A Peace Proposal to World Leaders
By Deepak Chopra, MD
Everyone is aware on a daily basis of the outbreak of war and the threat of war around the world. We seem to be creatures of violence. From a heartfelt desire to create change, everyone should ask themselves, What if the distressing conditions of today continued for the next five years, how secure would you feel — not just secure from violence but economically secure and secure about the future of climate change?
Clearly the present way we approach global problems leads only to insecurity on all fronts. The root reason is that we come from conflict and division. On behalf of the Chopra Foundation, I am offering to help any leader to resolve the most pressing conflict they face. Conflict not only creates immediate damage, but it also drastically diminishes the prospects for the future in terms of education, prosperity, and the possibility of finding joy in someone’s life. We are planting the seeds of either joy or sorrow for our children and grandchildren. In making the choice for peace, we make a choice to expand future possibilities that every day of conflict undermines.
Physical conflict and its destructiveness makes the headlines, but at its core, all conflict is a war of ideas: right versus left, communism versus capitalism, one religion versus another, and so on. Instead of flowing and evolving, these ideas become stuck as rigid belief systems, ideologies, and worldviews. Abandoning a worldview is nearly impossible, but it isn’t necessary. There are proven ways to bring peace while still maintaining your worldview. In fact, the notion that your worldview must be defended with violence is one of the most common and yet most irrational stances any leader can take.
There are proven principles that bring conflict resolution. All are based on peace consciousness, which is the only foundation for escaping a consciousness rooted in conflict and violence.
A Map to Peace:
The Principles of Peace Consciousness
· First, treat your adversary with respect. This is the only basis for a genuine conversation about ending any conflict. If there is lack of respect, you will lose the attention of the other side the minute you start talking. Nothing creates humiliations and outrage more powerfully than not being respected.
· Recognize the perception of injustice on both sides. It is often true that the balance of injustice obviously tilts strongly one way. Even so, the perception of injustice is felt on both sides.
· Be courageous enough to ask for forgiveness and strong enough to offer forgiveness. This requires a process — forgiveness isn’t achieved with one stroke. The axiom that says, “To understand all is to forgive all,” can serve as a guide. The fog of war only clears when you understand the other side and gain clarity.
· Refrain from belligerence. Belligerence is emotionally stunted. It is the fallback position of someone who lacks the creativity and imagination to reach a solution.
· Work to dissolve us-versus-them thinking, which insists that if you aren’t on my side, you are my enemy. U- versus-them is the strongest tool of tyrants because it fuels the fear of being under constant threat, which can be countered only by a constant counter-threat in return.
· Practice emotional intelligence. Conflicts cannot be resolved by pure, cool reasoning. Emotions are at stake in every conflict. The longer the conflict continues, the more tangled these emotions become. The first principle of emotional intelligence is to value positive emotions over negative ones. The faintest desire for peace brings more results than the strongest desire for revenge.
· Communicate without violence. If you bring up grievances, blame, misdeeds from the past, and implied threats if you don’t get your way, then you are inciting the other side with the wrong kind of communication. Non-violent communication begins by seeing in advance how your words are likely to be received.
· Be self-aware. Self-awareness touches on how you feel, what you need, and where the negotiations are going. But if you go a step further, self awareness seeks to remain at the level of solutions rather than the level of problems. Solutions arise from deep in the self, which conflict is maintained at the shallowest level of routine thinking, business as usual, repeating your mistakes, and hoping that the same old actions will bring new results. Seeking the level in yourself where solutions can be found is the highest form of self-awareness.
· Acknowledge that the highest human values exist in other cultures. No society is devoid of love, compassion, creativity, insight, spiritual awakening, and genius. Do not be blinded by the worst that you see in the other side and the worst they see in you. The highest human values perpetually seek to come through in every culture, no matter how good or bad conditions might be today.
· Take the viewpoint that diversity enriches the world and always has. Conflict by its very nature attempts to impose “my way” and therefore is threatened by the other. In reality the other is the key to diversity, offering unique cultural genes to the world’s cultural DNA.
· Refrain from proving the other side wrong. There is a hidden harm which is done when you insist on being right. By insisting on being right, you make the other side wrong, and they immediately become deaf to your arguments, no matter how objectively right you might be.
· Keep ideology off the table. Ideologies are created out of conflict in the first place. New belief systems, whether religious, political, or social, arose in reaction to old beliefs. The roots go too deep for discussion, so leave everyone to cherish their own beliefs without intrusion from you.
· Acknowledge that violence is always founded on fear. In any conflict there is fear on both sides. Bringing up the whole issue of fear creates tension and backlash, because there is a need on both sides to present a show of strength. Just silently know that fear is the unspoken voice in the room.
In succinct form, these are the principles of peace consciousness. They are not rules or demands but the natural behavior that someone exhibits who is in peace consciousness. There is so much conflict in the world ultimately because of personal conflict inside the individual. We come from a place of personal conflict before outer conflict erupts.
The offer from the Chopra Foundation to any leader in any field where conflict exists is to unfold how peace consciousness works. It’s a learning process, as everything is that we value in life. It takes consciousness to raise consciousness. The process is unfamiliar to the vast majority of people, including those chosen to lead. Peace consciousness has nothing to do with how smart you are, how right you are, how many people agree with you, and how much power you wield. Insisting that you are smart, right-thinking, morally justified, and powerful enough to dominate someone else has zero to do with finding peace, either inside yourself or inside a major global conflict.
There is either peace consciousness or there isn’t. Hence the axiom, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Fortunately, this leaves open the key to finding peace, which exists at the level of awareness in all of us where peace already prevails. Getting to that place is in reality the way to peace.
DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfillment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com