Resources for Inner Peace

When working toward both inner and outer peace, the most important thing is to be motivated by a desire for peace and to realize that we make a minute by minute decision to be peaceable. Peace is both the means and the end.

Wendell Berry sums up the path of peace:

We can no longer afford to confuse peaceability with passivity. Authentic peace is no more passive than war. Like war, it calls for discipline and intelligence and strength of character, though it calls also for higher principles and aims. If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we now prepare for war.

This isn't always easy, so we need methods and techniques to help us overcome inner obstacles, to stabilize the mind and to learn to be present in the moment. It can be deceptive to try to paste peaceful attitudes on ourselves. Under pressure they break down and we can become aggressive even about peace. We should remember that we are naturally peaceful, wise, and compassionate at a very deep level. To realize this, we first stabilize our minds and then identify and overcome the mental obstacles to peace. Then, when we are present to the world free from aggression, we can act skillfully with wisdom to bring peace to our lives, our families, and to the world.

Meditation & Contemplation are proven ways of training the mind and of attaining inner harmony. One way to start is to follow the breath and to practice what is called "conscious breathing." Once the mind is stabilized, once it quits flitting around like a mosquito, we begin to watch how our mind works, learn to catch it in action. When we begin to pay attention to our inner processes, we uncover a number of obstacles that keep us from being peaceable. Or that keep us from meditating which at this point is pretty much the same thing. Simultaneously with stabilizing the mind, begin to cultivate compassion. This is key. Some people prefer to start here and forget about formal meditation altogether.

Following a path of service, whether you are caring for others, doing volunteer work or finding some other means of being useful is way of generating peace. Some people are born loving and compassionate with a spontaneous desire to help. They are naturally happy people. Watch them and learn from them. "Fake it until you make it," is advice sometimes given to those who are trying to develop compassion but run into inner obstacles.

Aikido or The Art of Peace is specifically geared toward training the body and refining the spirit for a path of peace. Yoga, Tai-Chi, QiQong are among other active ways to integrate mind and body and to achieve lasting inner harmony. The efficacy of these exercises develops slowly and deepens over a period of time.

Prayer, whether occasional and desperate or springing from a lifelong habit of devotion, is a supreme support for inner development, for getting off the self and for creating inner peace. Who or what you pray to is up to you of course. If you were raised in a particular tradition, then you probably know how to pray. If you are sort of free-lance in terms of religion, then pray to whatever is out there. It doesn't have to have a name or location. To whom it may concern. Think of it this way: a light is covered by a stained glass shade. Each major block of color represents a particular religious tradition, the light comes through as that color. All of the colors may seem very different, but the light is the same. Pray to that light.

Poetry, music and other arts are also means of connecting to spirit. Read Rumi often. In addition, there is much poetry written specifically about peace. It gives a sense of community and hope to read others who are concerned with peace. Writing itself can be used as a spiritual path as can any form of creativity that connects you to spirit. A Dharma Writing Workshop with its specific targeting of particular issues can be especially helpful.

Studying peace and reading what others have to say on the subject can inspire us as well as keep things in perspective. The more informed we are, the more effective we can be and the less likely to become mindless advocates of unrealistic and unrealizable solutions. If we begin to aggressively insist on peace, we have missed the point.

Today many people are choosing to follow the path of peace as a spiritual practice, as a means of connecting with and being helpful to other people and a simple, direct way to make a difference in this world. For instance, Peace Pilgrim has walked 250,000 miles for peace. She says: "This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is nothing new about this message, except the practice of it. And the practice of it is required not only in the international situation but also in the personal situation. I believe that the situation in the world is a reflection of our own immaturity. If we were mature, harmonious people, war would be no problem whatever--it would be impossible.
All of us can work for peace. We can work right where we are, right within ourselves, because the more peace we have within our own lives, the more we can reflect into the outer situation."

There are many, many other methods of becoming peaceable. You may already have a way that works for you that is not included above. Gardening, for instance. Everyone needs to seek peace in their own way, their own time. The important thing is stay motivated and to keep coming back to the path of peace. Just this intention will bring benefit to yourself and to others.