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:
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.
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