To choose peace as your daily word for 2016 is a bold choice. In a world where fear and anxiety are the cherished outcomes of bullies and terrorists their byproduct is instability and chaos.
Choosing peace as your word for the New Year signals your intention to be an activator of life instead of a passive bystander.
More than a New Year resolution, peace will shape and impact everything you do and say.
Peace is commonly spoken of as the absence of war or conflict, or, living a life free of strife and discord. By themselves such understandings are shallow and ignore the richness and complexity of peace. Choosing peace as your word for the year will reveal a more robust and richer understanding of peace.
I’ll offer you a taste of the richness and liveliness that the word peace invites followed by three tools for making your chosen word part of your daily routine as well as three key elements to be sure to include in your practices.
The Greek and Roman idols of peace were women often bearing a horn of plenty or a torch of light and olive leaves. Within Judaism the Hebrew word shalom has diverse meanings but most often connotes an active striving for the well-being of individuals and society including economic, spiritual and physical health. The Arabic salaam is similarly more complex than the English translation of peace and for most Muslims it includes seeking prosperity and safety for all and a commitment to friendliness. In both the Jewish and Muslim traditions shalom and salaam are used to greet and bid farewell to people as if to bless their prosperity, health and wholeness.
For many Christians Christ is the Prince of Peace and he is typically conjoined with images from Jewish prophets like Isaiah and Micah. These images include one in which the animal kingdom and human beings will live peaceably and another of turning weapons or ploughshares into instruments of peace or well-being. For Buddhists the Four Noble Truths are the path to detaching from greed and fear because attachment to them is believed to be the cause of all suffering and only when suffering ends will we experience peace.
This is just scratching the surface! Your exploration of peace as your word for 2016 might include the richness of peace in other traditions, art, music or literature. As you live with the word peace each day you will be drawn to exploring peace as much as you are to reflecting and meditating on it.
Here are some tools for making this a life-giving experience for you and some ways to think about three aspects of the word peace in your daily life.
Make your chosen word part of your routine every day of the year. Carve out small blocks of time to reflect, meditate and think about your chosen word each day. Make the word visible to you when you wake up, throughout your day and before sleep. It could become your screensaver on your tablet or smartphone, a quote on your nightstand or desk, a piece of art in your bathroom, music in your car or on your smartphone or anything that allows you to be present to your chosen word throughout each day.
Have a relationship with your word! This is not a static or one-sided engagement. This practice is intended to surprise, engage, ruffle, disturb, comfort and expand your heart and mind spaces. It is not an exercise of sweetness and light although if that were a by-product of your relationship with peace we could each do with a little more of that in our lives! It is about living more fully and mindfully as an activator and participant in your life and all of your relationships with others and the world. Like any relationship your one with your chosen word will surprise you.
Record and track! To appreciate your relationship with peace monitor, track and celebrate your insights. Some people choose to write in their daily journal or keep a special book devoted to your word of the year. Others text or email insights to themselves and place those messages in a folder. One family chose to make it a family exercise in which the parents and kids used bright colored markers for their daily thoughts about their chosen word and wrote them on sheets of newsprint in their family room. You will know what works best for your personality and life. The point is to be able to revisit and mark your learning’s with your chosen word.
As your relationship with the word peace grows and changes over the year be mindful of these three dynamics that are essential to the many different ways in which peace becomes part of our individual life.
Personal Peace. Invite new awareness and acknowledgement of who and what keep you from being at one with the wonder of who you are. Listen attentively to the goodness or beauty that others identify as your key attributes and begin to embrace and befriend those qualities. Or perhaps you are running from the essence of yourself or the shadows of your life. When your own well-being is as important to you as being friendly to yourself you begin to prosper. Awareness is the cradle of insight and the incubator of courage to act on creating new personal peace! Such a peace passes all understanding and shifts the ground you walk on every day.
Peace in your orbit. Our lives are connected to a myriad of people with whom we have widely different levels of relationship. This is the orbit that is oxygen to our lives even when our patience is tried by some. Be attentive to the words beyond simple slogans that others use because those words reflect their heart and head space. Appreciate the acts of goodness and generosity others carry out every day and especially those with whom you disagree or usually pay little attention to. Look with new eyes at the people you make assumptions or judgments about. Notice how others sustain, feed, challenge and stretch you. Imagine how your lives are collectively a force for the well-being of the community.
Peace beyond your border. We each have limitations about our ability to see others for who they are, falling back on labels that diminish or demean others. Invite yourself to learn about a person or group of people you do that to. If you are at peace with yourself you will be naturally curious about those who differ from you; expect that you will learn something from one another. The border of your mind, heart and consciousness will become interested in the mutual well-being that you yearn for, no matter how imperfectly you imagine or implement that.
Peace is gritty, real, illusive, surprising and life giving. It is also imperfect and close at hand while being seemingly out of reach.
Each time I rediscover that my own life is valuable enough to cherish my well-being the grounding of my life shifts.
Peace is not for the insecure, the self-loathers, the self-righteous and self-promoters. Yet peace is a word that changes our lies and lives.
Be bold enough to choose peace as your daily word for the year and it will confound, delight, surprise, challenge and enrich you beyond measure. Your expanded relationship with peace will inspire you to be an activator of peace and well-being. And it may also be a gift to others to the world!
Robert V. Taylor is President of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation in New York. He is a speaker and author of "A New Way to Be Human" (New Page Books). He lives in Seattle and rural Eastern Washington State.