Editor's note: This is the first of two parts. The second will run in this space Nov. 23.
Gandhi advised that we must "be the change we wish to see in the world." Sadly, most people have ignored the key word — "be."
Real change comes first because of who we are, not what we do. Peace must come from within, as an experience to share. It can never be somehow imposed on others. That's been well-proven throughout human history.
Peace is an inside job. This realization exposes "fighting for peace" as rationalized insanity. Yet, this is the prevailing strategy in much of our efforts to improve things. We fight for peace. We fight cancer. We wage a war on drugs and terrorism. All of these endeavors are doomed to failure because they seek to impose a theoretical solution on others, rather than model the desired result and expand an already realized solution.
I learned a lot about this a few years ago when I co-authored the book, "Forgiving the Unforgivable," which tells the true story of 17 survivors of the Mumbai terrorist attack. Even though two in their party (they were meditating in ashrams throughout India) were killed and four others wounded, they instantly and completely forgave their attackers. They were attacked with hate; they responded with love and peace. That's being the change.
Being happy means, among other things, experiencing peace. Real peace, not the theory of peace. This seems so simple, so profoundly un-profound! Yet, in the busyness of our lives, lost in our addiction to complex theoretical solutions, we miss it. OK. Let's take a moment right now as you read to change that. Slow down. Let your eyes relax and linger on these words. Pause "¦ right here between words.
Notice your breathing. Close your eyes for a moment. Reading again, slowly, and breathing easily, feel your physiology changing. It's subtle. Pause again, right here between these words "¦ now, resume reading.
Remarkable, isn't it? You probably increased your experience of real peace. How? You simply became more present in the moment. This, of course, is the key that so many of us have known about for decades! But do we really experience it? How easy it is to forget Gandhi's maxim about being and get caught up in doing, especially in well-intentioned efforts to "save the world."
And how about this time of the year? Thanksgiving, Christmas coming on "¦ so many opportunities to get caught up in the busyness and commercialism of the season and forget about the meaning — thankfulness, gift-giving and receiving.
"Doing addiction" creates a sort of psychological blindness, a hypocrisy that eludes our awareness. This explains how peace protesters can employ violence to advance their agenda. It tells us why politicians endorse policies that punish the poor, apparently forgetting what Jesus said about helping them. And it points to what we must do if we wish to participate in the true peace process. We must be the change we wish to see. Doing must arise from that peaceful state.
Gandhi stood up to the entire British Empire "¦ and he won! How? Certainly not just by meditating in a cave. In fact, he was the consummate activist. But he was fierce in his loyalty to the truth of peace as a personal experience first. And he inspired millions to follow his example.
How many might we inspire if we follow his example and experience peace on the inside, rather than imposing it outside? We do this by choosing to be peaceful in the moments of our day — especially this busy holiday season — resting lightly amidst our doing, and providing an example, "being the change we wish to see in the world."