Read the Introduction
Rhythm of Peace: Cultivating Peace in Daily Life
Deborah Aikens, Ph.D.
Welcome to the rhythm of peace community! We’re an informal network of individuals, groups, and organizations that cares about peace. What unites us is our longing for peace and our concern about the future. We agree that it’s important to be proactive in cultivating peace in our homes and families, in our workplaces and communities, and in the world at this critical time in history. We recognize the connection between healing ourselves and healing the world around us.
Those who find their way to the Rhythm of Peace Project represent a broad range of interests. We care about peace and social justice, economic fairness, civil rights, the environment, human rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights. We strive to make healthy choices and to live with purpose and meaning. We tend to use alternative and complementary health care practices alongside traditional ones, and value prevention as well as treatment. Collectively, we practice a broad range of spiritual disciplines and seek a healthy relationship with the earth and its resources. If these values are aligned with your own, we hope you’ll join us in our efforts for peace.
Many in our network do not see themselves as activists and are frustrated with the political process. Others have felt isolated and alone because their values are currently not reflected in our mainstream cultural institutions. Individually and collectively, the men and women participating in the rhythm of peace community make a sincere effort to cultivate peace in their lives each day. This vitally important grassroots activity is growing, quietly and steadily. It’s one of the intentions of this book to support and expand this activity.
Everyone agrees that the need for peace is urgent. We live in turbulent and uncertain times. Those of us who long for peace know it’s a daily challenge to shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions toward peace, especially when there are so many forces around us that seem to work against it. We also agree that now is the time for people who care about peace to find their voices and take action.
The Rhythm of Peace Project
This book is part of the Rhythm of Peace Project—a grassroots effort that encourages people of all ages to make peace a priority in their busy lives. The project addresses three human needs common to people of all cultures and beliefs—the need to cultivate peace, the need to renew health, and the need to build community.
Cultivating peace. In this book you’ll find a collection of universal themes geared toward cultivating peace. The themes highlight some of the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual tools we can use to create the conditions for peace in our lives. They encourage a practical balance between cultivating inner peace and cultivating peace in the world around us.
There are 30 themes, one for each day of the month. They can be explored individually, with family or friends, and/or in small group gatherings. They create a support structure for remembering peace each day and taking effective actions for peace each month.
Why a daily focus on peace? Because no matter what else is going on in our lives, peace remains vitally important for all of us. It’s important on those days when the world’s turmoil is dramatically highlighted in the news or during a crisis. And it’s just as important every other day, in the midst of our rhythms and routines, our sorrows and celebrations, our victories and challenges.
Renewing health. Creating the conditions where peace can take root and thrive is a complex and long-term challenge. We’re all susceptible to the depletion of chronic stress. Sustaining our hope and our ability to act for peace over the long term requires that we take care of our health and renew our resources on a regular basis.
The themes that follow echo the common sense wisdom that the choices we each make about our own health influence the health of our families, our workplaces, and our communities. The themes will encourage you to be proactive in renewing resources, reducing stress, and restoring natural rhythms to build a healthy foundation for peace.
Building community. Each of us who cares about peace is called to action in a unique way. All of our expressions are important. Our combined efforts create a dynamic and healing rhythm of peace. As we link our diverse expressions, while retaining our individuality, we create a powerful force for change. We can draw on the support and warmth of a community of like-minded souls stretching across the globe.
How It Works
You’re invited to participate in the rhythm of peace community by joining in a daily focus on peace. This book offers a simple structure for remembering peace each day and linking with others who also strive to make peace a priority in their busy lives. Each day, we informally join together to reflect on a universal theme related to cultivating peace.
The 30 themes that follow guide us through a calendar month—one cycle of the rhythm of peace. After a month, the cycle repeats. Each new cycle builds on the experiences of the last and offers a new opportunity to practice the skills of cultivating peace in our daily activities.
Each monthly cycle has a beginning, middle, and end. As we repeat the themes each month, we establish a stable rhythm. This allows us to observe the changes within and around us as our personal understanding of peace grows and deepens through the months.
Included after each theme are a couple of pages to write your own inspirations, alternative versions of the daily themes or new themes to make the rhythm more personal to your needs and interests. A new cycle of the rhythm of peace begins on the first of each month, a natural time to invite friends to join us. With each month we expand our own awareness of peace, and expand the community of people joining in a daily focus.
What does daily participation in the Rhythm of Peace Project look like? For some, it means keeping this book on their desk or by their bed, taking note of the theme each morning, and using it as an anchor for cultivating peace and reducing stress during a busy day of activities. For others, the daily theme might be included in a prayer or meditation, or it might generate a discussion about peace with family and co-workers.
Some members of the rhythm of peace community meet in small groups once a week or once a month (or through e-mail) to support actions for peace, share challenges, and celebrate results. Others join the daily reflections now and then, as time and circumstances allow. It’s easy to start, stop, and begin again by simply turning to the theme associated with the day you’d like to participate (first theme on the first day of the month, second theme on the second day of the month, and so on).
Whatever your level or style of participation, we will have one or more shared intentions such as:
* a desire for peace, both within our own hearts and in the world,
* a recognition that our different expressions are important and necessary,
* a commitment to make peace a priority in daily life,
* a willingness to act and to sustain our efforts through time,
* a desire to live healthy, authentic lives.
Rhythm and Healing
Rhythm is at the heart of life. Rhythm is life. From deep within our biological processes to the wide spaces embracing the planets in our solar system and beyond, countless rhythms influence every breath and heartbeat. Restoring rhythm is one of the most basic principles of healing.
These are chaotic and unsettling times. Turmoil is increasing for many. The pace of everyday life is fast and getting faster. Dealing with stress in healthy ways continues to be a challenge for all of us. In these conditions, the natural rhythms of healthy living can easily break down, and we live with those consequences every day—personally, nationally, and globally.
The absence of peace is a dramatic reflection of our collective loss of rhythm, a condition that affects us all. Restoring rhythm in our lives influences everything—how we think, how we feel, and the choices we make. When we make healthy choices about how we live, and how we relate to each other, we build a strong foundation for peace.
Inherent in rhythm is wisdom. It takes wisdom to meet our challenges successfully. Frenzied thinking, driven by fatigue, stress, and emotional turmoil, is not potent enough for what we must do. For many of us, the constant tension between the longing for peace and the reality of escalating pressures around us is one of the key challenges of our lives. A daily focus on peace can bring clarity, compassion, and balance to our busy activities. When we link our efforts, we can make a meaningful contribution to a world so in need of peace and healing.
The themes in this book also address time and its many faces. Time can heal or time can harden, depending on how we use it. Rhythms unfold in time and influence our perception of it. When rhythms are in order, time becomes an ally. We have time to do what we need to do, time to think things through, and time to digest what’s happening. We enjoy, treasure, even savor time. When there’s warmth in the heart, the passage of time is more peaceful. In these moments, time is a gift and we want to use it graciously.
When we’ve lost our sense of rhythm, when disharmony prevails, time can become an enemy. When we feel that time is against us, we can wage an endless war. One minute we’re tired of it and try to “kill” it. In the next minute, we try to slow it down or frantically try to save a little of it, or even steal it, because we’re so afraid that it’s running out. In still another moment, we could care less about time and waste it.
Sadly, when we waste time, we also waste resources, opportunities, and possibilities. When rhythms are distorted, stress is high and it’s common to feel bound to a clock that is moving too fast. Far from friendly, time can then seem like a cruel tyrant.
The themes in this book explore time and rhythm as essential elements in cultivating peace and well-being. Within the themes are invitations to reflect on this time in your life (this day, this month, this year). They encourage you to devote some time each day to restoring and maintaining healthy rhythms.
They ask you to reflect on “the times” we’re living in—chaotic and uncertain on the one hand, yet full of inspiration and possibility on the other. It’s so easy to lose touch with the many rhythms of life—rhythms of the body, of the heart, of the seasons, of the earth.
The themes explore the common challenges of not having enough time and making the best use of time. They invite reflection on individual time (your personal history and future) and humanity’s time (our shared history and future), and how they intersect. They address timing—good timing and bad timing—when to act and speak, and when to reflect and rest. They invite you to join with others in creating a vibrant rhythm of peace, by dedicating some time each day to peace, in a way that has meaning for you.
The Global Voice for Peace
In February 2003, the global community for peace made itself known with unprecedented strength as millions of people in 600 cities around the world raised their voices against war in Iraq. The voice for peace was expressed in many ways—as the longing for peace, the belief in peace, the commitment to peace, and the will to act for peace. This was a worldwide effort to restore some balance in a dramatic situation of escalating disharmony. And every day this effort continues. This dynamic, spirited “voice,” to which we each contribute, is reason for hope, as serious questions continue to challenge us:
* How do we diversify, sustain, and strengthen the global voice for peace over the long term?
* How do we empower people to act and help them to recognize that each healthy action for peace makes a difference?
* How do we overcome the isolation, low morale, and intimidation many have expressed as tensions continue to escalate?
* How do we cultivate peace in healthy ways so that actions are ethical and effective?
* What are the practical tools for cultivating peace every day?
The rhythm of peace community is making an effort to address these questions. We’re uniting our efforts with the network of peace-minded people throughout the world. This network is growing steadily in response to increasing political, social, and environmental challenges. Individually and collectively, we represent the will to heal and restore rhythm. Each day more of us connect the longing of our hearts with “right living” and effective actions in the world. We see the results of consciously choosing peace. As we continue to grow, we must believe that our collective voice will become an increasingly powerful force for influencing world events in the weeks and months to come.
Overcoming Isolation and Building Strength
One challenge we all face is to discover how to sustain our efforts for peace through time, for a long time if necessary, and especially during those times when it appears that our efforts are having little impact. In order to do that, we must find ways to dissolve isolation, apathy, and discouragement while fostering collaboration, hope, and consistent action.
We have to learn how to maintain a rhythm of sustained effort in spite of the daily stresses that work against it. And we must find a balance with our personal needs and challenges. Like anything important—loving a child, nurturing a relationship, living with purpose, taking care of our health, learning a skill or an art—daily, rhythmic attention to the task at hand yields more lasting benefits than only paying attention when there’s a deadline or a crisis.
A daily focus on peace that is shared by many individuals and groups, each working for peace in their own ways, mobilizes and strengthens the grassroots spirit. We remember each day that we’re part of a powerful force for peace that is making itself felt around the world. By participating in the rhythm of peace community, created by many voices, we’re supported and strengthened in our individual efforts. Our experiences of partnership and the warm-hearted spirit of collaboration encourage us to stay active and resilient as we work towards a sustainable peace for all.
The Rhythm of Peace Website
This book is connected to an educational website, a meeting place for the rhythm of peace community. Over the last few years, the Internet has proven its potential to support grassroots dialog. Small groups of people working for peace can now connect easily and purposefully with others around the world.
We hope you’ll use the community resources offered on the website. The footnotes in this book will refer you to the website for specific resources that are associated with various themes. Please consider joining the online community so we can keep you up-to-date on the growth and impact of the rhythm of peace.
How We Began
The seeds of the Rhythm of Peace Project were planted in a meditation group of fifteen men and women in Eugene, Oregon, in the winter of 2003. We’ve been meeting twice a month for several years exploring themes of healthy living and renewal. In the early months of 2003, we began discussing what we could do together to contribute to peace, and how we might combine our commitments to personal health and self-awareness with social responsibility.
During the months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Internet was used effectively as a tool for grassroots organizing. There were many activities offered to bring awareness to the global momentum for peace. One activity was called the “rolling wave.” As an example, a national or international peace group would set a specific time for people to join in a prayer, an intention, an action or a moment of silence. The details were communicated by e-mail using the “tell-a-friend” model. People would let others know and then participate at the designated time, in their own time zone. The effect was a rolling wave of commitment to peace that traveled around the world.
Many felt that these events succeeded in connecting people across the globe and supported both collaboration and action. It raised the question for us, “Doesn’t it make sense to do something like this every day?” We agreed that a daily focus on peace is a healthy way to live. Our conversations and the natural rapport we’ve developed over the years have provided fertile soil for the Rhythm of Peace Project to develop.
We’ve explored the daily themes together over many months, and gathered feedback on the project through our personal networks. This activity generated the beginning of the rhythm of peace community on the West Coast of the U.S. and included participants in Seattle, Washington; Portland and Eugene, Oregon; and San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Orange County, California. Our shared desire for peace offers us heart-warming moments, encouragement, and a genuine experience of community and good will. Will you join us?
The Time to Act
I believe, as do many of us, that these next few years are critical in our history. The accelerating turmoil calls us to be especially aware of how we’re living, and awake to the consequences of our choices and actions. Now is the time to reflect on what’s important, to connect with each other, to collaborate, and to act. A key challenge is to refuse to let the frenzied pace of life distort our thinking and relating, and keep us so “wound up” and busy that we lose touch with our natural desire for peace.
My hope is that the following themes support you in discovering and expressing your unique contribution to peace, and that your life is enriched by participating in the rhythm of peace community. As you explore the themes for yourself, tailor them to your own needs and interests, and act in ways that have meaning for you, I wish you many moments of genuine peace…