When I was 10 years old, I started a life-long tradition that has taken place every year on my birthday. (Well nearly every year, there was one year that I skipped. A story for another day.) Each year on my birthday, I use my birthday wish for “World Peace.” Of course I didn’t realize it was going to be a life-long tradition at the time. I mean what did I, a 10 year old girl from Wales, Wisconsin know about tradition, or peace for that matter? In full disclosure, I am not positive what year it began, but I definitely remember the year I turned 10 and feeling like it was an important birthday, like I was getting older, I mean, double digits, and I thought I needed to start taking some serious action in my life, and by serious, I meant meaningful. So it makes sense to me that I started this tradition on my magical 10th birthday. Also important to note: it wasn’t unusual in my household to have memorized all the lyrics of every Beatles song ever made by the age of five. Needless to say, I had a big crush on John Lennon, and “Imagine” was my personal anthem. Why am I sharing this story? Today is the International Day of Peace.
It’s unfortunate but not exactly surprising that we are still working towards World Peace. While we’ve made progress in many ways, there is still a lot of work to be done, and while it’s important to practice peace year-round, it’s that time of the year where we pause and come together as a global community to collectively move closer to this goal. It’s because of this movement that I had the good fortune to catch Robert Thurman speaking at an Occupy Peace event in Uptown Kingston yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Mr. Thurman is a Buddhist scholar and a good friend of the Dalai Lama’s…and someone who I enjoy learning from. Mr. Thurman spent much of his time on stage referring to the Dalai Lama and his ideas on how to achieve World Peace. To summarize, because there’s no good way for me to properly give his words due credit, he proclaimed strongly that it comes from the heart. That seems obvious of course, yet as we are confronted with the anger and hatred that is held in the hearts of so many each and every time we turn to the news, it often feels like an impossible path to peace.
Impossible and perhaps even incomprehensible. I mean who confronts anger with love and succeeds? I don’t know the statistics, but do we have any clear indication that those who confront anger with anger succeed? I present the current state of affairs in the World today as Exhibit No.1 that anger is not the solution. Mr. Thurman’s account of the Dalai Lama’s position was clear. “We have to be happy in the face of it all.” And by “all” he really means “ALL.” When someone cuts us off driving down the road…When the kitchen is backed up and our meal is late…When we hear a family member using hateful language towards a group of people because of their race, sexual preference or political beliefs…When we hear and see the evil that is thrust upon innocent people all over the world in the name of God or in the quest of wealth…Each and every time we are tested in this way, we are given a choice to respond with anger or to respond with compassion, and the Dalai Lama believes that it is through the heart that we can change the result of the situation. In other words, “We must forgive before we can proceed.”
Is the Dalai Lama right? Well, who am I to argue. Fortunately I don’t have to because I happen to agree with him. Mr. Thurman asked us to look at those who are the cause of evil today and to understand that they are acting out of a place of fear and pain. Does it justify their actions? Absolutely not, but doesn’t it stand to reason that we can best prevent the end result if we first heal the source of the problem, fear and pain. If my logic holds, then how does one best heal fear and pain, through anger and force, or forgiveness and trust? I know first hand that when I feel safe, happy and at peace, I respond to conflict with grace and ease.
I float over the waves and am not dragged down into the muck. That’s all fine and good of course, but I am not the one causing great harm in the World. The real question here is, how do we calm the hearts of those most destructive? Well, here’s where we get back to the Dalai Lama’s suggestion on how to solve the World Peace problem. It’s through inner peace. It’s a scientific position really, physics and chemistry and all of that good stuff. You see, if we really are all one Divine Creation (and yes, I do believe that as well), then we are all connected, and my connection to others means that I can, if things line up correctly, affect the emotional state of others. If I can maintain compassion in the face of serious conflict then I stand a chance of altering the energy of the situation, bringing the other person above the waves with me, and shifting the outcome in a positive way.
It really is that simple. Of course, it’s simpler on paper than it is in practice, but the good news is that if you are reading this blog post, then there’s a good chance are you are already working on inner peace as a part of your personal lifestyle. You are an important part of the global web of compassion that is slowly closing in on the pain and suffering felt around the globe. It may not always feel as though we are riding above the waves, but that is why we have our practices, whatever they may be, that bring us back to our center, to our connection to nature and all that surrounds us. If you are someone like me who feels it is our duty to help in the efforts towards peace for all, then you can truly start with yourself. Focus on taking care of you which will have a rippling effect on the people and the world around you. It’s a magical process, and one that I have witnessed in smaller scales. As we do this together, we’ll make real change. It is possible. World Peace through heart peace. I LOVE the sound of that.