05/17/2011 08:34 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2011

Why Finding Your Peace Means Less Suffering for Others

Once we find inner peace, any small bit of it, baby step by baby step, we feel much better, even joyful and energized. Then whatever activist work we do to achieve outer peace in any situation comes from an effective place and does not create more turbulence and counter-reactions.
-- Robert Thurman

It's a simple equation. When we are unhappy or angry then we are also angry with other people and increase the suffering in the world. When we are in pain, that pain gets projected onto others or blamed onto everything around us: "It's your fault I'm unhappy!" When we find our peace, as we do in meditation, then that means there is one less person suffering and one less person causing suffering to others.

We have spent the better part of our lives studying, practicing and teaching meditation in different countries around the world. Yoga and Buddhism are our spiritual roots. And we often wonder how we could possibly function without it, or how anyone functions without some form of spiritual practice as their foundation, without the awareness and sanity that meditation brings.

"We have to find a way to remove ourselves from all those messages of unfulfilled desire coming at us or we do not have a chance to clear our minds," writes Lindsay Crouse in "Be The Change." "The kind of constant busyness we are a part of is actually a kind of aggression against ourselves, because we have no peace. More importantly, we construct the world by how we think. For instance, when we are in love, we will run out in the rain with our lover, dancing and singing and celebrating, getting entirely wet; whereas most days when we open the door and we see it raining, we use an expletive. It is not the rain's fault; there is no quality in the rain that should make us either happy or unhappy. That is coming from us. So, if the way we are seeing the world is coming from within us, then the world is a reflection of how we are thinking and feeling and acting and speaking. In that case, we need to take time out to deeply consider how we want to behave."

Meditation equals sanity in an insane world. The Middle East is crumbling, going through massive and violent changes; Japan is facing unbelievable difficulties and suffering due to man's need for endless nuclear power; the U.S., directed by Obama, just killed the world's most infamous terrorist, while the Republicans are horror-struck that there is a black president. All this is sourced from the need for power, from greed, hatred, ignorance and unhappiness. As Ed recalls: "I am a Jew and you are not, meaning that, as children, we were only allowed to relate to people who were like us. I wasn't allowed to bring a friend home or to eat in his home if he was not Jewish. I was taught to fear anyone who was different."

How do we deal with this? How can we claim our dignity, humanity and humility, both as individuals and as a human race? The most obvious and simplest way to stop the aggression is to find our peace. And the sanest way to do that is by stopping, being quiet, and making friends with ourselves through meditation. It has the effect of lifting us out of the quicksand of the mind, out of misunderstanding and suffering. Through it we find our freedom from reactive, rash, and self-serving behavior. Having a more compassionate understanding is vital to our development and survival as a human race.

"Meditation is calming the reptilian brain," writes Matthew Fox in "Be The Change." "We have all got three brains in us: One is a reptilian brain, which is about 420 million years old, our mammal brain is half that old, and our most recent one is the intellectual creative brain. The reptilian brain is very prominent; it runs our respiratory and sexual systems; it is action and reaction. We have to calm this reptilian brain so that the mammal brain, which is the brain of compassion and is here to bring kindness and kinship and bonding, can function. I mean, reptiles do not make good lovers; that is not their thing. Meditation allows us to treat the reptilian brain well: 'Nice crocodile, nice crocodile.' When we calm the crocodile, then the mammal brain can assert itself. Meditation is not just for professional monks; it is a survival mechanism for us all, especially in this time of crowdedness and rubbing shoulders with people of different faiths and traditions. We all have to learn to calm our reptilian brain."

Has meditation helped you find peace? Do comment below.

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See our award-winning book: "BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World," forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Matthew Fox, Lindsay Crouse, Ram Dass, Byron Katie, and many others.

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