We have become so polarized by politics, religion, power and money that we forget we’re humans first. We divide by rich and poor, powerful and powerless, religious and secular, race, status and party lines. Call me a hippie, but I’m one of those people who believes that in spite of all this, peace is still possible.
I know it looks bleak. At this point I don’t even need to tell you to look across the border anymore. The chaos and disarray is in our own backyards. Our people are anxious and depressed, addicted and stressed. Our systems are crumbling. We’re overloaded, and instead of directing the dissatisfaction where it belongs, we turn on each other.
So often I see political arguments unfold where any preference placed on compassion is quickly written off as nonsensical over-sensitivity. The flip side of this is when certain ideals are not immediately accepted, a label of hate filled insensitivity is cast. What I mean by this is the polarization of the left and the right: a blue and a red enter a debate about a social issue, and within minutes the blue is painted as a hateful bigot, and the red is in turn painted as a bleeding heart, overcome by emotion and incapable of thinking logically. The truth is, logic and compassion are both necessary in dealing with human matters.
A pretty wise man once said to me, you can’t fix the whole ocean, but you can keep your own pond clean. We were having a conversation about the political and social problems of our time, and how depressing it can be to really think about the state of our world. Still, peace is possible, but you’re not going to find it in a political party. And you surely won’t get it by demanding it from the ocean without working on your own pond.
This doesn’t mean outside entities don’t have a responsibility, too. We are all co-creators of the world we share, and we all have a role to play, but we’ve fallen into the trap of believing peace is possible only if and when an outside entity does something outside of us. We forget that we have power too.
But you have to want it. You have to do the work, and you have to understand that it starts with you. If you are not currently happy within yourself, like it or not, that is spilling out into the world you inhabit, and the people you touch. The state of our world is a reflection of each individual.
Last year, politicians from 15 countries meditated together in the UK House of Commons in an event exploring mindfulness in politics. The event was organized to discuss the potential of meditation to help political leaders stay resilient and clear-minded in a constantly changing world. John Kabat-Zinn, PhD, professor, and leader in the science of modern mindfulness, says the use of the technique in the political process could improve policy making and that by “training the mind to be more attentive, politicians may listen better to the needs of the country and of the world… this is not a weirdo lunatic fringe trying to take over… but an oxygen line straight into the heart of what is deepest and most beautiful in us as human beings.”
Awareness of what is happening in our own minds and our own bodies are our first steps towards peace. Slowing down, grounding ourselves, working on the little drops in your own pond: you’ll soon see just how far those ripples can reach. Mindfulness is something we can all practice to work towards this goal. There is still hope. As recently as last year, for the first time, politicians around the world were found giving peace a chance.