I have caught myself a few times recently being less than peaceful. Perhaps it is understandable – there is a lot of fear and anxiety, not helped by news and social media. It occurred to me that each of us is a teacher and that we have a choice in every moment about what it is that we are teaching.
When we think of peace, it is usually in terms of the absence of war of the kind we see on the news. We don’t often consider other kinds of peace. Peace with ourselves, with our neighbours, with our environment and with life in general is important since this is where we are able to act most directly. It seems as though it is sometimes easier to direct our focus at distant forces outside of ourselves (governments and other countries perhaps) than to look at our relationships with ourselves and those around us. In reality, this is probably a distraction – an opportunity to procrastinate. The reality is that it is hard to make peace with ourselves and the people around us sometimes. The fear is strongest here, or at least it is likely to be!
Mindfulness can help us with this. Firstly in catching ourselves and making a conscious choice about what we say and how we act. Specifically, we are talking about the qualities of non-judgement, acceptance and compassion. These are essential to peace. Notice that there may be a voice that objects – a voice that talks about “letting people walk all over us” or some other resistance to accepting something that seems wrong. Notice too that “wrong” is a judgement. Very clearly people being persecuted or harmed is not a good thing. However, acceptance here is simply acknowledging the truth of it – it is not saying that it is OK or that we should not act to stop it if we are able, just that this is the reality at the moment. Non-acceptance would be me getting very angry about it and raging to my family – maybe even directing some of my anger inappropriately towards them. In this instance I am doing absolutely nothing to stop it. What I am doing is propagating the waves of war in my own space. I am allowing a distant disturbance to create ripples where I am.
I would also be spreading the “war” if I were to react in a fearful way. It is important to communicate the truth and to shine a light on things, but this is different to spreading messages of fear. We need to be very mindful in our communications and to notice the underlying motive. If what we are posting on social media has a “you should be very afraid” message or “you should do something to fix this” agenda, then it is probably not teaching peace. Starting from the question “why would I post this or share this” can be helpful.
Another approach that I find useful is to think of communication as “sowing seeds.” If what I am saying is talking about something loving and joyful, then I am hopefully sowing seeds to grow something that will bring love and joy to others.
The invitation is to share something that talks about what we are grateful for, some way we are able to see another person’s perspective or to show compassion for people who are acting out of fear. Even just asking ourselves what may be happening from another person’s point of view or accepting that there is a lot we do not know about how they came to act as they are is a solid start. From a tiny spark of understanding we can start to light a path to resolving conflict and healing mistakes.
As with all mindfulness, it is a practice – the aim is to get better at it over time and not to disturb our peace with recrimination for the times when we slip into our habitual, fearful mode. Start with things that seem small and insignificant – maybe that news item that makes you want to shout at the TV – and see where your new skill takes you!