Waging PeaceDec 13, 2023
As we approach the solstice and New Year’s this year, I have heard that Christmas in Bethlehem has been canceled. The attack and hostage-taking on October 7, followed by the widespread massacre and destruction in Gaza over the past two months, have been devastating. What I’m seeing more than anything in my patients and people around me are feelings of helplessness and despair - we may voice our discontent, but feel powerless to change the situation in any way. There has been so much trauma pre-dating the current warfare, and trauma is very difficult to heal when it is ongoing and happening in the here and now. Identities have become built and solidified around trauma - holding on to identities of victimhood, which can lead to becoming hardened to the suffering of others.
In the midst of my own feelings of despair and helplessness in the face of what seems an impossible situation, I have found refuge in the 14 Mindfulness Trainings, which is the foundation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing. I wanted to share them with you in the hope that you might find refuge in them as well (click on the link!).
The 14 Mindfulness Trainings remind me of how to orient in the world when I am feeling ungrounded, unsure, and even despairing about where we seem to collectively be headed. It reminds me that no matter what, it matters to follow an ethical, compassionate and peaceful path. That the path of goodness is an end in itself, no matter what is happening around us. Everything we can do to create peace and healing in the here and now - peace in our own hearts, in our families, relationships, workplaces, and communities - serves the greater energy of peace in the world. And that’s something we do have agency around, even when it’s difficult. If we can’t create peace and harmony in our own lives and circles, how can we possibly hope for peace in the Middle East?
I appreciated this framing from the Mindful Peacebuilding Sangha and Jo-ann Rosen:
“In so many ways, our current world is coming apart and a new one is being born. As we -- personally and in community -- continue to reflect on our responses, we might also be imagining the world we want to see for generations to come and be re-energized to find our own special part.
To each catastrophe, we can notice in ourselves and in others various kinds of response - including attending to self-care, participating in street demonstrations, writing letters and postcards, donating to individuals and organizations, turning towards each other in community, bringing awareness to the emotions arising in body and mind, learning more history, analyzing current events, grieving, creating through the arts, engaging in spiritual practices, building our communication skills, balancing with what brings laughter, joy, and moments of awe and happiness, and more.”
The Plum Village monastic community also created a new mindfulness training for Peace on Earth at the end of 2021 that will continue to guide us into the future:
“Aware of the suffering caused by the potential for our human family to destroy itself and - through unmindful or reckless actions - extinguish all life on Earth, we are determined to nurture a culture of honouring the sacred web of life that sustains us. This we shall do by committing collectively to practicing mindfulness and leading lives of non-violence and peace, based on our insight into the interconnectedness, interdependency and interbeing of all forms of life on Earth.
We shall practice collectively (as well as individually) in ways that stop all acts and behaviours contributing to the destruction of our human family, other species from the animal and plant kingdoms, and our planet. These destructive actions include the development and production of arms such as nuclear and biochemical weapons, and advanced technologies for waging war in cyberspace and space. The destructive actions we seek to end also include the misuse of social media and other media to manipulate human minds and emotions in ways that generate confusion, mistrust, anger, hatred, and violence within our human family, and cruelty to other species from the animal and plant kingdoms.
We shall channel humanity’s collective energy, material wealth and spiritual resources towards positive, wholesome actions that help people learn about, understand, and trust each other; that nourish our existence as one human family among many species, and that protect our sacred Mother Earth.
With openness and humility, we shall learn to embrace each other culturally, politically, socially, and equitably. We shall respect diversity of ethnicity, gender, age, and religious or other beliefs so we may build and nurture on Earth a human family that is at peace with itself, with all living beings and with the planet.”
May you experience peace, harmony, and inclusiveness, and may you do your part to create peace, harmony, and inclusiveness in the places where you are able.