Article by Dr. Pratik P. SURANA
Chief Mentor and Founder
I do not know anyone who feels especially peaceful at every moment. War rhetoric shouts at
us from the TV. The media bombards us with violent images of Delhi rape victim and our
beheaded soldiers on LOC . We run into people in the street who only want to talk about the
anger and unrest. Jobs are being lost. Our Banking system does not take care of those who
need care most. People are dying, the earth is dying and some of us feel we are losing our
souls. I am writing about peace in the midst of chaos, war, mayhem,unrest and the potential
for grand scale disaster and anarchy.
Is it absurd to say that one can experience tranquillity in the face of disorder? There are
several ways in which I think this can occur. One way to find peace in disorder is by
distraction. Even – and especially – when life is bearing down upon us, it is important to
have a reserve of people, things and activities that lifts us up. These may include a walk in
nature, pursuing a hobby or an interest, talking to a friend, taking time to help someone,
seizing a moment to "smell the roses." It’s important to choose distractions that are engaging
and close to the heart, rather than just "v egging out." Staring mindlessly at the television
night after night is less helpful toward pursuing peace than engaging in more soulful
activities such as drawing, listening to music, or participating in a favourite sport or activity.
The reason that our soulful distractions lead us to peace in muddled times is that they enable
us to draw upon the larger sources of energy and inspiration available in the universe. When
an area or areas of life are disabled or blocked, drawing on other areas can dissolve the
blocks, restore the flow of energy and guide us to new ideas and directions.
Another way to find peace in the midst of disorder is prayer and meditation. This connects
us with God, the divine source of ideas, energy and love. There is an almost infinite variety
of ways to do this, including journalling; oral, written or mental dialogue with God; various
methods of guided meditation; the practice of silence; the reading of Scripture; and so on.
Direct prayer of petition and talking the situation over with God are important methods of
prayer, too; but they carry a caveat. If we’re not careful, they can leave us focused on the
very situation we’re trying to alleviate. We can become discouraged when our circumstances
do not seem to improve, or at least not right away. For that reason, prayers of petition should
be made in tandem with other forms of prayer, so that we can maintain our focus on God and
not just on the problem. The basic law of the mind is that what we pay attention to
multiplies. When we focus exclusively on the problem, we tend to experience it as lingering
or becoming worse. Problems tend to narrow our focus, and we need to keep ourselves
spiritually attuned to as many of the myriad avenues of inspiration and of the divine
presence as we can.
Peace can be ours both when we experience order in our lives and when we do not. We do
not, thankfully, have to wait until our lives are all together in order to have peace. We can
establish routines of peace in our everyday lives – special prayers, quiet places, favourite
books or poems, approachable friends – which gift us with peace even in highly stressful
times. By creating little pockets of peace for ourselves every day, we assure that peace is
never a stranger to us and that we can always find, inside ourselves, a corner of home.
If we went by the dictionary definition, peace may not seem an attainable state during these
Peace: A state of quiet or tranquillity; freedom from disturbance or agitation; calm; repose.
When I read this definition, I envision a tie-dyed long haired daisy-wearing hippie, sitting
lotus style, fingers in the OM position -- smiling contentedly. I see the image of a Buddhist
monk with saffron robes, a baby sleeping in her soft warm crib. I hear birds singing and the
sound of chanting in the rafters. Yet these are just (the) images of peace.
Peace is a thing we want to achieve. It is one of the last great American dreams. If we insist
that peace means a world without problems, pain or imbalance, it is an illusion, a fleeting
ideal. We chant and declare "we want Peace and we want it now." We stamp our feet, take
Prozac, sip some scotch and say, "give me Peace now." We demand it on the streets and fight
for it on foreign soil. We have police to enforce it. Diplomats encourage it. Besides the
dictionary definition, do we have any idea of what Peace really is? Perhaps in this brave new
world, it is time to redefine peace and clarify what it is to each of us personally.
Peace as a state of mind: Peace is a state of mind we can acquire when we come to know
that life may not always be rosy. As humans, we are subject to the whims of our emotions
and the fragile state of our lives. In her book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and
Art, Madeline L’Engle says, "Being a Christian, being saved, does not mean nothing bad is
ever going to happen. Terrible things happen to Christians as well as Hindus and Buddhists
and hedonists and atheists. To human beings. When the phone rings at an unexpected hour
my heart lurches. I love, therefore I am vulnerable." This vulnerability engages us in the
possibility of pain. Pain is part of the joy of living, taking the bitter with the sweet. Standing
in the midst of personal and global chaos it is easy to make snap judgements based on many
outside influences. When we encounter a stranger the first reaction may be fear. Who is our
enemy now? How do we handle these fears and judgements? What is the right choice about
whom to trust and love? L’Engle continues, "We try to make the loving, the creative
decision, but we cannot know whether or not we are right. Alleluia! We don’t have to be
right! We do have to love, to be vulnerable, to accept joy and pain, and to grow through
Peace as a state of being: Is inner peace possible given that we are subject to our emotional
influences from world events, media and our own judgements? I think it is possible when
you cultivate peace from the core and not look for it externally. I recently read about a
Tibetan monk held in captivity for 20 or so years. He was beaten, starved and forced into
slave lobar Upon his release, his body was broken and frail yet his spirit was alive and vital.
When asked how he could be so peaceful, he spoke gratefully of his captors. His captivity
was a gift, he said. Before his spiritual practice had been mere dogma. In captivity, his
practice became rooted in a hard and harsh reality. He had to embody what he believed in.
Thankfully, most of us are not forced into exile to find inner peace. What can we do right
Self Care: Taking care of ourselves goes a long way to maintaining a calm state of mind.
There are enough studies to prove that stress has a negative effect. A healthy body does
translate into a happier state of mind. When one feels stressed, taking care of the body gets
lost. Remember to maintain a healthful diet. Relax with family and friends .
Develop a spiritual or meditation practice: During a time of crisis, our very existence
comes into question and our lives may seem threatened. Strong emotions can overtake us.
We become more reflective and quiet. Taking time to be alone with our thoughts and
feelings is a valuable tool to developing a strong foundation. Drawn to the urgent news of
the day, we may forget how important it is to have some quiet time. Thich Nhat Hanh,
Vietnamese Zen master, poet and peace advocate suggests beginning with conscious
breathing as a way of developing inner peace. Even God took a day off. We need rest. Our
minds, bodies and spirits need some time off. In a fast paced life turning off the outside
world is a frightening idea. Do the laundry tomorrow. In-laws can visit another day. Things
can wait. The Sabbath can be valued part of a spiritual practice, or, it can be the best excuse
to turn off the TV. If you can slow the pace down you will find a sense of peace naturally
emerges. You begin to discover the rhythm of your body, discovering what you really need.
You will eat when hungry, drink when thirsty and wake when rested. If a whole day off
causes to much stress begin with a couple of hours. Take the phone off the hook, kick back
Honour your feelings: I am a great judge, not of character but of my emotions. I see
something and begin to cry and will say, "Why are you crying?" That’s stupid. On and on it
goes until the end of the day and I don’t know what I am feeling, thinking or what to do
about anything. Emotions are emotions they come and they go. Nonetheless, they are yours
and the moment they show up on your doorstep you have something to say about them. In
the middle of worldwide crisis, it is OK to feel upset. The idea is not to let the feelings rule
you, but to learn from what they reveal about you. We can see clearly how anger and hatred
can turn people against each other in vicious ways. Right after 9/11 there was an incredible
amount of openness and love. People turned to each other. Strangers helped strangers. There
was a glimmer of hope we could turn a disastrous event into something really grand and
glorious. What happened? Anger and hatred became the feeding ground for revenge rather
then the source of growth for our souls. The Dalai Lama says: "We cannot overcome anger
and hatred simply by suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate the antidote to hatred:
patience and tolerance."
Cultivate Loving Kindness: We come to one of the most difficult parts of creating peace.
When we meet the stranger, we have a few choices. We can run fight or, we can love. Love
does not mean the acceptance of an evil action but learning to love the person behind that
act. That is not an easy task to do. Jesus taught forgiveness when he said, "Love the Lord thy
God with all your heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbour as
thyself." This is the practice of loving kindness. If you cannot treat yourself with forgiveness
and compassion then it is difficult to extend it to others. Through the act of loving-kindness,
we can practice creating peace. There is a Buddhist practice called Ton glen, a meditation of
giving and receiving. We do it first for ourselves, then our loved ones, next our enemies and
finally for all beings. If new to meditation, begin by working with your own feelings,
discovering in time emotions that were once overwhelming transformed with this practice.
We have the choice to live in fear or love. We see the results of living in fear.
Universal responsibility: In Ethics for the New Millennium, The Dalai Lama tells us, "I
believe that our every act has a universal dimension. Because of this, ethical discipline,
wholesome conduct, and careful discernment are crucial ingredients for a meaningful happy
life." He asserts that creating contentment is critical for the welfare of the universal
community. When you are content, you cannot sow the seeds of envy, greed or resentment.
In essence, we are part of the global family. What occurs in Iraqi is happening in our living
rooms at the same time. We can no longer ignore the world because it is now knocking
loudly on our door. As part of the universal community it is our responsibility to first take
care of ourselves, practice and embody peace offering it to the world. The steps can be
simple: treat our neighbours and ourselves with loving-kindness. Each small act of love has
broad implications. There are organizations that support the needs of the global community.
Investigate them. Before you begin the day, be thankful for what you have, even if it is just a
bed to sleep in and water running from a faucet. Practice peace and peace will come to you.
I bow to the light in you. Namaste.