Sunshine dances on my shoulders as I sit on the cool plaza cement with my eyes closed. I take a smooth slow breath. The busy sounds of downtown San Francisco bustling with life catch my attention for a moment before I begin to focus on an unwavering sense of love and hope I feel arising. The presence is palpable. I open my eyes to see hundreds of people sitting around me in silent prayer and meditation. There are small children with earnest expressions of focus on their faces, grandparents sitting serenely at my side, and young sweethearts holding hands as they meditate. Some are friends, many are people I've never met, but I'm starting to feel more and more connected to all of them. We are all here because we share the same heart vision: that a thriving, just, sustainable world for all living beings is not only possible, but we are the ones to make it happen. We are the ones to BE the peace we wish to see in the world.
I close my eyes again and recall the image of our global map and all the points of light around the world that represent similar events. Each one of those dots is a sacred gathering of real people, just like the ones gathered around me now, people from many cultures, speaking many languages, practicing many religions, each with unique life stories, and on every continent. For some, it is the middle of the night and they gather by candles. For others the sun is just rising and they sit outside together in the magical moment when the sun first greets the new day. There are three people in ceremony in a living room in Paris, dozens of young people marching and singing in Nairobi, children in Kathmandu on their meditation cushions, organized public acts of kindness in Los Angeles, and thousands chanting and singing together in the Texas State Capitol building. For all of the diversity and richness of experiences, each one of us, in this moment, is focused on the same thing: peace.
My body starts to tingle with this realization. We can do this! We ARE doing it. Yes, there is so much pain, destruction, war, environmental devastation, and insanity in the world. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by panic, despair, hopelessness and agony with it all. It breaks our collective hearts to see the refugee crises, police brutality, and animal slaughter houses. Sometimes it feels as if the world is getting farther and farther from peace, compassion, and justice with every passing week. And yet, if we pause, it is also true that there is so much beauty, love, compassion, and resiliency of the human spirit; and effective, life-supporting solutions are emerging everywhere. Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our support for what's working and recommit to doing our part to bring forth a true culture of peace for this beautiful aching world. As Marc Gafni says, "the word is full of outrageous pain. It is also full of outrageous beauty. The only response is outrageous love."
BeThePeace is an annual, synchronized global meditation and prayer event that happens on International Day of Peace, September 21st. Every year we gather to visualize the world we want to see, to celebrate what's working, to reaffirm our commitment to peace, and most importantly, to be that peace. We connect with our global family around the world in all its beautiful diversity and know we are not alone. We know that each of us has our unique role to play in the transformation of our planet and it is our sacred duty to share our unique gifts with the world. We start by BEING that peace now.
I am delighted and humbled to be one of the co-founders of BeThePeace. I've always been passionate about peace. Since 10th grade, my life mission statement has been to aspire to create shimmering ripples of peace, laughter, inspiration and joy in the world. I've been celebrating and hosting events on International Day of Peace since I was in high school. When David Nicol, the author of the recently released book, Subtle Activism, and I started discussing doing something special for Peace Day in 2012, I was excited. We were inspired to build on the long-standing traditions of Earthdance, The Culture of Peace Initiative, Peace One Day, and many other groups, as well as celebrate the culmination of The Shift Network's first annual Summer of Peace program. The Gaiafield Council and I sat in meditation for many months contemplating what this would look like. Then we met Patrick Kronfli, the founder of MedMob, a group that hosts meditation flashmobs in public spaces around the world. Together, the three of us, with the support of many organizations and colleagues, birthed BeThePeace.
That first year we didn't know what would happen, so when people started to register events on our map, we were thrilled. It wasn't until photos started to come in from events around the world, that tears began pouring down my face. There was nothing quite like that feeling of having a vision for what we wanted to create, sharing it with others, and seeing how many people around the world shared that very same vision. Person after person reached out to us, saying they had been dreaming about doing the same thing and how touched they were to be a part of creating this. To realize that this message of being the peace resonated so deeply universally around the world, was tremendously energizing, inspiring, and heart-touching for all of us.
Many connections, projects, and new inspirations were sparked at these events. At the event in San Francisco that I was describing earlier, a group got so inspired that they went on to host a similar global meditation event on December 21st of that same year and that birthed UNIFY. Since then we've been co-creating BeThePeace together each year on Peace Day.
In 2012, we began with 248 participating cities. In 2013, that doubled with 564 cities. In 2014, over 1,110 cities joined in. In 2015, we expanded to World Peace Weekend with 1,417 events, and last year we celebrated World Peace Week! UNIFY has gone on to host other events throughout the year, many of which I have collaborated with them on, overall unifying 10 million people in 10,000 cities in 150 countries. We have a global community of over 1.6 million Facebook fans on the UNIFY Page and reach many hundreds of millions with each campaign. How beautiful to see the ripples reaching that far!
This year, in 2017, The PeaceRipples Institute is excited to share an expansion and a deepening of our annual event into a 10-Day BeThePeace Challenge. Everyone is still invited to organize and host their local events, but the challenge is an opportunity to deepen and explore our central theme in a bigger way through these three questions:
1. What is the peace you wish to see in the world?
2. How can you BE that?
3. What daily peace practice could you do to help wire that into your being?
Check out all the details and register here. One of the exciting things about this challenge is exploring a way to crowdsource our collective visions, values, memes, and ways of being that we feel are necessary for a global civilization of peace. Ideally this might start to form some guiding principles for an emergent peace operating system of sorts. This is a new program that we are testing out and exploring, and we look forward to co-creating it with you!
Every person is a pixel in a larger image of a thriving, just, sustainable world of peace and your voice is needed here. I do not hold all of the answers, but I can help to provide a space for our collective wisdom to emerge. Resistance to what is not working is important. It is also important not to lose sight of where we wish to go and how we intend to embody that as we go forward.
If you are feeling hopelessness, despair, exhaustion, or just a great deal of confusion about how to take action given the current state of the world, there are many ways to plug in and get involved. UNIFY.org is the place to learn all about hosting your own local events, as well as participate in the Compassion Games. Uplift Connect is producing a beautiful film about compassion and Rise with Syria is a global synchronized meditation and action campaign taking place on September 24th. InternationalDayofPeace.org is another excellent central resource.
We look forward to co-creating something beautiful with you in the 10-Day BeThePeace Challenge this year as we deepen and expand our work over the last 6 years. Thank you for being the peace you wish to see in the world. It is deeply needed.
[Note: this was originally published in The Shift Network's newsletter, The Catalyst, in 2015 and has been modified and updated to reflect the events happening this year in 2017]