As we watched George Floyd’s death and see the spreading unrest as a response to his murder, a question I get is: What does it take to make peace “happen?” Based on my work with the Black Yoga Teacher Alliance’s (BYTA’s) trademarked program “Yoga as a Peace Practice,” (YAP), and YAP employs culturally relevant concepts, language, and activities that help participants translate traditional contemplative practices into contemporary lifestyles to begin the process of “creating a better world.”
First, I crafted an operational definition of “peace.”
A state of mental and physical ease that simultaneously revitalizes us and enhances our resiliency so we can withstand the buffeting we encounter as we go about improving ourselves, others, and our world.
This “internal ease:”
informs our thoughts and actions, and the more skillfully we can “tap into” this “inner resource,” the better able we can engage the world with an “ease of being.”
provides a “Gateway to The Beyond” – a conduit that connects us to powers more significant than our own and to “abundant energy” that sustains us daily.
helps us practice being “the peace” we’d like to see in the world today and to make our contribution to breaking the cycles of violence that exist within ourselves, others, and our communities
Second, I defined a “peace practice” as an “essential activity,” which means “peace happens” as a result of the interaction among thoughts, actions, relationships, and socio-economic structures. Here I employ aspects of Ken Wilber’s Integral Vision Model.
By applying this framework, we see that “peace” has no independent existence. It’s the “whole” that is greater than “the sum its parts,” and without either of its components, “peace” will have difficulty pervading any aspect of our being and world.
Four interlocking dimensions of peace — states, behaviors, relationships, and socio-economic structures – suggest what we must do to make peace happen.
Developing Peaceful Minds/Bodies
Developing Peaceful Behaviors
Developing Peaceful Relationships
Developing Peaceful Socio-Economic Systems
Dimension I: “Peaceful Minds/Bodies.” This Dimension relates to bringing the mind/body into a stress-free state. It focuses on “self-care” and “individual revitalization” of teachers and their students and clients.
Dimension II: “Peaceful Behaviors.” In this Dimension, are the types of activities that move us from an agitated to a calm state. Here we focus on everyday activities into internal peace-producing ones.
Dimension III: “Peaceful Relationships.” This Dimension encompasses how we relate to others, nature, and Spirit/Soul/Shadow. One term we contrast with “peace” is “conflict.” “Peace States” (Dimension I) and “Peace Behaviors” (Dimension II) focus on the individual as they relate to themselves. Peace Relationships (Dimension III) is a group, collective, or cultural dimension of peace.
For me, when we are engaging in yoga as “peace practice,” we must attend to four key relationships:
Peaceful Relationships with Self: Care of Self
Peaceful Relationships with Others: Care of Others
Peaceful Relationships with our Environment: Care of Nature/Environment
Peaceful Relationships to the Numinous: Care of Spirit/Soul/Shadow
Dimension IV: “Peaceful Socio-Economic Structures.” This Dimension includes the types of economic, legal, and political institutions that are necessary for “peace” “to be present: “No Justice. No Peace” is a common “rallying cry.” It’s imperative we design and create our own “Wakanda.” Today’s socio-economic structure is no longer working for the majority of the nation’s residents and citizens if it ever did.
As we learn in the YAP training, the work of helping self and others navigate our current world is “hard,” and bringing new worlds into existence is even more difficult. Consequently, YAP fortifies teachers, practitioners, and us all as we go about changing ourselves, others, and our world, and there is no end to this work. Consequently, YAP helps “Spiritual Activists” avoid getting “burned out,” and it enhances our ability and capacity to be resilient so we can continue to “lift as we climb.” And, as the YAP training unfolds, we get insights into the dimensions of peace. We experience directly during the sessions and in our lives that “peace is a choice.” More importantly, we “know” how to make peace happen.
These ideas are part of my “Making Happen Series.” I’m fleshing these ideas out in a “Working Paper,” Making “Peace Happen!” Reflections On “BYTA’s Yoga As A Peace Practice” Training (Yogaville, May 17-19, 2019)