Winter Solstice Newsletter
"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble or hard
work. It means to be in the midst of those
things and still be calm in your heart."
The peace that we individually and collectively want, even crave, is not something we can 'get.' It is not available to order or buy, not on Amazon's list of 'best zen gifts' or in that great book on our bedside table. We can't get peace by avoiding conflict, by keeping our family happy, by buying something we really want, or even by attending a spiritual retreat. It won't come because we move to another country, get a new job, fix a difficult person, get healthy, or find the love of our lives. In fact, true peace has little to do with external conditions.
Instead, peace is something that we learn to BE. Thich Nhat Hanh said, "It is my conviction that there is no way to peace--peace is the way," pointing to peace as a process or practice rather than a destination. To be peace, we have to experience all within us that is not peace. We turn inward, exploring our feelings, thoughts, habits, and conditioning perhaps finding old pain, mental chaos, grasping, judgment, pettiness, and restlessness. Together, this forms the illusion of a trap that keeps us from peace, but as we see and feel and sense the trap, we allow awareness to dissolve it moment by moment, day by day, and year by year. The experience of opening to what is ultimately frees us.
During this beautiful season, we invite you to:
Take time to feel your feelings, sitting with sadness or fear, excitement or joy rather than repressing those feelings or acting them out,
, breathing in the heaviness of the world, breathing out Lightness of Being,
Devote your yoga practice, making your bed, doing your dishes, living peacefully with your relations, to the upliftment of the world,
So as we celebrate the Winter Solstice on Thursday, December 21st at 11:28 EST in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere), please join us in being peace. Consider how you are peace in your own heart, in your family, in the community and in the world.
We wish you a
joyous and peaceful Solstice
and holy day season!
Dealing With the Darkness of
What Humans Do to Humans
This article shows how in response to thuggish forces, the qualities of feminine intelligence-available to men as well as to women-can enable us to take a significant leap in consciousness and demonstrate what anyone can do to build a beautiful future.
What we encounter now-in Europe and the Middle East, as in the US-is an upsurge of primitive, brutish forces employing threat, supe
rior power, trickery, punishment, and information manipulation. It is as if permission has been given for thuggish behaviour.
We are witnessing-very starkly because it is on our screens daily-the darkest capacities of humans to hurt, humiliate, and kill their fellow humans, and to destroy the majestic natural world that surrounds us.
And yet... this darkness that appears to be growing around us may also be an invitation, a challenge. The global issues that confront us now-global warming, migration, overpopulation, cyber warfare, terrorism-are all manmade, and none can be dealt with using superior force. So, this is the time to heed Einstein: "No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it."
This means that we have to up our game. We need to shift our consciousness and take a significant leap in what humanity can achieve through awareness. This will require the courage to face the darkness of what humans do to humans, to see the worst results of destruction, to stand up to put a stop to it, to create something alive and dynamic in its place. I will spell out the qualities and skills we need, illustrated by
examples of how this is already happening.
How I Learned This
The work I do has involved me with people who seem to have a lot of power-physicists who design nuclear warheads, military officers in charge of nuclear weapons, manufacturers who produce and sell missiles and machine guns, strategists who design defence policies, as well as those who sign the cheques-not just in America but also in
Britain, Russia, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan.
By establishing Peace Direct, I also now work with people who risk their lives to stop other people being killed, people of great courage who are building peaceful societies from the bottom up. These locally led peace initiatives are multiplying fast in the hot conflicts areas of the world; we have now identified 1,400 groups of people effectively preventing war, so this is a fast growing eruption of green shoots through concrete.
Through the organisations Rising Women Rising World and FemmeQ, we have identified five of the outstanding qualities of feminine intelligence-available to men as to women-that can enable us to shift our consciousness and achieve tangible long-lasting results through awareness. The first is compassion.
Compassion is feeling for others-combined with a strong intention to assist them. It means having the strength to step into the shoes of another, even those we dislike, and to understand how they feel and are motivated. This is not simply a quality for the meek and gentle-it actually prevents suicide bombing. Consider the work of Gulalai Ismail who works in the Swat Valley in NW Pakistan, one of the toughest places in the world to be a woman. She trains young people to go into madrasses, find those young m
en who are being taught to be jihadis, and go home with them to their families to discuss how the Koran would not sanction suicide bombing. So far, 4,000 'at risk' young people have been reached by 223 trained youth activists and over 250 potential bombings prevented. Thus, compassion is the drive not only to feel for others, but also to take action to assist them.
Inclusivity is the second quality. It means ensuring that the marginalized-the 'majority world' of those without a voice-are brought in to decision-making. This can mean, as in the case of Germany's welcome of large numbers of refugees, confronting the anger of those who are afraid of diversity and would prefer to close borders and exclude those fleeing violence or persecution. The example I know best here i
s of Henri Bura Ladyi, an ex-child soldier in the Congo who, when Peace Direct is able to send him a small sum of money, gets on his motorbike and rides into the bush. There he buys a herd of goats and drives them to where the militia are hiding. This is risking his life because the militia are trigger-happy, high on drugs, and don't like intruders. But Henri knows how to talk to them and swaps one goat (price $5) for one child, and brings the children home. Then the hard work begins of reintegrating these traumatised children into their families, members of whom they may have been forced to kill.
Listening is a quality that may sound easy; indeed, most people think they are good listeners. But most people are not. Giving another person my full attention is one of the greatest gifts I can give, and that attention needs to be such that I can sense the emotions behind what the other person is saying. This means that, in an argument, I can move from my head, namely, "I'm right and you're wrong," to my heart and sense "Oh, is that what this feels like for you?" With some initial difficulty, I taught our listening exercise (you can find it in my book Pioneering the Possib
le: Awakened Leadership for a World that Works) to senior executives of one of the largest global luxury companies in the world. After some resistance, they learned how to give their full listening attention to one another and they reported: "What you taught us enables us now to resolve in 15 minutes what previously would have taken four hours of argument, and still not been agreed!" So, real listening is a key skill in transforming conflicts.
Interconnectedness is the longing to nurture and protect our planet and her resources. The arrogant celebration of 'man's conquest of nature' is being replaced by the realization that we need to respect, safeguard, and help regenerate the planetary life of which we are a part. This is evident in the refusal of millennials to work for companies with outdated values. By 2020, those born between 1980 and 2000 will form 50% of the global workforce and will be the largest consumer class. Surveys show that an overwhelming 75% of those born between 1980 and 2000 have four major priorities: planet, people, and purpose, which all come before profit. They consider environmental protection, climate change, resourc
e scarcity, and biodiversity loss as their number one priority. Some are even insisting that governments appoint a Guardian of Future Generations, an official whose job it is to think ahead long term to what may affect our grandchildren, with the power to stop governments or corporations taking actions that may pollute or harm the planet and its creatures.
is a deeply felt quality of feminine intelligence because the female body is innately in tune with reproduction, with the Earth, and with the cycles of the moon. Men can also be deeply in touch with the current needs of Earth that go way beyond sustainability, the buzzword of 'corporate social responsibility' policies that often sadly gather dust in drawers rather than generating action. For years, i
ndigenous leaders have been telling us that decisions must be made-not in the i
nterests of the next quarterly figures but with the interests of the next seven generations in mind. We need to clean up the vast islands of plastic debris polluting the Pacific Ocean, enable our rivers to recover from oil and chemicals casually spilled, replace the tops of mountains scalped to permit mining, and re-forest lands that have become barren through over-farming. Near Rio in Brazil, Thais Corral inherited a mountain where all the trees had been cut down; she has now established Sino Da Vale, where students come for a six-month internship to learn to raise native saplings, plant them according to contours, and protect them from loggers. Read more.
Article orginally published by Kosmos Journal,
"There will be no peace in the world
until there is peace in our hearts."
"One practical thing also I will ask of you. Will you say, each night and morning, with all your heart's desire and with the attention of your mind as well, the following words. The united saying will set up a rhythm and a momentum of great potency.
Let the Forces of Light bring illumination to mankind.
Let the Spirit of Peace be spread abroad.
May men of goodwill everywhere meet in a spirit of cooperation.
May forgiveness on the part of all men be the keynote at this time.
Let power attend the efforts of the Great Ones.
So let it be, and help us to do our part.
These words sound simple, but the "Forces of Light" is the name for certain new Powers which are being invoked by the Hierarchy at this time, Whose potencies can be brought into great activity at the May full moon if due effort is made. The Spirit of Peace which is invoked is an inter-planetary Agent of great power Whose cooperation has been promised if all can cooperate to break through the shell of separation and hatred which holds our planet in thrall. May I therefore close with these simple words: Please give us your aid, my friends."
From "Externalisation of the Hierarchy" by Alice A. Bailey
There is no path to peace.
The path is peace.
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his 2003 address to congress, says that only deep listening, mindfulness and gentle communication can remove the wrong perceptions that are the foundation of violence.
Distinguished members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you about how we can share our insight, our compassion and our understanding in order to better serve those we want to serve and help heal the wounds that have divided our nation and the world.
When you sit in your car on the way to work, you might like to use that time to come home to yourself and touch the wonders of life. Instead of allowing yourself to think of the future, you might like to pay attention to your breath and come home to the present moment. We breathe in and out all day, but we are not aware that we are breathing in and breathing out. The practice of bringing our attention to our breath is called mindful breathing: Breathing in, I know I am alive. Breathing out, I smile to life. This is a very simple practice. If we go home to our in-breath and out-breath and breathe mindfully, we become fully alive in the here and now.
In our daily lives, our bodies are present, but our minds might be elsewhere, caught in our projects, our worries and our anxieties. Life is only available in the present moment. The past is already gone; the future is not yet here. When we establish ourselves in the present moment we are able to live our moments deeply and to get in touch with the healing, refreshing and nourishing elements that are always within us and around us.
With this energy of mindfulness, we can recognize our pain and embrace it tenderly like a mother whose baby is crying. When a baby cries, the mother stops everything she is doing and holds the baby tenderly in her arms. The energy of the mother will penetrate into the baby and the baby will feel relief. The same thing happens when we recognize and embrace our own pain and sorrow. If we can hold our anger, our sorrow and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in the people we love as well.
Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well. The person you love has a lot suffering and has not had a chance to be listened to. It is very important to take the time to sit down and listen with compassion. We call this practice "deep listening." Deep listening can be used with the practice of loving speech to help restore communication with the people you care about. To listen like this is to give the other person a chance to empty his or her heart. If you can keep your compassion alive during that time-even if what the other person says is full of accusations and bitterness-it will not touch off irritation and anger in you. Listen in order to help the other person to suffer less.
When you communicate with compassion, you are using language that does not have the elements of anger and irritation in it. In this way we can help each other remove wrong perceptions. All the energies of anger, hatred, fear and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions result in a lot of anger, mistrust, suspicion, hate and terrorism. You cannot remove wrong perceptions through punishment. You have to do it with the tools of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech. With deep, compassionate listening and loving speech, we can bring harmony to our families, and our communities can become communities of understanding, peace and happiness.
When I was in India a number of years ago, I spoke to Mr. R. K. Narayan, a member of the Indian parliament, about the practice of deep listening and compassionate dialogue in legislative bodies. When you represent the people, you are expected to offer the people the best of your understanding and compassion. I said that a legislative assembly could become a community with a lot of mutual understanding and compassion. It could have strong collective insight to support the decision-making process and the people of the nation. Here in Washington, before a session of Congress, one person could read a short meditation: "Dear colleagues, we are elected by our people and our people expect us to listen to each other deeply and to use the kind of language that can convey our wisdom and insight. Let us bring together our individual experiences and wisdom so that we can offer our collective insight and make the best decisions for the country and the people."
When a member of Congress is speaking from her insight with this kind of language, she is offering the best of herself. If we only act and speak the party line, then we are not offering the best compassion and understanding we have.
Members of Congress are very concerned about the levels of violence in our families, in our schools and in our society. Each concerned person may have his or her own ideas and insights about how to bring down that level of violence. If we can combine all our insights and experiences we will have the collective insight that will help to decrease the amount of violence in our society. If we are not able to listen to our colleagues with a free heart, though-if we only consider and support ideas from our own party-we are harming the foundation of our democracy. That is why we need to transform our community-in this case the Congress-into a compassionate community. Everyone would be considered a brother or sister to everyone else. Congress would be a place where we learn to listen to everyone with equal interest and concern. The practice of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech can help to build brotherhood, can remove discrimination and can bring about the kind of insight that will be liberating to our country and to our people.
Two days after the events of September 11th, I spoke to 4,000 people in Berkeley, California. I said that our emotions are very strong right now, and we should calm ourselves down. With lucidity and calm we would know what to do and what not to do in order not to make the situation worse. I said that the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center must have been very angry. They must have hated America a lot. They must have thought of America as having tried to destroy them as individual people, as a religion, as a nation, and as a culture. I said that we had to find out why they did such a thing to America.
America's political leaders can ask the question, calmly and with clarity: "What have we done that has made you suffer so much?" America's political leaders can say, "We want to know about your suffering and why you hate us. We may have said something or done something that gave you the impression that we wanted to destroy you. But that is not the case. We are confused, and that is why we want you to help us understand why you have done such a thing to us."
We call this loving or gentle speech. If we are honest and sincere, they will tell us how they feel. Then we will recognize the wrong perceptions they have about themselves and about us. We can try to help them to remove their wrong perceptions. All these acts of terrorism and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions are the ground for anger, violence and hate. You cannot remove wrong perceptions with a gun.
When we listen deeply to another person, we not only recognize their wrong perceptions, but we also identify our own wrong perceptions about ourselves and about the other person. That is why mindful dialogue and mindful communication is crucial to removing anger and violence.
It is my deepest hope that our political leaders can make use of such instruments to bring peace to the world. I believe that using force and violence can only make the situation worse. Since September 11th, America has not been able to decrease the level of hate and violence on the part of the terrorists. In fact, the level of hate and violence has increased. It is time for us to go back to the situation, to look deeply and to find another less costly way to bring peace to us and to them. Violence cannot remove violence-everyone knows that. Only with the practice of deep listening and gentle communication can we help remove wrong perceptions that are at the foundation of violence.
America has a lot of difficulty in Iraq. I think that America is caught in Iraq in the same way that America was caught in Vietnam. We have the idea that we have to go and destroy the enemy. That idea will never give us a chance to do the right thing to end violence. During the Vietnam War, America thought that it had to go to North Vietnam to bomb. The more America bombed, the more communists they created. I am afraid that the same thing is happening in Iraq. I think that it is very difficult for America to withdraw now from Iraq. Even if they want to leave, it is very difficult.
The only way for America to free itself from this situation is to help build the United Nations into a real body of peace so that the United Nations will take over the problem of Iraq and of the Middle East. America is powerful enough to make this happen. America should allow other nations to contribute positively to building the United Nations into a true organization for peace with enough authority to do its job. To me, that is the only way out of our current situation.
We have to wake up to the fact that everything is connected to everything else. Our safety and wellbeing cannot be individual matters anymore. If they are not safe, there is no way that we can be safe. Taking care of other people's safety is taking care of our own safety. To take care of their well-being is to take care of our own well-being. It is the mind of discrimination and separation that is at the foundation of all violence and hate.
My right hand has written all the poems that I have composed. My left hand has not written a single poem. But my right hand does not think, "Left Hand, you are good for nothing." My right hand does not have a superiority complex. That is why it is very happy. My left hand does not have any complex at all. In my two hands there is the kind of wisdom called the wisdom of nondiscrimination. One day I was hammering a nail and my right hand was not very accurate and instead of pounding on the nail it pounded on my finger. It put the hammer down and took care of the left hand in a very tender way, as if it were taking care of itself. It did not say, "Left Hand, you have to remember that I have taken good care of you and you have to pay me back in the future." There was no such thinking. And my left hand did not say, "Right Hand, you have done me a lot of harm-give me that hammer, I want justice." My two hands know that they are members of one body; they are in each other.
I think that if Israelis and Palestinians knew that they were brothers and sisters-that they are like my two hands-they would not try to punish each other anymore. The world community has not helped them to see that. If Israelis and Palestinians-and Muslims and Hindus-knew that discrimination was at the base of our suffering, they would know how to touch the seed of nondiscrimination in themselves. That kind of awakening-that kind of deep understanding-brings about reconciliation and well-being.
I believe that in America there are many people who are awakened to the fact that violence cannot remove violence. They realize there is no way to peace: peace itself is the way. Those people must come together and voice their concern strongly and offer their collective wisdom to the nation so the nation can get out of this current situation. Every one of us has the duty to bring together that collective insight. With that insight, compassion will make us strong and courageous enough to bring about a solution for the world.
Every time we breathe in, go home to ourselves and bring the element of harmony and peace into ourselves, that is an act of peace. Every time we know how to look at another living being and recognize the suffering in him that has made him speak or act like that, we are able to see that he is the victim of his own suffering. When that understanding is in us, we can look at this other person with the eyes of understanding and compassion. When we can look with the eyes of compassion, we don't suffer and we don't make the other person suffer. These are the actions of peace that can be shared with other people.
At Plum Village, there are several hundred people living together like a family in a very simple way. At Plum Village, we have had the opportunity to practice together as a community. We are able to build up brotherhood and sisterhood. Although we live simply, we have a lot of joy because of the amount of understanding and compassion that we can generate. We are able to go to many countries to offer mindfulness retreats so that people may have a chance to heal, transform and to reconcile. Healing, transformation and reconciliation always happen during our retreats. That can be very nourishing.
We have invited Israelis and Palestinians to Plum Village to practice with us. When they come they bring anger, suspicion, fear and hate. But after a week or two of the practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, mindful eating and mindful sitting, they are able to recognize their pain, embrace it and find relief. When they are initiated to the practice of deep listening, they are able to listen to others and realize that people from the other groups suffer as they do. When you know that they also suffer from violence, from hate, from fear and despair, you begin to look at them with the eyes of compassion. At that moment you suffer less and you make them suffer less. Communication becomes possible with the use of loving speech and deep listening.
The Israelis and Palestinians always come together as a group at the end of their stay in Plum Village. They always report the success of their practice. They always go back to the Middle East intending to continue the practice and invite others to join them, so that those others might suffer less and help others to suffer less too.
I believe that if this practice could be done on the national level, it would bring about the same kind of effect. Unfortunately, our political leaders have not been trained in these practices of mindful breathing, mindful walking and embracing pain and sorrow to transform their suffering. They have been trained only in political science.
So I think we should all bring a spiritual dimension into our daily lives. We should be awakened to the fact that happiness cannot be found in the direction of power, fame, wealth and sex. If we look deeply around us, we see many people with plenty of these things, but they suffer very deeply. When you have understanding and compassion in you, you don't suffer. You can relate very well to other people around you and to other living beings also. That is why a collective awakening about that reality is crucial.
One of the concrete things that Congress could do is to look deeply into the matter of consumption. We think that happiness is possible when we have the power to consume, but by consuming we bring into us a lot of toxins and poisons. The way we eat, the way we watch television and the way we entertain ourselves brings us a lot of destruction. Because we consume so much, the environment suffers. Learning to consume only the things that can bring peace and health into our body and into our consciousness is a very important practice. Mindful consumption is the practice that can bring us out of much of our unhappiness.
By consuming unmindfully, we continue to bring the elements of craving, fear and violence into ourselves. There is so much suffering in people. They consume because they do not know how to handle their suffering. Something should be done to help people go home to themselves and take care of their suffering. Congress could find ways to encourage people to consume mindfully and produce mindfully, instead of creating products that can bring toxins and craving into the hearts and bodies of people. Producing with responsibility should be our practice.
My strongest desire is that the members of Congress will have time to look into these matters and look deeply into the roots of their own suffering, the suffering of this nation, and the suffering around the world. This suffering does not have to continue. We already have the compassion and understanding necessary to heal the world.
"Regret is the longing to change the past.
Fear is the desire to control the future.
Peace is the surrender to Now."
Peace is This Moment Without Judgment
Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from
your boss, your spouse, yourself? ...
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?
Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.
Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the heart-space where
everything that is is welcome.