Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Necessary Silence

February 5, 2017

Silence is not a luxury. It is a necessity. When we are silent, the continual stream of thoughts fall into the background, momentarily freeing us from our self obsession. We awaken to the preciousness of life. In the silent fullness of the moment, we find profound peace.

We cannot find real silence by shutting out the world. We are connected with the world, not independent of it. The noise of the so-called world “out there” always finds a way into our life.

thornsOur situation is similar to that of the misguided ruler in a well known story who pierces his foot on a thorn. Enraged by the pain, he demands that all roads and paths be covered with leather. It is an idea which is both horrifying and understandable. The world is filled suffering (thorns) and we naturally want to avoid suffering. Not only do we experience the various physical and mental sufferings that arise from the world around us, we also experience suffering from the continual onslaught of stimulation, commentary, and fear that is part of our smartphone era.

In the story, the King has a wise advisor who suggests an alternative to covering the roads with leather. He tells the King that he and his citizens can take responsibility for protecting their own feet by covering them with leather.

We, like the King, can protect ourselves from the thorns of life by protecting our minds with meditation or prayer, practices that quiet and focus the mind. These are not the prayers filled with words and petitions, but the spacious prayer of deep listening. It is meditation that allows us to open fully to each breath, each heartbeat, and the interconnectedness of life.

This is the domain of the mystic, the “professional pray-er”. We, as people of faith, must become mystics. The world needs us to be knowers and practitioners of inner silence and peace. We can then offer peace, silence, and hope to those who are lost in the noise of turmoil and angst.

This is the gift we bring to the world, a balm to soothe the fretful mind. The world is filled with words and and busy-ness. Silence and stillness are rare. Few people encounter true silence, within themselves or another.

It is in this silence that the divine moves most obviously. Faith arises in this silence. Unconditional love likewise arises in the heart that is properly ordered and at peace.

If you have not yet found a way to enter into silence, seek out a teacher of prayer or meditation. They don’t need to be famous or exotic or “perfect.”  It should be someone whom you can trust. Learn from them. Practice their technique or method regularly. Be patient. Slowly, over time, you will begin to allow yourself to experience real silence. You may even be amused to discover that it was you yourself who was standing in the way of awakening and peace.

Start today. Silence your phone. Turn off the TV. Shut down your computer. Find a comfortable sitting position and spend few minutes paying full attention to your breath. Don’t get distracted by thoughts. They arise in the same way that sounds arise—naturally. Sounds are not you. Thoughts are not you. Take a vacation from thinking and worrying and planning and just be with your breath. Watch it and learn its subtleties and sensations. Repeat daily. Share your inner peace widely!

Praying for Peace

June 18, 2016

In response to the recent shooting at a club in Orlando, our local Interfaith group organized a Prayer Vigil. It was put together very quickly, a testament to the trust and cooperative nature of our diverse religious community.

Prayer Vigil- GroupPersonally, I am a bit skeptical of prayer vigils. Often it feels as though we use prayer as an excuse for not doing the hard work of addressing social ills and injustices. If, for example, we pray for peace because we truly want peace, then our prayers must be those of action to end violence and warfare. We cannot expect peace to miraculously fall from the sky and settle upon the earth. War and violence are the fruit of human action. We, therefore, must be the ones to overcome it. No amount of wishing and praying for peace – devoid of action – will end war.

Nevertheless, as an active member of out Interfaith coalition, I joined in the planning and performance of the service. It was a simple affair, held at local church, and attended by sixty or so individuals.The names and ages of the victims were read by individual attendees. After hearing the name, the congregation responded with, “May you be at peace.” I then sounded a bell, and a candle was lit for victim named. There were music and prayers from local clergy. It was a beautiful ceremony. Though focused on the bell, caught up in details of the service, I was touched by a deep sense of peace and well-being.

Our little ceremony did nothing to address war, gun violence, bigotry, or hatred. It did, however, offer healing. Each person in attendance had been touched by the violence in Orlando. The service offered them the opportunity to share their grief with others, many of whom were strangers. In our our shared witness to the brokenness caused by violence, we – surprisingly – found solace and peace.

There is still violence in the world. But for a short time, on a Wednesday night, we were able to connect with others and find the strength and hope to live faith-filled lives in response to senseless violence and undeserved suffering.

Peace, Paul

Photo: Some of the members of the “Interfaith Communities in Action.”

Non-Violence: The Path of Love

March 28, 2016

It is important to remember that love and compassion are far more powerful than violence, during this time of war, terrorism and bombastic political speech. If violence were all-pervasive, the human race would not have survived this long. Humans continue to thrive because we are willing to work together. We have found ways to resolve conflicts without bloodshed and killing. We even help those who are weaker than ourselves. Humans survive because non-violence is the norm and violence is the exception.

Violence is, of course, horrible and needs to be resisted. However, violence does not arise in a vacuum. Violence is almost always the result of other violence. Violence begets violence. If we fight violence with even worse violence, we just perpetuate the seemingly endless cycle of violence fueled by fear, revenge, and trauma. We cannot perpetrate violence in the form of invasion, warfare, and continual bombing and not expect the result to be more violence. Violence cannot, ultimately, be overcome by more violence.

Violence is only overcome through the long slow process of love, compassion, forgiveness, and cooperation. These are the values of religion. As people of faith, we are the ones that can lead our communities, countries, and the world in finding another way to overcome conflicts fueled by hatred and violence. We must have the courage of our convictions and say no to war, militarization, and exaggerated patriotism. We can show the world that love and compassion offer a way to break the cycle of violence.

saint-francisSilent prayer is not enough. We need to pray with our actions. As St. Francis reportedly observed, “There is no point in walking somewhere to preach, if our walking is not also our preaching.” As religious people, we can offer the world a way out of violence. First we need to have faith that an end to violence is possible. The Buddha shows a path leading out of violence. Christ does as well. If we follow the paths set out by many of the great religious teachers, earth can become a “heaven on earth,” a realm of peace and understanding.

We start wherever we are: practicing forgiveness and love towards all, daily, and offering little and big kindnesses towards the people around us. When the opportunity arises, we can, with an abundance of compassion, share that we find talk of violence in its many forms – racism, bigotry, sexism, hatred, etc. – unacceptable. We can likewise express our disapproval of acts of violence. We can also work on projects that offer alternatives to some of the many forms of violence in our society.

The practice of love and compassion is endless. Enemies are finite. When we face “enemies” we recognize that our love is imperfect, limited. Like our enemies, we are sometimes moved by anger. Like us, our enemies are people with lives, and loves, and fears. In many ways, we are not that different from those we call enemies. We all want happiness, security, and the freedom to live out lives fully. It is only our limited ability to love, which is the result of our spiritual ignorance, that enables us to see another as an enemy. If we were spiritually awake, then our love would include everyone and none would be seen as enemies.

Thus religion is the practice or training in love. It is the continual cultivation of the desire for all beings to be truly happy. This is what the Buddha and Christ both taught. Happiness is not found in material things, though having the necessities of life is important. Happiness is found in the care of others and in the deep sense of being held, loved, and at peace.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

Image: St Francis

Buddhist Monks Continue Protests in Burma

September 24, 2007

MonksHere is news about the latest protests by monks in Burma. Burma is home to imprissoned Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta

Peace, Paul