We all talk about wanting more “peace” in our lives. But what is peace?
In many ways, peace is a paradox. Peace is soft and it’s strong. It’s open to listening and it takes a stand. Sometimes we think that “peaceful” means having no challenges, upsets, or obstacles in our lives. But that’s a passive kind of life, and a peaceful person is never passive or a milquetoast—compliant, submissive, or spineless.
Think about these three paragons of peace—Saint Francis, Mother Teresa (a Nobel Peace Prize winner), and Mahatma Gandhi (who was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, though never awarded it). Can you imagine any of them being passive?
I had a chance to think about the quality of peace when I was asked by author, retreat leader, and meditation teacher Ruth Fishel to write a short piece on peace to be included in her beautiful book called Peace in Our Hearts, Peace in the World: Meditations of Hope and Healing. Here’s what I wrote:
Peace, like so many things in life, is not always what we think it is. Peace is not an absence of activity and it is not passivity, any more than it is walking away from our responsibilities to retreat to an island in the Pacific. Peace takes purposeful action but from a center point that is open and receptive, for it knows that there is always more to know.
When peace is at work within us, we trust deeply that what is at our door, or in our face, is exactly what we need right now. We ask plenty of questions and then leave enough space to listen for the answers. And we accept that what we hear may reveal a new place inside of us that we haven’t known before.
While peace can step back to listen and learn, it’s not afraid to step forward to speak. Peace can courageously take a stand for something or someone but in a way that doesn’t belittle anything or anyone. When we come from a place of peace, we don’t have to make someone else wrong in order to affirm what is right for us.
In short, peace is passionate, is present, and is therefore supremely powerful.
What’s your definition of peace? And how do you experience the paradox of peace?