Like many of you, I am deeply moved by Wednesday’s walkout.
My 11-year-old daughter told me that, while walking with her classmates for 17 minutes, no one said a word. Noiseless, together. How was that? I asked. Powerful, she said. It was powerful. I hope she hangs onto that feeling for a long time. I didn’t bother with more questions; I wanted her to marinate in a felt sense of peace for as long as possible. This is teaching peace. My hope is that peace works its way into her mind and heart naturally, unhurried, and without my projections or analysis.
Each child in that solemn, single-file line undeniably felt something special. Sadness, anger, fear — those were there, too. But inviting peace proves once again to be balm for the nervous system, unifying, and a useful step in taking right action. Peace gives us space. Peace brings reason, calmness, good judgement and wisdom. Peace is personal, powerful, essential — and I desperately want to know more about it.
I don’t feel anything close to constant peace in my own life, but I know that my peaceful heart is growing, right in the wakes of mind-blowingly horrific acts of violence and alongside basic, daily challenges, and I think it’s because I’ve chosen to put my attention to it. I continue to choose to tussle with peace as both concept and verb, and I’m committed to exploring different ways to bring it into focus in my life.
But I’m like you. I know from listening to hundreds of friends and clients that there is an almost constant sense of “…oh sh&#” hovering. I hear that you’re drowning in family drama and piles of laundry. I too am struggling to breathe through a thick, complicated tangle of worry and hope that it’s not my school, not my child. Then I prioritize other things. I’m distracted, busy — “I’m fine!” — and I live on fumes of peaceful intention rather than laying infrastructure for more peace, itself.
But days like Wednesday give me a deep and urgent sense that things could be better, and I have a say-so in when, and how.
Peace is not a time suck. It’s not a second career, a dissertation or training for Ironman. Further, practicing peace yields excellent dividends. We’ve all done so much more for so much less. Peace can be simple, little things. Listening, when your urge is to talk. Taking the dog out with your kids instead of your iPhone. Noticing peace when it visits, and taking a second to register it.
So what’s the issue here? Why are so many of us reeling from a life of too little peace and too much [fill in the blank]?
Post walkout, here’s where I find myself: If we say we want peace, if we declare to our friends and families that we value peace, then we had better get to figuring out how to achieve more of it in our lives. This is basic alignment of values and actions calling. It’ll take time, effort and practice. It’ll be fueled by honest, old-fashioned discourse and idea generating around the dinner table. It’ll take follow-through, and a sustained willingness to prioritize it.
Peace will grow. It will grow individually, then collectively. It will be worth it in ways we cannot even predict.
What I know about peace is this: peace isn’t a U-turn away from our lives, it’s a way of sitting in our lives, just as they are, and feeling pretty good about most of it. However busy, sick, stressed out or far from peace we feel, peace waits for us in the margins. It takes guts and contemplation to align actions and values. It is time-consuming to identify then scrap things that work against it. Change is sometimes called for. The path of peace is more satisfying and doable in the company of like-minded pilgrims, and in a culture which upholds it. But ultimately — and no matter what the rest of the world is tweeting — peace is first and foremost an inside job. We cannot wait for outside sources to deliver it. We must begin to grapple with peace on a very personal level, develop our own peace practices, do them, and trust that the ripple effect is real, and far-reaching.
The question, then, becomes how do you — we —practice peace? I welcome your insights. And I will unabashedly copy you, as needed.