Mimi asks how we can advocate peace in the world if, deep within our hearts and souls, we carry even a modicum of hatred or malice towards another person. I agree.
Continuous wars, changing only battlefields, justifications and eras, appear to be humankind’s destiny. These unending wars, and the resultant suffering of humanity, are the constant backdrop of our lives today.
In the aftermath of 9/11, it’s clear that the ironic decision to go to war for world peace can only bring more suffering, not only to humans, but to all sentient beings. The aggressive choice of going to war for peace does not bring an end to war, because war is never about peace or justice, but about fighting for power and control over others.
If neither diplomacy nor aggression brings global peace, one has to ask: what can?
Wars are not limited to nations. How often in our lives do we hear of family feuds where sibling rivalry borders on hatred or divorces create emotional war zones? These "wars" too, are about jostling for power and control in the family hierarchy.
Global, even universal, peace has to begin with the choices made by the smallest unit of a greater society, the individual living an ordinary life.
When people hurt or harm us personally we have to make a conscious choice about how we will live our ordinary lives. Do we steep ourselves in anger and hatred, or can we find a way to make peace?
The next time you have an argument with your in-laws or with your wife; when your neighbour spreads nasty gossip about you or you lose a much wanted promotion to a colleague, try not to get angry and blame the other person for the pain you're feeling. Choose to look inward and ask yourself what you could have done to change the outcome of the situation.
We all (as individuals) choose how we write our personal history, as much as the governments we vote into power choose how to write our collective history. What we see as our "suffering" can, with a shift of perception, become our saving grace. If we choose, we can accept that when we hook into seeing ourselves as the victims of other people's hatred or mean actions, that choice separates us from what we most long for: love and peace.
When we accept that we can't change other people’s attitudes; that the only thing we can change is how we choose to act and react, that is when we define how we will live the rest of our life.
It’s a brave soul who can look inward with clear eyes and unbiased thoughts and see how his/her own flaws and fears created a personal war-zone instead of an oasis of inner peace. And then, instead of trying to make the other person change, accepts them as they are and rather chooses to change his/her own behaviour in the interests of making peace.
The theme of both 2013 BlogBlast4Peace and my novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love
is a reflection of the words spoken by Indian politician and pacifist, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948): “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him ... we need not wait to see what others do.”
There is a chance that that inward journey will bring you face-to-face with the shadows that slink in your soul. Do not be afraid ... bring those shadows into the light of your awareness and they will change into a roadmap to the most rewarding journey of your life.
I have walked that shadowed road for over twenty years and through it all I have clung to one fact: no matter what it cost me emotionally, physically and spiritually, I gathered my courage and turned my gaze inward to stare down my inner shadows. In doing so, I found that this sad and painful road I've travelled has also brought me immeasurable gifts.
One of these gifts is the realisation that, in our ordinary every day lives, peace comes in many guises.
The face of peace can mean everyone walks the same road into the dark attics of their minds and comes out on the other side fully aware of just how much their own actions caused their own pain. Then the beautiful, but sentimental, portrayal of peace and forgiveness as being a miraculous cure that results in a happy-ever-after for all has a chance of becoming a reality.
Or, the face of peace can mean that only one half of the conflict has the courage to walk this dark and dangerous road while the other party remains safe in the fortress of her angry ego, blinded by her fears, shoring up the fragments of her pain by embracing a gang mentality: if you are not with me, you are against me.
When this happens, the road to peace requires the brave soul to tread one more difficult path.
Inner peace can't come from outside oneself; it can only come from a place of soul-deep integrity. There comes a time when the only way to keep that soul integrity is to choose to walk away.
On the day when the other person repeats an oft-repeated behaviour pattern showing that despite their words, despite their superficial changes, despite their good intentions, deep in the shadowed attics of their mind, their attitude towards you hasn’t really changed and is highly unlikely to change, that
is the day you must choose a realistic peace for your situation.
What the other person does that brings you to this major crossroad on the path to inner peace could be an act so trivial, so minor, in relation to the daily tragedies of the world, that you wonder why it hurt so much, when year after year, day after day, you've tolerated more serious things from the person in order to keep the (external) peace.
It's in a time of crisis when one's true character is revealed and, no matter how charmingly she (once again) apologises for her actions, it's how a person instinctively reacts towards you when a crisis happens that reveals that she feels no real love or respect for you as a unique individual. And don't we all deserve to be, if not loved, at least respected for what we are, no matter how different we may be from the norms and values of the other person?
This, then, is the summit of the mountainous road to inner peace that must yet be conquered. Despite your dreams of a mutually happy-ever-after, despite your hopes that all the effort you’ve put into “keeping the peace” will be both recognised and reciprocated, it is now that you have to accept that, no matter what the other person says or how she justifies what she’s done, nothing will ever change her perceptions or actions.
If you can, with ruthless self-honesty, look inward into your shadows and know that you've done everything you can to encourage peace and tolerance in your particular circumstances, and the answer is "yes", well then, it’s time to end the journey into your shadow self and walk away into the light of a new kind of peace: that mysterious serenity that wells up from within your very centre and which can only be felt, not explained or understood.
The foundation of this peace can only be sustained if one walks away knowing, with utter self-honesty, that one has done one's best to make an external peace and, more importantly, if you wish those whom you have chosen to walk away from the same kind of peace for themselves.
As Mimi said, the successful road to inner peace on a personal level encompasses the acknowledgement that we cannot as individuals advocate peace in the world if, deep within our hearts and souls, we carry even a modicum of hatred or malice towards another person.
By changing how we act; by changing our perceptions of others; or by finding the strength to look inwards, we can eventually carve out a secret, inner peace for ourselves in a world in which sustainable peace is as yet an unreachable ideal.
Once we are all able to look in at ourselves and, as Carl Jung so memorably said, see that our greatest enemy is the enemy which lies within us, we can begin to create a peace within our inner worlds that will spiral ever outward to embrace the world in which we live.
Perhaps then, the wars that never end … will end.
On 29 September 2013, my husband and I attended the 2013 Festival of Light and Peace at the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit. A beautiful pocket of peace and serenity, we lit candles for global peace and lanterns for all
our family members. Christian, Buddhist and New Age musicians shared their songs with us, we held a silent meditation and said a prayer for peace in our hearts, in our families and in our world.
Master Hsing Yun ended with a prayer for world peace,
and I have included an edited excerpt of his prayer:
"Oh great compassionate Buddha
We are sincerely in front of you
Please listen to these words from our heart:
The rumbling of war between nations,
The clamour of discord between people,
The growl of hatred amongst races,
These sounds are tidal waves storming against our hearts
... so much chaos and upheaval, living in this kind of world.
Everyday we live in fear, with no ease.
Let us realise that all human suffering
originates from our self-conceit, prejudice and delusion.
Oh great compassionate Buddha,
please listen to our sincerest prayer:
Let different people of live in harmony,
Let different people have mutual respect,
Let all people see others with compassion.
Please bestow peace on this world
and bless all sentient beings with love and harmony.
Na mo Sakyamuni Buddha"