Peace Begins With Me

Recently I returned from a week-long retreat with Deepak Chopra and his wonderful team of teachers. Called “Seduction of Spirit”, this was one of the Chopra Centre’s signature yoga/meditation retreats with a special event included – a “global” peace meditation carefully synchronized for a specific time so that people all over the world could participate in person or log in online. We were told after that the official count was 134,000 people plus many more “uncounted” meditators who quietly practiced on their own. So incredible! While the event itself was exciting, what was more important to me was the ripple effect that was being created…thousands and thousands of people taking a moment to pause, to breathe, to send out vibes for less violence, less hatred, less conflict.

But here are my questions: Can one or many “events” like these cause a big enough shift in global consciousness? A shift that creates lasting effects and ongoing change towards a more peaceful planet? A shift that can eventually stop a war? Deepak called it a “critical mass”; the point at which change occurs and is sustained. I don’t know if we reached that critical mass during our peace meditation; how can such a thing really be measured? I automatically looked to one of the most obvious world conflicts – the unrest in the Middle East – and hoped that I would see the fruits of our efforts through signs of peace. But the conflict was still there, violence was still happening and even escalating. At first I felt a bit discouraged…but then I remembered the “Law of Detachment” we were encouraged to practice. Put out the good vibrations to the universe then let go of control – “allow solutions to spontaneously emerge” – and let go of the need to know the outcome. Believe that what we are doing CAN and WILL make a difference…in ways we may not even predict, imagine, or contemplate. For all I really know, our peace meditation could have foiled another terrorist’s plot; could have prevented Mr. from hitting Mrs. one more time; could have made the bully in the schoolyard step back; could have made sister say sorry to brother…

REAL peace – AHIMSA – starts in your own backyard. It begins with every thought, intention, word, action. So really, peace BEGINS with me (and you…) and that was the biggest lesson from this retreat, in large part from the inspirational words of Maya Tiwari and her message of Living Ahimsa (see

If we are to get along with others in the world, we sure as heck better get along with those closest to us first. So it comes down to taking a long hard look at the way you think, speak, and act with those in your immediate environment. Not long after the big peace event, I was sitting at a table for lunch where a few people were talking about their jobs and some of the nasty clients they’ve encountered. I gather the intention was to give examples of how negative non-peaceful people behave. But in their recounting of the “story”, I heard judgement, criticism, assumptions, and ego – it was all there, in the blink of an eye. In casual conversation the theme turned to US and THEM, with US being the “better” ones, and THEM being the “lesser” cranky customers. Where did the peace go that we had just cultivated less than an hour before? Was there a way of having such a conversation with compassion instead? Was there any need for this conversation at all? Was it ME that was being judgmental and critical of these people at my table? All these thoughts came rushing at once so I just hunkered down, didn’t engage, and peacefully ate my soup…

My practice has always been to make a conscious shift in my OWN thinking; but since the retreat, I’ve been paying much closer attention. Undoing the ways I have been conditioned; undoing the negative beliefs about myself and others; undoing the thought patterns that begin with something so seemingly insignificant as “OMG I can’t believe that person is wearing/saying/doing that…” (as if I know better). My practice is about re-planting the seeds of peace so that as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I re-commit to a day of giving, or a day of gratitude, or a day of acceptance, or a day of right effort, or a day of compassion, or a day of just letting go…And already, I am noticing a ripple effect in my environment…sometimes subtle and sometimes so obvious that I think “WOW” this really works.

Peace begins right here, right now and in every on-going moment. And I believe that it DOES make a difference, no matter how small or large the effort, as long as we KEEP IT UP (it is not just a one-time event…). The wisdom traditions of the world have offered us many approaches to living harmoniously with our own selves, with others, with nature and with the universe.  This beautiful piece by Lao Tzu (translated by my father-in-law, John Stubbs, in his book “BY THE WAY”) says it all:

 “What is well established is not uprooted.

What is well embraced is not abandoned,

and is practised for generations without end.

By cultivating the nature of the Way,

you become genuine,

 the family thrives,

 the community prospers,

the nation abounds,

the whole world is transformed.”