Yoga and the Art of Peace Making

Sea of Galilee, Israel. Where Jesus preached and walked on water. So peaceful, so tranquil.

Sea of Galilee, Israel. Where Jesus preached and walked on water. So peaceful, so tranquil.

This month, my partner, Ed, and I visited the Holy Land. What started out as a pilgrimage for him to visit the Christian sites became one for me too, as we visited places that both of us had heard about growing up as Catholics. I was able to connect the biblical stories I learned as a child to the actual places where these events took place, and walk amidst some of the paths that Jesus walked. It was a transformative experience.

I remembering hearing the Dalai Lama say something like: “start with what you know.” My roots are in Christianity, and that is what I knew first, before I began learning about other belief systems like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Yoga. So, it was nice to revisit what I am familiar with already and to discover that at the core of Christianity, Buddhism and yoga is a fundamental call to cultivate peace in one’s own heart and minds.

In the Bible, it is written:

For unto us a child is born, … and his name shall be called … The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, taught us to try to have peace in our own hearts and minds, even though the outer world might be anything but peaceful. Though I don’t go to church on a regular basis anymore, I recall from the Christian services the part where we are asked to turn to those nearest around us and offer a sign of peace with the words “Peace be with you.” And I recall at the end of mass the call to action: Go forth in Peace to love and serve the Lord. Now this is all making more sense to me.

While visiting Israel – and particularly Jerusalem – the one thing I heard repeatedly about the situation there was “It’s complicated.” Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, trying to work out their differences. Three great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – have some of their holiest of sites in close proximity to each other in the Old City. In the case of Judaism and Islam, some believe they are existing one on top of the other.  Yet, with all their differences in beliefs, they somehow seem able to co-exist, however tenuous it may seem at times. 

While Ed and I enjoyed doing various tours and seeing some amazing places – Masada, Jericho, the Dead Sea – what was most stimulating to us was the conversations we had with local people. One in particular stood out to me. It was with a Palestinian Israeli who shared that that while the situation at the moment may seem dire, he is hopeful for the future. He works 6 days a week to be able to provide an education for his children that he hopes will help them to see the larger perspective, from many points of view. He said that in his smaller circle, he has many Israeli and Palestinian friends and that they all get along. In a sense, his basic message to us was “all peace is local.” Perhaps many in Israel – like in the U.S. – live in their own silos, but at least the silos are very close to each other. In the U.S., they seem geographically so far apart.

Here are four quotes that I shared in my yoga classes this past month that perhaps can illuminate for us that we are not powerless when it comes to helping to create more peace in the world, and that we can do something in our own daily lives to help the larger cause:

If there is to be Peace in the world,
There must be Peace in the nations.

If there is to be Peace in the nations,
There must be Peace in the cities.

If there is to be Peace in the cities,
There must be Peace between neighbors.

If there is to be Peace between neighbors,
There must be Peace in the home.
If there is to be Peace in the home,
There must be Peace in the Heart.

—Lao Tzu, 6th Century Chinese Philosopher

The only true guardian of peace lies within: a sense of concern and responsibility for your own future and an altruistic concern for the well-being of others.
– His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

Peace is a daily, weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. 
– John F. Kennedy

Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
– Alan Watts, Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher who interpreted and popularized Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

So, as you continue to practice yoga and meditation, do so knowing that whatever peace you are able to cultivate within – amidst the chaos that is undoubtedly brewing within your very own heart and mind – that it is having a ripple effect for the better out in the larger world.  Have faith in the slow, long, and gradual process of making peace both within you and outside of you. Take responsibility for your own future as you take time to care for others too. Create silos of hope and peace in your own little part of this big world.

May your heart and mind know Peace, …
May you go forth and be a Peacemaker, …
May you cultivate world peace, locally, … 
… for the benefit of all Beings.

Aloha with Metta,
Paul Keoni

For more photos of my trip to Israel, please visit my Facebook page.