Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.
---John Lennon's song "Imagine"
John Lennon's poignant lyrics touched a raw nerve when he debuted "Imagine" in 1971. Forty-five years later, the lyrics continue to tug the heart as we experience gun violence, racial incidents and global humanitarian crises. The stream of violent stories coming from your daily news feed is enough to make you want to bury your head under your pillow. Wake me up when it's over!
But why should the noise from some misguided souls get to determine your worldview? The time has come for the rest of us--who are committed to creating a peaceful world--to make some noise. The message of non-violence can be lived and demonstrated through our presence and actions. It's easy for the mind to get fixated on negative news; but in reality acts of love, kindness and generosity far exceed acts borne of misunderstanding and distrust.
What can we do to amplify peace in our lives and in our world?
1) Find Inner Peace
If violence begins with stressful thoughts in the mind, then peace begins with silence in the mind. According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans report feeling more stressed than they did five years ago. Just as we need to shower, eat and exercise on a daily basis, we need to practice healthy ways to release our stress on a daily basis.
Meditation and breathing techniques such as Sudarshan Kriya--which is how I begin my mornings--are potent ways to cleanse your system of stress. Research shows the destructive link between high levels of stress and reduced productivity. So while it may seem counterintuitive to sit in meditation while your to-do-list looms large, you'll actually be more focused, productive and efficient after a session of meditation.
Society is made up individuals; thus your daily investment in creating a stress-free mind is critical to creating a stress-free, peaceful society.
2) Perform Acts of Kindness
Several years ago, my father's station wagon broke down on a deserted road. A stranger offered him a lift to the nearest gas station to pick up a spare part. As my father began walking back to his car, the stranger circled around and offered him a ride back. When my father offered to pay the stranger for his kindness, the fellow replied, "Just pay it forward. I know you'll find a way to help someone else."
Selfless acts of service uplift your consciousness as well as bring comfort and solace to others. Whether it's scraping the ice off a neighbor's windshield, volunteering at a food bank, or taking in a foster child your kindness brightens someone's day and inspires him or her to help others.
When Ellen DeGeneres received the People's Choice Humanitarian Award, she reminded the audience, "Deep down we all love one another, and we need to get back to that. We need more of that right now in the world. That is what most of us feel."
3) Create Work-Life Balance
Finding work-life balance is like riding a bicycle. At times you need to a lean a bit more to the left and at times to the right. Almost instinctively, you know (or will soon figure out) how to maintain your balance without falling.
When your family is the sole recipient of your energy and attention, you may experience frustration or feel stifled. When your energies are focused exclusively on work or social service endeavors and your family-life takes a backseat, you may feel guilty or imbalanced.
We need to drop this either/or mentality and see how we can nurture all facets of our life. If you feel confined to family obligations consider volunteering or joining a club. Make connections outside the family. If your energies are focused largely outside the home, spend intentional time with your family, cook dinner together or go play outside.
When we integrate divergent aspects of our life, we feel more whole and connected to others and ourselves.
4) Eliminate Prejudice
American writer E. B. White wryly noted, "Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get to the facts."
We need to advocate a multi-religious, multi-cultural education system that enables children to learn about the world around them. Learning about other cultures, religions and customs enables children to understand different perspectives and develop a feeling of connection with all people.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual leader and peace ambassador, believes that the wisdom of the world is a shared wealth that belongings to the entire world, not just a segment of the population. Since 1981, Sri Sri's Art of Living Foundation has been promoting peace across communities through a range of humanitarian projects that have touched 370 million people in 152 countries.
In honor of Art of Living's 35th anniversary, over 3.5 million people from around the world are expected to converge on March 11-13 in New Delhi for the World Cultural Festival. Bringing together cultural performances, religious leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs and peace-loving citizens from around the world, the event demonstrates peace and unity amidst diversity.
"There is a lot of richness that all of us carry within us and it increases manifold when it is shared. We can all add to the beauty in our lives, if only we come together," says Sri Sri, "There is a need in society for people to come together and celebrate values like togetherness and service from time to time, for it uplifts the human spirit."
5) Resolve to Be Happy
Anyone can be happy when life is going great. But when you can sing, laugh, dance and jump up and down when you have reasons to be miserable, then your happiness has greater value. Then you've learned to divorce your state of mind from your circumstances and tap into your inner reservoir of joy.
Only when you're happy, can you uplift others around you. In the best of circumstances, you can find reasons to grumble and complain. In the worst of circumstances, you can find reasons to be grateful. Being unconditionally happy is a practice that only you can cultivate for yourself.
Okay sure, I'm happy, now how does that help me create world peace? Researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis at Harvard University suggest that people's happiness extends up to three degrees of separation. This means your joy spreads not only to your friends, but also to their friends' friends (even if they don't know you). So take happiness as a challenge. Just as a plane takes off even in bad weather, you can also move through negative clouds.
To join the World Culture Festival click here.
This post is part of a blog series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with the Art of Living Foundation for the World Culture Festival. The goal of the series is to present thought leadership, opinions and solutions from leaders of multidisciplinary sectors of business, politics, arts, culture, music and religion who are assembling in India for the World Culture Festival, along with 3.5 million people, to celebrate humanity and promote peace, harmony and harmonious co-existence. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative.