Peace within me,
Peace surrounding me,
Peace from me,
By thy grace,
Let there be peace,
Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru**(One creator created this creation. Truth is His Name. Great beyond description is His Infinite Wisdom)
Music verse from Peace by Ajeet, 2014.
In the summer of 2021, I became a yoga teacher. During my teacher training course at an ashram in the Netherlands, I realised that consistent meditation and mindful practices can enhance the experience of peace within oneself. I find that if you feel at peace with yourself, you are more inclined to visualise the world as peaceful and interact with it in peaceful ways.
Personally, I grew up in a household where spirituality, religion, and meditation are relegated to the margins. Since then, I have learned valuable lessons that bring meditation to the forefront of my mind. The inner calmness that follows from meditation is helpful for realising that the world and the communities we live in are all interconnected, and that love can prosper between all beings. I asked my yoga teacher Ram, who is a practicing Jain, how the yogic idea of human life harmonises with the political and economic pressures of our modern world. He put it simply. It does not. Rather, it is in stark contrast to the fast-paced modern life. After my yoga teacher training course, I was due to set off for St Andrews to start my four-year degree in politics and economics. So, one can only imagine the momentarily delusion I felt.
Ram made it bluntly clear to me that, from his point of view at least, the spiritual world and the pressures of politics and economics are mutually exclusive. Yoga calls for detachment from the material world, while politics and economics revolve around activities in the material world. However, the suffering caused by poor policies is evident in both our material world and in peoples’ inner spiritual worlds, causing strife – and making the need for yogic practices all the greater.
As the entries in this museum underline, conceptualising, understanding, finding, making, and keeping peace is a complex process. One dimension that lacks visibility, particularly in western academic studies of peace and security,[i] is the feeling of peace that originates within our own minds. That is why I want to draw attention to meditation and yogic philosophy as building bricks for establishing peace in the world.
Peace within me?
I have made two drawings that illustrate my personal experience(s) of inner peace.
The first one resembles how I feel physically during a meditation session. The colourful sketch in the centre shows me meditating. When I seek peace within myself and in my surroundings, I visualise myself in such a manner. Furthermore, I feel connected to a less material and more spiritual version of myself, which the versions of me in the right corner represent. The colour scheme and the symbols represent the charkas: the energy centres and channels within our physical bodies.[ii] The blue colours and the lights in the background represent the ocean. I grew up close to the sea and when meditating I feel very connected to the sound and the vision of the sea. Likewise, my everday life in St Andrews is close to the vibrant energy of the ocean and especially the reflection of the sunlight on water makes me feel at peace. Therefore, I wanted to include the ocean as a foundational element in this drawing. The text in the upper left corner is ‘om shanti’, an invocation for peace,[iii] which is how I would vocalise my meditation practice.
The second drawing is the stream of thoughts that arise when I concentrate on letting go of my thoughts, body, and mind. Personally, I feel a deep connection to the colours; and when I feel at peace, it is like my body dissolves and my attention jumps back and forth between thoughts and stillness. The peaceful beings, elements, and objects that I think of to find stillness vary in relation to my state of mind and my current interests and passions. At the time of these drawings, I have found peace when visualising: my late horse; the nature blossoming in early spring in St Andrews; engaging moments with friends; gaining new knowledge. Put differently, from these real-life situations, I have felt a deeper connection to myself and my surroundings and therefore, I have tried to draw my inner pictures.
Why does it matter?
In my understanding, the world might be a more peaceful place if we were all more attentive to our inner experience of compassion towards ourselves. That said, I believe that we all have different circumstances that shape what kind of self-caring practice is likely to be the most beneficial to us. For instance, I have learned that for a lot of my friends quieting the mind is an overwhelming practice that does not necessarily bring them peace. Most recently, I have delved into ‘meta meditation’ practice, which is based on affirmations towards yourself and your fellow beings. An intriguing aspect of this practice was demonstrated by Shelly Tygielski who invited people to practice meditation with her at a beach in Miami in early 2020. The initiative started out with 12 people, but it turned into over 1,000 people joining within half a year. The notion behind ‘meta meditation’ holds that when it comes to societal care, the first step is to find compassion within oneself.
As a recommendation for meditative practices, I have linked to a few below.[iiii] Meditation is a widespread phenomenon and whether you resonate with my depiction or not, I hope that this has given you a perspective on how to visualise the possibility for peaceful thoughts that are free to experience within your own mind.
What do you think?
- When you close your eyes and imagine peace, what emotions awaken within you? And what colours do you see?
- Do you believe that your inner experience of peace can manifest in the outer world?
- Do you believe that the conflicts in the world influence your inner feeling of peace?
- Do you think that more attention to self-care and inner peace can promote more societal care and shared harmony?
- Should meditation be taught as part of peace education?
If you enjoyed this item in our museum…
Otilia Meden, May 2022
[i] Few western academic journals engage with ‘inner peace’ in my field, International Relations. In my research, I have found some examples, and you can find two different articles here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/45038021?searchText=inner+AND+peace&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dinner%2BAND%2Bpeace%26so%3Drel%26efqs%3DeyJjdHkiOltdLCJkaXNjIjpbImFXNTBaWEp5Wld4aExXUnBjMk5wY0d4cGJtVT0iXX0%253D&ab_segments=0%2Fbasic_search_gsv2%2Fcontrol&refreqid=fastly-default%3A0561118c9b0c74ac72fe7c298d7c6028&seq=1′; also https://www.jstor.org/stable/42744026?searchText=inner+AND+peace&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dinner%2BAND%2Bpeace%26so%3Drel%26efqs%3DeyJjdHkiOltdLCJkaXNjIjpbImFXNTBaWEp5Wld4aExXUnBjMk5wY0d4cGJtVT0iXX0%253D&ab_segments=0%2Fbasic_search_gsv2%2Fcontrol&refreqid=fastly-default%3A43cd24bf2f580ae59458beb6a9dc2e46&seq=1.
[ii] You can find more information about the chakras here: https://www.arhantayoga.org/blog/7-chakras-introduction-energy-centers-effect/.
[iii] See ‘invocation for peace’ entry in this museum: XXX.
[iiii] You can find guided meditations here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1ANayZJP5XITfgfzc4PPp5?si=2a22b2e539934338 and here
https://open.spotify.com/episode/0wfLbyeuMm19HydGIG89vm?si=d5eb184b5779414e and here