Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mulling peace

What is peace?

In recent years, I've spent a lot of time exploring, reading about, and mulling over what it means to live a life of peace.

It's a question I dodged for most of my early adult years in an ultimately fruitless quest to outrun my inner demons of fear of failure and of not being enough. I thought focused achievements and a carefully polished image would outrun those demons.  They didn't.  It only left me physically and emotionally exhausted, my life bereft of authentic peace.

The past few years as I've surrendered to a path towards peace, one of the most profound lessons I've learned is that peace begins inside and through me.

There's just so much hurt in our world on a vast scale.....bombings in Brussels, rising hostilities between nations, generation after generation of children the world over who grow up knowing only poverty, pain, and violence. While these are all terrible things, in many ways they (especially the first two) are outside of the sphere of influence that most of us as regular individuals have.

But what is within my reach—within the reach of us all—is the peace that comes from within us. The peace that starts with me and you and ripples on outwards. When we live in peace, we bring peace to others around us. One person at a time.

With every person we encounter as we go about our lives, we have a choice.  We can choose to interact with gentleness, compassion, and fairness. That is peace.

When we choose kindness with a family member whose actions are difficult...that is peace.  When we smile at the grocery cashier, wave across to a neighbour, or nod hello instead of averting our eyes when we encounter a person who is homeless...that is peace.  When we walk in nature, truly appreciating our connection with nature...that is peace.  When we look beyond ourselves to the needs of another creature...that is perhaps the greatest peace of all.

It's like a smooth stone thrown onto a clear lake on a hot summer's day that strikes the surface and then goes skimming across the water.  You never know quite where it will touch down or what the impact will be, but the rock goes on and on.  Peace shared person to person is like that: we may never know the true impact but that doesn't mean it doesn't continue on beyond our lives and what we can see.

If we truly want to impact the world for good, it doesn't start with devoting our lives to ourselves, and crafting an image of perfectionism that is absolutely non-reflective of our true lives and personal struggles.  It starts with peace and genuine love, person to person, humanity to humanity. From there it ripples on outward. It is not always easy, but to be a small catalyst for peace is one of the greatest gifts and privileges offered to our lives. I think that is how we change the world for good.

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