From Personal Peace to World Peace

World peace is nothing more than personal peace….seven billion times.  Or, more practically, durable world peace becomes possible when a tipping point is reached because large numbers of people actively practice personal peace and bring that practice into their families, workplaces, communities and nations in ways that spark a quiet revolution.

But what might getting from inner personal peace to outer societal peace actually look like?   The Feather offers the following as one possible scenario.   Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” scenario, and scenarios can be endlessly debated.  But what is important is that people who are working on inner peace visualize for themselves how their inner work manifests, connects and adds up in ways that contribute to lasting outer peace.   The more scenarios we all try on for size, the more positive visions for the future surface and begin to coalesce into shared visions.

So, first, let’s start by imagining a day in your life, as someone working on cultivating inner peace and bringing that peace into your relationships and activities:

  • When you wake up, you do not jump out of bed right away, or turn on the radio or TV, or reach for your smart-phone to check your email.   You resist the urge to start mentally planning your day.  Instead, you allow yourself a few moments to remain in bed, physically and mentally relaxed.    You think about some of the people and things you are grateful for.  In this open state, you resolve to do no harm to others during the day, to repay the many kindnesses shown you, and to be kind and compassionate to everyone you come into contact with.  You get up and enter into your formal personal religious or spiritual practice.  In this way, you establish the spiritual foundation for your day and your strong intention to be peace.
  • In a mindful way, you bathe, dress, prepare and eat your breakfast, and interact with others in your household.   You recognize the opportunity to slow down and imbue each action and interaction with present awareness.   You choose to let your mind be present with what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, instead of having your body in one place doing one thing while your mind is miles away focused on something else.
  • While traveling to work, instead of being frustrated by public transit delays or by traffic jams and bad drivers, you use such annoyances as opportunities to practice being at peace with people and situations you don’t like or can’t control.   You catch yourself reacting angrily when a driver cuts you off and choose instead to wish that person peace and happiness.   And when an accident stops traffic and makes you late for work, you remind yourself that every situation has a right to be and that peace starts with recognizing that and working openly with the situation.  In this way, you train yourself to be patient, to tolerate the unexpected, and to not feel strong aversion to being inconvenienced or slighted.  Your ability to feel peaceful and happy becomes less and  less dependent on external conditions.
  • At work, you use affirmations or a timer for repeated (discrete) mini-breaks of just 30-60 seconds throughout the morning to remind yourself of your compassionate motivation and to take just a minute to come back to present awareness before returning to what you were doing.  With practice, the boundary blurs and more mindfulness and contentment begins to permeate everything you do.
  • During your lunch break, you eat slowly and mindfully. You think about all the people and things that played a part in getting to your plate the food you are eating,  and you gratefully acknowledge the complex web of interdependence.  If possible, you find a quiet place for a few minutes more of your formal practice.  You release any stress or anxiety from the morning, as best you can.
  • You continue the mini-breaks throughout the afternoon.    At the end of the workday, if there were colleagues you had negative interactions with during the day, you mentally forgive both them and yourself.  Then, you set things right with them or express your appreciation for them in some way – directly to them if possible, but at least mentally with the resolution to do better the next day.
  • Once home, you do some more of your personal practice for a little while to get re-centered before turning your attention to friends or family.   You mentally set work aside and choose to be fully present with them.  You eat your dinner slowly and mindfully, enjoying each bite.
  • You “breathe the news.”   As you watch or listen to news events that upset you or that make you sad or angry, you imagine that you are breathing in the pain and suffering of the people involved – both victims and perpetrators.  You imagine that their pain and suffering is transformed in your heart, without doing any harm to you, into healing loving light which you breathe back out.  You imagine that they are bathed in that loving light and that their suffering is eased as a result.   In this way, you avoid becoming a psychological victim of the news and turn watching it into a compassion practice.
  • You avoid spending most of the evening mindlessly watching TV, especially watching shows that are full of hatred, intolerance, violence and aggression.  You choose to occupy your mind with something more peaceful and positive, whether it’s more formal religious or spiritual practice, doing something fun with friends or family, volunteering in your community, engaging in a relaxing hobby, or enjoying an inspiring book or video.
  • Before going to bed, you review your day.  You note and take joy in those situations where you remained centered and at peace.    You note and try to learn something from the situations where you “lost it.”  You resolve to do better the next day and you ask for help.   As your head hits the pillow, you express the wish that your attempts during the day to be peace, no matter how imperfect, send out ripples of benefit to the whole world.  Then, relaxing your body and mind, you go to sleep, at peace with yourself and the world.

It’s not hard to see how something like this kind of personal discipline, if practiced by enough people, might well do a lot to lower humanity’s emotional boiling point and help give peace a chance.   But, this, of course, is just the beginning:

  • Imagine if children were raised to practice inner peace and entire families practiced together.
  • Imagine if there were groups of people supporting each other ‘s personal peace practices in the workplace, or even organizations formed or re-oriented around groups of people committed to working together mindfully, peacefully and compassionately.  Imagine this happening in businesses, government agencies and other organizations around the world.
  • Imagine if political candidates were recruited and elected who were committed to personal peace and who campaigned and worked very differently as a result.
  • Imagine an online matching service for singles looking for other singles who are cultivating inner peace through contemplative practice.
  • Imagine that “burnout” ceases to be a major problem for many people working on the stressful frontlines of humanitarian relief work and conflict resolution, because their inner work makes them better able to sustain their outer work
  • Imagine interfaith dialogues,exchanges and pilgrimages focused on celebrating the variety of ways different faith traditions support the cultivation of inner peace.
  • Imagine a UN Peacekeeping Force composed of people who practice inner peace.
  • Imagine if retirement or other communities were formed by people who shared a commitment to cultivating inner peace.
  • Imagine a flourishing of art – plays,  music,  TV shows, and movies – that gives expression to the values and practices of personal peace and their contribution to world peace.

….Now, keep imagining!