While studying peace-building as part of my master’s program in transpersonal psychology at Atlantic University, I uncovered a nugget of tremendous value.
In order to have external peace, it’s absolutely necessary to first look within and understand the many facets of our internal wiring.
Our belief systems are a composite of familial, cultural, religious, ethnic, and geographical filters through which we process our experiences. Without us knowing it, we unconsciously make choices that are dictated by these belief systems. The end result can lead to separation, division, and negative consequences—from arguments to wars.
Peace, while a noble aspiration, requires each of us to wake up, tune in, and become aware of the internal fires that burn, sometimes raging and other times smoldering. If we don’t pay attention to quelling our own fires, external peace simply won’t occur.
Peace-building Requires Strength and Courage
The current world order is anything but peaceful. I often reflect on the incredible suffering and duress experienced by so many on the planet. Millions have been forced to flee their homelands due to random, senseless killings by rogue militaristic regimes such as Boko Haram, al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, or from horrific gang violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America.
But we need look no further than our own backyard to see the effects of historic prejudices and longstanding injustices witnessed in the extreme disparity of incarceration of our black and Hispanic brothers and sisters. Institutions that thrive on policies of separation, bias, and hatred are comprised of individuals who harbor and cultivate their own sense of righteousness and tribal mentality.
Breaking free of the tyranny of acceptance requires courage and a strong desire to change—not exactly an easy proposition for most people. But for those of us committed to building peace in our world, investing our strength and courage is urgent and necessary.
Here are five ways to start by quelling your internal fires:
1. Wake up and become conscious. Turn off the autopilot and take charge of the steering wheel of your life. Waking up is the first step to seeing the truth within. Stop, focus, and ask yourself important questions, such as: Why do I act the way I do? What beliefs do I carry that are destructive and devaluing? What do my gut reactions reveal?
2. Reflect on your early childhood. Take the time to remember, identify, and reflect on those early childhood disappointments, pain points, and harsh experiences that caused hurt, upset, and misunderstanding. How do you feel about those events today? Do you carry these painful memories with you? Who in your life was involved in creating this hurt and emotional pain? Do you still carry anger, resentment, or toxic thoughts as a result?
3. Assess your current level of joy, fulfillment, and love. After reviewing your early childhood memories, how do you feel about your life now? Do you live each day with positivity and joy? Does the professional work you do make you feel alive? Are you contributing to the greater good? Are you surrounded by diverse, loving friends and family? If not, why? What would it take to make changes?
4. Talk with a professional. Whether a trained and licensed therapist, clinical psychologist, social worker, faith leader, or transformational life coach, seek the support of someone who can help you in identifying and effectively dousing the fires within. Unraveling the psychic entanglement can be risky business. Reach out and talk.
5. Lead with love, compassion, and understanding. Stop living your life as a “reactor.” You have the ability to make different choices in your life. Your beliefs—while indelibly imbued by a host of contributors—can be modified, enhanced, or even eliminated.
Be proactive in living your life, choosing love over fear, understanding over prejudice, and acceptance over rejection. When you are conscious, you have the ability to make different choices. Just because it’s always the way you have acted doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.
You will never go wrong having the intentions of love, compassion, and seeking to understand.