Editor's Note: Joe Weston, author of the following article, is also our advice columnist. If you have a question for him about life, love, career, or spirituality, feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can imagine that many of you are concerned with the state of the world and issues of peace and social justice. I have spent many years living and working with people around the world and have discovered that, even though our customs may be different, we all desire the same things, we fear the same things and we get confused about the same things. It’s comforting to know that, after all the externals are removed, we can always find common ground. For instance, we all want to be happy, we all want to be free of suffering and we all want to be understood.
The question I often ask is: given all the knowledge and resources we have, given the ease with which we can connect anyone around the world, the ease with which we can export products and download information, the fact that we have truly evolved into a global community, why are we still struggling with finding personal fulfillment and harmony with others?
Oh, I could write a book on this! And I’m sure that many of you could as well. However, I would like to bring up an idea that may help shed some light on the situation and may also provide us all with some clear practical ways that we can have a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.
Do you know about the Peace Pilgrim? She is an amazing woman who, beginning at the age of 45, spent five decades of her life walking through the United States connecting with people to talk about peace. One of her core philosophies is that in order to have peace in the world, we first need to find peace within ourselves. If you think about it, this seems logical. There is no way we can eliminate war if we first don’t look at what keeps us from finding our own personal peace.
So, what can we do today to help us find a deeper level of inner peace—not only for our own benefit, but also for the well being of those around us and for the larger society? There are many ways that we can improve ourselves—both internally, and also how we interact with the world—which could lead to a deeper level of personal satisfaction, self-confidence, reduced levels of anxiety, having more effective impact, as well as an open-hearted interaction with others. I’d like to share with you three things that you can start doing today which will help you on your path towards inner peace and deep fulfillment. Here they are:
1. Give up the need to be right.
Try to hear someone else’s perspective. If you think about it, any situation can be seen in many different ways. Every person experiences the world from their own perspective and that is their truth. So, that means that there is not one single absolute truth. When you give up the need to be right, you can truly hear the views and opinions of others. There is a little bit of truth in everyone’s story, so listen to the stories of others—you will learn more about your own truth. When you give up the need to be right, you can find consensus and creative solutions to all problems.
This doesn’t mean you have to give in; you simply have to acknowledge and validate someone else’s perspective. I often use this quote in my workshops: “If you have to have the last word, then let it be ‘Well, I guess you’re right.’” When you give up the need to be right, you become more open, and therefore more attractive, to others. People want to engage with you; they feel they will be heard and not judged. Try it, and you’ll see peaceful changes happening around you—at work, with your partner and friends, even with strangers.
2. Find ways to engage with others you don’t know, especially if their views differ from yours.
If you think about it, many of the conflicts we have witnessed have to do with the fact that we separate ourselves from those we don’t know, or who are different. The bigger the separation, the more judgment we have about them and the more negative stories we create to make sure we don’t have to engage with them. This of course leads to a defensiveness and suspicion, and oftentimes a need to dominate or disempower. You can see how this plays out in work and social situations.
Think about when you are at the gym, for instance. Who do you connect with? Who not? Who engages with you? Who doesn’t? Why? It usually has to do with physical attraction or type. Well, what would happen if you chose to connect with the guy you are the least attracted to? What you would discover is that he is an amazing person with an amazing story. In fact, every person on this planet has an amazing story! Imagine how rich our lives would be if we took the time to learn about other people—their triumphs and struggles, their fears and the wisdom. We would all grow and find creative, new ways to build a better world. We may suddenly get that bit of information we need to help clarify our life goals or what truly would make us happy. We may surprise ourselves and find our new life partner, a business connection or even a teacher in someone we never would have expected. So next time you are at the gym, connect with someone you would never think of connecting with. You’ll be amazed.
3. Find creative ways to empower others, like mentoring, community work and tutoring.
If you look around you, you see we still live with old paradigms around power. Somewhere in our past, we started believing that power was limited, and therefore developed a very combative approach that is motivated by the viewpoint, “If I want to win, you have to lose.” Well, I believe that this is old and outdated. You can see the shifts in power and the jargon of world leaders who are now talking about cooperation and seeking out diplomatic solutions to problems. You can see that old ways of doing business are crumbling.
We are looking at power differently. As our world gets smaller and we notice how dependent we all are on each other, we are opening to a new viewpoint—that the only way to truly win is if those around us also win. We are seeing that we are truly strong if we take the time to empower those around us.
So, what can you do to empower others? Is there someone younger than you who you could mentor? Support them in their growth? Is there someone older than you who you could mentor? Show them how to do a light workout, help them stay fit and get in shape? Is there someone in your neighborhood who could benefit from learning English or some other language you speak well? Share your knowledge of meditation and spiritual concepts? Just think about it—when we are all empowered we lose our defensiveness and insecurity; this allows us to live out our true potential and be a vital force in our society.
So, there are three things you can do to bring about more inner peace and more open connections with others. I encourage you to try it out, keep doing it and make it a new habit. I guarantee that your world will change for the better. Get in touch and let me know how it goes!
September 21: The International Day of Peace
Would you like to do something special for the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21? I am the founder of the Heartwalker Peace Project. Since 2003, we have walked through cities around the world in heart-shaped routes as a way to connect with others who share a common commitment of collaboration, cooperation and hope to create a new vision of lasting peace. This is a new kind of peace walk—not anti-anything, but a true celebration of peace.
Feel free to join us! I will be doing a Heartwalk in San Francisco on that day. Or you can walk your own heart in your own town. You can walk alone or with others, walk in your living, garden, at work or on the streets. All you do is have one minute of silence at noon and then walk your heart! We are trying to create as many Heartwalks as possible throughout the world. We already have people walking in Greece, Amsterdam, New York, Washington DC and many other cities. Check www.heartwalker.org for details on how to set up your own Heartwalk, how to get in touch and let us know you will be walking, or to join the Heartwalk in San Francisco.
Commit to yourself and to lasting peace. The path to lasting peace has to start somewhere, and most importantly within yourself—one step at a time.
About Joe Weston: Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator and personal life coach. Born and educated in New York, Joe lived in Amsterdam for 17 years and now lives in California. He is committed to helping others embody spirituality and supports others on their journey towards personal fulfillment and empowerment. Joe brings a wealth of insight to his work based on many teachings, including Tai Chi Chuan and various spiritual traditions—plus his experience in theater and various organizational trainings. He also volunteers for the Liberation Prison Project, teaching Buddhism to inmates. To find out more about his workshops and his personal coaching, visit www.joeweston.com. Joe will be offering a monthly class in Oakland Ca, Full Body Meditation, combining different physical disciplines as a preparation for a successful mediation. Check here for details. He is also leading Respectful Confrontation weekend workshops in Oakland in October and Washington, DC in November, and he is offering a discount to RealJock readers. For more info, click this link.