Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let Peace Begin

"An open heart, an open mind, just being kind -- and peace begins" are the opening lyrics to And Peace Begins, a song by Paul Trueblood, a fabulous musician who every Sunday morning for years played piano at the Unity service at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC. I love this song because its message tells us that peace begins right here, right now in our own hearts and minds and in everything we do. World Peace begins at home.

Several years ago, on two separate occasions within the space of about ten days, people shared with me that they thought that world peace would be boring. I was initially stunned and then jostled to an awakening that this was indeed a very prevalent thought: that somehow many of us needed the titillation of frightening scenarios and upheaval and chaos, albeit usually second hand, to make us feel alive. I felt that this concept created an insidiously powerful energy field that unwittingly fueled the upset and cycle of violence all over this planet.

I remember sharing my concern with my spiritual teacher, Hilda Charlton, and she said: "You're absolutely right, dear - you must talk about this at our next peace meeting." (Hilda had created a Meditation Evening for World Peace which met -- and still does -- on the equinoxes and solstices of the year.) I immediately reminded her that I "sing," I don't "talk," to which she replied: "It's about time you spoke up, dear." Her words ring in my ears to this day. So with great trepidation, at the next peace meeting, I actually "spoke up," and I've been speaking up ever since. Thank you, Hilda.

On that auspicious night (for me), I shared what I'd told Hilda. World Peace would be boring?! I went on to explain that I understood that many feel that peace is boring because of its relentless identification with death ("may they rest in peace"), or the images of the serenity and otherworldliness of the monastic life, which the word often evokes. But these many have never experienced the adventures of inner space and the peace, to say nothing of the love, joy, ecstasy -- I could go on and on -- that become available when one is willing to be quiet and dive deeply within. There's nothing like it. Here one discovers that peace is far from boring. Peace is thrilling. Peace is not the absence of violence or upset, it is a vital state that combines an infinite sense of ease with a heightened awareness of aliveness. It is a deep well spring within us from which profound creativity emerges. It is a state that is unceasingly available to us.

So the trick is dismantling the mass consciousness that contends that violence, incessant activity and excitement-seeking are what make life worth living. In my opinion, this franticness serves as a smoke screen, preventing us from ever dealing with Who We Really Are.

I'm reminded of Nelson Mandela quoting Marianne Williamson's words in his 1994 Inaugural Speech: "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us..."

The reality that we are powerful beings is scary to us. We don't want to assume that kind of responsibility. However, the time has come -- big time -- for us to march right through that fear. And even though it takes guts and a sense of daring to explore the depths of ourselves, the rewards that flow spontaneously, as the space within us expands, are boundlessly exhilarating.

Our addiction to the excitement of violence can't hold a candle to the energy that accompanies our acceptance of the light that we are. The personal power and mastery available as our lives unfold as expressions of peace and kindness and compassion are awesome and genuinely thrilling.

The world needs us now. We are collectively hosting disastrous events with potentially catastrophic consequences. It behooves each of us to own our place in this unfolding drama, and, in our unique way, be willing to be instruments of peace. To quote Paul Trueblood again: "Don't look for peace in foreign lands; it happens here where we are living. And all it takes is our forgiving; it has to start with you and me." In addition to "It's time to stand up and be counted," I recommend "It's time to sit down, be quiet and listen." Thousands of years ago, Pythagorus advised us: "Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb." And to this I say, "Amen!"

The stakes are very high now. So for our beloveds, for our world, for future generations, let us do whatever we need to do to dive into and enthusiastically embrace peace in all its guises and spread its healing everywhere we go. Let Peace Begin. Right here. Right now.

Whenever in doubt, Come Home to you Heart
Elizabeth Hepburn