Many times, people have asked me, “Why is peace so difficult to achieve?” My first answer to this is, “It’s not!” That may seem strange to say, given humanity’s long history of warfare and oppression. I say peace is easy to achieve, however, because peace is actually nothing more than a state of mind that we can achieve right now, if we try.
Peace is just a matter of shifting the information in our brains just a little bit. All we need is the realization that humanity, the earth, and even all the universe are one.
Sometimes we get caught up talking about one group against some other, but if we stop and take a step back to think about it, where does one group of people end and another begin? No one lives separately from the rest of humanity; we cannot even feed ourselves or travel to work without the help and cooperation of many other people . . . the people who grew and prepared our food, the people willing to respect laws so we can be safe, people who work with us to create our society and economy, and so on. Really, it’s impossible to fathom how interconnected we truly are. And yet, one of the dominant paradigms that still exist in our society is that the world is a hostile place where individuals are in endless opposition to others.
Thus, peace begins with simple gratitude for the oneness of humanity. Rather than the oneness found in a utopian future, we can celebrate the oneness found in our inherent connectedness right now. There are people in today’s world who don't recognize this oneness, and so they think they must defend themselves against or compete with others in some way. But, we can realize that this is because their brains are operating on limited information.
A Strategy for Peace
Without being able to see the whole, many people end up believing that life is a zero-sum game of “us vs. them.” If we want to be a peaceful person, though, it is important not to make even people fighting against us an enemy since we’d be acting on the same limited thinking. Instead, we can acknowledge that they, too, are part of the great matrix of humanity, and that we are one with them.
At the same time that we may be working to make the world safe and just, we can keep a peaceful, healing mindset and a heart open to all. If we can do this, we can become an amazing beacon of hope for many and a creator of peace in the world.
Occasionally, I speak to groups of young people attending retreats at meditation centers where my Brain Education methods are taught. Typically, they sit in front of me cross-legged on the floor in the meditation posture as a I conduct my lecture. In one exercise that I lead them through, I have them lean forward and rest their heads on the person in front of them. When they do, a great “aahhhh” arises from the group because they suddenly feel so calm and relaxed. I let them stay there a few minutes; some even fall asleep.
I do this to let them experience simple reliance on and connection to one another. They feel great relief in this moment because, even though they are young and quite idealistic, they have been taught to live in constant competition with each other, rarely experiencing cooperation and mutual support.
From Ourselves to the World
Can you imagine how quickly the world would change if we were to say, “How can I help my enemy today?” Of course, I am not talking about supporting whatever negative behaviors or destructive ideologies they hold. Rather, I am talking about helping them see their interconnectedness with humanity.
At the root of every cruel, hateful act in the world lies a soul that is hurting, a soul that is lost in a sense of disconnection from others. Recognizing that, it’s possible to stop the cycle of hate and violence by mirroring back love instead of revenge and hatred. That is what it means to be a peacemaker.
This sense of interconnection and mutual support is what the world needs to face its most difficult problems. First, we can find a way to step outside of cycles of violence and exploitation of each other, acknowledging that what we do to others we do to ourselves.
That includes what we do to the Earth. The Earth herself has been crying out to us to change. We are connected to her, just as we are connected to other humans. But, many of us have been living for a long time as though we are not, living instead for our own individualistic want for comfort. We can change, and it requires no skill or lengthy debate to accomplish. We can change the world now, just by changing ourselves.
I hope we can do that together.