It’s true that human history has always been marked by unsavoury events, but perhaps you share the feeling that in our days, conflict, hatred, and violence suddenly seem to be all around us. Feeling you don’t really know what’s happening to the world is deeply unsettling and can threaten your inner peace and happiness. Yet, there are things you can do to counteract these emotions. Below you’ll find some suggestions on how you can promote peace within yourself and with others regardless of how uncertain the world around us may be.
How To Promote Peace
Finding Peace Within Yourself
When dealing with hatred and violence, finding ways to promote peace requires mindful action. Basically, you’ll need to disarm the inner world first in order to disarm the outer world.
Our first suggestion is practice mindfulness, not just because its ability to transform your inner self, but because it can change your perception of the world. Scientific studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice appears to shrink the amygdala’s size (the part of the brain that controls feelings of fear), while at the same time it activates the pre-frontal cortex, which is associated with decision-making and awareness. This means that mindfulness can help us regulate our emotions instead of simply reacting to triggers, and can also help make more balanced judgements about what’s going on around us, as well as inside us. In a previous article, we discussed seven ways of practising mindfulness in your daily life, including mindful eating and drinking, gratitude walks and creating a start-of-the-day ritual.
You may also find it useful to engage in shadow work. This transformational practice is based on the idea that our feelings and perceptions about ourselves dominate the way we feel and act towards others. The shadow is the “negative you” or “your dark side”, and instead of pushing it to the back of your mind or repressing it (as most of us feel tempted to do), you should explore it to learn more about your own prejudices and misconceptions. The basic outline of shadow work looks like this:
- Acknowledge the negative emotions triggered by some people / news / events
- Connect with your shadow and establish a conversation with it. What is it trying to achieve? Is its overall intention positive or negative?
- In most cases, your shadow holds onto negative emotions to protect you from harm. Can you find other ways of achieving the same without getting caught in a negative circle or without blaming others?
Last but not least, remember that peace is not a goal that can be reached through certain mediums, but rather peace is the medium itself. In other words, use peace to bring inner peace by showing kindness and consideration towards your body and mind. For example, loving-kindness meditation has been proven to reduce self-criticism, promote peace with ourselves and others, and generate positive feelings towards strangers.
Finding Peace In the Outside World
Of course, we should all do our best not only to promote peace in our minds, but also in the outside world. To do that, you don’t need to make grand gestures. As Buddhist author and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said,
Learn the art of making one person happy, and you will learn to express your love for the whole of humanity and all beings.
Here are 10 easy-to-put-into-action gestures of peace and kindness
- Send a heart-felt handwritten card to a friend or relative
- Compliment a colleague and express how much you appreciate them
- Offer a small gift (e.g. fruit, biscuits) to the person who delivers your post
- Donate to a charity shop
- Volunteer at a shelter / soup kitchen
- Offer your place in the queue to the person behind you
- Track down your teacher / university lecturer, and send them a note of appreciation for their work and what it meant to you
- Bake some treats and take them to work to share with colleagues
- Let another driver into your lane
- Strike a conversation with a homeless person
can also help promote peace with the outside world. Equanimity is one of the Four Sublime States in the Buddhist tradition, and the word derives from Sanskrit expression that means “to see without interference”. Equanimity is also defined as even-mindedness, a balanced reaction to both positive and negative events / thoughts, and the ability to achieve a state of mind that cannot be affected by bias and prejudice, but that is driven by compassion instead.
Cultivating equanimity involves re-wiring your brain through conscious practice, and yoga provides the ideal conditions to work on this. Find your equanimity mantra (something that reminds you of the need to stay unbiased), start your yoga session, and take note of any negative reactions triggered by thoughts or people you dislike. Keep referring to your equanimity mantra while acknowledging that you are responsible for your own happiness and peace of mind.
When it comes to finding peace in troubled times, it’s important to resist isolation even if this seems to go against our most basic instincts. For example, you could get involved in community-building / strengthening initiatives, as this can help establish meaningful conversations with those who hold different views. You can also join non-violence organisations, or learn more about how prejudice and stereotypes affect us by signing up to prejudice reduction workshops or seminars in your local area or online.
Recap And Suggestions For Further Reading
Finding kindness and peace within yourself and in the world won’t happen overnight, but mindfulness practice, shadow work, cultivating equanimity, and resisting isolation are all in the path to hope and joy. To cope with the troubled times we live in, you’ll need to be persistent and willing to challenge your inner self. We have put together a list of resources and books to help you do that.
– On mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness daily
– On loving-kindness meditation:
– On equanimity practice: This e-book
– On shadow work: The Little Book Of The Human Shadow, by Robert Bly’s // Owning Your Own Shadow, by Robert A. Johnson
– On fighting prejudice: Human Relations: A Game Plan for Improving Personal Adjustment, by Loren Ford // Moving Beyond Prejudice Reduction: Pathways to Positive Intergroup Relations, by Linda R. Troop and Robyn K. Mallett
– On nourishing your mind with inspirational stories: the award-wining short movie “The Man Who Planted Trees”, or “What Can Happen When You Look For The Good” (Jonathan Foust’s podcast).
– On finding peace: Breaking Busy: How to find peace and purpose in a world of crazy, by Alli Worthington // The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace and Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies, both by John Paul Lederach // Radical Forgiveness, by Colin Tipping