In the face of the latest news in the world last week, I was compelled to launch a new facebook page called “Just Breathe”. It is a community to find peace and breathing space in a world that seems to be going crazy. Sometimes that is all we can do to digest events that are too horrific to understand without becoming overwhelmed ourselves. In a past life I would have rallied, written, protested and been outraged at the unjustices. It may seem trivial to focus on ourselves when so many in the world are hurting, but one does not exclude the other. You are always the starting point.
I have been an activist. I have protested, organized summits, marched and blocked roads. I have worked tirelessly for social justice as a social worker. I have been angry, lost sleep and disrupted meetings. All from a place of angst and restlessness in myself.
I have no doubt that some good does come from being seen, speaking up and saying ‘no more’. But guns and bombs will never achieve peace. Violence comes from a misunderstanding, from believing wrong perceptions and judgements of another. Therefore true peace comes only from true understanding. How can we understand each other if we can’t truly communicate? To communicate there must be compassionate listening. With the exponential advances in technology and communication we are forgetting how to really talk to one another. Communication leads to understanding leads to compassion.
How can we build peace when we cannot even talk to each other? Spouses can’t talk to each other, parents can’t talk to their children, bosses can’t talk to employees. How do we negotiate peace at any level if we can’t listen and communicate? If we can’t communicate, we can’t understand, and if we can’t understand we can’t have compassion and empathy. It’s impossible.
I have come to realize over time, without a doubt, that if we seek change in the world, we need to start within ourselves. When I look at leaders such as Ghandi, Mandela, Jesus, Martin Luther King and many others who have made monumental shifts by who they are, and living what they are seeking, I see the biggest impact.
I remember a story from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese refugee and reknowned Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher. He recounted the journey of refugees fleeing Vietnam in the 1960’s. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many. For more about Thich Nhat Hanh you can read this article.
One person can spread peace, indeed it has always been one person. Let that person be you.
Where do you feel hardened? Where do you cut others off? Where do you judge, my friend?
It is there that you start. You can do a lot. Spread peace by understanding.
“If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Feel free to leave a comment below or hop on over to the “Just Breathe” page by clicking here and share how you are finding peace today. Enjoy your week!