Thursday, July 27, 2006

Finding peace in difficult times

It's very hard to find or see or experience peace in times like we are having today. Today, as I write this, Israel has engaged in a war with the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and is bombing large parts of Lebanon. It is in retaliation for attacks by Hezbollah, but if you wind yourself back through the years you find a repeated series of attacks, one attacking the other, back and forth, as they each sought retribution for previous grievances done by the other.

How can we have peace with this fighting?

Okay, we can kick back another six pack and ignore the significance of the fighting. It doesn't have to be a six pack, as there are a zillion ways for someone to numb out such horrors. But suppose one is paying attention to the horrors, that they are aware of the significance of them, and they want to find a path to peace?

Oh, and just what is the potential significance of these events? Well, I see the clear possibility that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Lebanon will merge with the greater conflict involving Iraq, Iran and Syria, and become a region-wide war. Already several world leaders are calling this the opening stage of World War III.

With that in mind let us get back to peace.

First, let me ask you just what peace is? Is peace the cessation of war or conflict? I don't think so.

I heard a wise man once speak about peace. He works with inner city gangs and in Kosovo with peacemaking work, and what he pointed out is that peace is not simply the cessation of conflict. To explain what peace is, he asked us to think about the woods, the feeling, the peace, that woods imbue upon an area. A lot of conflict occurs within woods, trees fall down, all sorts of life and death conflict happens between hunter and prey, but the woods remain a haven of peace.

After four years of pondering this idea I can best define peace as a force weaving throughout lives that creates a wholeness that contains those lives.

Now lets start talking about how we can find peace in difficult times like we have today.

The difficult times I'm talking of need not be just in the outer world, like wars or rape or robberies. We have difficult times in our inner world as well. Our job may be stressful, or our spouse might be angry at us, or we might not know how to handle our rambunctious kids, etc. Difficulties abound and it is part of living and being human to strive to learn how to handle difficulties in a wholesome and healthy way.

The method to dealing with difficult times begins with another observation about how the woods embody peace.

Think about some woods next to a busy highway. If you are in those woods, isn't it hard to feel that feeling, the peacefulness, that imbues the woods? Then think about woods that are not next to a highway, and isn't it easy to feel that peacefulness in those woods? The idea to share is that woods have a sort of capacity to imbue peace into their surroundings. The size of one disturbance might be within the capacity of the woods to encompass, but other disturbances might blow right past that capacity.

Like someone with a bulldozer wanting to clear some land by knocking down trees. That is clearly beyond the capacity of woods to imbue with peace. The busy highway is, as well, beyond the capacity of woods to imbue with peace.

That shows a route to finding peace in difficult times. One must carefully and purposely nurture peace, especially in difficult times. As you nurture peace within yourself, your capacity to remain peaceful in the face of difficulties will grow. Your capacity to encompass all your difficulties will grow as you purposely nurture peace.

It's best to first practice with finding peace for yourself. Later you can practice sending peace to others.

There are many practices that will help to find peace. A very simple one is to simply walk in the woods and see for yourself the example I have given. When you're in the woods, pay attention to what is going on. Notice how things happen, and then are quickly swallowed up by the woods.

The one I want to suggest is a meditation upon peace. Begin by breathing, and as you breath in and out speak "Peace" as you breath. As you speak "Peace", do it as a way of calling "Peace" from inside you. Have the intention that "Peace" will reveal itself to you as you breath in and out, speaking "Peace".

Keep breathing in and out speaking "Peace" and watch what happens inside you.

As you practice breathing in and out speaking "Peace" your inner turmoil is likely to rise up. You might suddenly remember an argument with a lover from 20 years ago, or you might remember an argument at work, or you might remember some small slight done to you in the past. This is your inner turmoil. As you call "Peace" from inside yourself, do not get caught up in this turmoil but instead allow the "Peace" to embrace the turmoil.

You may find it difficult at first to stay with your "Peace" while your turmoil bubbles up. Simply stay with the practice. Watch how you embrace your turmoil with "Peace". Do you smother the turmoil trying to extinguish it? Or is it a comforting embrace? It is the latter which I recommend you to do.

May peace be with you.