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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The gift of peace

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
~Lao Tzu

We often associate peace with non-war. This is why we think that when we live in a country or city where there is no formal war going on, we live in peace. But is that really so? Think of all the people who lead an extremely hectic life and are always running behind something: a better job, greater salary, more power and prestige, a larger house in a wealthier neighborhood, more expensive outfits and cars than the neighbors – all those people are not at peace. Even though they don’t live in a formal war zone, there is war in their mind.

Many people confuse this internal war with ambition, and defend their constant restlessness that way. They will say that everybody does it, and that they cannot allow themselves to be left behind. This is also why many members of modern society live beyond their means and have enormous debts. They feel that they have to match up with others, so they do whatever they consider necessary to demonstrate that. What they don’t realize is that they are involved in an internal war: they fight with themselves. After all, no one else knows their struggle or can see or feel what pressure they allow themselves to be under, right?

When people place themselves under such stress they are quick to point fingers at others: parents, teachers, co-workers, bosses, society – it’s everyone else’s fault that they are in this enduring trap of over-performing and under-achieving – not theirs. The unfortunate truth is, however, that they have allowed themselves to function with a low degree of self-esteem. The more they claim that they hold high self-esteem, the more their body-language and their actions will contradict that.

There are many people with this problem – all around us. They are constantly struggling, and therefore, never at peace, regardless of their surroundings. As the quote from Lao Tzu above states, peace starts in our heart. If our hearts have no peace, we may live in the most peaceful environments, and still be at war. On the other hand, if our hearts are at peace, we may reside in the most brutal surroundings, and still be calm and composed.

This is as good a time as any to think on these things, and then deeply examine ourselves to find whether we really are at peace with ourselves, because only when we are at peace with ourselves will we be at peace with the world.

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