Monday, 5 December 2016

The Process of Peace


With all the divisiveness in the current political situation, not only in the USA but also the UK, Europe and other parts of the world, I have been reflecting on my own experience of growing up in a violently divided community and how that community, and myself, are in an ongoing process of healing trauma.

From an early age, I spent time trying to make sense of the two sides of the conflict happening in Northern Ireland. It was my natural instinct, as a child, to seek out peace and I found it difficult to understand why all these adults just couldn't get along.

There was the wider historical context, the 'facts' which seemed clear - colonialism, plantation, and the after effects. There was the how it 'should' be on both sides, and all the violence that entailed. There was the 'this is how it is now, and what are we going to do about it?'. And eventually there was the sitting down and talking. The talks were an intensely pressurised and ultimately healing time.

I was on a long silent retreat when Mo Mowlam died and only found out months later. I was surprised at how upset I was. She had meant so much to me and I hadn't known it until then.

Mo was the secretary of state for Northern Ireland at the most critical phase of the peace process. She had a life-threatening illness, which is perhaps why she acted as if she had nothing to lose. She also acted as if everything depended upon finding peace - which it always does, we just too often forget it. She blasted through all the defences on either side and forged a way through those dense walls of hurt.

In order for that to happen everyone had to believe that, even though they didn't know how, peace was possible. They had to turn up, engage, and face the world of emotion head on. Truths had to be spoken and heard, fears had to be faced, and a way forward agreed upon.

When we meditate this is exactly what we do. We choose to sit still and face whatever comes along with honesty, compassion and a determination to find peace.

When we put up with things being alright or so-so we are in a kind of  resigned acceptance. This resigned, and often defeated, acceptance is the reason many people feel they are living in auto-pilot. It is a state of coping. Being in a state of constant fear or aggression without moving towards peace will ultimately lead to this frozen coping.

At some point, though, coping has to fade and healing begins. Meditation speeds this peace process up. If peace hasn't been found yet then the process isn't done yet.


When I was 14yrs old my neighbour across the road, who was 15yrs old, was shot dead. She had been working in a mobile shop and was targeted simply because she was a Catholic.

I sat by my bedroom window watching the people file in and out of her wake. I watched her brother stand outside by the tree.

I spent hours at that window, but just could not make it across the road. I couldn't meet their grief. I was living with my own personal terrorist and had to do everything I could to keep my mind intact.  I was hanging by a thread of sanity and entering that house would have broken me.

I watched her parents on TV calling for no retaliation and could feel them reaching for peace, yet they could have been a million miles away from me. I was just trying to cope with the very real danger inside my home.

Years later, when I moved to Donegal, I was able to cry for her, for them, for myself and my community. I was able to move beyond the frozen state of trauma to the soft and nurturing state of healing.

So many of us are suffering from trauma without even realising it, and it is not only trauma from our own individual experience, but also historical trauma passed down through generations. Our cultural conditioning gives us many lovely gifts but it can also make us a blueprint of everything left unresolved by our ancestors.

When we heal this blueprint we are breaking the cycle of trauma and saving future generations from its burden. It is up to us, when we are ready and able, to meet our wounds with compassion, forgiveness and love. I am a great believer in positive thinking, but all the positive thinking in the world is not going to heal such deep wounds. We need to feel, to talk, to grieve and to take action. Crying our hearts out can be a most positive step forward.

World changes are calling us to stop coping and start healing. It is time for us to seek peace out in every situation and stop contributing to the divisiveness in the world.

By thought, intention and action we must choose peace.

When someone posts something you disagree with on social media ask yourself how do I bring peace?
When someone drives dangerously near you ask yourself how do I bring peace?
And when everyone else around you is judging and hating how do I bring peace?

The way of peace is to feel our hurt feelings through to their end and respond from a place of stability and love. In this way we become creators of peace. We become an unshakeable and mighty force to be reckoned with - like a Standing Rock.

Until we do this, we remain part of the problem - a direct reflection of the 'other side' we're fighting against. I knew this as a 7yr old child and I know it now as a 40yr old woman. No amount of righteousness will knock this wisdom out of me. Every time we respond peacefully we make the world a more peaceful place.

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