I once gave a talk at my university during the Otago Light of Peace event. I talked about ‘Practical Peace’ for half an hour and went back to my daily life. But since then I’ve been asked to summarize the talk for people who read. ‘Peace’, here, means that calm, delightful state that could also be called genuine happiness that we all enjoy. ‘Practical’ means ‘Do it yourself’ as opposed to waiting for others (usually the people in suits) to do it.
Why care about practical peace? Well, take my country New Zealand, for example. It is isolated, developed, stable and peaceful, yet I have seen plenty of fellow Kiwis who simply need more peace: wealthy boomers almost coming to blows over a petty boundary dispute, rest-home elders turning a misunderstood greeting into verbal slug-fest, or kid gamers so enraged they make Angry Birds look mildly ruffled budgies. Millions of everyday disturbances like these can’t be solved by macro-level decisions. I posit that people all around the world - rich, poor, old and gamers alike - need to take more actions towards peace, because peace happens not by accident, but action.
The ‘beginner’ level actions are your physical ones, meaning how you take care of your body, room, home, and belongings. A fresh kind of peace arises when you properly feed, exercise, and clean yourself, and when you live so tidily and conscientiously that you can always find your keys and nobody has to find your dirty dishes filling up the sink, for example. Let’s be mindful and kind with all of our physical actions, whether at work or play, to ensure that we never sacrifice peace for any of our accomplishments.
The ‘moderate’ level of practical peace is the social dimension. A warm kind of peace arises when you and the people in your life feel united, respected, and listened-to. Nurturing peace among ourselves and others demands more from us than mere physical action because people are naturally willful, inconsistent and imperfect, just like us. Whether we’re communicating with our bosses, subordinates, friends or strangers, we should strive to say only what is true and useful with empathy and humility.
The ‘advanced’ level of practical peace is what I would call a ‘master peace’ if it weren’t for the pun. Its true name is Inner Peace, and it has special qualities that support sustainable happiness. It is a mountain-like stability: a still mind that is hardly sad or angry when things sometimes go wrong according to the nature of the world. It is also contentment: a mind that repels greed, jealousy and the angst of what could or should have been. If that wasn’t enough, it is also best friends with wisdom, everyone’s ultimate guide for positive actions in an imperfect world.
Inner peace is practical because it is something that you must reach and sustain through your own actions. This includes mental actions. The best way to cultivate inner peace is by meditation, which we can all learn to do, regardless of our education, job, group or background. I’m sure your local monks are more than happy to help you get started. I, too, wish you success, and I hope that this small article supports your own journey into practical peace.
Andreas (Andre) Jansen is a registered Physiotherapist based in New Zealand. He has also worked as an English teacher and copy editor to support Buddhist projects for over 15 years, believing that inner peace is key to world peace.