Cultivating Inner Peace for World Peace

inner peace

If you ask a beauty pageant contestant, nine times out of 10 their number one wish is for “world peace.” It sounds cheesy, but it’s a completely acceptable and non-controversial response when you think about. I mean, who can argue with that? Deep down world peace is something we would welcome with open arms.

And, we don’t simply want peace in the world, we want it in our homes, and, most of all, we want it within ourselves. Unfortunately, this often feels completely unattainable, especially on a global scale. Just watch any news program or scroll through your news feed for about five minutes and you’ll temporarily lose all faith in humanity.

How does one go about finding that oh-so elusive peace? It really starts by creating it in our own personal lives. But, even that can be extremely difficult. Especially because, for some masochistic reason, sitting in chaos can be easier and more comfortable for us. I don’t mean it in all cases. There are some circumstances that are beyond our control. But, even in situations where we are incapable of changing much of what’s happening to us, the one thing we have 100 percent power over is how we choose to perceive and react to whatever is thrown at us.

This makes me think of peace activists throughout history who have (or are enduring) unspeakable or tremendously difficult circumstances for the sake of helping others. Yet, they overcome and don’t give up on their peace dreams. What they all have in common, aside from being selfless, is that they found peace within themselves first. They’re at peace with who they are, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. They essentially become peace because they are trying to embody the main thing they are working toward, so that they are living by example and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

What am I getting at? Well, instead of getting overwhelmed by the massive task of bringing about world peace on your own, start changing your own world by finding peace for yourself and your immediate surroundings. I know. It’s much easier said than done. TRUST ME. But, it’s doable.

My favorite peace activist is world-famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He is THE living embodiment of peace, in my opinion. I am not going to pretend like I’m anywhere near his level of peacefulness, and I don’t expect you to either. But, I have been following his work, reading his books and listening to his lectures since I stumbled upon an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday featuring him that made me cry like a little baby. That’s a story for another day. In short, his work has changed my life and helped me navigate the world a bit more peacefully.

These are two lessons of his that have helped me make great strides toward peace:

Being Compassionate

I’ve learned that compassion is the key to peace and happiness. Being able to sympathize and put yourself in someone else’s shoes leads you on a path of understanding and disarms you. It’s very easy to get caught up in ego and want to only see things from our own point of view, but this leads to discord and that chaos I mentioned earlier.

And when I say be compassionate, I don’t just mean to those less fortunate or loved ones, I mean to EVERYONE. Yes, even to people who seem the least deserving of your compassion. They are actually the people who need it most. People who hurt others are usually hurting themselves. And if you can look at them through eyes of compassion, you’ll understand that often the tough exterior is a defense mechanism and a cry for help. Your kind gesture or word has the power to soften their heart. It won’t always happen immediately or at all. But, it can. Practicing compassion has helped me avoid taking things personally. It transforms anger into sympathy, and forgiveness is possible. I don’t always get this right, I’ll be honest. But, I’m trying my best. And, this is one important step toward inner peace.

Another thing we tend to forget is to be compassionate to our own selves. Especially, if you’re like me. I’m my harshest critic and expect the best from myself. So, I constantly work on being kind to myself when I make a misstep. And compassion can help you be kind to yourself too, whether you’re going through body image issues or fall short of a goal. Picture a child who spills a bowl of milk by mistake. You wouldn’t yell at them and make them feel worthless. You’d tell them “hey, it’s ok. It was a mistake. We can easily pick this up.” Why do we fail to give ourselves that type of gentle and compassionate reaction? Next time, think of that child and give yourself the same courtesy. Remind yourself that perfection is unrealistic, and that mistakes or setbacks in life will happen, and that’s ok. You can bounce back. Knowing that brings peace of mind.

Smiling

Smile! I don’t mean it in the creepy way a stranger does when he/she randomly demands you to “smile, sweetie” on the street. Ugh. Thich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful quote, “Peace begins with your lovely smile.” And this is true. A genuine smile can disarm and be a source of happiness for yourself and others. It can literally change a person’s mood. I can think of many times when someone greeted me joyfully with a smile and it completely made me feel at ease and happy. The rest of the day I was smiling like a big goof at random people. Amazing how something so simple can have a huge and lasting effect.

So, these are things to work on and that you can start implementing today. This won’t create world peace, but it’ll start creating peace in your own life and for those around you. That’s a great start!

Remember that peace can be infectious. So, begin with yourself and spread it all around. Ok, that could have been worded much better. But, you get me. Go out there, flash that lovely smile, be compassionate and live peace. Who knows, if enough of us practice this, one day it might snowball effect into world peace.

Happy International Day of Peace!

If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile. And everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Missing Abuela

I often free write when I’m overcome by strong emotions. Putting my feelings on paper helps me cope with whatever difficulty I’m experiencing. I usually keep these to myself. But, I wanted to share this one about my abuela Martina since my Joelle’s Words blog is dedicated to her. 

I sobbed. Hands covering my face as if hiding from someone. But, it was just me in the room. Was I so guarded that I tried to shield myself from being seen in this state by the air?

It was my abuela. More than a year has passed. And, while I’m fine most days, it only takes one random and unexpected moment to make me feel exactly the way I did the day I got the phone call that she was gone.

This time, I scrolled across a quote about grandmothers on Instagram. 

All the pain and hurt rushed back and overwhelmed my heart, pouring from my eyes. I wailed. Calling out to her. As if she could answer me. What I would give to hear her voice again.

My eyes shut tightly. I can see her face. So vividly, too. Her smile. The cute little rounded tip of her nose that I used to stare at almost obsessively, while I caressed her pillow-soft hair.

I remember that her hair was the last thing I touched. Hoping maybe that it would magically transport us to those days when we would lie in bed, cuddled up, making jokes and watching novelas or Family Feud (one of her faves despite not knowing English). Even as she was dying and losing physical strength, she was so full of life.

It’s these tiny instances that remind me of the huge whole in my heart. They surface just when I think I’m fine. The moments that make me long for her presence and magnify her absence tenfold.

These moments, the tears, and empty feeling flee eventually.

And then the wait begins. Until the next one strikes, suddenly and just when I start to feel deceptively whole again.

Analysis Paralysis

I’ve written hundreds of blog posts, launched a successful podcast, created dozens of beautiful paintings, and accomplished all of my personal goals from my vision board. Weeeeell, I have done all of these things…but only in my head.

Does this ever happen to you? 

I recently discovered that this thing has a name. I was having a deep conversation with my super insightful friend Daniella about life and astrology (my new obsession) recently, when she opened my eyes. I sometimes have “analysis paralysis.”

And you might too, my friend. If you’ve found yourself making plans that you have never actually put into action…then, TAG, you’re it!

Wikipedia (cue every professor in the world collectively rolling his/her eyes at this citation), defines it as the following:

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

Wikipedia

For me, this thing manifests in my personal life. At work, I’m the total opposite and what you’d call an activator. I get things done. But, I’m more of a dreamer when it comes to my personal goals and creative ventures. All these projects swirl in my head and stay there…never to live out their full potential.

So, I don’t have a magic potion or pill to reverse this mental doorstopper aka my mind’s personal Hodor. But, I have started to proactively combat this. 

Take this blog, for example. Joelle’s Words has been living in my mind for several years, and it took identifying and acknowledging my analysis paralysis to finally JUST DO IT #Nike and set it free. 

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. I came to terms with that fact that I have Analysis Paralysis. De-“Nile” isn’t just a river in Africa, as they say. So, I’m taking full responsibility and admitting that I have this issue. I overthink, overanalyze, and don’t take action when it comes to many of my personal creative ventures. Now I have to do something about it.

  2. I have pinpointed the source of my overthinking/over analysis. During my talk with Daniella, I realized that the source of my overthinking is a little voice inside my head that fills me with doubts about my dreams. This little devil on my shoulder shuts down my plans, and drowns me with insecurities, making me feel like I’m not ready. It tells me that if I don’t have a perfect plan mapped out, then I shouldn’t even go for it. It talks of failure and makes success feel unattainable. Now that I know these are the reasons for my inaction, I can confront them. And tell them to go kick rocks.

  3. I named my Analysis Paralysis. Daniella gave me a great tip: give it a name. When it pops up, acknowledge that it’s creeping up and put it back in its place. I’m naming mine Hodor. SN: I know. I know. Hodor was a great and noble character. But, he was also the most dedicated door stopper in all of Westeros. So, it’s quite fitting to me.

  4. I took action. I literally told myself last night that I was going to start my blog in the morning no matter what. I added it to my to-do list. As soon as I woke up, I started working on it. I’ll figure everything else out as I go. Ain’t no stopping this creativity train! Choo! Choo!

Now, Hodor might try to stop me again. But, I already got the upper hand because I got the blog dream out of my head and into the real world. 

I don’t have any secret solution, as I mentioned earlier. But, there’s one common denominator in all of this: INACTION. So just DO, and the rest will fall into place.

Kill your doubt with the coldest of weapons, confidence.

Incubus

Let me know in the comments if you deal with your own Hodor, and what you’ve done to overcome it.

This post is dedicated to my friend Daniella