Sunday, May 30, 2010

Be the Peace!

MC: "Now for the last and most important question in this contest: What is your greatest desire?" The handsome man in his stunning black tuxedo stands aside and listens intently, trying hard to look formal, almost business-like and asexual, as he contemplates the intellectual response about to emerge from the voluptuous, perhaps not so innocent and not so asexual young woman. The theatre fills with silence and tension as she seriously and genuinely considers her answer.
Miss Anywhere Contestant: "My greatest desire in the whole world is that there be world peace."
(She smiles demurely, blinks repeatedly, then cutely and humbly bows as she displays, and the camera accents, her lovely cleavage.)
Audience: "Yeah. Yeah." (Loud and prolonged applause.)

I've depicted a stereotype. I know. Please forgive me. Truly, I'm no fan of beauty contests. My days in the women's liberation movement of the past (I feel there's a new women's liberation movement, transformed and perhaps more balanced.) left an indelible antagonism towards events that dehumanize and objectify women. But, I'm not as passionately opposed anymore. So many things seem much more important. Take peace for example.

We've all got our favorite cliches for gloom and doom - the world is in shambles, the world has gone mad, what is this world coming to. It's hard not to allow negativity to take hold. Daily, I struggle to limit the amount of news I read about or listen to, yet I feel inundated by the catastrophic level of violence that plagues us. It's so hard to stay positive, yet, I feel we must.
I've poked fun at what may seem like a simplistic, unrealistic and lame answer by the fictional beauty contestant. Nevertheless, I may respond in a similar manner if asked the same question. And why not? Why not envision a world devoid of war, of strife, of conflict over our differences? I chose to imagine a peace-filled earth, where there is true freedom to be, where there is no need to fight, where "Live and let live." expands from being a slogan for Alcoholics Anonymous and becomes the world's motto.
How naive, you say? Well, I'm not alone. The website, http://www.thereisaway/, has members who have committed to chanting and envisioning peace as a reality. Every morning, I click on to the site and I imagine chanting along with hundreds, maybe thousands of fellow dreamers, who spend these moments enjoying world disarmament. Temporarily, we become inhabitants of earth in another dimension - the peaceful one. For ten minutes, harmony envelopes my world. It's a great activity. I highly recommend it. Click on the site and join us.

"If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world."
Thomas Merton

My middle school daughter reluctantly but proudly showed me her high grade, given for a sweet essay she had written. In it she wrote about how to solve the world's troubles. Her solution offered wisdom and spirituality beyond her years. "Cultivate peace within", was her essential message; one with which all the masters agree and which at my advanced age (40+) I had not yet internalised.
Now I get it. Though I am not yet able to maintain an inner peace that remains constant regardless of what goes on around me, I've come to realize that peace begins with me. Come mid-morning I create space and time for peace. It doesn't always visit for long. My mind still swirls and twists in rambling thoughts as I sit in meditation. But, there are those moments, when it quiets and I am left with the internal silence in which my true identity is stored, and peace abides. Throughout the day I try to return to that space, to consciously be in the moment and appreciate its wonder. It's still a struggle, my journey is far from over and I still too easily fall prey to the illusion of being separate from others, but I've caught glimpses of peace within. I must continuously help it grow.

My wish is that more people engaged in purposeful peace, in conscious creation of their own inner stability. But, although, I strongly support meditation and prayer, I know life is not always cooperative and taking a half hour or an hour at a time to sit quietly is a fantasy for many. Yet, we can take a moment and fill it with peace during our daily hustle and bustle. Take a breath, feel it and feel yourself deeply - you can have an instant of peace and thereby increase its presence in the world - at least in yours.

"If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peacework."
Tich Naht Hanh

Smiling relaxes the muscles of the face, and I imagine other muscles follow suit. Then some endorphins get released and you have given your body and spirit a chance at peace. So, when you're feeling like your world is collapsing, smile. "Smile, though your heart is breaking...", you know the song.
This may sound easier than it really is. It's hard to smile when you're sad or angry, but definitely worth a try if it can restore you, center you and bring you peace in the moment. Tich Naht Hahn, the renowned Vietnamese monk, whose name has become synonymous with mindfulness (, teaches the value of smiling as well as other practices, which are conducive to peace.
The best things about smiling are that it doesn't hurt, it's free and some say it's even contagious. I suggest you practice in front of a mirror and get all its benefits first before you share your message of peace with others via the exhibition of your pearly whites.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn."
John Muir

Go outside, or at least gaze at a flower or a plant indoors. This is what Eckhart Tolle ( recommends in his books, "A New Earth" and "The Power of Now". He is right. Nature is not only full of wonder, but it also is imbued with a power strong enough to awaken us to the stillness of the moment and the peace therein. It is so generous, it actually invites us to take from its power. Dare I tell you to go hug a tree? No, I won't. (But if you do, be polite and ask its permission first.)

I encounter, as you probably do too, countless instances of challenges to my peace daily. Mother (Alzheimer's) accuses me of taking her purse. Mother-in-law(dementia) complains about the pain from her gall bladder surgery, which took place about 70 years ago. Husband accuses me of being argumentative. (Me?) Simultaneously, the phone rings (solicitor), the doorbell rings (UPS), the dog barks right after I dropped a bottle of apple juice on my tile floor. The bottle smashes, the juice splashes...on everything. These are just examples of the little things that take away my calm, I won't even mention any of the big ones. But, after I ignore everyone in my household and clean up the mess, I can go into the peaceful desert outside my door and summon it into my soul.

These are the mountains I love. They are steadfast and reliable. As often as I can, I look at their majesty, which exudes peace, stillness and reassures me that Nature needs no beauty contest.

May peace be with you. May it radiate to your home, your community, your city, your state, your country, your world.

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