Like many others, on November 11th, I took the time to pause, reflect and honor those who have gone to war. I watched the ceremony on television and said a quiet “thank you”. What am I saying thank you for and why do I feel a sense of sorrow?
Obviously, I’m grateful to live in a democracy. I’m grateful that I have not officially “had to go to war”. Really, I have no idea of what front line battle feels like. Or do I?
I feel sorrow for the loss of life, for the families that have lived with that loss, for the soldiers that have lived with the first hand experience of going through a war. I also feel a tremendous sadness, that despite the testimonials of countless active soldiers, veterans and their families reflecting on the futility of war; we are, in fact, still going to war.
I watched the soldiers as they partook in the Remembrance Day ceremonies and wondered what it would be like if we did not have a need for soldiers or for the guns they carry. What if Remembrance Day was a day for honoring the past and celebrating peace? What if we lived in a world without distinction of borders, without a belief of “them and us”?
How would this be possible? Many are “for peace”, attend peace rallies, and support peaceful movements. Why have we not learned from the past and why does worldwide peace not exist?
The Buddhist’ philosophy states that we must start with ourselves. If we truly desire peace for our society and the world, we must first attain peace within ourselves. This brings me back to my earlier questioning of having no idea what front line battle feels like. If I truly desire peace, I must reflect upon my thoughts and actions. I need to ask the question, “What battles do I engage in?” How can the possibility of peace exist if I am unable to attain peace within? How do I harm myself and others through my thoughts, words and actions?
Rather daunting questions! So, how can I achieve peace? First, I need to be clear of my intention of peace. It’s easy for me to state what I’m against and “how horrid war is” and to talk of peace in the same breath; but intention without appropriate action is ineffectual.
What is effective action on the road to peace? As I go about interacting with myself and the world, I can learn to be mindful of my thoughts and actions. I can meditate to learn stillness and calmness. I can access many spiritual tools to increase my awareness. I can pause and think before reacting to my environment. I can learn to focus on positive thoughts with gratitude. I can silently affirm compassion for all sentient beings and wish them “freedom from suffering”, thereby creating connection or re-connection. I believe this has to include myself, as the more compassion I have for myself, the more compassion I am able to extend to others. If I am in a state of true connection with others, I am in a state of peace!
These practices allow me to see that most…well okay…all of my inner conflicts are really projections and create disharmony for me and others.
So, how do we attain peace? One thought at a time!