As we are about to embark on the first ever rendition of the BeThePeace 10-Day Challenge (Sept 21-30), I wanted to outline some of the premises and principles behind this creation. May it help inform and enrich your Challenge experience. And if you haven’t signed up for this free offering yet, we start on September 21st, International Day of Peace and would love for you to join us!
1. Envisioning Positive Futures is a Skill We Need to Improve
“Want to know why our times feel so perilous?
It’s called a failure of imagination.”
~ Dr. Sharif Abdullah
We are experiencing a vision deficit. Dr Sharif Abdullah, author of Creating a World That Works for All, estimated that when it comes to stories about the future, close to 90% of the narratives we are exposed to are dystopian and only 10% focus on a world that works for all. After he did more research, he concluded that the number of positive visions was even less. This needs to change. If we can’t envision a better world, how are we going to create a better world?
Neurologically, everything we do, every thought we think, every pattern we follow, gets wired into our neuronal connections and pathways. In neuroscience it is often said, "what fires together, wires together." It is important that we strengthen our visioning and imagination abilities, that we step into envisioning greater possibilities for our own lives, for our children’s lives, for all children’s and future generation’s lives as well as all life on earth. The more we start thinking about what's possible, the more possibilities we will begin to see.
Peace has many connotations for people, but unfortunately is often defined as a lack of something (violence, war, ecocide, etc). Defining a term as the lack of something does not usually generate a passionate desire to use all of one's creative energy towards solving it. For example, if someone says don't think of a pink elephant, you will think of one. But if you ask someone to think about a rose, you won't need to think of a pink elephant anymore because you have filled that space with a new image. What is our rose? What do we want to move towards? What is a juicy, alluring, inviting, alive vision for our world that is so enthralling that we can't help but be compelled to help create it?
We hear Gandhi’s famous phrase, “be the change you wish to see in the world” frequently, but how often do we deeply contemplate it? What IS the change you wish to see in the world? Or in the case of BeThePeace, what is the peace you wish to see? What does that peace look like, feel like, and sound like? How do humans feel about themselves, each other, and the rest of life? How do we treat each other? What values do we live? What do our societal systems and structures look like? What do our education, media, healthcare, justice, and food systems look like? How do we govern and set up infrastructure? How do we restructure our economic systems in ways that support and incentivize the behavior we wish to see? If we want to stop incentivizing war and violence, what could we envision instead of our for-profit military industrial complex?
The more we ponder these questions, the more novel and creative responses will arise, and the more chances we have of surviving as a species. And, the more chances we have of supporting all of life and undoing the damage that we’ve caused on our one small beautiful planet.
So let yourself dream big, get curious, explore what could be possible. It may feel strange and uncomfortable and no ideas may come. Keep at it. Learn about key issues or causes that call to you and see what other great thinkers have to say on those subjects. As you learn more, new ideas will start to emerge.
Utopia is a word that may have different associations to people. We are not talking about a static, fixed outcome, but rather an ever-emergent, ever-evolving, living, breathing potentiality. What world do we long to live in, knowing it will continue to evolve and grow just like you?
Finally, many of us activist folks are focused on resistance these days. Resisting the spread of ideologies that seek to spread hate and destruction, resisting climate collapse and the extinction of species, and resisting policies that cause great harm and suffering are all very important. But, let’s not get lost in resistance to the point that we forget where we want to go. Many great thinkers say these times call for us to hospice the dying world and midwife the birthing of a new world; both are needed.
"To have more humans visioning what is a viable, thriving civilization aligned with our evolving capacities,... I think that's actually one of the most critical things that has to be happening more for humanity to make it and for those positive visions to come about." ~ Daniel Schmachtenberger
2. To Become Who We Want to Be, We Must Practice
“To achieve something you never achieved, you will need to become someone you have never been” ~ Les Brown
In order to create a world that works for all, which will require a fundamental redesign of how humans live on this planet, we will need to become something more. Who would you need to be in order to live in the world that you are envisioning? And how can you become that ever more fully? You might not know the answers to these questions yet, but that does not mean you shouldn't ask them. They are important. May we spend the rest of our lives living into our answers.
Imagine for a minute that you wake up in the morning in the more beautiful world you envisioned. Allow yourself to step into the world in which you’d love to live. You wake up and get out of bed. What does the world look like? How do you feel? How do you spend your day? How do you treat others? What values do you embody? Most importantly, who do you need to BE in order to live in this world?
The next question that arises is how do you become this person more fully. Remember that neurons wire together by firing together. The more we practice something, the more it gets engrained in us. What do you need to do daily, maybe many times per day, to help you wire this new way of being into your nervous system?
Sometimes this may involve some deep deconstruction. We have many habitual patterns that run our lives. Being raised within certain traditions, practices, and cultural lenses, we often don’t see the extent to which our experience of reality is shaped by the narratives, memes, and world view of everyone around us. As we become aware of these influences, we may realize that some of those ways of seeing things are incompatible with the world we want to create. If we want to deconstruct a world view based on separation and otherization, for example, that will take a great unwinding. What practices and inner work could you do to start this great deconstruction? It has taken years and possibly many decades to build up the neural networks you currently have. To rewire them will also take repetition. Be gentle with yourself, but continue with your practice. It is worth it.
There are many practices that you could choose to start to rewire your patterns. Everyone in the Challenge is invited to create your own that you design specifically for you. Instead of prescribing a single action for everyone in the Challenge, you are empowered to trust your inner knowing about how you can best show up in creating a more beautiful world. One possible example is meditation. Another example is to take a value that you want to cultivate, perhaps compassion or courage, and creating a daily ritual that will help you practice it. Another example is cultivating self-love and self-acceptance so that that love overflows and creates ripples. Get creative. Pick something, and try it every day for the Challenge. Then assess how it went.
In this way, your personal development then becomes a service for the whole. If we get caught up in the cycle of always going to the next workshop or reading the next book or following the next teacher, we can sometimes get lost in “not enoughness” or self-centered thinking that loses sight of why we do our personal growth work in the first place. When we see our spiritual and growth path as inextricably linked with, and in service to, our greatest contribution to a more beautiful world, we feel a deep fulfillment unmatched by anything else.
Beyond your daily personal practice, you are also invited to practice co-creating a culture of peace within our Facebook Group. What if we saw this space as a microcosm of the larger world? People may say things that you don’t agree with or have strong feelings about, but how can you continue to see their common humanity underneath that and continue to practice embodying the values of a more beautiful world? A lot of us are struggling these days. Let’s shower each other with kindness and encouragement! Who knows, you may be the only source of positivity that that person experiences that day.
3. You Are a Pixel in a Larger Image
“No matter how dysfunctional your background, how broke or broken you are, where you are today, or what anyone else says, YOU MATTER, and your life matters!” ― Germany Kent
Imagine if every person is a pixel in a larger image. Do we want to collectively paint an image of a more beautiful world that works for all, or a dreadful image of a world of ecological collapse, vast suffering, destruction, and devastation? What you embody and practice helps paint that picture. The more of us that embody peace, the more that image tends in that direction.
Pixels are the tiny little squares of light that make up our digital images. Each one is a unique color of light and each one is essential for the completion of the image. If one pixel from an image is missing, you will notice it and the whole image will get disrupted.
Your vision matters. Your practice matters. Your contribution matters. The more you embody your piece of the larger picture of peace, radiate your unique color of light, and do the work of deconstructing the old ways of being and embodying the new, the brighter, and clearer and more focused that image becomes.
One of our principles for this program is to crowdsource people’s insights and perspectives and resources so that we can collectively paint a beautiful picture together. Every day in the Facebook Group you will be invited to contribute your insights on the topic of the day. Let’s compile our favorite peace practices, our favorite resources, books, articles, TED Talks and teachers that inspire us to create a more beautiful world. Your participation in this Challenge - both in your daily practice and in the Facebook group - will help to co-create a great experience for everyone.
“We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.” ~ Charles Eisenstein, Author, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible
4. May This Create Beautiful Ripples!
Finally, the last principle I will mention is creating ripples of peace, because that is what my life is about, what The PeaceRipples Institute is about, and what I hope is created from this Challenge. May we all create beautiful ripples!
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