To achieve true peace in the world, we all have to first be at peace with ourselves. And the foundation of that peace rests on our mental equilibrium.
For those of us facing real world problems such as food and water scarcity, poor sanitation facilities etc.– peace will not be one’s primary focus when there are more serious, life-threatening problems that merit one’s attention.
But for those of us who are fortunate enough not reel with such problems on a daily basis, why do so many of us continue to struggle for peace and choose the commonly abused path of inflicting hate, violence and self-hurt?
Well, I am not a qualified enough with a halo around my over-sized head to answer that question for you. Perhaps someone who has a PhD in Happiness or has spent far more money on degrees and more years living in his/her parents’ basement can be helpful in this regard (the latter part fits my bill). Or perhaps, we should look inward and ask that question to ourselves so we can address the factors that come in the way of our peace.
Speaking of hate and violence, acclaimed author Salman Rushdie spoke some wise words about our current age of communication at a recent book festival in England.
“Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we’re asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?”
This new age that Salman speaks of is an age when newer addictions have surfaced into our lives. Some addictions still prevail- for example — heroin when you hit the blues and ogling heroines in blue films. Then there are also those wackjobs who are addicted to the idea of “My God is Holier Than Your God” and get lost in translation. But some addictions are not as discernible. Our need for self-validation through likes on our posts, videos, the number of hits on our pages and the constant need to update every single movement, nose booger or bowel, has made us addicted to the internet. On the contrary, online networking has played a important role in shedding light on the world’s unsung heroes and role models through sharing of positive ideas and information. I have also signed up for this internet addiction/brain aneurysm by making my blog’s facebook page so as to promote my writing. And just like my fellow artists who are in the same boat as me, we depend on people like you to notice our work and prevent our boat from capsizing. (Here, I would like to take a second and thank my blog’s audience from the bottom of my heart!)
Coming back to the subject of peace, each year, September 21st is recognized as World Peace Day. It was first declared by the UN in 1982. We have come a long way since then, but our status on overcoming violence seems to have remained stagnant, if not exacerbated by greed and desire for power. A few days before World Peace Day last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a free seminar at a NY Brahma Kumari Meditation Center.
Today, I will use this free platform to share some inspirational stories and guidance towards achieving peace and I hope you take as much wisdom from it as I did.
Before I start, I would like you to ask you one question — Which word do you think humans use the most?
Based on a sample study by an Ivy League University (conducted by, I assume, a group of baboons from whom we have evolved), two words tied at the first spot.
They are, not surprisingly – “I” and “My”.
How often do we use them?
On average, 10 times per minute. The word “want” takes a close second place.
What does that tell about us? Our focus in on our self, our possessions and our need to acquire more. On the other hand, replacing those words with “Us”, “We” and “Our” allows us to harmoniously share our resources and be collectively responsible for our actions towards each other and all of nature.
The speaker at the NY Meditation Center was a Dutch native. A doctor by profession, she renounced everything to serve as a Brahma Kumari at a similar meditation center in Dominican Republic. She briefly discussed the foundation of happiness and mentioned that the happiest are those who have clear goals and the patience and grit to follow through on them. The wonderful lady then spoke about how we can all be roughly divided into three kinds of people based on the majority of our actions.
Those who complain.
Those who want.
Those who give.
Surely we have all fallen into one of those categories at some point in our lives but studies have shown that individuals who fall in the last category and consistently give more than they receive tend to have higher rates of good health, vitality and positive outlook on life.
The next topic she touched upon was a story of two young boys. Both of them were presented with a toy truck and observed from a distance. The first boy held onto the truck and was afraid of someone taking it away from him. The second boy played with the toy and when that was taken away, he found joy doing some other activity on his own. Surely, it would be unfair to make any conclusions about adults from the behavioral tendencies of two little boys but you will be surprised to see how many of us still act like little kids. The lesson to take away here was that we must not lose out on our peace of mind by holding onto a possession in the fear of losing it. Such material objects come and go and we certainly can’t take it with us when we depart from the world. Humans are material in that we are physically perishable, but our soul (atman) remains permanent and humans should endeavor to develop a deeper, soulful connection with each other, rather than focusing on appearance or wealth. The speaker stressed on the beautiful idea that if we are stable internally, then we can be strong enough to weather any headwinds in the ever-changing, external world.
Next, the speaker pointed to a luxurious cushioned chair nearby. Immediately, the audience focused all their attention on the chair.
“I can see you all want MY chair but this chair belongs to me.”
With a brief smile, she stated the kind of negative feelings that can develop when we focus on an object for our possession. Our insatiable appetite for “want” must be balanced with contentment else it can turn into a vicious cycle.
At this point, a fellow from the audience asked, “Ma’am, you mentioned that happiness stems from having clear goals. If someone wants to have this chair, achieving that goal will make him happy. What is the harm in that?”
“You are right. Aspire for it and work hard to achieve it. But don’t depend on it to make you happy. Don’t worry if you lose it either. Moreover, think of the possibilities of how this chair can be used to help others.”
I have kept the speaker’s best tale for last.
There was once a man who traveled for miles and miles and finally reached a lake where he was told he could find a rare treasure. At this lake, he met a sage who shared the secret of a gem and even told him about the exact location to find it. The man succeeded in acquiring this gem and walked away with his prize. A month later, he returned to the same lake with the gem in hand.
“What happened my son? You don’t want to be rich?”
“I’m sorry but it was too much trouble to keep that gem. I couldn’t sleep for a whole month. I became suspicious of my neighbors, my friends and even my own mother. I started doubting everyone of having the motive to steal my gem.” (Emphasis on words “I” and “My”)
“My son, that is all I have to give to you.”
“No sir, you have a different kind of treasure. You have the ability to part with the gem and remain content. That is the rarest of all rare treasures to have.”