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Micro Peacework

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This post originally appeared on Danny Fisher’s blog as part of the Buddhist Blog Swap a couple of weeks ago… including it here now for the archives.

We often think about activism and peacework in grand terms, even grandiose terms. We think it means we have to stop an entire war, save the planet from global warming, eliminate racism. Free Tibet, Save the Redwoods, End Poverty. That’s a big agenda. No wonder we’re exhausted.

Lately I’ve been thinking that two of the most common sources of violence are actually much closer to home, rooted in our own psyches. These are: 1) the tendency to hold tightly to fixed ideas, and 2) the compulsion to rush or speed in our lives.

I realize I’m not saying anything dramatically new here… teachers from the Buddha himself to Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama say this much better than I could. But it’s such a good teaching that it bears remembering, and we will never run out of chances to practice with these obstructions.

The first, holding tightly to fixed ideas, probably comes our way almost every waking moment. The second, the compulsion to rush or speed, causes harm in more ways than we are probably aware of. The movie “Changing Lanes” (2002, with Ben Affleck and Samuel Jackson) was a great parable on the karma generated by unwholesome actions that are so often fueled by speed. And recently, I posted a wonderful quote by Thomas Merton on that very topic on my blog.

What would it be like to consider that every moment, every interaction, is an opportunity for reversing the karma of those tendencies, and for potent peacemaking? And to consider that these apparently small actions can add up to make a significant difference in the world?

In that spirit, I offer this small, handcrafted batch of peacemaking for you to try, specially blended to work with these two obstructions:

  • Observe Shabbat, the Jewish practice of stopping on the seventh day, of being in stillness and rest. You don’t necessarily have to do it on Saturday, but try it for one day each week and see what happens.
  • Walk (or take the bus or the train) rather than drive your car. Notice how the pace of your life changes. What else happens?
  • Consider a long-held grievance you have against someone and, just for today, let it go. Grant emotional amnesty to that person.
  • Allow someone to cut in front of you in line without going into a hissy fit.
  • Watch yourself closely as you note ideas of scarcity of resources arising. Take a deep breath and practice trusting that there is enough for everyone, that all will be well.
  • Meditate. Meditation is the ultimate act of nonviolence. When you are sitting still, you are living in low impact on the world, and you are regulating your own mind and body to operate in a more sustainable way.

What would you add to this list?

About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

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  1. Pingback: Jizo Celebrates His/Her First Birthday « The Jizo Chronicles

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