We cannot be at peace with anything or contribute to a peaceful world unless we understand what it means to calm our own troubled hearts. Opening to our struggles with a generous heart and facing our life just as it is are the first and last steps in spiritual practice.
The price of peace is the willingness to be still and present within ourselves. To calm our own heart and unlearn the habit of self-abandonment is the beginning of the process.
Peace is not the absence of the challenging, disturbing, or unsettling. Peace is born of our heartfelt willingness to greet the encounters and experiences of our inner and outer world, without prejudice, resistance, or fear. We learn to live in a way in which we have no enemies to struggle with and no battles to win. The challenges that come to us we no longer perceive as threats to free from, but as invitations to learn the lessons of peacemaking.
Throughout time, in all traditions and communities, countless people have trained themselves in the art of peace. The people of the past and present who have most profoundly changed the world and who stand as beacons of hope and compassion for us have all been deeply challenged, threatened, and tested in their lives.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Julian of Norwich, and Mother Teresa, to mention just a few of the mystics and dissidents of our world, have all been asked to understand the nature of peace and freedom. They have educated themselves in the universities of bigotry, tragedy, and terror. Their classrooms have been in slums and prison cells, in the midst of oppression and deprivation.
Each one of them has without doubt been asked to make a deep inner journey to understand the causes of war and peace. If we treasure and long for peace, we too are asked to make this journey and to learn from the university of our lives. We discover that peace is not a destination to be reached but a way of living, relating, speaking, and being.