What Does Peace Mean To You?
What is the meaning of peace to you?
This interesting question was posed by Hubber OutsideTheLines and to me it warranted more consideration than just a quick answer would provide.
When people try to describe the meaning of peace, they usually instead say what it is not: it’s when there is no war; it’s the absence of conflict, external or internal.
Even in my dictionary half the meanings listed define peace by what it isn’t. The first choice is: “the state existing during the absence of war”, followed by: “a treaty marking the end of war.” Only by its third attempt does my dictionary manage an attempt at describing what peace actually is: “a state of harmony between people or groups.” Next it tells us that peace is: “law and order within a state”. And just in case you are puzzling over that definition, here’s the suggested usage: a breach of the peace. It seems my poor old dictionary just can’t stay away from the negative. When it describes peace on an individual level it is: “absence of mental anxiety”. To give the dictionary its due, it does then come up with: “a state of stillness, silence or serenity.” Phew, we got there in the end!
At peace, on the other hand is:
(1)in a state of harmony or friendship
(2)in a state of serenity
Don’t you just love it?
Actually, having said all this, describing peace by what it isn’t is a perfectly valid thing to do. We live in a world where we understand things by their opposites. Only two days ago one of my daughters hurt her knee when ice-skating, and said she now felt more appreciation for her knees in their normal state. The same daughter years ago had a sickness virus that left her so weak she couldn’t walk for days; she still sometimes talks about how thrilled she felt the first time she managed to walk across the room to pat our cat.
Another way of looking at it is this: there’s a spider’s web outside my window – I know it is a web because of the space between the lines the spider has woven. If there were no spaces it would be a grey blob. Beyond the web I can see trees, and again I know that because the space around them allows me to see branches and leaves. (A very interesting exercise I learned last year from Sedona Method instructor, David Ellzey, is to focus on the space between objects – try it and you will probably be amazed at how your perception shifts. I find looking at trees in this way extremely calming, but any object or group of objects will do.)
But why is peace so hard to define? And do we have to be dead to be at it or in it? Or maybe on a mountain-top with our legs crossed and our eyes shut? Why for that matter did I choose to represent peace by that photo above? Couldn’t it just as easily look like this:
Daily peace quota
Every day, just after 11am, my computer pings to let me know an email has arrived with a Daily Peace Quote. Today’s quote is:
In spiritual practice, your best friend will be your sense of humor. - Cheri Huber
So perhaps peace could also look like this:
According to Hale Dwoskin in The Sedona Method, peace is the emotional state in which we have most energy, and yet that energy is quiet and calm. He also says the mind is: “clear and empty, yet totally aware.”
What that means is that in a state of peace we don’t feel pulled about by memories of past hurts or by pictures of an imagined frightening future. (Yep, I’ve done it again: told you what peace is not.) In peace we are focused on the present, on what is actually here now. And contrary to what many of us believe, it’s possible to take action when we are peaceful; in fact peaceful action springs from a sense of ‘rightness’ – from a deep knowing that all is well. Again I’m going to resort to opposites to illustrate this – think of making a decision when you feel terrified that whatever you do will be wrong, and then imagine making the same decision knowing the either choice will work out just fine. In particular I think the action we take when disciplining children has very different outcomes depending on whether we are feeling peaceful or not. I remember a day years ago when my daughters had had a fight that resulted in a lot of milk flowing around our living room floor. Some days I would have felt angry because of the mess and would have demanded the culprit clean it up, almost certainly helping her to build resentment. But that day I was able to guide my distraught child to see that cleaning up the mess would actually allow her feel better than hiding in a cupboard would. Peace, therefore, is perhaps compassion in action, a sense of connection and oneness with others, with the world, and with all of life.
Here are some more words that Hale Dwoskin uses to describe peace:
Awareness, boundless, calm, centered, complete, eternal, free, fulfilled, glowing, imperturbable, light, oneness, space, still, tranquility, unlimited, whole.
Makes you feel peaceful just reading them doesn’t it?
And now excuse me while I go yell at my husband for talking loudly in the next room while I am trying to write about peace.
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