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I don’t remember how I came across Joyce DiDonato’s website, “In War and Peace,” perhaps through a flyer or some sort of performing arts digest, but I was glad to have found her work.
Not only does she address the central question that most of us spend our lives figuring out, but she invites us to answer, offering a sort of support group, a place where those of us still looking, could go to find what others have found to have worked.
The central question is, in the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?
Peace represents different things to different people at different times of their lives. It’s impossible to give a concrete image of what this looks like, but I used to think it’s the opposite of violence and chaos, and later on, I learned that wasn’t so. It’s not the opposite of or absence of violence or chaos, it’s the ability to stay grounded and still and not have the chaos run your life.
Peace is not being controlled by chaos. Peace is choosing where we place our attention. In many ways, peace is true power.
I had been fortunate to spend most of my life in developed countries during peaceful times—but just because we’re not going off to war, it doesn’t mean we live in peace. The irony is that the more we live our lives the way we “should,” the more dysfunction we rack up, and the further away peace becomes. We attach to the wrong things, chase after the wrong things, and priorities are often misplaced.
It takes a lot of reckoning to even realize that we are so misaligned all our lives. So, I made “alignment” my word of the year back in January, and everything I’ve done this year has been under this label. Sticking to one word and making it count is, in fact, easier than crossing off resolutions that by now will only make an appearance again in seven and a half months.
Taking into account my time spent in post-conflict and hardship regions in the world, here are some known paths to peace, in no particular order:
1. Understanding Resentment.
First and foremost, we must acquire a correct and complete understanding of resentment and have, as much as possible, a healthy relationship with our negative emotions.
“Resentment,” French in origin, literally means “to feel again.” When we hold resentment, we feel again the anger, pain, and violence that the memory harbors, and we repeat the violence that it carries, onto ourselves once more. Chaos births resentment, naturally. For those of us with any sense of justice or righteousness, when we are wronged or violated, it’s only natural to be fueled by anger.
Carrying darkness is not only heavy, but often turn into sickness. Why do we let chaos live within us, when what we are looking for is light and peace? Why do we keep the space and fill it with pain, when once we detach ourselves from these sentiments, we reclaim space for something more nourishing?
Most of us have troubled relationships with negative emotions because we are never really taught how to address them, much less resolve them. Most of us are taught, from a young age, to silence these emotions—but muting them doesn’t solve them. Shunning them doesn’t solve them. There’s only so much that could be swept under the table before chaos erupts, and what is not resolved will eventually erupt. If not as outward violence, then as inward destruction.
It’s why self-sabotage manifests in so many ways.
We can’t exit the land of chaos if we choose to create more of, or hold onto, what damaged us in the first place. Leaving chaos isn’t choosing “an eye for an eye,” it’s choosing to detach and distance—and that’s much more difficult, much less dramatic, and oftentimes much less satisfying in the short-term. Yet, that is one way to peace.
2. Spending time with people we love and people who love us.
Distance yourself from people who gossip or focus on other people’s drama. Only spend time with those who love us and strengthen us. Everyone carries a different energy, and it’s up to us to choose to spend time with people whose frequencies are healthy. Alone time is always better than unsuited company. Distancing ourselves from chaotic energy is another way toward peace.
3. Spend time in nature.
Spend time in simple places, away from big cities and loud noises. Away from tech. Spending time by the water works wonders for so many people. Spending time in the mountains work for many others. And spending time in the desert is most challenging, according to those who have traveled, but the idea is to go somewhere really far away, where distractions cannot reach us, where there is no service. Go somewhere remote.
I did this just last month, and for someone who’s spent most of her life in big cities, I really enjoyed the days without electricity. I’ve never been able to listen to the waves of a body of water without the noises of human activities. But time in a remote place, miraculously, is healing in and of itself.
4. Surround ourselves with objects we love.
I’m not a fan of material things, but this is basically the idea of feng shui. If we are after peace, our living space should reflect that. It’s not compulsory to become a minimalist, but our surrounding objects should be chosen, instead of “leftovers by default.” Look at where you want to go—if the objects no longer serve you, inspire you, or help bring you there in some way, then it doesn’t belong.
Energy needs space to travel. We don’t need old objects crowding up space or contributing to energy blocks, or stagnation. Imagine your space as a 3D vision board, and treat the objects as items on our board.
5. Prana yoga and yoga/wellness retreats.
Usually, yoga and meditation are the top recommended activities for those of us searching for peace. My first attempt at yoga happened when I was still a child. There was a small blurb about it in a monthly comic zine I bought when I lived in China. Along listed were some cartoon poses, with no real instructions on how to practice, and it really wasn’t something you could just “see and do.”
So the next chance I had at taking real yoga lessons happened when I was 13, in middle school. It was introduced to a selection of us who were identified or self-identified as having “emotional troubles” via a school counsellor. I was self-identified. But being well-acquainted with yoga didn’t convert to peace. It did, however, teach me to exhale deeply, which is also quite crucial.
Along with the rise of the fitness and wellness industry, yoga has become a lot more accessible to us. We each go to yoga with different goals, and for years, I have found myself to be attracted only to “yoga with tricks”—such as yoga with weights, aerial yoga, hot yoga, or some form of “hardcore” yoga where you really get your workout’s worth. While these “intense” yoga sessions burn up a lot more calories, it doesn’t offer a shortcut to peace. Yoga-toned people are not immune to, nor free of, chaos.
The road to peace isn’t about focusing on the physicality of yoga alone. If your goal is peace over muscle tone or fancy poses, I would recommend prana yoga. Prana is the Sanskrit word that means “vital life force.” Understanding this energy and its flow is like unlocking a new language or gaining access to another dimension of life.
6. Chakra analysis.
It wouldn’t be a coincident that my prana yoga instructor was also the one who gave me a chakra analysis and recommended Reiki. When we feel unwell, we have a doctor run tests on us, and when our tech devices aren’t working, we ask tech geniuses to run diagnostics on them. But when our energy is blocked, why is it not common practice to have our chakras analyzed?
Because chakras work with our energy at such fundamental levels, understanding how our energy chakras are working—or not working—are so crucial to addressing them and working on improving the state of our well-being. Each of our seven chakras correspond to an energy center, which can be open (with various degrees of activity) or closed, and each state of being gives us insight on our well-being. Feelings of security and grounding are all signs of peace. If we are searching for peace, then we must take note of the signs on the way. Any clue helps.
While there are plenty of online questionnaires that prompt us to look within, I find the tests too cerebral, and being in our heads is often not the place to be if we are after peace. So, I recommend getting a chakra analysis done in person, if that’s available to you. Because would you trust completely an “e-doctor” or would you go into a real, brick-and-mortar doctor’s office? The idea is the same. In fact, emotional sickness predates physical sickness. Energy blocks, if left untreated over time, will progress into sickness, and that’s definitely the wrong way toward peace.
7. Meditation and prayer.
This is last on the list here, because it’s been the go-to answer in our culture for quite some time now. In times of chaos, it’s easier to pray than it is to meditate, and frankly, meditation, the way it’s packaged and sold to us, doesn’t always work.
The problem for those of us seeking peace is that the “meditation” that comes in a box—whatever packaging the box has—doesn’t always fit who we are. There are so many meditation apps and new-age things, but trying all of them doesn’t lead us to peace. One of my closest friends was able to successfully leave her foggy days behind, and boxing was her meditation. So, I list meditation and prayer here because whatever form your meditation is and however you pray—as long as they bridge you toward peace, then hold onto that practice and do it all the time.
Society now offers more cacophony than peace, and I think that’s because it serves more interests to keep us miserable. We spend more money, and become more useful to others when we are damaged than when we are whole. Because more businesses offer “escapes” and “distractions” than they do offer sustainable solutions or true pathways to peace.
While temporary peace is better than constant chaos, is it really peace that we’re getting? Or is it simply a lie that we bought to make ourselves feel better?
Sometimes, survival necessitates escape and periods of numbness or even dissociation—until we acquire the tools to deal, cope, and confront these circumstances. Just like our darker emotions, recognizing them and calling them out by name helps to put them in their right place so that we are not mistaken or derailed as we embark on our own journeys toward the peace we seek.
While the website “In War and Peace” prompted this post and offers the space for you to share your own answers on how you find peace amidst chaos, the above answers are all my own, after many quests throughout the years.
But seeing others’ answers helped me get a fuller picture of what peace looks like and all the possible pathways to get there. The seven above mentioned have worked for me, and I sincerely hope they might work for you as well.