A respite for me over these last few weeks has come in the form of a beautiful little book I bought not long ago by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is called "Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life." (You can read an excerpt of this lovely book here.)
The basic premise of the book is that there can be no such thing as world peace until there is personal, individual peace. And that personal peace is accessible to everyone all the time, through the practice of mindful awareness:
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.The rest of the book goes on to describe how a person can achieve mindfulness in daily life, whether we are breathing, driving, working, or dealing with unpleasantness. The interconnectedness of all things is described, and a discussion undertaken about how, if we are going to dislodge the roots of war, we need to live in harmony with all things, to "inter-be."
We need harmony, we need peace. Peace is based on respect for life, the spirit of reverence for life. Not only do we have to respect the lives of human beings, we have to respect the lives of animals, vegetables and minerals. Rocks can be alive. A rock can be destroyed. The Earth also. The destruction of our health by pollution of air and water is linked to the destruction of the minerals. The way we farm, the way we deal with our garbage, all these things are related to each other.Throughout the book Thich Nhat Hanh describes the simple things we can each do, everyday, to work towards a more peaceful state. Things like sitting still and paying attention to our breathing, or totally concentrating on whatever we are eating at the moment, or stopping when we hear the sound of a church bell or even the honking of a car horn and really listening to it.
So when things get hectic, and stressful, and I'm worried if this world can ever get its act together, this little book has reminded me that I can experience peace right now, and contribute to world peace a little bit each day. That gives me a measure of comfort in this season that is that is supposed to be all about peace and good will.