Peace Is Available
"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King made this comment towards the Vietnam war. His words about peace hold so much truth even today, including the way in which our ideals – the way we want to live our lives – become separated from how we actually live. We may desire peace in our lives but more often it doesn’t come to pass.
Every close relationship we enter into begins with future hope that happiness and joy will continue. We’d like to get from point A to point B but end up at point Z (the end of our dreams). How does this happen? More importantly, how can we prevent it happening so that our lives can fulfill their promise?
We fall into a ‘blind hope’ trap. Years ago, it occurred to me that hope is not what it’s cracked up to be. Now, hear me out, especially those of you who generally regard hope as being a positive thing – even sacred goodness. What I mean is that hope clings to an idea that something we want to happen will come about, even if we do nothing to bring that goal about. We think hope is a path that we just walk down. Hope can easily involve a kind of magical thinking, where we assume that just because we want something, it’ll happen.
It’s necessary to have a goal. We have to have at least some sense of where we want to go in life. But we need to know what to do to bring peace into our lives, and to actually do it. We need strategies. We need tools. We need to have a sense of what is and what isn’t the path. Just “wishing” to be at the goal won’t cut it.
We may actually want to have peace in our lives, but we may also have other goals that make it impossible for us to bring those things into fruition. We may have mixed motives. So, we may always want to be right. Or we may wish to avoid conflict. Or we may be fearful that if other people knew what we were really like, they would reject us (imposter syndrome). We may want any of these things (and others), and not realize that they’re taking us entirely in the wrong direction. We want, on some level, to have meaningful relationships with others but we’re not showing that through our actions.
We’re always going to have mixed motives – this is inevitable. We have to decide what’s important, and keep circling back to that. We have to learn how to recognize when our habits are creating conflict or alienation, and learn to come back to what’s important.
We all want more peace in our lives. I know I do. Truth is, many of us don’t know how to go about it. We may lack the tools. Or at least we think we do. Things like patience and kindness are always accessible but typically just in theory. Many of us find that “trying to a nicer person” doesn’t work in the long term. We need to cultivate mindfulness so that we remember that we have a choice to be patient, or kind, or to ask forgiveness. We need to cultivate an awareness that life is short, so that we can learn to appreciate the present moment.
When we have a goal of creating space for peace in our lives, when we patiently sort through our mixed motives, and when we strengthen the positive within us through spiritual discipline, peace becomes part of who we are. We find that we’re less likely to get upset, more likely to care about others. We worry less, fear less, and have the courage to face life obstacles.