This is a question I have evoked in my mind and heart again and again. A “Koan” for those familiar with the Zen Buddhist term.
A question that yields a continuous stream of answers. Like a tree that yields fruits every new season, every time I repeat the question I receive new fresh answers that guides my actions.
What is peace for you?
At first glance peace can be absence of violence. Absence of guns and bombs.
This is just the first in a line of deepening answers. If our air and water is polluted, if our schools are tearing us apart mentally, if our jobs are killing us slowly and if our fellow citizen harass us because of our faith, sexuality or ethnicity, where is the peace in that?
Peace is not just the absence of something, but also the presence of something.
The presence of a supporting social network, family, tribe, friends.
The presence of a roof over my head, a warm blanket at night, a garden outside my house or apartment.
The presence of skillful means to solve conflicts, both between individuals and nations.
The presence of joy, of meaningfulness and compassion, not just the absence of worry and stress.
Many look to our leaders to create peace.
“If only they would sign the agreement to stop the fighting.”
Sure, the fighting can be stopped by strikes of a pen and a few calls. It’s never further away than that. However, contracts signed by political leaders have little weight if they are not truly grounded in the people represented.
What one president or coalition can put on paper, the successors can just as quickly wipe out with another stroke of the pen of political power. Or with the whip of fear instilled in the masses through propaganda and social media abuse.
We need a deeper peace than that. A peace that is robust. Stable. A mountain of peace. Not just a little hill. An ocean of peace, not just a small pond or a dam.
For this kind of peace, we need all levels. All dimensions. We need those papers signed, but we also need those millions of minds and hearts that stand behind.
And it’s not as easy as making a list. A few checkpoints to cross. The list of points would just make us miss the real point.
It’s like the climate debate. By focusing on changing lightbulbs, by decreasing Co2 emissions or making sure our washing machine is a low energy class, we can loose the bigger picture. The bigger picture of a plague that we humans create on Earth through our social, economic and cultural systems. A plague that cannot be healed by blaming bodily parts for doing their job. By blaming companies for following their purpose to maximize profits.
A plague that can only by healed by sustained efforts to transform all these systems from within. There won’t be a single simple medicine but rather a whole array of ailments.
And all of us can be a part of this shift. At so many levels.
Sweden and Peace
Growing up in Sweden there are many things to be grateful for. Our ban on child violence that was the first of its kind. Our leading role in gender equality (we still have many more steps on that road). Our compassionate spirit and value of solidarity, that makes us open our borders to refugees.
And all those myriad of things that “just work” and become taken for granted. Roads, electricity, free healthcare, school system, no child labour, etc.
The last war we fought was in the 19th century. That’s a long long time ago. And it was with our neighbor Denmark. Our sibling country to the south. War with Denmark? It’s so long ago people can’t even imagine it.
So what can we do to create peace here? Could there really be something missing in this paradise?
One thing I have found lacking throughout my adolescence has been the inner peace. The inner dimension of life.
With all our material riches Sweden is still an impoverished country when it comes to the spiritual aspect of life.
We separated the state and church but separated ourselves from our souls in the same process. By soul I mean whatever you experience when you close your eyes and enter the bridge between the external world and the internal dimensions: Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connects the nine realms in the Norse mythology.
Or when you dream at night of mystical entities, and when you touch a stone and it feels more alive than your own skin.
What about the soul? And its role in peace.
This poverty of the soul creates a vacuum. A longing that is capitalized by billboards, commercials and ads.
And instead of going deeper, finding ourselves, finding our souls, we are drawn astray to the path of shallow consumerism that slowly but steadily gnaws through the roots of all of life, the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree.
In Sweden this happens on a visible physical level too. Less than 1% of all the forests in Sweden are actual forests. More than 99% are just sprouce and pine plantations that people are so used to that we call them forests.
Imagine someone in Amazonas or Borneo calling a Palm Oil plantation a real forest.
How would we treat our forest if we reconnected with the ancient views of plants and places as beings with souls?
This forest devastation is just one of so many threads, a story of a thousand stories in the book of Humankinds dark side. We need to broaden our view. Widen our horizon.
I’m grateful for the many wonderful spiritual and religious traditions that I have been blessed to find in my life despite of this spiritual poverty (or perhaps because of it?)
I could never in my wildest dreams have guessed that I would meet Tibetan Buddhists, Inka Shaman apprentices, Lakota Wisdom holders, Benedicte monks and Taoist chi gong teachers in just a single lifetime.
Peace comes in many forms. I’m dedicated to shining my light of consciousness upon all that I pass by. From a tiny flower to a large movement of pacifists.
I have a little more than a month left here in Sweden before I resume walking. In this time I am devoting myself to projects that can grow peace in all directions. Together with my colleagues we are working on an app that can help those trapped in stress to calm down, to think clearly and to learn how to feel again. To feel peace.
And I’m a co organizer of a march that will unite the city of Gothenburg, a gathering that will bring awareness on the two kind of wars that have similar roots: the war against the Earth and the wars between humans:
If you are inspired by my work, consider to pledge 1-10$ on my Patreon account. By dedicating a small amount each month to my cause, you help me remain unbiased and connected to the very reason for which I am walking: so that you, me and everyone else on this beloved planet can live in peace.