Nonviolence, and lasting peace, are serious subjects. And our world is in desperate need of more of both.
Peace exists on a large spectrum. There is the journey many of you, our readers and Namaspa community members, are on as practitioners of yoga and seekers on the yogic path – and thus, as cultivators of inner peace. In the eight limbs of yoga, for example, the first limb are the yamas, which are moral restraints, and the first of the yamas is ahimsa, or nonviolence. For many of us, at some stage, this inner journey organically begins to ripple out into our behaviors, choices, lives, families, relationships, and so on – and we begin to create more peace not only inside, but externally, as well. There is also peace as an absence of violence – inner and outer – and as an absence of war. And then there are much more broad, robust definitions and concepts of peace, which invite and push us toward facing hard and deeply confronting questions inside of ourselves and as we look at the world around us:
How could there be peace when people are still living in poverty, lacking access to clean water, food, and shelter?
How could there be peace when systemic inequality, injustice, and oppression are still the status quo?
How could there be peace when every day communities, cities, states, countries, and entire regions are devastated by climate change-related disasters?
What these questions highlight is the reality that true and lasting peace will not be possible without the promotion and protection of human rights; without addressing inequality; without throwing everything we’ve got into solving the climate crisis. In the UN Women Statement for International Day of Peace from September 21, 2020, it says: “Peace is a prerequisite for health, equality, and human security. Our ability to live dignified, fulfilling lives depends on acting without fear, in mutual respect and co-existence.”
Many of you reading have possibly or probably encountered a version of the paradox that, from one perspective, it is absolutely enough to cultivate and practice peace inside. And from another perspective, it is not enough, as it seems to ignore our interconnectedness with and responsibility to one another, the planet, and all of Life.
So, what do we do?
Many people have heard about the International Day of Peace (September 21) – established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace and building a culture of peace – but aren’t aware that in 2001, the day was also explicitly designated as a day of non-violence and ceasefire. This means that September 21 is a global call, a global plea, for active conflicts and wars around the world to stop for 24 hours.
Let this touch you somewhere inside. Let yourself feel both the fact that around the globe, at this very moment, there are active combat zones and wars taking place. And then, also, let yourself feel what it would be like if all of these conflicts and wars. Just. Completely. Stopped. For a day. For a week. Forever.
The International Day of Peace is a day to do more than contemplate peace. It is a day to act. To do something powerful toward peace – small and mighty, or big and bold. For example, you know that part of your body you internally criticize, or even hate, every time you look in the mirror? Those are violent thoughts. What if you started choosing to say something different to your body, instead? Or that tension that arises every time you talk to your partner or one of your family members about that particular topic where both people’s buttons get pressed. What if you chose kind words and compassion, and tried to move toward mutual understanding and compassion, rather than feeling irritated and blaming one another?
In our world right now, cultivating peace – both the simple kinds of peace and the robust kinds of peace – must be both inside and outside jobs. We’ve got to do the inner work, and take actions in our lives, families, and communities, that share and cultivate peace.
Here are some ways you can acknowledge and mark the International Day of Peace with us this month:
Monday, September 18, 5:30-6:30pm: *FREE* Power Flow class to celebrate Namaspa's 16th Birthday and the International Day of Peace. FUN FACT: 2023 marks the mid-point in implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There will be an international SDG summit September 18-19 marking this mid-point milestone.
Saturday, September 23, 5:00-7:00pm: Fall Equinox "Mocktail" Party and fundraiser for the Namaspa Foundation, which does the work of cultivating peace by teaching social and emotional life skills through conscious movement for those in Central Oregon who need it most.
Also, stay tuned for more information about how to join our 40 Days Program, which will start on October 3 in Bend and October 5 in Redmond (participation online via Zoom is also an option). The 40 Days is a journey of study and practice with and through two of the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas and niyamas.
You can learn more about UN-sponsored International Day of Peace events here, including two livestream events: the traditional “Peace Bell Ceremony” (September 13, 7:00-7:30am PST) and an International Day of Peace Youth Event (September 14, 6:30-9:00am PST).
Let’s do our part in creating, building, and strengthening cultures of peace wherever we are.