The question: How do we foster peace in our society?
Mahatma Gandhi’s famous aphorism, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” gives us a sensible clue. If we want to change anything toward a certain direction, we must, as individuals, exemplify that tendency. We must “walk the talk” that we promote. Hence, if our intention is to help the world realize peace, we must first nurture it within ourselves.
However, this is not how the real world works at present. Our world and nations are governed by organizations, governmental, international, NGOs, private, etc., many of whose mission it is to improve the world or the nation. Unfortunately, many tend to focus more on trying to change others “for the better,” for more peace, more awareness, more safety, more rights, without ensuring that their own organization models the improvements they strive for. Similarly, the individuals running the organization may try to change the attitudes and behaviors of their human resources, without taking a step back to make sure they exemplify that which they want from their colleagues. The old saying goes that the children of the cobbler have no shoes of their own. We can see organizations that fight for labor rights, have their own employees living with an unhealthy level of work-related stress on a daily basis. Organizations that promote education for all have cut all the funding for educating and developing their own staff. Organizations that promote peace, equanimity, love and compassion, are often complaining, blaming others, and not creating an environment conducive to peace within their employees.
What practices can help us manifest peace? Yoga just might be the most effective practice. It is the practice of eliminating the fluctuations of the mind (based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), of nurturing clarity, developing equanimity and contentment, getting rid of contradictions and aligning harmoniously our body, mind and higher consciousness to experience peace. Yoga teaches us to start from the self, to “walk the talk,” and show through example love and compassion in all our interactions, whether they be with our partner, our student or our cleaning lady. It also teaches us to be humble in our demonstration of our achievements and admit our own mistakes, so that other too will be quicker to admit their mistakes, quicker to learn from them and quicker to let them go. Yoga helps us understand that blame or guilt is a senseless waste of time, and that continuously nourishing inner peace is the most effective and efficient method of fostering peace in our society and the world as a whole.
If an organization sets out to promote something, especially certain values or principles, then those values should visibly permeate the culture of the organization and the way of life of all staff from the person cleaning the toilets to the Director of the organization.
Of course, as humans, our actions are not always aligned with our intentions and we make mistakes. Just because we teach conflict resolution, does not mean we will be able to successfully resolve peacefully all the conflict we encounter. But if we are determined to foster peace in the world then we will ardently work to foster the knowledge, skills and attitude to promote inner peace.
HIMALAYAN IYENGAR YOGA CENTRE