspects of our nature. Instead, we throw nature and people to the other side of a line or boundary, maybe out of self-preservation, maybe because we were taught about separation more than unity, about countries more than world; maybe because we have come to rely wholly on our senses and not our intuition, and our senses bring what is out there into our interior world. The reason doesn’t matter: here we are, wondering about everything in relation to our one self and how it benefits us, and unity is lost. There can be no peace when we can only conceive of our humanity in pieces. Pieces can also come apart just as easily as they can connect for short whiles. And this is how we are living: in constant fear of things coming apart.

But what if we are the ones keeping them apart? Our belief in apartness allows for all kinds of horrible things to find their way into the cracks. And we cannot fortify ourselves from the calamities that occur as long as our hearts are wired to expect calamities, and as long as we continue to forge separate pathways for the people of the world. We cannot stop violence until we understand that we are perpetuating the violence, we are housing the violence, we are feeling the violence with our deep-seated fears but also beliefs in it, until we come to see that we are the violence.

Look at all the ways in which we are at war with ourselves. Look at how we are self-deprecating; how we hate looking in the mirror; how we doubt our abilities to achieve success; how we hold ourselves back; how we don’t believe in ourselves enough to invest the time and energy into our wellness. Look at how quick we are to believe other people’s beliefs in the very worst of us, at the expense of our own belief in ourselves – a belief that should be the most natural thing in the world? It goes on and on like this. There is so much negativity living in the circuitry of our bodies and psyches. Where is the place for peace in this?

Yet, there is a place for peace, a huge, golden space inside of us, that coexists with all this violence. We are full of love, hope and good intentions, and we know this, and we have felt this many times. This is a brilliant truth. We just need to believe in this part of ourselves, and work to cultivate it that much more.

So how we begin to turn things around?

First, we must realize that peace starts at home. We must become aware of our hidden, limiting and destructive beliefs that serve nothing but the powers of violence. We must stop right here, where we are and accept the mess that we have inherited and that we continue to make by doing nothing to stop it. We must feel the effects of this violence on the core of our beings right now, in this very moment.

We must ask: do we really want peace, or do we want the luxury of returning to our comfort zones, where we keep the world at bay and hope that all the terrible things we are scared of don’t make their way to us, though they are already right here with us, in the deep crevices of our minds? We must ask: are we ready to do the hard work of finding the peace in us that is also the real, true, lasting peace of the world?

We can only do this in stillness. We must rest in stillness and use the landscape of our bodies to feel what fear looks like, and to arrive at a place of a true, real desire to end the violence within. We must look so deep within that the borders between us and the world fade and we start to realize how destructive the lens of separation is on all our relationships, with people and the world.

We must commit to the responsibility of looking deep within and removing the obstacles to peace, removing the violence we find inside, for peace is the absence of violence, and will naturally arise when we actively want and seek our own salvation.

Peace isn’t something you wish for while going about life and not doing much to effect real change in your relationship with it. Rather, peace is something you uncover, and discover in yourself. You figure out that it has been there all along, and once exposed, it will grow and expand and guide you. And this is the building block to a peaceful world.

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