Pausing for Peace

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” — Saint Francis de Sales

Tomorrow, September 21, is International Peace Day. According to the United Nations, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” This year the theme is “Climate Action for Peace”, drawing attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace worldwide.

In our complex, conflict-ridden world, peace can feel like a difficult objective to attain. From our interpersonal relationships to our international politics, division and discord too often characterize our ways of being. We’re quick to recognize our differences – in our skin color, our wealth, our body shapes, our aspirations – at the expense of that which unites us – our desire to connect, to be seen, to be heard, to be valued.

We rely on our external environment to bring us the inner peace we long for, but fill our surroundings with stimuli designed to ignite our senses and make us second-guess our self-worth. When our circumstances disrupt our sense of stability, we fail to recognize that the sense of calm we seek is readily available to us simply by turning inward.

Peace is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing reflection of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. It is present in our words and actions from the moment we rise to the moment we lay our head down to sleep. It is not an impossible aim, but a challenge for continued growth, understanding, and engagement.

We learn to be at peace with ourselves by practicing being at peace with others: with the driver who cuts us off; with the boss we can’t ever seem to please; with the partner who has let us down. We learn to be at peace with others by finding the deep well of peace within ourselves: on a crowded train; at a family gathering; in our messy home.

This International Peace Day, practice being a vessel of peace. Seek inner calm amidst outer chaos and let your peaceful presence be a source of comfort to those around you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Pay attention to your self-talk. Our inner dialogue largely impacts how we move through the world, even when we don’t realize it. No matter our intentions, the way we relate to ourselves speaks volumes about how we are perceived by others. Be deliberate in how you respond to yourself throughout the day, particularly when you’re tempted to be hard on yourself. Look for patterns in your self-dialogue and see if you can observe their impact on how you engage with others.

Refresh your surroundings. Consider unplugging (from your phone, computer, tablet, television) for an extended period. Go about your day free from extraneous background noise and incessant notifications. Notice the impact this has on your mood and ability to be present. For an added challenge, begin clearing away the objects that detract from your sense of peace and calm. By eliminating the excess, you enhance what’s essential for your inner self to flourish.

Engage with strangers. We don’t always have a say in whom we interact with, but we do get to choose how we do so. Experiment with treating everyone you interact with as someone you deeply care for. Make eye contact. Smile. Say thank you. Ask, “How are you?” and really mean it. Set an example for others by bringing harmony to each of your exchanges.

Get involved. In 2015, the United Nation Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Ranging from world hunger and healthcare to environment and education, the Goals address the global challenges we face. Read more about them by visiting the link above and identify one or two that most resonate with you. Consider how you might shed light on them within your own community: volunteer your time, join an advocacy group, attend a rally, make a monetary donation, or commit to learning more about their prevalence and impact.

Above all, recognize that your imprint matters. Our small actions add up. When we realize that, we can better pave the way toward peace.

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