As long as we all buy into the paradigm that tells us war, violence, strife and terror are the only possible reality, we're going to get more of the same. Join us in envisioning a new reality, a paradigm of peace. Let it start inside individuals, spread to families, and radiate to our communities, our country, our world. Will you put one of our magnets on your car to let others start to think about peace?
A quarter of all proceeds go to organizations that are working toward a more peaceable future. This quarter's donations will go to CARE's efforts in Darfur.
Hey, I'm off to my new blog, JC Shakespeare. Please tag along and visit. The PeaceMeme started to feel a bit narrow, and the new blog will address other areas of my life that I'd like to share. I hope you'll check it out. Peace, JC!
No need for any moralizing lecture or anything, but I'm deeply saddened that our culture's lust for cheap material possessions cost Jdimytai Damour his life. He's the worker trampled in the Valley Stream Wal-Mart when shoppers couldn't wait for the doors to open to get to the deals. I've never been a fan of Wal-Mart, but after this, it really chafes me to see their holiday commercials featuring tidy aisles stuffed with toys and smiling greeters hospitably waiting to help customers. That's a far cry from what happened on Friday morning.
Apparently Toys-R-Us isn't safe anymore either. Between these looks at the ugly underbelly of consumerism and the constant bad news about the economy, maybe we can wake up from our trances and begin to question the values that we're embracing in our culture. Advent -- a time to wake up and welcome the light.
In trying to reconnect with the emotion that led me to begin this blog two years ago, I was struggling with the question of what peace really meant to me. My original idea was that peace in the external world has to begin with an inner peace in me. If I could feel peace on the inside, I had faith that I would begin to see peace in the world around me. This has proven a daunting task. Between arguing with my wife over trivial matters and getting impatient with my daughters for being little kids, I can't even create peace in my own household. So, what was the point of trying to sustain a blog about peace?
Tried a new approach on the StairMaster today at the gym. I'm usually bombarded with the 12 giant flatscreen monitors playing different stations and competing for my attention, or, yes, looking at other people working out -- some of whom I observe for longer periods than others!
Today I practiced a moving meditation. I took the machine closest to the window (like the lady in the pic). I set up my 30 minute workout and then closed my eyes as the stairs began to move. At first I simply followed my breathing, and then, as I began to get into a rhythm, I remembered a friend talking about the Jesus Prayer, in which you simply meditate on a specific phrase over and over. This prayer, also knows as the Prayer of the Heart, has been practiced in monasteries since ancient times, and has constantly been prayed in the monastic community of Mount Athos for hundreds of years.
I found that I was much more in tune with my breathing, my heart rate, and what individual muscle groups were doing. I was less distracted by my thoughts, and more "in my body." I practiced saying one word of the prayer as I took each step, and then experimented with slowing it down and seeing if I could stay present. It really changed the nature of my workout, and it didn't seem like mindless drudgery.
You certainly don't have to say a prayer to get the same benefit of mindful exercise. Repeating a favorite saying, a holy word, or an affirmation would work. Even the simple practice of being aware of the rhythm of the breath, or counting to 4 or 8 or 12, would create a more conscious experience.
As I wrote about hypermiling over the weekend, I realized that as our world changes, we are being more forcefully invited to practice mindfulness across a spectrum of daily activities. Changing habits takes time, but I've noticed that driving more consciously is actually much more relaxing than driving like an A-hole (of which I have plenty of practice!). Breaking the plastic bag habit at the store has been a challenge -- we keep forgetting the bags -- but we're getting used to it, and seeing more and more people doing the same.
First heard about hypermiling from my neighbor who, no kidding works at a place called slacker.com. Yes, yet another brilliant inspiration from Austin, where a lot of people practice the art of conscious driving. It's a series of habits, really, and if you follow all the habits together, and pay attention to the condition of your car in terms of tire pressure and filter changes, you can greatly increase your MPG. And let's face it, filling up the tank these days is an investment. Might as well make it pay off, right?
Paying attention to how we drive is necessary in our culture right now. In fact, we need to be paying attention to a lot of things in this day and age, because our imminent choices will be of increasing complexity , calling for a higher level of thinking than most of us are currently employing. And it all boils down to habits and practices. What habits and practices can I employ on a daily basis that will help other people and give them positive energy? What am I doing that moves toward solutions instead of intensifying the problem? What am I doing to increase cooperation instead of conflict? What am I doing to move toward love and away from fear? How can I help you? What do you need?
What we really need to be paying the greatest attention to, however, is the way we treat one another. JC said that what we do to the least of our human brothers, we do to him. And if he's in all of us, whatever we're doing to each other is done to him. Treat people better. It's the right thing to do.
I'm not much different from most folks. I can be a maniac behind the wheel, screaming and cursing at anybody who doesn't drive the way I want them to. Of course, I fail to notice, most of the time, that nine out of ten drivers on the roads are driving just fine. It's the ten-percenters that get the blood boiling for the rest of us.
I have temper tantrums. I'm lazy. I'm not always nice to other people, including my family. I don't always make the best choice in every situation. But I try to stay aware of my choices, and to watch what I'm doing in the moment. It's a difficult practice. But that's what mindfulness means to me, and I'm really trying to practice. I'm not saying anybody else has to change. But I want to.
Over the weekend, my wife and I participated in our church's annual Rite of Passage for teens and young adults transitioning between high school and college. While we don't scar bodies, knock out teeth, or make anyone walk over hot coals, we do create strenuous conditions that push the initiates (and us) into uncomfortable spaces with long periods of meditation, blindfolded hikes in the woods, and physically demanding challenges. This is mixed in with sacred readings and wisdom sharing, all performed in a context of teaching, sharing, and loving. It is an incredible gift for all involved.
It strikes me that one of this culture's problems is that there are not clearly defined rites of passages for those members of society making the transition into adulthood. Sure, we get our drivers' licenses, have sex for the first time, turn 21 and gain the sacred ability to drink legally, but there is very little training in what it means to be an adult citizen. This contributes to a generational trend (though certainly not representative of the whole!) of confused, apathetic, angry, bored youth who either feel that life is completely worthless or that they are entitled to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.
It is a remarkable experience to share such a process with young people who have a conscious intention to uncover the truth about life, about what it means to be a human being, about the purpose of the human endeavor. It is also exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
So what I observed yesterday, after an all-too-brief nap, and engaged in a snarling Saturday afternoon traffic jam on our beloved I-35 in downtown Austin, was that despite the heart-opening impressions taken in the night before, my tired state led to an easy irritability that manifested itself in judgment of others and snapping remarks toward my wife and kids. When we have these so-called holy moments, the other end of the pendulum is sure to follow shortly. It takes awareness to realize that I've mechanically drifted into nasty judgments and base criticisms. It then takes non-critical self-observation to move back into the stillness underneath all of that.
As I look back over Peace Meme entries from the past two years, I'm taken back to the emotional, yet questionably effective, peace demonstrations I attended as I first began this blog. One thing that occurs to me, looking back, is that every time I went to a protest or march, there were always throngs of people shilling for their own pet causes, whether it be shutting down nuclear plants or coal power, impeaching the president, freeing some unjustly jailed dissident, or protesting against FOX News or Wal-Mart or China. All of these may have been worthy causes, but they were all about being AGAINST, AGAINST, AGAINST, or ANTI, ANTI, ANTI -- it got to be mind-numbing after a while.
That's one of the reasons that I wrote about in my last entry for letting the blog lie fallow for a season (or two!). Lately, I've been doing some research that has put me in touch with ideas regarding corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurism. If you're well versed in this field, you may be familiar with FLOW, an organization founded by John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, and some of his colleagues. I remember reading an interview a while back (can't locate it at the moment) in which Mackey said that entrepreneurism will replace protesting as the new means of revolution. I like that because it blends the formerly "EVIL" world of corporations with progressive ideals and aims. If people can make the world a better place while MAKING MONEY, then we're on to something. This links to the Peace through Commerce page. Here's a primer from the FLOW website.
We envision a world in which everyone is living a life of flow: with meaningful engagement in productive, positive activity based upon creativity, optimism, and personal initiative. Mission
* Create sustainable peace, prosperity, and happiness for all by liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good. * Articulate and animate an inspiring vision of a world with sustainable peace, prosperity, and happiness for all, catalyzed and sustained by entrepreneurial initiative and conscious capitalism. * Serve as an "entrepreneur of meaning" to other organizations and initiatives. * Provide an inspiring yet pragmatic vision. * Create collaborative networks of organizations aligned with this vision and working to realize it. * Provide public outreach, education and engagement platforms to catalyze a mass movement based on this vision. * Cultivate awareness of the powerful role creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs play in the evolution and elevation of humanity. * Describe and foster those social, cultural, economic, and legal conditions that lead to increasingly effective entrepreneurial solutions to all problems.
Principles & Values
FLOW and the FLOW Community are committed to the following four core principles:
1. Cultivate human flourishing, 2. Practice non-violence and radical tolerance, 3. Embrace freely-chosen, mutually beneficial solutions, and 4. Criticize by creating!
FLOW is comprised by people from all geographic, social, economic and political spheres who believe in the FLOW vision and embody FLOW principles. The FLOW community is an open, free space in which people can work together to create sustainable, global peace, prosperity, and happiness.
There are a number of factors that play into the process of letting a blog die -- overwhelming demands of career and family, other projects taking precedence, boredom, laziness -- and all of these definitely played a role in letting this sit for most of the past year. But the biggest factor was the inherent contradiction in trying to write a blog about peace while many of the items, concepts, and events that I came across in this work made me angry and fed my own sense of inner divisiveness.
Peace has to begin within, and as I argued with conservative bloggers, watched pundits on TV, and read the Huffington Post and Mother Jones, I felt less and less peaceful. There are still big parts of me that want to fight, to judge, to make others wrong, to blame, to self-justify, to smirk smugly at those poor souls whose views don't match mine.
At the same time, the demands of becoming a professional therapist, finishing grad school, and trying to work a full time job while raising a family took precedence over my contemplative meditation practice. So as I've gotten busier and busier, I've become less and less still on the inside. The feeling of running in circles begins to feel like reality.
But the signs have been pointing me home, like the prodigal son. A couple of recent teachings of Tim Cook have been right on the money, as usual, and I'd invite you to check out the link and listen to one or two of them. (There is a time code next to each one; forward to that time to go straight to the beginning of Tim's talk).
All right, bedtime calls, but the Celtics won tonight and I'm back on the board.
Longer Peaces Articles for Leisurely Reading: This is where I put longer posts so that they won't clog up the Peace Meme page. I hope you'll take some time to leisurely peruse these articles, as they represent the philosophical underpinnings of what I'm trying to do with this site.