Thursday, October 8, 2009

Making Peace Promises - For Compassion's Sake!

I was shocked to realize this morning that I haven't told y'all about Peace Promises. Peace Promises is the brainchild of the “unmessable-with” Josselyne Herman-Saccio, who I know both through my work at Landmark Education and as a talent manager, and the amazing Dr. Monica Sharma, who, “through her work at UNICEF, UNDP and the United Nations has impacted over 130 million people in 60 countries.”

Peace Promises' tagline is "Causing Peace on the Planet, One Promise at a Time." From the website:
"We say that if one person is fighting, or at war, with someone in their life, with themselves, with a belief, with an opinion of another’s, then there is war on the planet RIGHT NOW where they are."
As Thich Nhat Hanh said in the opening of Creating True Peace (boldface is mine):
“True peace is always possible. Yet it requires strength and practice, particularly in times of great difficulty. To some, peace and nonviolence are synonymous with passivity and weakness. In truth, practicing peace and nonviolence is far from passive. To practice peace, to make peace alive in us, is to actively cultivate understanding, love, and compassion, even in the fact of misperception and conflict. Practicing peace, especially in times of war, requires courage.... when the seeds of anger, violence, and fear are watered in us several times a day, they will grow stronger. Then we are unable to be happy, unable to accept ourselves; we suffer and make those around us suffer. Yet when we know how to cultivate the seeds of love, compassion, and understanding in us every day, those seeds will become stronger, and the seeds of violence and hatred will become weaker and weaker. We know that if we water the seeds of anger, violence, and fear in us, we will lose our peace and our stability. We will suffer and we will make those around us suffer. But if we cultivate the seeds of compassion, we nourish peace within us and around us. With this understanding, are are already on the path of creating peace.”
Peace Promises allows us to practice peace, to take on a Peace Promise and mindfully follow it throughout the day, notice when we stray from it, and gently return to our promise. Peace Promises cause us to be mindful. Spending the day focused on our Peace Promise is not that different from sitting on a cushion noticing our breath, or walking mindfully and noticing the ground beneath our feet.

Check out this inspiring video, showing real New Yorkers sharing their Peace Promises:

The Peace Promises site offers an opportunity for each of us to share our promises. I was on jury duty today, and so I shared my promise, to “happily serve jury duty today, knowing that I have benefitted tremendously from our jury system, and I’m able to help provide the same service to others.” When I had brief moments that frustrated me during jury duty, I remembered my promise, and returned to enjoying the day, without beating myself up for my momentary derailment. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that every moment is an opportunity to create peace, and this program really brings that idea to life.

Some of the recent promises I found particularly inspiring on the site:
"I promise to find more constructive ways to communicate (and less destructive complaining)."
"I promise to stop being so hard on myself and to let go of things I have no control over."
"I promise to try opening my heart to everything and everyone and put my wall down to be loved."
"I promise to be honest and truthful everyday."
"I promise to stop being so hard on myself and to let go of things I have no control over."
"I promise to keep peace in my heart and spread it to whom ever I come in contact with."
"I will be consciously kind to those random people I meet in life."
What's really exciting about this to me is that it's all about mindfulness; it's about noticing what we're doing and not judging it. When we notice where we're inclined to be unkind, and then act kindly, we've subtly shifted our brain's programming. But even if we just notice our reactions, that's often enough to cause a shift! From a Peace Promises email:
"Becoming aware of something often times sets you free from the grip of it. As you identify and acknowledge something it is no longer invisible to you. When something is invisible to you, it has power over you. When you can see it you can also give it up. The act of giving something up creates space. In that space something new can be created."
So this alone is inspiring, but Josselyne and Monica were kind enough to design a program to cause a shift in peace for each of us, in our communities and relationships, and in our own lives. Here's what the site says about the 30 Day Peace Promise Program, which is "designed to create more peace in your life in the areas of inner peace, relationships, your workplace and community."
"This program will give you an opportunity to exercise the muscles that actually create PEACE. Giving you the tools to create an alternative to stress, an alternative to arguing, an alternative to intolerance, an alternative to war."
Each morning, you get a new promise emailed to you, to focus on that day. I'm on day 29 of the program, though I have to admit I haven't taken on the promises every single day. The email explains the promise and how it provides access to peace in your life. Some of my recent favorites:
"I promise to do something unexpectedly nice for at least one of my neighbors today."
"I promise to smile 20 times today when I meet or see people I do not know."
"I promise to notice my prejudice (race, religion, age, sex etc) today and be compassionate and accepting."
"I promise to forgive someone who I have been holding a grudge against today."
"I promise to educate myself on someone else's point of view on an issue I have been being very rigid about. I promise to learn about it with a commitment to see something valid and new."
That last one was a real challenge for me; I chose to take on educating myself on the Republican point-of-view on healthcare. Prior to this Peace Promise, I shut down and wouldn't listen when I heard anything from the right; I made a commitment to learn something, and I actually did learn something!

I am still sure, however, that we need a public option. But at least I've given another point of view some real consideration. And that allows me to actually be in a conversation with another person who has a point of view that doesn't match mine. That's peace.

By cultivating peace––peace in our inner selves, peace in our relationships, and peace in our communities and the world, we allow our natural compassion to emerge. Imagine a really slow commute to work––has that ever happened to you? Many of us react with anger and frustration––to the traffic, to the other drivers, to ourselves for not taking a different route. If we'd made a Peace Promise that day, any Peace Promise, we might find ourselves noticing our frustration and anger, and letting it go mindfully. We might even find ourselves able to react with compassion. We'd still be stuck in traffic, but we'd be able to carry that peace with us throughout our day. So when we get home from the traffic jam, our frustration and anger isn't carried to our interactions with our spouses and children. We might, in fact, get to simply be with them, and enjoy them; we wouldn't still be stuck in traffic, even in our heads.

Go to the site and sign up for the 30 Day Challenge. You'll be glad you did. *

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