Toward Peace & Healing
“Life is filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
One of my all-time favorite books is Peace Is Every Step, by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He explores steps to personal transformation—such as mindfulness, understanding, and compassion—as paths toward internal healing and global transformation.
What does such a journey entail? Many years ago, a minister at my church spoke about the river of life and how we are all at different places along that river. He said some people along the river feed and clothe those who are hungry or are without basic necessities. Other people, he said, want to understand why people are hungry or are without clothing, and they travel further upstream to look for root causes. Thich Nhat Han is someone who has journeyed far in seeking the source of problems and the solutions that can be applied to daily life.
There is a section in his book where he talks about healing the wounds of war. He says, “Veterans have experience that makes them the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the roots of war and the way to peace.” Several years ago, I took that quote to heart. Wanting to learn more, I interviewed veterans who had experienced suffering and who had found paths to inner peace. Some veterans I spoke with had discovered creativity to be a healing source—using music, poems, or paintings to express the truths carried deep within their souls. Some veterans had experiences with God or guardian spirits that changed the way they saw things. Others found practices such as sitting meditation or labyrinth walks to be a source of healing.
Thich Nhat Han says, “During any conflict, we need people who can understand the suffering of all sides. … We need links. We need communication.”
Perhaps we can find ways to bring peace into our lives and create more peace in the larger world community. To do so, we might have to examine our emotional triggers. We may have to understand the conflict and anger within ourselves. We might need to listen to the suffering we have caused others. We may have to share our own sources of suffering. “Practicing nonviolence is first of all to become nonviolence. … This applies to problems of the family as well as to problems of society.”
Near the end of his book, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Take the hand of your child and invite her to go out and sit with you on the grass. … Breathing and smiling together—that is peace education. If we know how to appreciate these beautiful things, we will not have to search for anything else.”
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign