Contributing your Inner Peace to World Peace
by Dr Ian Gawler
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine
In response to the recent Paris terrorist attacks, headlines trumpeted “France vows ‘merciless’ response to unprecedented atrocity”. The French President, looking somewhat dazed, stated: “France will stand firm. We are going to fight and our fight will be merciless.” Merciless.
It seems many respond to violence with the instinctual urge for more violence. Justified violence. Retributive violence. Punishment. Revenge. Maybe if we hurt them, punish them and scare enough, it will stop. Or at least we will feel avenged.
The problem is that centuries of history would indicate this approach has limited long-term benefits. You could make the case for the odd war halting mass-aggression, but the general trend – violence begets more violence. And while we are referring to mass violence in this reference, the question needs to be asked… what about the cycles of violence in our own everyday lives? How about our own violent tendencies?
Violence comes in two main forms: violence as a tactic: for control, to intimidate, for terror; and the uncontrolled expression of anger, where anger just spills over from time to time when we find ourselves provoked or triggered.
Many see reactive anger as a reasonable and justified part of daily life and expression, especially when we are told that we are meant to let our emotions out; to not “bottle things up inside”. For some these spill-overs are minimal and rare, for others others, they are raging and habitual. When we react from a place of anger though, there is a sense of ‘being out of control’ usually followed by regret.
In Buddhism, they say that being angry is like wanting to hurt your enemy by picking up a hot coal and throwing it at them. At the very least, you will hurt yourself, and who knows what damage you will do to the other person?
It is close to impossible to impose peace on others, the only way we will ever have a peaceful world is when we have a world made up of peaceful individuals. Therefore, by working on becoming more peaceful within ourselves, we are directly contributing to world peace.
So, how do we learn to react less from a place of anger and to be more peaceful?
Set strong intentions. All goals start with clarity of mind. Setting a strong intention to be more peaceful in your personal life – and to reflect this out into world – is the starting point.
Make yourself accountable. Share your intentions and motivations with others and let your actions be reflective of this.
Consider the magnitude of the task. Some experience anger as a response that comes out occasionally, for others it is a regular, habitual and deep-seated emotion. The bigger the issue, the more attention it warrants, so be honest with yourself and commit to the effort required.
Consider your prior efforts. Many of us have already in the past acknowledged that feeling less anger would be beneficial to us, and have made efforts to free ourselves of anger, resentment or rage. If these emotions are still boiling over however, then they can often be compounded by feelings of guilt or shame. We need to acknowledge the efforts made, admit our regret and use that to motivate and persevere with the inner work.
Find safe avenues for releasing and expressing anger. There are a variety of options available, in the form of external help i.e. support groups, courses, or psycho-therapists, as well as a range of activities that we can engage in to help us with this internal work.
Exercise is a great way to release general purpose, pent up anger. Contact sports can be good, but running, swimming, and anything that really gets you moving is helpful.
Chop Wood. This specific exercise is not only very satisfying in releasing anger, but keeps you warm in winter.
Break Something. Go to the local op shop, buy old plates, return home, throw them against a brick wall. This one is even a little humorous after a while, and a great form of therapy – especially when you have to clean up the mess afterwards.
Transform anger with positive actions.
Meditation is an obvious way to gently release anger and to reconnect with that peaceful inner core we all have. In the stillness of meditation, experience peace. In life post meditation, express peace.
Use the energy of anger to make positive changes. Many good things have come to fruition because people used the motivating energy of anger to get off their backsides and fix something, create something, build something useful. Anger well directed can be a powerful motivator.
Use affirmations and imagery to change habitual triggers. Changing deep-seated habits can be tricky, but affirmations and imagery can be profoundly effective. See my book The Mind that Changes Everything.
Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is the antidote to resentment for others. A father I know had the horrific experience of his 3 teenage daughters being murdered. Years later, eaten up by his own resentment, he determined that for him to have any decent sense of his own life, he had to forgive the murderer. And he did. Forgiveness is a powerful choice once we recognise the need. Further advice based on my own and other people’s experiences can be found in my books The Mind that Changes Everything or You Can Conquer Cancer.
Practice personal non-violence. Become more mindful to other living beings. Consider becoming a vegetarian, and ending the habitual killing of insects.
Be a force for peace in your own community. Be friendly. Smile at people. Make eye contact and express genuine warmth. Start conversations. Take a genuine interest in everyone, especially those on the margins. Engage in multi-cultural events. Engage in multi-faith events. Make the effort.
The only way we will ever have a peaceful world is when we have a world made up of peaceful individuals. Therefore, by working on becoming more peaceful within ourselves, we are directly contributing to world peace.
Dr Ian Gawler
OAM, BVSc, MCounsHS
Dr Ian Gawler is a pioneer of Mind-Body Medicine and teaching meditation in Australia. He is also the founder of The Gawler Cancer Foundation. The author of 6 bestselling books, Dr Gawler has spent the last 35 years developing a wide range of self-help techniques that integrate lifestyle practices such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and meditation with contemporary medicine. A long-term cancer survivor, currently Ian has a wide range of interests that include guest facilitating retreats regularly at the foundation with his wife Ruth. To find out more about Dr Ian and Ruth Gawler’s work, visit their website www.iangawler.com and newsletter/blog:
www.gawlerblog.com. Ian’s books can be purchased at our webstore.