Moving Toward Peace

A Review – Practicing Peace in Times of War
Shambhala (September 11, 2007, 1st edition paperback)
112 pages

Embracing peace during times of tremendous conflict seems absurd. Yet Pema Chödrön, Buddhist nun, author, and teacher invites us to embark on this journey. “War and peace,” she writes, “start in the hearts of individuals.”  Her own spiritual path began after the dissolution of two marriages.  During a subsequent trip to the French Alps, she learned more about Buddhism, met Lama Chime Rinpoche, an incarnate Lima, and studied alongside him for years. By 1981, she obtained a complete bikshuni ordination grounded in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism.  Currently a sought after speaker throughout the world, Chödrön’s own personal lessons pepper Practicing Peace in Times of War.  
Worldwide unrest is interconnected and manifests itself through painful chain reactions – often emerging from individuals hardening their hearts.  It really is that simple, Chödrön asserts. While focusing on the obstacles which impede our attempts to fully realize peace there is equal emphasis on pragmatic solutions such as fostering patience even though acting out is natural. Empathy, in all its myriad forms, is also highlighted. If we are to fully understand the world around us, we must learn about those surrounding us.  There are no illusions that these suggestions are easily digested and acted upon.  Maintaining internal peace can be arduous, as it demands veritable self-refection. 
An age old practice, meditation is offered as a critical tool to maintain personal peace, calm and balance. This allows us to be gentle with ourselves, accepting of our flaws and others. The core of Chödrön’s message is not unique – J. Krishnamurti wrote and spoke extensively about an inner revolution – but it is particularly relevant today.  Nations are comprised of individuals, Chödrön reminds us before the book closes.   For lasting peace to emerge, we must all commit to changing our habits, releasing resentments, and most importantly, forgiving ourselves for personal shortcomings.
Although compact in size at little over 100 pages, the author’s message is weighty.  The work concludes by listing resources such as mediation centers and educational institutions.  While each chapter accentuates strategies to help one arrive at peace, specific exercises are valuable tools. Readers could then chart their course in a tangible and concentrated way. All in all, it is a dynamic work, complete with key concepts needed to cultivate this often illusive gift within our lives.  Action is fundamental; Chödrön gently seems to utter from page to page. Lasting peace blooms when we open our hearts and minds, ultimately reshaping ourselves and other living beings.

Pema Chödrön discussing smiling at fear, and living from the heart.
Emelda De Coteau
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