But like your mother said "charity begins at home" or did she say "eat everything on your plate, children in Africa are starving." But seriously peace does begin at the deepest level of home, with our own internal state. First we must feel peaceful towards ourselves. Does that seem like an odd thing to say?
When we look inside do we find ourselves not good enough? This can be subtle or not so subtle. We might pressure ourselves to get one more thing done, or chastize ourselves because we said something unkind to so-and-so, or we ate that piece of cake we vowed not to. And while it is fine to see what we get up to,we often hold it against ourselves, tallying it all up in this little mental notebook called "reasons why I am not good enough" or some title less pleasant. We make ourselves into our own little self help projects, always fixing and needing improvement.
So our first action of peace is to lighten up, relax, cut ourselves some slack, to make a list of what's great about ourselves, to become our own friend.... Not in a conceited "I'm great" kind of way, but in a truthful, humble appreciative way. Because the truth is we are all wonderful, unique human beings with something important to contribute to the world.
When the Dalai Lama was first asked a question about "self loathing" by a westerner it took him a long time to wrap his head around this. He couldn't understand the concept of not liking yourself. Yet in the west this form of self aggression is rampant. Why so much depression? So much prozac? Somewhere along the line we have become very confused about who we are and what's important.
So what concrete steps can we take? There are probably a gazillion creative actions. You probably have some of your own. I try to start my day, even before I get out of bed with a loving kindness meditation that simply goes. "May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May my life unfold with ease." I say it first for myself, then a loved one, then a friend, then someone I don't know well, the someone I have difficulty with, and then all sentient beings. I find this little meditation softens me and orients me in a helpful direction for the day.
So it's not a revolutionary thought or a new one but it's an important thought that peace begins inside us, with our state of being and radiates out into the world, in ways that we don't know. And while I can make a conscious effort to act in a peaceful, nonaggressive manner, this "doing" arises out of my state of "being" if this makes any sense. My first radical action of peace is to do things that cultivate personal peace, like the little morning prayer, like sitting on my cushion, like taking myself less seriously. I have learned that when I am feeling peaceful within, peaceful actions are more likely to arise. Learning to like myself, not be so critical of my own actions might not seem like a big deal but it cultivates the ground for peace. And that is where I choose to start, taking the smelly compost of my life and plowing it into the garden of peace.