Benefits of the inner path to peace
As we begin to pray and meditate with some regularity, we will intuitively come to recognize the growth of three positive qualities.
First, we will become more compassionate. As we begin to sit in meditation and prayer for longer intervals, we will feel the space around our hearts start to loosen and our love for all beings increase.
Further, as we learn how to direct intentions of goodwill to all life, our practice will enable us to act with greater compassion in our day-to-day lives. In fact, a deep and persistent yearning to devote their lives to serving the Earth and humanity will come to nag at the souls of peaceful beings.
It is no coincidence that some of the most dedicated social reformers from the past have also been some of the most compassionate people. It is also not a coincidence that these same individuals spent considerable amounts of time in meditation and prayer, cultivating feelings of goodwill.
Such inspiring figures for peace, such as Christ, Buddha, King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, were also known for their uncompromising commitment to inner work and personal transformation.
The historical time periods and regions they lived in were different, but the essence of their message was the same. True peace can only be achieved when we each make the choice to look within and offer the peace we find to the world. As Gandhi beautifully put it:
Through prayer and meditation, we also cultivate a deeper faith in the Way of Things, the Universe, God or IT. When we still our minds and open our hearts, a vast world of inner knowing is revealed. This space of serenity bursts forth into our consciousness to command more focused attention. As we tap into this space, all events and happenings on the physical plane of reality are imbued with a deeper sense of meaning, purpose and perspective.
Suffering through sickness and disease, landing in prison, being trapped in an abusive relationship, losing a home and experiencing the loss of a loved one are all trying life experiences. In lessening the emotional pain of each event, it makes little difference whether we pray or meditate. Regular prayer and meditation allow us the experience of being present with our suffering, and the ability to be present offers new perspectives from which we can view our own suffering.
Pushing nothing away, one can simultaneously confront the profound emotions of sadness and despair, while gaining deeper insight into the reasons, lessons and potential for growth that arise from suffering.
The ability to be present, while keeping our hearts open, opens a window into the higher realms of conscious action and pushes us into union with the Mind of God. Faith is the direct outcome of this communion. And from faith comes love, the fruit of true wisdom.
As we pray and meditate with greater frequency, a third quality will begin to emerge: an absolute sense of clarity as to the connection of all things in the Universe. The poet Nancy Wood powerfully conveys this feeling of oneness, in the spirit of the Taos Indian:
Within the depths of both prayer and meditation, we can’t help but feel a deep kinship with all beings of the Earth. It is this profound sense of interconnection that sparks monumental shifts in consciousness and breaks down barriers of separation. It is the illusion of separation that frustrates our attempts at world peace. Anthropocentrism, racism, sexism, nationalism and classism are all faces of a false reality that pictures the web of being as a collection of unrelated parts.
Worse still, our culture teaches us that all other parts are to be feared and dealt with aggressively. Through prayer and meditation, we can learn to overcome the dark forces of ego and achieve a state that the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn calls ‘interbeing.’
The inevitable march to world peace
The path to world peace will not be easy or predictable. It will likely unfold as a bumpy road filled with many surprises along the way. Some of these surprises will be pleasant, while others will not be quite so. However, it is inevitable that humanity will one day find peace, because the essence of this universe is love and righteousness.
There remains one question that both activists and spiritual seekers might ask: How, exactly, does each individual’s awakening consciousness translate to the forging of a collective consciousness of world peace?
To answer that question, as more of us begin to awaken spiritually through prayer and meditation, our personal acceptance of violence will wither away. Men and women who once turned a blind eye to rampant militarism may one day refuse to support the war machine with their presence and dollars. Police officers, who once acted violently due to their fear of other races, may find themselves unable to engage with their brothers and sisters in that way. The people of the globe may no longer tolerate the misdeeds of their megalomaniac rulers or the predatory corporate schemes that threaten the Earth’s ecosystems.
Upon awakening to Oneness, it will be seen as a spiritual necessity to protect our beloved Mother Earth from the misguided plundering of her resources for short-term profit. Conscious citizens will demand much more from their governments in the way of regulating the destructive tendencies of enterprises. It is also likely that protest will remain a widely popular and effective vehicle for bringing about change and demanding accountability from public officials.
However, there will be a profound difference between how we demonstrated before, and how we demonstrate after the moment of our spiritual awakening. Previously, most of us have viewed the people we were protesting against as bitter adversaries and have labelled them ‘the other.’ In the future, our peaceful marches, pickets, boycotts and occupations will become passionate declarations of our faith and compassion. Crucially and powerfully, such declarations will transform those who we are trying to reach through our peaceful actions.
We will come to find that both our ‘enemies’ and ‘friends’ are equal reflections of ourselves. When we adopt this view of a unified existence, our feelings of love for all beings will be so strong that we won’t be able to sit by as innocents suffer from others’ unmindful actions.
The act of protest, then, will transcend the political theatre of separation and become a collective rallying cry of our souls’ desires for peace, unity and love. The potential for world peace is boundless when we attain such awareness in action.
It is worth concluding this urgent call for meditation, prayer and peaceful action with these inspiring and prophetic words from Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Medicine Man, found within The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (1953):