War and Peace Within | Thich Nhat Hanh

How do we deal with the shock of war, with witnessing violence, with a feeling of powerlessness? How do we balance ourselves when we feel involved? How do we reject violence without the language of hate and filtered information? These questions are important to me, to us, to all of us who have to support others. I think of all those people who have already been emotionally exhausted, anxious or depressed since the pandemic. I think of people with children around the world who face the task of explaining violence. I realize the inequality in attention, financial support and care depending on where you live and grow up. I see the old political generation once again emphasizing cultural boundaries, while citizens and the younger generations often do not distinguish in this way but are the victims of distorted political relationships.

My advice:

  • Ask for support, at least guide yourself, talk, research; What it does to you, but also how you stay free, maintain your own direction and light.
  • Take time for your emotions (especially when you want to suppress them)
  • When you read/see news, regulate yourself. Ask yourself: how often and at what times of the day do I check, how does my nervous system respond, how do I respond to others?
  • You can use observing your breathing to become aware of changes in your stress level, mood and thinking.
  • Breathing techniques (pranayama) can be used to reverse a stress response, for example spreading 4in 4out, 4in 6out, 4in 8out over a number of minutes. Or free your diaphragm with breath or movement.

The consequences of the pandemic have been so different for everyone and are still present. At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, I realized that I had imagined that a modern war would never again cause as many civilian casualties as before. How wrong was that representation. But without going outside my expertise, since the pandemic I feel very inhibited to add an opinion to so many opinions and (so-called) experts on social media. At the same time, I feel so strongly called to continue to emphasize staying open, hearing all sides, having empathy for everyone’s fears. Only through our awareness can we transform. I hope we can contribute in some tiny way by continuing to work on our own mind’s steadiness, emotional strength, and our expression of love.

Transcript War and Peace Within:
Sometimes we find ourselves at war with another person.
Maybe with our family, with our society,
with our tradition.
But we may learn that when we are at war with someone else,
that may be a war within us.
And that is why we don’t want to go home.
Of course there is a war within, and around us,
but there is something else.
There is also peace and joy.
And we should learn to go home in order to
touch joy and peace within us, and around us.
And this is very important
because all of us need to be nourished, to be stable
in order to be able to go further to do something for the people around us.
I know many of you are very dedicated to the cause of peace,
of social justice.
But many of us feel at times lost,
angry, despair.
We are overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of suffering around us, and even inside of us.
We need a source of energy, a source of peace, of joy in order to counter-balance.
Because we know that if we do not have some amount of peace, joy and happiness,
we cannot do it.
We cannot continue.
The practice of arriving helps us to touch the peace, inner joy within
in order to get nourished.
And that practice to help us to generate…
the energy of mindfulness that will help us to touch the war within and around us.
Because touching the war without strength,
without the energy of mindfulness, may be dangerous.
We’ll be overwhelmed by it, we’ll be shut by it.
Therefore before we learn to touch the war within and around us,
we should cultivate the energy of mindfulness.
And that kind of cultivation could be realized
when we learn to go home
and touch the peace and the joy in us.
In the Buddhist tradition, we talk about our consciousness in terms of seeds…
in terms of bījās.
Bījā means seeds.
We have seeds of peace, of joy, of happiness;
we have seeds of war, of anger, of despair, of hatred in us.
There are seeds of peace and joy and loving kindness in us
that need to be touched.
We should learn to touch them by ourselves,
and we should lead our friends to come and help touching them.
This is the practice.
I always encourage my friends to begin the practice by touching peace…
touching the positive seeds within us
and touching the positive seeds within the other person
It’s pleasant.
It helps nourish each other.
And we know that the deepest kind of touching is with the energy of mindfulness.
And in Buddhist meditation,
to generate the energy of mindfulness to touch peace is very crucial.
We are encouraged not to touch the war first.
We are encouraged not to touch the pain, the despair, the suffering first.
And touching peace we can do as individuals, we can do as a community,
we can do as a nation.

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