Peace Begins with You. Yes, You!

Peace begins with me. We've all heard it and it really sounds corny. And who talks like that? Maybe a flaky, navel-gazing, hippie type might say it right before they also say "namaste" in general conversation. In which case you may have an urge to cause them harm, not peace.

I try not to say things like that out loud but I'll admit, on International Peace Day at least, that I do say stuff like that to myself. I realize that no matter how much I want to, I cannot magically change another person to be more like I want them to be. I can't stop terrorists from creating terror or politicians from saying harmful, fear-inducing statements. And I sadly can't change a police system that results in unnecessary and tragic deaths. Not me alone, anyway.

One thing I know I can do is create and react to the events in my tiny life on this planet with grace and kindness. I can do my best to make a situation better, not worse, simply by my words, my expression, and my actions. I can be forgiving of those near me and I can be gentle with those in pain. I can listen rather than talk and I do my best to understand why someone feels the way they do, even when it is completely different from how I feel. I can agree to disagree and still love the other person.

Do I do all this all the time? Heck no! I mess up all the time. I lose my temper, I judge others, I harbor spiteful feelings, and sometimes I think really (really) negative thoughts. But when I mess up, I try to muster an apology. When others have hurt me, I work to let go of resentment. Do I do all that all the time? Again, heck no! I am definitely a work in progress.

When I am able to pull off a peaceful moment, I gotta say, it feels good. I feel relief and grounding. Like I'm back on earth and not flying a couple of inches (or feet) off the ground in anger and depression. One of the best tricks I've learned in how to get me there is to pause. I can do it anytime, anywhere and no one even has to know I'm doing it. All I have to do is stop the train off the tracks that is my mind for a short minute and refocus it on what I'm thinking and feeling and why. And then I ask myself what is it I would rather be thinking and feeling. That minute is usually followed by an exhalation breath that turns out to be release of tension.

The pause usually happens when an unpleasant thing has already happened and I'm rolling it over in my head a million times getting all worked up about it after the fact. Once I realize what I'm doing to myself I can then (sometimes) tell myself to chill out. Pause. Take a breath and think about a better way to feel.

I'm really excelling in this technique when I manage to pause while  the thing is happening and before I respond. Now, that is superstar material there. I luckily have plenty of opportunity to practice this with my kids. Like before I explode because the dishes are still on the floor after I've asked that they be cleaned up four times already. That, is a perfect opportunity to practice the pause. Again, I don't do this every time. No one does. Well, maybe the Dalai Lama but he doesn't even have kids. You get my point.

All this is to say, that if you want to create peaceful change in your life you do have that capability. By setting that intention, you can begin to practice handling stressful situations more calmly and kindly. Go ahead and try. Today is International Peace Day and it is the perfect day to create peace within yourself. I promise it will bring good in the world.