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On Being at Peace in a Cruel World

On Being at Peace in a Cruel World

Sometimes it’s hard to feel at peace in a world where people harm the earth, animals, each other, and themselves.

Where people intentionally litter, are too lazy to recycle, water their lawns mid-day, and drive across the parking lot instead of walking.

In a world where we raise animals in inhumane conditions, brutally slaughter them, and look the other way, pretending not to notice their suffering…all for a cheeseburger that isn’t good for us anyway.

And in a world where we not only kill each other and sometimes take our own lives, but also commit innumerable acts each day that are selfish, controlling, or simply unkind.

It can also be exceedingly difficult to accept many things in life. While there are some things we should certainly strive to change, there are others that must be accepted along the path to finding peace in our lives. This is one of life’s greatest challenges, especially for people who are highly motivated, driven, and constantly pushing for innovation or improvement.

Religious or not, there is certainly wisdom in the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

If you’re vegan, one such challenge is determining the best, most effective, or simply the “right” way to interact with non-vegan friends, family, and loved-ones.  Sitting across the table watching a friend, parent, or spouse enjoy a steak is unsettling to say the least. Although individual motivations are unique, it’s probably fair to say that most vegans and vegetarians feel strongly that eschewing animal products is the best decision for the planet, for animals, and/or for their own health.

First and foremost, we don’t want to see people we care about making decisions that are self-destructive. We don’t want to see our parents get cancer, or our friends get heart disease. But it can also be difficult not to feel upset that others are making seemingly selfish and uninformed decisions. Our instinctive reaction is often anger. But we may also feel disappointment, worry, and discontentment.

But it is possible to be at peace before reaching your destination, to find contentment with and enjoyment in the journey itself, and to meet people where they are. And it is, in fact, necessary to find peace along life’s path in order to be as balanced, healthy, and effective as you can be.

This thing we call “stress” manifests differently in each person’s body. Tension in the shoulders, headaches, breakouts, digestive troubles, and ultimately a higher risk of certain chronic diseases. We can’t avoid life’s challenges, but we can choose to manage them constructively.

Being able to manage life’s challenges and stresses also helps us be more effective. Brash, insulting, and immature behavior isn’t likely to win anyone over, or change anyone’s mind.

Seeking peace is one strategy to help surmount many of life’s ills. It can help us all be more effective in seeking the things we need and want, and in bringing about change. The first step towards finding peace in your life is being informed.

Contrary to the popular cliché, ignorance is not bliss. Deep in our conscience, we each know that looking the other way, pretending not to notice or care, or intentionally remaining uninformed is immature and irresponsible. So seek out information, be an informed consumer, and spread good ideas whenever you can.

Also be in tune with and follow your conscience. That nagging voice that tells you to find out the real story, to learn more, or to make a change in your life is there for a reason, and it’s often a good advisor.

And finally, whether you’re typing, running, driving, or eating, remember to relax. Even as you sit there reading this, you are probably harboring tension in your neck, your shoulders, your jaw, or your back. Let it go. It’s easier said than done, but being mindful of the way your body is feeling is the first step towards being at peace.

Sometimes relaxing the mind is even more difficult than relaxing the body. But the simplest piece of advice is this: if it’s not important, let it go. Be like a duck, and let it all roll off your back.

When you’re at peace in your own mind and body, and at peace with the world, you can be your best. The healthiest, calmest, friendliest, and most effective version of yourself. And that person is powerful.

Image Credit: Chris Paul Photography/Flickr

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