You can also now follow a Peace Train on Tumblr:

Friday, December 31, 2010

Peace is a Choice

It is December 31st and I have reached my goal of making a conscious decision for peace each day of this year. As I spent a part of my day today re-reading the posts for this year I couldn’t help but think how all those small steps transformed my life and maybe some of the lives of the people that took time to read my blog. 
This year I have learned so much about people all around me and around the world that are also seeking peace.  I felt connected to a movement for peace that is so much bigger than just me.  A movement that is changing the world drastically.  I believe my choices and your choices, even though they may seem small and insignificant at times, have and will make a difference. 
As I look back at my various choices here are some of the things I have come to understand about peace this year:
1.  Every single second no matter what the circumstances, I have the opportunity to choose peace, first as a personal response and then as a public response to whatever is happening. 
2.  Peace is the choice to care about a relationship more than just getting my own way, the weird bonus is that once I have made that decision the outcome is almost always better than my original desire.
3.  Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath, do something different, or take a nap before addressing something that is causing conflict.  I need to re-balance my emotions in order to think clearly about the best choice for peace.  This year I have learned to give myself permission to do that.  Wisdom takes time.
4.  It doesn’t matter how amazing Disneyland is, if a child is cranky they need a nap before they can enjoy it.  It is the same for my life, if I put too much on myself I am not going to get the same satisfaction and joy out of life as I would if I did less and enjoyed the moments more. 
5.  There are a lot of good people in the world doing amazing things to make the world a better place all the time.  I refuse to let my mind be corrupted by the sensationalism of media that harps on the negativity of the few while completely ignoring the beauty of the many.
6.  When I lose perspective on peace in my life, my place in the universe, or the future, I will be gentle with myself, take a walk, drink a cup of tea, read good books, and buy myself and a neighbor some flowers.  I will remember the gentle mantra of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all matter of things shall be well.”
7.  If we look there are always, always, always solutions.  These solutions are usually more simple than we think, we just have to use our hearts and heads to figure them out instead of assuming there is no other answer.
8.  We are stronger together.  We need each other.  We need to appreciate our differences for spice and to focus on what we have in common for sugar.
9.  Assuming the positive intent of everyone around me prevents a lot of misunderstandings.
10.  I became a more peaceful person this year.  Since this happened for me, I fully believe it can happen for the world. One peaceful choice at a time. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

“Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men”.  You hear it so often at this time of year. As you may know, this phrase comes from the nativity story found in Luke 2: 13 and 14, which says “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’.” I guess there is some contention regarding whether the phrase should be translated ‘good will toward men’ or ‘peace to men of good will’, but that is not anything I want to dwell on. The point is that the angels were telling the shepherds to celebrate: Love and peace has come to dwell among you and you can experience this love and peace for yourselves!

I think one of the most wonderful things about Christmas is that people focus on giving, on putting aside differences, and on celebrating family and friends and the things that make life special. All in all, I think people have more ‘good will toward men’ and it makes life more enjoyable both for the giver and the recipient. The Christmas spirit is really all about love, as this is what Christ came to teach us. My question is though, how can we can carry this spirit of Christmas with us throughout the year? Why do we only allow ourselves a ‘holiday’ of peace and harmony?

1 John 4 says 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

The true meaning of Christmas is love. When we put aside differences and love our fellow man, we have peace in this world. If the world could truly understand love then there would be peace on earth.  Sometimes peace seems like this hippy pie-in-the sky concept that will never really happen, but I think this is because we want world peace to happen on a grand scale, which is a complicated thing. But we as individuals can achieve peace at any point by simply loving one another and loving ourselves as well. As Confucius said "To put the world in order, we must put the nation in order. To put the nation in order, we must put the family in order. To put the family in order, we must nurture our personal life. To cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts and minds right… Plant a thought, reap an act. Plant an act, reap a habit. Plant a habit, reap a character. Plant a character, reap a destiny."

Christmas is becoming more and more commercialized and I think if we are not careful we can lose that spirit of love and peace at Christmas if we let this take over. Our family does not make a huge deal out of gift exchange, which I like because if I do go to the mall at this time of year it can be a somewhat of an un-peaceful thing. People cut you off trying to find a parking space as they circle the mall for the 8th time, and it seems many people have this feeling of panic on their faces, trying to find the perfect gift or get their shopping done. This is not what Christmas is meant to be about. It is not about being the perfect hostess and feeling like you have to be Martha Stewart in order to earn love from your family. It is not about making sure you send cards to every single one of your friends so that all you have time for is to sign it and it has no meaning. It is not about whether or not your Christmas decorations are better than your neighbors or if your lights are visible from space. It is not about spoiling your kids with things they don’t need and won’t appreciate. It is not about any of those things. All of these things are fine in moderation, but I hope that they don’t become the focus of our attentions. 

Anyway, as Christmas day approaches, I wish all of you love, peace, and joy both on the 25th and on every day and may we all remember the 'reason for the season'. 

A Whole Lotta Love,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At Peace with 'Enough'

The following post was written by Dakini Grace:

Recently, I began noticing a subtle resistance in myself.  Some of you may know it.  It’s a very quiet feeling which shows up soon after waking, when all of the things you think you need to do that day start to layer themselves onto your consciousness.
There’s a heaviness about it.  Not an impossible heaviness, but a heaviness nonetheless.  It’s something which I suspect many of us experience and yet most of us are so busy, rising to alarm clocks and rushing to feed, clothe and dress ourselves and others, that we’ve not the time to notice the internal disquiet.
Working as I do, at sporadic hours of the day and night, I rarely wake to an alarm.  I wake when my body is ready and I allow myself plenty of time to greet the day.  This has been a deliberate choice of mine.  It’s one of the benefits of self employment and one of the reasons I love it so much.  In fact, my whole life is now structured in the way that works best for me and is focused on doing things that I love.  I have literally set up the life of my dreams.
And still there’s this subtle resistance.
But, to what?
It’s easy to spot the problem when you’re in a job you hate or in a relationship which is dissatisfying.  You may not choose to do anything about it, but you do know what the problem is.
When there’s no obvious problem though, a little more investigation is required.
And so, I did.  I investigated.  I sat and watched my thoughts and my emotions.
And what did I find?
I found in myself, an unwillingness to accept what is.  A belief that my life, as it’s unfolding before me, is not enough.
Now this isn’t the first duet that the old ‘It’s not enough’ belief and I have danced.  We are a well rehearsed pair, having danced up a storm as a distraction from a larger/more disturbing belief….

I’m not enough.

Aah, that old friend…
My old friend whose face is rarely seen for what it is.  So often is she wearing a disguise.
She wears the disguise of wanting to get the next promotion and the next one and the next one, even when the more senior jobs are becoming more and more stressful and less and less satisfying.
She masquerades as wanting a bigger house when you’ve more than enough space in your current home and the accumulation of ‘stuff’ required to fill the space is starting to strangle you.
She shows up as needing more friends on facebook, more twitter followers, more LinkedIn contacts.
In the movie, Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps, the protagonist Jacob asks another; ‘what is your walk away figure?  You know, the figure they’ll pay you which will force you to walk away because it’s just too much’.
The answer he receives?  More.
That’s the things about my old friend ‘I’m not enough’.  There is no walk away figure.
When you’re driven by ‘I’m not enough’ there will never be enough money, houses, cars, facebook friends or clients to fill the void.
Having taken the time to turn towards resistance, rather than push it away, I am so grateful that it showed up.  It showed me that my beliefs weren’t in alignment with the truth of who I am.  It showed me that I was holding onto a belief that didn’t serve me. 
It reminded me that I am enough irrespective of the status of my relationship, career or finances, and it showed me that any thought which tells me otherwise is a lie.
Now my mornings are light.  There is no heaviness creeping upon me as I consider my day.  There is openness and an air of excited anticipation about what might arise.  There is gratitude for being.
All so called ‘negative’ emotions are teachers.  All arise to show us a lie we are telling ourselves.  They are like little signposts saying ‘Wrong way. Go back’.  The question is, are you heeding the signpost or driving right on by?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Are you at peace with your own mortality?

The following post is written by Chris Guillebeau at the Art of Nonconformity.

I recently read two books about the choices people make when faced with the knowledge of their forthcoming death. The first book is called Last Acts, and was written by a doctor who worked predominantly with hospice patients.
Throughout the book, people make different choices—some seek to create closure with their loved ones and prepare as much as possible to say farewell to life as we know it. Others refuse to accept the reality of their forthcoming death and try to fight as long as possible. The author writes non-judgmentally, but also shares his belief that those who accepted the circumstances and attempted to create closure made the better choice than those who chose to pretend they weren’t dying.
Then I read Chasing Daylight, a similar book from a very different perspective: instead of being written by a healthy doctor working with sick patients, it was written by an executive who was given less than 90 days to live due to a rapidly-appearing brain tumor. In this book, the executive considers himself fortunate to have the chance to effectively count down the days until his death. Within days of learning about the tumor, he makes a list of everyone in his life he wishes to say goodbye to. Then he begins contacting all of them, one-by-one, to let each person know what they meant to him. Some people he contacts are uncomfortable, afraid, or even angry with his desire to “close” relationships. But as he says in the book, no one is going to overrule the wishes of a dying man, so he pushes ahead.
I read both books very quickly, with the sense that when you are reading about someone whose days are limited, you shouldn’t wait too long before finding out what happens with them. In different ways, both books demonstrate the need to live deliberately instead of just passively filling the days.
This brings us to a good question I heard recently (from Jamey in Little Rock):
If we were no longer here tomorrow, who would notice?
Jamey is a pastor who often asks this question of his congregation, but don’t let that put you off—I think it’s an excellent question for everyone to think about, regardless of background. Would anyone notice if you were gone, and if so… what would they notice? Does that kind of thinking produce regrets? (And if so, is there anything we can do about them?)
Thinking about the end also helps to think about the present. When the author ofChasing Daylight realizes he has only 90 days left to live, he immediately resigns from his job as CEO—even though he loved his job and derived a lot of fulfillment from it. Some of the hospice patients in Last Acts seek to reclaim creative projects they had abandoned earlier in life. Almost everyone in both books, at least those who are able to deal with the knowledge of their impending death, reflects about the importance of creating “perfect moments” and living in the present.
Most of the time these days, I wake up excited and go to sleep excited. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all the projects I want to work on. So many countries left! New adventures, new friends, trips, writing projects, business ventures, etc.
I don’t want it to end, and I don’t expect it to end for a while. But reading Last Actsand Chasing Daylight served as good reminders that we don’t always get to choose how things turn out, so it’s important to make sure we are deliberate in the things we do have control over.
From refugees to survivors of all kinds, I’ve met a lot of people whose lives have been altered through trauma and near-death experiences. In my own life, I can pinpoint a few experiences that shook me up and caused me to rethink my priorities, especially a major change that came about after 9/11 when I was depressed and trying to find a way to engage with the world. The problem is that these events don’t come along very often (for good reason), and when they do come along, you don’t always have a choice in how to respond.
Instead of responding to trauma, therefore, it’s better if you can avoid a wake-up call like that to create change in your life. You don’t have to wait for a 9/11, a car crash, another near brush with death to think about what really matters. You can do so right now, today, no matter what else is happening in your life.
As for me, I do my best to live in the present while looking forward to the future. It’s not always easy to do this, even if you’re happy with your life, as I am. Over here, it helps to get up on Sunday mornings and run for at least an hour without listening to music. (I like listening to music when I exercise, but it also tends to zone me out—so sometimes it’s good to just run.) When I travel, I go for long walks alone.
I balance these behaviors, which are solitary by design, with the need to contribute to something bigger than myself, and hopefully make the world a better place along the way. I feel glad to be alive and aware that all of this is a beautiful gift. I want to take it as seriously as it deserves. Mary Oliver put it this way:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
In various forms, questions like that are what I believe we should think about every single day. How would you respond?