In case you missed it, September 21 was World Peace Day. It is a day dedicated to world peace, and, specifically, the absence of war and violence. As an international peace ambassador and the recipient of the 2015 Public Peace Prize Award, the concept of peace in our lifetime has always been close to my heart. In fact, bringing peace to the world has been the great mission of my life.
Of course, the idea of peace rightfully consumes the world today. How could it not? And given the state-of-affairs in the world, how could we not believe that achieving peace is a losing battle? It doesn’t matter where you point your finger on the globe; there are so many conflicting points of view, different opinions, and contrasting beliefs. And so many old grudges and old tapes that history seems doomed to repeat itself again and again.
It is not surprising that everywhere I travel, I am asked the same question. “Is peace even possible, Mabel?”
I always respond the same way. I say peace doesn’t belong to the politicians, or the kings and queens, or the rich and powerful. And peace will not come from Syria, Afghanistan, Russia, United States, Israel or Palestine. “True peace comes from within. And we will never know real peace in the world until we discover this for ourselves.”I believe this with the core of my being, which is why Inner Peace is World Peace has become the mantra of my life.
And it all begins one person at a time.
Many years ago, I had a profound experience in Chile. It was during one of my two-day Ho’oponopono seminars. During a break on the first morning, a Palestinian man came up to me and told me that he didn’t agree with anything I’d just shared with the group. He also told me that he didn’t want to come to the class in the first place, mainly because he saw my last name was Jewish, and thereby thought I had nothing to teach him. Old wounds run deep.
He continued to tell me everything he believed. I let him speak, and when he finished, to his surprise, I smiled and told him that I agreed with everything he just said. I simply asked him to be open and flexible to what I offered. I realized we were talking about the same thing; only we were calling it different names. He reluctantly accepted and decided to stay.
The gentlemen not only stayed the entire day, but he came back the next morning, eager to share a story from the night before. It seemed he had a very serious run-in with the police. While the situation could have easily escalated, the man remembered something I had taught him during the seminar, a simple but powerful cleaning tool we use in Ho’oponopono. With nothing to lose, the man tried the tool, and to his great amazement, things were miraculously resolved. At the end of the class, the man rushed up to me and gave me a big hug. He was beaming with excitement. “This is peace in the Middle East,” he exclaimed.
Words can’t express how much that touched me. In one simple sentence, the man summed up my belief that peace begins within. He opened his heart to me, regardless of my ethnicity. He only saw truth, and then took that truth and applied it to his own life.
This is how peace works. Too often we think peace is about giving in or getting others to believe what we believe. But, this couldn’t be further than the truth. Real and lasting peace comes when we let go of trying to convince others of our point of view. It is at this moment where we go back to Zero, the moment when everybody gets what is right for them. It is at this moment when peace unfolds for all.
I realize it’s not easy to let go when you’re in the middle of a heated dialogue. When this gentleman started talking to me in such harsh tones, saying some of the things he did, my intellect was shouting at me to “return him the money and show him the door.” But I chose to quiet myself and my mind, and to open my heart and let go. I made the conscious choice not to allow my opinions and judgments to take over my behavior, and not to allow the chatter of the ego to determine my reaction.
All I needed to do was to be present. From this point of view, I could listen to him. And he could listen to me. It’s called active listening (the cornerstone of peace), which consists in being so attentive to others that you empathize with them. You understand their motivations. It is from this place where it is much more likely that the response you offer will not feed the tensions, but will dissipate them.
Of course, quieting the mind and letting go is only possible when we start with loving ourselves. I know that if I can accept myself just the way I am, be myself, and do what works for me, I will be able to accept my differences with other people. We must remember that the root of disrespect for others is the lack of respect for oneself. If we don’t believe in ourselves, we cannot respect others, and we will feel this constant need to defend ourselves. We will always take things personally, believing that we are always being attacked.
When I go to Israel, I tell my students that if we are not going to forgive, or if we are going to continue to think that it is always the “other person” who should change, or if we continue to view ourselves as victims, we will never end this long-lasting conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I can tell them this only because I am Jewish, and thus they don’t take it personally.
I tell them that someone needs to be the first to say “I am sorry for what is in me that attracts such hatred.” It is not an easy concept to embrace, but once accepted, it’s liberating — and a giant leap toward freedom and peace.
If we are patient and listen closely to our hearts, we will see that this “something” that attracts hatred, are merely old memories. They are memories that tell us that the “other side” is the one who is to blame and must change. They are memories that tell us that we are the ones who are perfect, the ones who are chosen! And it is these memories which will keep us locked in our anger, far away from ever experiencing peace.
However, once we let go of these memories, and take responsibility for what is in us that is causing the conflict in the first place, we free ourselves from all the old tapes that have kept us in conflict with the world around us. And in doing so, we turn on a light that will show us the way toward our own inner peace and love. And the beautiful thing is, if we do it for ourselves, we also do it for the world.
After all, Inner Peace is World Peace, and it’s closer than you think.
Originally published at medium.com