by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
As the holiday season fades and we all look towards the new year, some aspects of the holidays always seem to linger: A couple of extra pounds, some fatigue and lethargy, and a warm heart from all the time with friends and family. In my heart and mind I also feel the reverberation of the phrase “peace on earth and goodwill towards man.” So often when we think of staying healthy we consider diet and exercise and moderation in our bad habits, but we may not consider the healing power of peace. By definition, peace can mean two things: First it can mean freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. It can also mean freedom from or the cessation of war or violence. Though the two definitions can stand alone, I believe that we cannot truly have one without the other.
I firmly believe that true peace begins within. If a persons mental and emotional life is in disarray, than it is impossible for them to bring a peaceful attitude to the world around them. We can see this by examining our response to stressful situations. If we are tired or irritable, than the slightest thing can set us off. A great place to observe this is in traffic. Driving in traffic when feeling uncentered is certain to result in more anxiety, or anger and impatience. Many of us are in such a state of inner turmoil. Unable to still our ragged minds, we find fault with others as a sort of distraction from our own emotional and mental problems. So we live in a sort of purgatory where we can’t seem to find either internal or external peace. We can learn so much from studying the lives of great souls: Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela are all people who have lived and taught the old adage that “an eye for an eye makes the world blind.” They shared with the world the ideals that they personally strove to embody in each moment of their own lives. In the case of each of these people, peace always started within. The realization that no-one else can truly bring us peace or make us happy is the first step to developing our own peace of mind. Since we cannot count on the external world to make our life easy or comfortable, we need to find a way to develop inner peace.
Regardless of our circumstances, we can all work to develop peace of mind. Some time tested methods of promoting inner peace include meditation, breathing exercises, mantra/chanting, prayer and positive affirmations. By practicing these techniques we can improve our ability to stay calm within the face of stress and adversity.
Any inner peace that we can cultivate is certain to effect world around us. The world has always had a certain degree of unrest and turmoil. There is a perception of an ever-present threat of violence, both on a global scale and in our local communities. Humans find things to disagree on, and we are not always very skilled at disagreeing in a mature way. Often times such events could be avoided. If each of us works on quieting the mind, cultivating a less chaotic life, and learning ways to communicate in a non-violent and intentional way, we would be able to diminish a lot of the violence that occurs in our communities and the world in general. If, when faced with conflict, we could each bring a greater sense of calm and patience and a genuine attempt to diffuse a troubling situation, I think we could pave the way for real peace in the world. Though there are occasionally violent situations which require some kind of physical response, a lot of violent altercations result from an escalation of a minor disagreement. Though peace is not always an easy thing to pursue in the short term, I believe that in the long run it is the only real path. It is the eternal path of the sages and the saints. It is an essential path for all of us in order to lead a healthy and happy life. May peace and joy find you in the new year.