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Peace Day 2008: What Does It Mean to Live Peace?

September 16, 2008

Gandhi is credited with saying “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

This Sunday, Sept. 21st, is International Peace Day. Governments, organizations, and communities around the world will be commemorating this day with their own events to celebrate and promote peace. The Peace Alliance recently delivered their petition to Congress to establish a U.S. Department of Peace, dedicated to promoting nonviolent solutions to both domestic and international problems. The Peace One Day organization is encouraging people to make a ‘peace commitment’ – commit to one act or even thought devoted to peace that day.

What is my own contribution? I plan to meditate on peace, and encourage those I know to do the same, from 8AM – 9AM PST that morning. A paltry offering it seems, in the face of the world’s problems, but it is what I do. I meditate, and teach others to meditate. We each have to find our place in the world, and do what we do well.

To me this is part of Gandhi’s message. There is no ‘way to peace’ in the sense that we can’t engineer it from the outside. No particular social structure, or treaty, or U.S. department, or peace gathering, will guarantee peace in the world. Until the human race changes, from the inside out, social structures will continue to create conflict, treaties will be broken, departments will get derailed, and peace gatherings will create lots of good ‘vibes’ but little permanent change. Which doesn’t mean that these things aren’t worth trying – every little bit helps in my view – but they don’t get to the crux of the issue.

The crux of the issue is in the second half of Gandhi’s quote, when he says ‘peace is the way’. I take the word ‘way’ in the spiritual sense, as in the way we each choose to live our lives. The way we choose to live is a reflection of our consciousness, and every day, every moment, we make a choice as to whether to live peace or live war. When we lash out at others, even just internally in our own minds, we choose war. When we honestly face and work with our angry emotions, seeking to disarm them through self-knowledge, attempting to react from a different level of our being, we choose peace. These choices we make, moment my moment, are our statement on peace. They are our spiritual journey.

This way is not repression. Repression just strengthens the darker forces of our psyche, inevitably leading to eruption. It is also not ‘positive thinking’, which in practice is too often just masked repression anyway. If it can be described at all, maybe ‘living beyond ego’ is a good start, or simply ‘awakening’. And it is available to any of us.

For me, meditation is practice for the moment by moment choices that make up my way. As distracting thoughts enter my mind, or I feel my attention turning to a memory or projection of a past or future event that begins or ends in conflict, I make the choice not to follow them. Instead I pull my mind back to my meditation, back to my true self. Each time I do this I am choosing peace.

So, go for it this Sunday. Sit and meditate – any style will do – and practice making those choices. Practice your own peaceful way.

If you are interested in learning more about meditation, try this post on the different Types of Meditation. Or, for tips on integrating meditation tactics into a busy day, try the Meditation for Busy Women series.

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