Thursday, January 8, 2009

Creating Peace In Our World

How do we work towards creating a peaceful world?  When we think of working for peace we might think about making a donation, joining a peace group, attending a rally or writing letters.  There are so many outward things we can do in this world. We might feel like we need to do something really big and important to save the world and promote peace.  And then we might feel tired and overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

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.


  1. your post resonates strongly with me. thank you for your post.

    when every individual on this earth has a way to touch their inner peace, then we will have peace. in the meantime, as many of us that have a way, a practice, and/or meditation to do so, we are encouraging world peace every time we touch our own inner peace.

    keeping things light with humor can make it easier to be self aware and to practice. so i think humor can be part of world peace as well as individual peace.

    this self loathing in the west is rather strange. but i have it to some degree myself, and i notice that i am not alone. i think that i would like to do some more writing about self loathing in the west in a blog. thank you for the inspiration, and would you mind if i did?

    blessings and peace to you,

    -Steve @ flxulife

  2. Go for the self loathing thing.....I mean in your writing of course. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it in more depth. I think it is one of those dirty little secrets that we all have but don't like to talk about. It is so helpful for us to hear about the experience of others.

    And I love the injection of humour into pretty much any topic, if done with kindness. It is so easy to get bogged down in the seriousness of it all.

    blessings back