“Root out the violence in your life and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek Peace. When you have peace within real peace with others is possible…. Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If in our hearts we cling to anything; anger, anxiety or possessions we can not be free” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Wow! What a powerful message. Zen Master Hanh has loaded this with all sorts of wisdom. Let’s unpack it.
What is “peace”? According to Webster’s peace can be defined in several ways. Here are the two most applicable:
– freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
– freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.
From my experience, the world around me changes when I stop fighting with it. I haven’t always known this. Before I came to this mindset I battled with almost everything for too long.
How would I fight with the world and people around me? Several ways, these are my most common;
– Casting judgment on people and situations that I know very little or nothing about.
– Imposing my beliefs on people or situations.
– Or playing the fruitless game of “who’s right”.
All of this fighting would keep me in this toxic bubble of anger, frustration, agitation and even aggression. Yielding more of the same feelings and results time and time again.
I am learning to retire this unproductive and destructive arsenal. Now I make a conscious effort to continually practice, compassion and tolerance everywhere and always. Instead of battling with the world, I am finding my life more peaceful if I step back, listen and “go with the flow” I know, I know it’s such a cliche nowadays, “go with the flow”, but there is a tremendous about of truth within these four little words.
Here’s an example.
Some of my family, like all families I assume, lie on the opposite sides of our political spectrum. In the past, with those who disagreed with me I would armor myself with a superiority complex, “I am right, you’re ignorant” attitude. What would this complex create? Absolutely nothing good, just more war, anger, frustration, usually ending in us yelling at each other as one of us exited the room. That’s not I how I want to be family. I wanted to change this.
The big test came shortly after the 2016 election.
Every year 25-30 of my family members head off the grid and camp in central PA in these rustic old-school cabins. Knowing I was going to face my family after such a stunning election, I knew it was time to make this shift towards the power of peace. With some reflection and a lot of help from my men’s group, I showed up for our winter weekend doing the best I could to create tranquility everywhere all the time.
Through a mindfully objective peaceful approach, I actively listened the entire weekend with an open mind and heart. The results were incredible. Engaging in this way, I began to understand why my family members voted the way they did. In the process of nonjudgmentally listening new understandings were unleashed. I was able to feel and connect with them on a human level, beyond all the emotions and words. The experience was extraordinarily satisfying.
In contrast and during the same trip, one of my 22yo cousin was very vocal and confrontational with the opposing beliefs. Some of the family began to avoid her to avoid conflict and talking about how “nuts” she was being.
So I take this experience with me everywhere. Life is just so much smoother by seeking peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh is spot on; ‘when you have peace within, real peace with others is possible’. By ‘letting go’ of all the fight, I was free to experience happiness, joy, and connection. I don’t want to be any other way.
How about you? How much are you fighting in your daily life? What is one small change you can make that will bring you peace and connection?