By the way we live our daily life we contribute to peace or to war. It is mindfulness that can tell me that I am going in the direction of war and it is the energy of mindfulness that can help me to make a turn and to go in the direction of peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I was 6 years-old when students from the nearby Claremont Colleges started protesting the Vietnam War. People in the community joined them in silent vigils and marches for peace. For the next five years, I saw the ongoing peaceful protests, the signs, the vigils, the marches and songs and chants ~ all we are asking is give peace a chance ~ as part of the fabric of the community. When I was 11, we moved to a cul-de-sac in a suburb void of community and colleges. By then the Peace Movement was in my blood and I thought it was in everyone else’s, too! I followed the news, I wore a POW bracelet, and my denim binder was covered in protest paraphernalia. When the Vietnam Peace Agreement was signed in 1973. I saw the peace rally celebrations on the news and ran outside to honk our car horn and dance in the streets. I was 13 years old and I was all alone. It’s the first time I realized everyone was not on the same page and here we are 50 years later.

When Thich Nhat Hanh travelled to the US from Vietnam in 1966 to plead for peace he was exiled from both North and South Vietnam for 39 years! He dedicated the rest of his life to his core teachings on peace – that the roots of war lie within our hearts and minds, where fear and hate are fed by what we watch, read, hear, do, and say. These days – when we are so isolated and at odds – it is easy to feel divided and conquered. Thich Nhat Hanh taught that peace begins within each of us causing a ripple effect on our families, communities, and society. Today, I am sharing these lovely practices adapted from his work to help inspire your personal peace movement:

  • Hug it Out: You need a partner for this one. You will face each other and bow in acknowledgment. Come to present by synchronizing three long breaths together. You will then hug three times.  
    • First Hug: Recognize that you are present in this moment and happy 
    • Second Hug: Recognize that your hugee is present in this moment and happy 
    • Third Hug: Recognize that you and your hugee are together in this moment, experiencing happiness and gratitude for your togetherness. 
    • Release from your hug and bow to each other once more in acknowledgment.
  • Solo Silent Peace Walk: Find a path or a beach where you can walk a long way – or back and forth without interruption or distractions. Break down the components of your steps in slow motion – as if you are learning how to walk again from an instruction manual.
    • Lift one foot from heel to toe,
    • Shift your weight to move that foot forward
    • Set it back down heel to toe
    • Transfer your weight to the front foot
    • Repeat
    • Once you have the hang of it – harmonize your breath with your movement
  • Lay your Body Down: Find a safe place in a garden, a park, or at the beach and set a timer on your phone for 3-5 minutes. 
    • Lie facing down with one cheek on the earth and your arms alongside you. Begin long slow breathing with equal inhales and exhales. Take in the scent of the earth, the plants, in the breeze. Contemplate how you share this earth with all that exists in nature in gratitude. Imagine yourself breathing in harmony with the planet for 3-5 minutes.
    • Reset the timer and turn your cheek. Come back to your long slow equal inhales and exhales. Consider all who have come before you and their collective contributions to your way of life with gratitude. Contemplate how you share this earth with every living being. Imagine yourself breathing in harmony with all who inhabit this planet for 3-5 minutes.