The word peace conjures images, evokes emotions, and regards a plethora of definitions. Peace cannot be hoodwinked by homogeneous loyalties claiming exclusive rights to its meaning. Obtaining peace is as personal as the lines carved on our palms. There is neither syllabi nor outline to adhere to while attempting to achieve peace. Peace is not for the fainthearted, the indifferent, or the pessimistic. Peace is a practice—it is ongoing and fluid. It is the pond in the center of our being that mirrors truth when unruffled by turbulence. Famous practitioners of peace have walked the earth leaving in their wake, pathways of how to live peacefully within and with the world around us. And there are obscure folks family members, friends, teachers, or co-workers who are not documented in history books but nonetheless have been models of peace and are etched in our hearts. Like ethereal support systems, we can turn to their examples when we feel ourselves waiver.
Practicing peace amid tumultuous times requires on going rehearsals. It is not something most of us can merely decide to practice and boom—we are at peace on the spot. Most of us need daily visits to our sacred place of peace in order to recognize it and strengthen our connection to it; like going to a favored beach or forest or temple. Creating that place and finding our way back during duress can be confusing if we have only been there once or twice.
Rather than dragging every peace philosophy out of the closet, or describing the sundry of ways to foster peace, I would like to detail three specifics; cultivating peace can bring not only on an individual level, but on a universal level as well; clarity, compassion, and respect. And for the sake of keeping this blog to a minimal, let us presume that a practice of peace is void of any violence to self or others.
Peace can escort us through fear or loneliness or anger and leave us in the hands of clarity. We can see a situation or person from the inside out rather than what appears merely from a lopsided perspective. For instance, I was deeply saddened when my father failed to show up at my wedding this past October 3rd. Two days prior, he was supposedly on his way. There was no phone call, no email, and no explanation. Weeks afterwards, sitting on my yoga mat, I knew I needed to understand where all of this pain was coming from? Breath, don’t be afraid, I whispered silently. It was as if peace held my hand while I nuzzled elbow-to-elbow with the pain and hurt. And there in my house of peace, I saw my dad as a boy in the orphanage he lived at for seven years. I could see that my father’s reluctance to attend my wedding stemmed from his own fears of not belonging. It had nothing to do with me. Now with a renewed clarity, I could toss pain out of the window.
With clarity comes compassion. If we truly understand we can empathize. Saints and sages, messiahs and diplomats have all preached compassion for self and others. We must practice mercy within before we can give it away to others. Our peace pond or mirror can reflect forgiveness only when it is cleaned and shining truth our way. As a nurse, I have had the honor of being with dying patients. Patients who with their families face their final hours here on earth. Peace fortifies my ability to walk the death tunnel with complete strangers together arm in arm with kindness. Crying, laughing, being with people from around the globe bound by sincere compassion is what strengthens us, gives us the courage to give a hug or hand to those in need.
Compassion allows us the freedom to respect differences and to recognize common ground. Dwelling in peace, even when we are literally or figuratively being bombarded by diverse belief systems again—you got it--takes practice. Respect boils from simmering clarity and compassion in the same pot; it is the delicious cream that savors the two. When I began to study myths and legions, I realized that the stories we have heard growing up can enhance or inhibit our path to peace. Learning to respect how others obtain peace has helped me untangle myself from any one particular belief. Although I was raised Catholic, I don’t subscribe to that religion any longer. My mother, on the other hand continues to find solace in the church. Finally, I have learned to honor that. So I have stopped dragging her to yoga Kirtans wanting her to feel as liberated and moved as I do. And in the spirit of respect, I have floated into new territories on a peaceful magic carpet.
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.