How well do you promote peace and harmony in interaction with yourself and others?

With everything (that has been) going on in the world, I have been wondering about the importance of promoting peace and harmony when in interaction with self and others - especially when we are encountering conflicting messages and views.

Let’s assume that the interconnections of every living being are infinite and continuously unfolding. What does that mean for how we show up in the world? I truly believe that what we do and how we choose to be present in the world impacts not only our own lives, but the entire (global) community. It really is about ‘Do I and others benefit, and are we achieving what matters most’.

During my four-week stay in the Bhole Baba Ayuvedic Hospital & Research Centre and Ashram in Chilianaula in the Himalaya, I had the privilege and opportunity to reflect on my own behaviour and the impact that my behaviour is having on myself, others and beyond. One of the things that came up for me is that there are moments that I find it challenging to interact coming from a place of peace. Inspired by the Shanti mantra I practiced daily in the Ashram, I have been taking a closer look at how well I am promoting peace and harmony in my daily life, and how this connects to practicing Functional Fluency.

There are numerous contexts when Shanti is used, and I would like to share with you one that I believe is significant for when we practice Functional Fluency.

The Sanskrit word ‘Shanti’ means peace.

The meaning of the word Shanti and the mantra remind me a lot about the essence of behaving in a functionally fluent way when disturbances are created either by others or ourselves. What do we do? Do we react, or do we respond?  When we react, we feel discontent, restless, unhappy. When we respond, we feel peace. Where there is peace, there is harmony and happiness.

Shanti* is chanted aloud as a peace invocation after Hindu prayer. It is also often chanted aloud at the start of a meditation or yoga practice to still the mind and the body. In Hinduism there is a concept of Trivaram satyam – that which is said thrice comes true. It is about peace invocation related to three types of miseries experienced in three realms of existence. The Shanti is chanted three times to emphasise the desire:

Adhidaivak – relates to the celestial beings or nature. Nature has provided us with everything to survive and thrive on the earth. But there are miseries caused by nature like hurricanes, tsunamis, fires, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and famines. We cannot control them. Thus, we seek peace from the almighty to protect us from the disturbances beyond our control.

Adhibhautik – relates to the materialist realm. We perform routine actions in this realm like eating, drinking, or doing Seva (selfless service). But disturbances arise from the world around us (from other beings) like mosquitoes, loud neighbours, sarcastic comments, family arguments, pollution, crime, . . .We can have some control over these disturbances, but not totally. So we pray to the almighty to protect us from them.

Adhyatmik – relates to the spiritual realm. It gives you an experience of fulfillment in the other two realms. The word ‘atmika’ means ‘self-inflicted’. Adhyatmik suffering is the most damaging and long-lasting suffering as we inflict it on ourselves. This could be physical, mental, or emotional suffering. We cause physical suffering on ourselves by, for example, overeating, not taking care of our health etc. Most of the suffering is caused by mental reasons. We suffer when we carry negative emotions – anger, hatred, jealousy, greed etc. – and these can destroy our peace. Thus, praying to the almighty to seek peace on the spiritual path or the inner obstacles, the third ‘Shanti’ is chanted.

The third time we chant ‘Shanti’ softly. This is the most important one, because even if we are free from any outside miseries, if the inner realm is not calm, we will never experience peace. Conversely, once we have found inner peace, no external disturbances can bother us.

* Source: https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/wisdom/reads/why-do-we-say-shanti-thrice

For me, the connection between Functional Fluency and Shanti as described above in a nutshell is: Even though there are things we don’t have control over, or limitations are imposed on us, we can choose to respond (instead of react) and still create positive ripples. When we (unwittingly use ineffective mode behaviours (Purple Pitfalls) we are not at peace with ourselves and/or with others. When we choose to respond, we choose to use effective modes of behaviour (Golden Five), which is more likely to create peace. 

Practicing Functional Fluency for me is “peace in action” that generally refers to the active pursuit and implementation of actions (behaviours!) that promote peace and harmony in various aspects of life, society, or the world. It emphasises the idea that peace is not merely the absence of conflict and/or misery but a dynamic state that requires positive efforts and initiatives. Both concepts can be applied at different levels, from individual actions that promote personal well-being and interpersonal harmony to collective efforts that aim to address social, political, or global issues in a peaceful and constructive manner. Like Functional Fluency, “peace in action” often involves practices such as reality assessment, understanding, compassion, cooperation, creativity, resilience, dialogue, conflict resolution and the promotion of justice and equality.

In essence, Functional Fluency and “peace in action” encourage people to actively engage in behaviours and decisions that contribute to the creation and maintenance of a peaceful and thriving world. They emphasise the proactive role individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and governments can play in fostering understanding, tolerance, and cooperation to maximize intra- and interpersonal relationships in order to build a more peaceful and sustainable future.

Perhaps you would like to take a moment to reflect on how well you are promoting peace and harmony in interaction with yourself and others in view of the three types of miseries experienced in three realms of existence?

 OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti . . .

Author: Leona Bishop

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