Happy International Peace Day: Three Ways to Increase Peace in Your Life and the World

BY Parvati

This past sunny Saturday afternoon in Toronto, I strolled through Kensington Market with my family and a friend visiting from the UK. We stopped in at Hibiscus, a delicious vegan restaurant, where I enjoyed a fabulous soup and salad lunch special. The small sitting area that accommodated 20 or so looked openly onto a productive kitchen where servers and cooks seemed to easily float by each other in quiet focus. I was touched by the vibrational presence of the restaurant. After I tuned into the colourful food that arrived in front of me, in prayerful thanks, I looked up and said to my brother-in-law that the food was singing. It felt so rooted, vital and expansive!
This made me think of what I wanted to write for my blog this International Day of Peace. The restaurant, though busy, felt peaceful. Perhaps it was just the fresh coat of paint, the cleanliness (both seen and unseen), the kind service, the organic food prepared with love, that made it all seem so alive. Whatever the reason, it made me think that peaceful living exudes a rooted, vital expansion. It is neither too lofty nor ungrounded, neither listless nor lacking life-spark, neither constricted nor closed.
Peaceful living is rooted in “non-resistance to what is”, that is, receptivity to what this moment brings. Virtually every second each day, our ego-minds are busy filtering our experiences through the lens of our perceptions, that are wired to support our limited beliefs so that we feel safe and secure. Our egos thrive on feeling separate and divided, taking all opportunities to attach a sense of “me” to an idea, action or circumstance. We do this so that we may feel more powerful than this moment, because in some ways, we fear what this moment offers. “This good/bad thing happened/will happen because I did/will do this good/bad thing.” Do we not all think like this at times?
We try to fulfill our desires by painting our experiences to fit a pre-existing narrative in our minds, whether that is “I am unworthy” or “I am extraordinary” or any other belief. We continually categorize, divide, shelf and compartmentalize information so that we may temporarily feel better or worse about ourselves, giving us a sense of fleeting meaning and passing purpose – only to grasp at the next moment to continue the cycle.
When we resist the moment, we feed our sense of separate self and inevitably suffer and cause suffering. But when we open to what is, our monochrome, ego-driven world transforms into a technicolour world of boundless possibilities. We see that our limited self, our sense of “me” that we thought was divided, is only a temporal illusion sustained by our attachments. Our deeper, eternal self is an integral part of an intelligent, loving whole, no more or less important than anything else in existence. We are literally one with the fabric of life.
The following three qualities of peaceful living provide us with practical tools to build a happier life. When we bear these in mind throughout the day as we practice non-resistance to what is, we move from feeling restless againstness and disconnection with the world and ourselves, to a lasting life of peace. I do not yet live in peacefulness 24/7. I aspire to it. What I share here comes from discoveries that have arisen through my daily spiritual practice. I know that the awareness of the following qualities of peaceful living, and the willingness to practice these, has provided a rich foundation of happiness untouched by the passing ebbs and flows of life. Each could be the subject of a book! There is much to explore. So I leave you with a few thoughts to whet your appetite and inspire further inquiry.
Non-harming through both word and action is a quality of peaceful living. We may think of non-harming and immediately think of hurting someone, in say, an angry outburst. But we harm ourselves as well as another when we boil in anger. The very vibration of anger, as it courses through our veins, is hot like lava, causing our blood pressure to rise, our field of vision to narrow, and our mind to close so that we act rashly – all because we perceive ourselves to be in life-threatening danger. Painful emotions like anger and hate harm others and our selves. Like a pebble dropped into a pool of water, they radiate outward to create a ripple effect of harmfulness on the planet. So do painful states of mind like being judgmental, blameful or victimized by life. In these states, we are constricted, disconnected from life-force, enabling our ego’s limited perception and feeding the way want life to be, rather than meeting what is.
In our commitment to peaceful living, we need to explore in each moment the ways in which we may be harming others or ourselves in word and action. Self-harm and self-loathing are just as counter to the vibration of peace as any outward expression of anger or hatred.
A few years ago, I returned from a year in India carrying a freeloader in my body – a rare African parasite. My health turned upside down, I tried to gently evict the unwanted guest with herbs, diet, acupuncture, homeopathy, Ayurveda, energy healing… yet it remained. At that time, I also noticed that I attracted parasitic-type people in my life, people who leeched off of me and around whom I felt drained.
When I declared to the universe that I was no longer willing to be in any parasitic relationships, I came upon a medical doctor who was able to prescribe a hard-to-obtain Western medicine that would permanently clear out the critter. So much was I attached to a distorted idea of non-harming, I actually had to work through feeling badly for killing this life that lived inside me.
Through this experience, I came to understand that my unwillingness to set healthy boundaries with parasitic entities was coming at the expense of my own wellbeing. I had to move away from self-deprecating ideas of harmfulness. To evict the physical parasite and let go of parasitic relationships in my life was to move my energy in the direction of non-harming – though at first I thought I was being mean in doing so. I had to learn to love myself in order to have loving relationships with others. Self-love is the platform of a co-creative life.
The other day, after meditation, I had the thought float through my mind: “There is no right or wrong, just understanding and misunderstanding.” I am still exploring the truth in this thought. Yet I do wonder – would not all arguments, fights and wars be resolved through the practice of understanding? The trouble is, in busily trying to get our way, we may lack the humility to let go of how we think things should be and miss opening to how they are.
The famous Longfellow quote comes to mind: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” In order to find the ‘secret histories’ in each other and in our selves, we must be willing to not know. That means opening to this moment without resistance to what is. With receptivity and an attitude of knowing no-thing, we discover the universe within another person, within ourselves and within which we all exist – all lying beyond the limited grasp of our ego/will.
Understanding requires humility. Humility is to feel no better or worse than anyone or anything. Through this, we can become receptive. When we feel either better or worse than, we are closed to this moment for fear that our limited ego, to which we cling, will be challenged and disappear. When I was dealing with my health issues post India, I became aware that I was feeling less than, which is why I had allowed for parasitic relationships. This was a way my ego was invested in feeling small, hiding from the expanded awareness of being no-thing and yet one with it all. Understanding moves us away from the grip of the illusion of “me” as being fixed and important, into a realization of interconnection and wholeness.
Only when we understand our innate interconnection can we learn to witness the ways in which we grasp at our ego’s agenda and invest our vital life-force energy in feeling separate and in struggle. When we witness what is, whether we may like or dislike, we no longer play into the ego’s dance of wanting, pushing or pulling at life. We can watch this moment unfold, without imposing a wilful narrative upon it. From the foundation of understanding, through the practice of witnessing, the flower of compassion arises. Through compassion there can be no harming, because compassion is the flowering of our inherent unity.
I will be singing at noon today here in Toronto as part of the Peace 21st flag celebrations and the On Common Ground Festival at Fort York National Historic Site, Blue Barracks, 250 Fort York Blvd. (Enter off East Gates at Bathurst St.) I will offer my song “Shanti Om” as a prayer for peace. Click here to listen to it and be inspired by the heartfelt lyrics that to me describe the magnificence I have glimpsed of who we are:
I feel like starlight pure and bright
Radiant skies within
Daylight through the night
War is gone. We’re free. I see
A big wide world turned upside down
What we lost now is found
We live in joy and harmony
We love one another and we do believe in
Shanti Om! Living life in peace (I feel like)
Shanti Om! Love is always free
Visions intoxicating
Illuminating me
Messages of inspiration
Showing us how we can be all free
Oh how beautiful, we are kind and good
Cause we now have understood
That what I do to you, I do to me
We are one Earth family singing
Shanti Om! Living life in peace (Yah, sing it!)
Shanti Om! Love is always free (I feel like)
Shanti Om, shanti, shanti Om (2x)
The whole world is still for a while
People’s hearts light up in smiles
They look inside and there they do see
Me as you and you as me singing
Shanti Om! Living life in peace (Yah, sing it!)
Shanti Om! Love is always free (I feel like)
Shanti Om, shanti, shanti Om (2x)
© 2013 Parvati Devi
May we aspire to this!

JGP_9231__naturalI post my blog every Sunday with love. If you have enjoyed this, you may wish to listen to my musical works, check out my upcoming book Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie: A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker, and find out more about me at www.parvati.world.
Please share this blog with your friends using the buttons below.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.