06/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Four Steps Toward Peace

I heard on the radio last week that the genocide in Darfur has been going on for five years, 200,000 people have died and 2 million people have been displaced because of it.

How do we stop mass genocide, war, and the pain and suffering afflicting so many throughout the world?

How do we raise our global level of consciousness toward one of greater equity, compassion, and peace?

It is clear that education alone does not create peace; some of the most educated countries in the world are in the midst of war quite often.

It is clear that religion alone does not create peace; many of the most violent wars arose from religious conflict in the past and today.

It is clear that affluence alone does not create peace; several of the wealthiest nations on earth engage in warfare day in and day out.

To create world peace, I believe it takes a world of peaceful people, people who choose to act with compassion, not to act in ways that harm others. By that definition, many of us might consider ourselves peaceful. Yet through ignorance and even intentionally, we harm each other every day. In ignorance, we may hurt a friend by forgetting their birthday, hurt a colleague by not setting clear expectations, hurt a spouse or a child by not listening to them, etc. At times we may harm others in a sort of willed ignorance. For example, we may harm the planet by consuming more than we need, we may harm other animals to have them be food on our tables, and we may ignore global conflicts, like Darfur, because the situation is so far removed from our daily lives. Then there are times when we intentionally harm another. For example, times when we may have gossiped maliciously, lied, sabotaged someone's success or gloated over someone's failures because we felt envy, greed or pride.

So what can we do to address our varying levels of ignorance and create a more peaceful and compassionate world?

I believe there are four steps we each can take everyday to promote a more compassionate world.

1. Awareness. Increase awareness of your own actions. Notice in everything you choose to do if your actions arise from compassion or harm - the food you eat, the products you consume, the way you treat your child, parent, spouse, neighbor or stranger throughout the day. Ask yourself in all your encounters: Am I choosing to act with compassion or harm?

2. Let go. Let go of the thoughts and feelings that underlie harmful actions. This is not always easy, but with practice investigating your mind through daily contemplation, reflection, or meditation, it is possible to detect them, observe them, and let them go.

3. Find your voice. Find ways to reduce the 'harmful footprint' in your life, at home, work, in your career, relationships, community, politics, etc. Choose to act from a place of compassion in everything you do. You might make changes in how you eat (adopt a vegan diet one day per week), your consumerism, your interactions with family, friends and colleagues throughout the day. Know it, say it, act it one step at a time - to yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors.

4. Share. Do one thing everyday to promote compassion and peace in the world. Block a time (one minute or more) everyday that you will act toward compassion at a global level - something beyond your normal daily life. Many steps can be done right from your computer screen. For example, you can log on to the SaveDarfur website and add your name to the list of supporters. Just do one thing, however small it may seem, day in and day out. You don't need to give money to act with compassion on a global scale; you need only give a little bit of attention.

Here are some websites I visited this week as I began my own daily global compassion actions.