By Catherine Douglas
Sunshine dances on my shoulders as I sit on the cool plaza cement with my eyes closed. I take a smooth slow breath. The busy sounds of downtown San Francisco bustling with life catch my attention for a moment before I begin to focus on an unwavering sense of love and hope I feel arising. The presence is palpable. I open my eyes to see hundreds of people sitting around me in silent prayer and meditation. There are small children with earnest expressions of focus on their faces, grandparents sitting serenely at my side, and young sweethearts holding hands as they meditate. Some are friends, many are people I've never met, but I'm starting to feel more and more connected to all of them. We are all here because we share the same heart vision: that a thriving, just, sustainable world for all living beings is not only possible, but we are the ones to make it happen. We are the ones to BE the peace we wish to see in the world.
I close my eyes again and recall the image of our global map and all the points of light around the world that represent similar events. Each one of those dots is a sacred gathering of real people, just like the ones gathered around me now, people from many cultures, speaking different languages, practicing different religions, each with unique life stories, and on every continent. For some, it is the middle of the night and they gather by candles, for others the sun is just rising and they sit outside together in the magical moment when the sun first greets the new day. There are three people in ceremony in a living room in Paris, dozens of young people marching and singing in Nairobi, children in Kathmandu on their meditation cushions, organized public acts of kindness in Los Angeles, and thousands chanting and singing together in the Texas State Capitol building. For all of the diversity and richness of experiences, each one of us, in this moment, is focused on the same thing: peace.>
My body starts to tingle with this realization. We can do this! We ARE doing it. Yes, there is so much pain, destruction, war, environmental devastation, and insanity in the world. It breaks our collective hearts to see the refugee crises, police brutality, and animal slaughter houses. And yes it is also true that there is so much beauty, love, compassion, and resiliency of the human spirit; and effective, life-supporting solutions are emerging everywhere. Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our support for what's working and recommit to doing our part to bring forth a true culture of peace for this beautiful aching world. As Marc Gafni says, "The word is full of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love."
BeThePeace is an annual, synchronized global meditation and prayer event that happens on International Day of Peace, September 21st. Every year we gather to visualize the world we want to see, to celebrate what's working, to reaffirm our commitment to peace, and most importantly, to be that peace. We connect with our global family around the world in all its beautiful diversity and know we are not alone. We know that each of us has our unique role to play in the transformation of our planet and it is our sacred duty to share our unique gifts with the world. We start by BEING that peace now.
I am delighted and humbled to be one of the co-founders of BeThePeace. I've always been passionate about peace. Since I was in high school, my life mission statement has been to aspire to create shimmering ripples of peace, laughter, inspiration and joy in the world. I've been celebrating and hosting events on International Day of Peace for over a decade. When David Thomas Nicol, the author of the recently released book on Subtle Activism, and I started discussing doing something special for Peace Day in 2012, I was excited. We were inspired to build on the long-standing traditions of Earthdance, The Culture of Peace Initiative, Peace One Day, and many others, as well as celebrate the culmination of The Shift Network's Summer of Peace program. The Gaiafield Council and I sat in meditation for many months contemplating what this would look like. Then we met Patrick Kronfli, the founder of MedMob, a group that hosts meditation flashmobs in public spaces around the world. Together, the three of us, with the support of many organizations and colleagues, birthed BeThePeace.
That first year we didn't know what would happen, so when people started to register events on our map, we were thrilled. It wasn't until photos started to come in from events around the world, that tears began pouring down my face. There was nothing quite like that feeling of having a vision for what we wanted to create, sharing it with others, and seeing how many people around the world shared that very same vision. Person after person reached out to us, saying they had been dreaming about doing the same thing and how touched they were to be a part of creating this. To realize that this message of being the peace resonated so deeply universally around the world, was tremendously energizing, inspiring, and heart-touching for all of us.
Many connections, projects, and new inspirations were sparked at these events. At the event in San Francisco that I was describing earlier, a group got so inspired that they went on to host a similar global meditation event on December 21st of that same year and that birthed UNIFY. Since then we've been co-creating BeThePeace together each year on Peace Day.
Every year since 2012, we have more than doubled the number of events that people register on our map. We estimated that over 110,000 people participated in BeThePeace events last year. Beyond participating in person, many people are resonating with our message and being the peace in their own ways. Last year we had a Facebook post reach of 32 million from our different pages. Momentum continues to build! This year we are honoring not just one day, but World Peace Weekend, and we invite you to join!
There are many ways to honor World Peace Weekend, happening September 19-21! The schedule of events can be found on our BeThePeace website (click here) and Facebook Page (click here). We invite you to join an event near you or host your own. We have lots of resources, templates, and even a new inspirational booklet to support you with organizing your own event! There will be a video broadcast and a live teleconference, which will include a special meditation led by renowned mystic, Thomas Huebl, as well as an opportunity for all of you amazing beings to meet each other and connect through breakout groups. Then on Monday, International Day of Peace, we invite everybody to take all the inspiration and energy cultivated over the weekend and put that into action in their lives!
As one enthusiastic organizer from Zurich, who had recently left her steady job at a pharmaceutical company to be a part of the Shift told me, she had never in her life organized a public event, but decided she would step outside her comfort zone and take it upon herself to stand for something she believed in. She sent me her opening speech for her event she'd spent months pouring her heart into. It said many beautiful things, but out of all the reasons she was doing this, she exclaimed, "I am first and foremost a mother who wants to leave a better world behind for my child."
Global events like BeThePeace are not a replacement for the work we do the rest of the year. There is much work to be done creating the world we know in our hearts is possible. From the inner to the international, we need to think individually, interpersonally, systemically, structurally, and globally. One thing that BeThePeace invites from all of us, is to ask what is the peace we'd like to see in the world and then to go out and be that. Imagine if everyone that went to these gatherings all over the world truly sat with that question and committed to being that. As Ryunosuke Satoro said, "individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." If each one of those drops is embodying the peace they wish to see, imagine the ripples!
Join us! www.bethepeace.com
Catherine Douglas has been a peace activist for the majority of her life. She has been involved with many organizations and projects, including Natural Highs, Techné Verde, The Compassion Games, Surfing the Creative, The Story of Stuff Project, Earthdance, The Summer of Peace, PeaceJam, The Happiness Alliance, Generation Waking Up, The Pachamama Alliance, PeaceDance and The Science of Happiness. She is a Peace Ambassador through the Shift Network, has a certificate from San Francisco State University in Positive Psychology Coaching, is a Laughter Yoga Leader, and is creating a new program on love that she hopes to share soon. You can reach her at www.peaceripples.com
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This article appears in: 2015 Catalyst, Issue 18: International Day of Peace