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Last Page Update 02.08.2021

Peace Within
By Dr. Ashraf Girgis
January 21/2021

Today was inauguration day for president Biden, and for millions of people in the United States and around the world, it was a sigh of relief and return to normalcy. While we can debate and not reach any agreement on the definition of normalcy, how can a country with such deep divisions and dislike of one another be considered normal?
Is a country that attacks other nations for issues that could have been resolved through UN negotiations be considered normal? Why has America been at war for most of its young life? Is the fact that the U.S. has been at war for 225 out of its 243 years of existence be considered normal? (4

 



While we are left with all these questions of why, it's certain that these are facts that politicians must consider and citizens must ask. However, it is important to understand that in any society, nations reflect the unspoken rules for which their politicians are elected.


Speaking as an Iranian American, we consider wisdom, humbleness, courage and absolute perceived decency to be MUST HAVE qualifying characters that one must possess in order to get far up the political ladder in Iran.
Based on the last three to four decades in America, it seems as though the Rambo mentality of “do it my way” seems to get the loudest applause and is interpreted as courage. That is why American foreign policy has been in such terrible shape and became out of control during the previous administration.

So the question must be WHY?
Why do good hearted and peace loving Americans, “we the people”, prefer a Rambo mentality? Why do they humiliate and call others names when other nations simply assert their rights to be independent & sovereign? These nations do not want, like the majority of Americans, foreign interference within their nations.
So why do Americans treat others the way they do not want to be treated, with war being the likely outcome? Why do American politicians prefer a bully on stage to point fingers at Iran or China? Is this because of media brainwash or is it something more?
Why must America be the most dominant nation in the world? This is a question every American, regardless of religion and race, must ask themselves.

 

 

I believe this has something to do with the American mentality, and the desire to dominate. But why? Is this because Americans are a collection of immigrants that came to escape prosecutions or seek economic opportunity, hoping to get rich fast and decorate their richness all around the planet? Why must American leadership, instead of addressing their own hugely insurmountable issues of injustices & inequalities, tell others how to behave and interfere in others internal affairs?


Again these are very heated questions that do not have one answer. But if a society is a collection of its citizens and a reflection of the unspoken culture and rules of the collective, would it be fair to say that instead of always pointing to the government for all disasters, that maybe we need to look within, to ourselves?
Do we enjoy when the American military bombs the crap out of innocent citizens in Muslim countries? If yes, why? Why as citizens do we allow, or many times glorify, these types of atrocities? Perhaps we live in a continuous fight and flight stage; so, when we see others who are different, they are viewed as enemies which justifies a destructive response.


So what can we do to change ourselves? As J.F.K said long ago, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. I believe in order to have an America that is at peace, it is imperative that each person start working to find their own peace within, while helping the new administration move in the right direction. The same thing can also be said for industrial nations such as the UK that have stood with America and applauded its warmongering and menacing gestures. Let’s not forget that wars, in addition to their mortal and economic consequences, have disastrous impacts on one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Yes, while policies and pressure on politicians can result in temporary peace, lasting peace will not be completely possible until we as individuals find peace within ourselves. Until then, the war and destruction will continue until we destroy each other to oblivion.  
I would like to suggest a few steps for reaching peace within. Let’s start with a definition.



 

 

 

According to Webster dictionary, peace is a “state of tranquility or quiet” or a “state in which there is no war or fighting”. Can we reach a state of tranquility where there is no fighting within our minds, no matter what the world is dropping on us? 
Regardless of how much wealth we acquire in our lifetime, our ultimate human desire should remain to be seeking inner peace. This does not mean a life without turmoil, but learning to live calmly and peacefully despite turmoil's existence. It is like the ocean with a stormy surface. If you dive deep enough, there exists a calm underneath the tumultuous exterior.
Here are some steps that, in my humble opinion, can help you find serenity within.

Establish regular prayer and meditation within your day. 

This increases the size of our frontal lobe, which is responsible for executive functions, such as decision making, clarity, and organization skills. In a study conducted in 2008, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied individuals practicing compassion meditation, and found that it altered their brain function in positive ways (1). It improved mood and reduced anger and stress. Less stress and anger translates to "peace within". I suggest for my clients to try repeating these words first toward themselves a few times, then towards a person they hardly know, and finally towards individuals they have difficulty getting along with, while visualizing and seeing them as you want them to be:

May I be happy, with peace in my heart.
May I be healthy, with the body that gives me energy.
May I be peaceful, with serenity at my heart.

You can also craft your own phrases that suit your personal situations. Do it often, like when you’re in line at the grocery or on hold on the phone.
In another study by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2010, scientists found that the practice of compassion meditation can reduce stress-induced immune and behavioral responses(2). In addition to this, scientists found that the effects of compassion meditation lasted for several weeks after the practice of it had ceased.

 

Practice mindfulness. 

Believing in forces of nature or energy is not exclusive to those of us who believe in God. One can reach peace within by simply conducting a mindful life, known as mindful meditation (religious individuals can follow it as well, in addition to their daily prayers). Mindfulness is another very important approach towards living peacefully, and it also has amazing health benefits. The reason why mindfulness is so powerful is because most of us conduct our lives using our subconscious mind. In the 21st century, we act almost exactly the same as our ancestors did thousands of years ago by following our subconscious mind (95% of time).
Our actions are learned behaviors that are passed on from our parents and others around us. We might realize that what we do is not so different from what they do, simply because we do not use our conscious minds very often and rely heavily on our subconscious minds. We need to be present in each moment by simply paying attention to the HERE & NOW. Mindful meditation has been investigated by many scientists, resulting in reports of its many benefits, including reaching peace of mind.
This very simple, yet difficult, act of practicing and focusing on the here and now can change our entire view about life and help us greatly in reaching peace and serenity within. The easiest way of being mindful is paying attention to being present, without any distractions. It is to observe everything, without any judgments. An example of this is paying attention to your breathing, the rise and fall of your chest and abdominal muscles, without interfering in its speed or quality. Focus on simply observing, and if you get distracted, acknowledge the distraction and go back to your practice. 


Studies about the positive impacts of effective mindfulness are fairly extensive and are demonstrated by scientists in research on depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and in autoimmune diseases such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and pain reduction in many other diseases(3). So, keep being mindful. 


Men Talking to Each Other     

 

 

                                                                                                           

Always put yourself in other people’s shoes

Imagine if we always made decisions based on how others might feel given the exact same circumstances, taking actions based on an understanding of each situation and of each other. 
In other words, we should try to cultivate “empathy”. Empathy is the ability to place ourselves in other people's shoes. Scientists in the last few decades have identified the part of the brain circuit that is responsible for feeling empathetic toward others (5). They’ve determined that empathy forms in the early stages of childhood development, and it heavily depends on interpersonal factors (6).
However, empathy can also be cultivated by developing curiosity toward others and focusing on our similarities rather than differences. If you would like to become more empathetic, make sure to read this article “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People” (5).

                             

 

Control your ego

According to Webster’s dictionary, ego is “the opinion that you have about yourself”. Unfortunately, some of us have such a huge ego that we feel the need to distinguish ourselves from others. This is not entirely bad if we are doing positive things. However, individuals with a big ego are sometimes willing to commit atrocities to set them apart from others. History books are full of these types of leaders and individuals. How can we tame this dragon of the ego?


Let’s not allow individuals to take our frustration and use it as a dividing force to propel themselves forward. Keep practicing mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and reaching out to others with the intention to better our world.  Practice love, kindness, and meditation (compassion meditation) as I suggested above.

 

 

Overcoming temptation 
   

Never allow temptation to take over so much that you reach a point of no return.  Rumi, my favorite Persian poet (10th century), tells the story of a man who was on his way to Baghdad. He notices a giant sleeping snake. It is winter, and the snake is hibernating. So the man thinks, “This is great! I can go show this snake to people and make money.” So, he carries it all the way to downtown Baghdad and starts a show. Curious people gather around the man. As the crowd grows, it gets warmer and the snake wakes up. It attacks, poisons, and kills countless people—including the man who wanted money and fame. Rumi then asks, “how could a human being give in to temptation? How could one allow the giant sleeping snake within us to get so big that we are no longer capable of controlling it?”


So, let’s keep our ego under control and avoid temptation before our temptation overtakes, rules our lives, and devours our being.

 

Remind ourselves of how temporary life is 

It is important to constantly remind ourselves of how our stay in this world is temporary. We all come from dust and return back to dust, no matter how big or small we are in life. Regardless of your success, unless you are an Egyptian pharaoh burning yourself with all your belongings, we all will die without taking anything of material belonging. All that is left is the memory of who we were, so let’s try to make it good. 
Personally, when I feel overwhelmed and stressed over small things, I go to a cemetery to put life in perspective and remind myself to enjoy the present. I also like to look at pictures taken from space and observe our relative insignificance in the vastness of the universe.


So, let’s keep our ego tamed. Let’s love one another as Jesus teaches us or as the Quran verse 30:21 teaches us, “Love is a Divine sign”. Or as Buddhism teaches, “Love is a gift of one's innermost soul to another so both can be whole”.
Let us once and for all break the cycle of violence, turmoil, and bickering in the 21st century, and realize that we as a human species all have the same desire of living in harmony and having a safe place to call home. Instead of mindlessly acting as our Stone Age ancestors, replicating the unconscious fears of others as they were thousands of years ago, we can understand our similarities by being mindful and conscious of every action. With this, we can live our own lives with peace within each one of us to create a peaceful world around us!

Thanks for visiting www.curenaturally.org. For questions, please call our office at (616)-777-0608 and leave a message.Wish you the best in managing your stress. By working in changing your perception.  Feel free to follow us on twitter for our latest postings.

 Ashraf Girgis N.D.

References:


1.https://news.wisc.edu/study-shows-compassion-meditation-changes-the-brain/
2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695992/#:~:text=These%20data%20suggest%20that%20engagement,to%20exhibit%20reduced%20stress%20reactivites.
3.https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
4.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/595752-the-us-has-been-at-war-225-out-of-243-years-since-1776
5. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_habits_of_highly_empathic_people1
6.http://spihub.org/site/resource_files/publications/spi_wp_125_decety.pdf
7.https://www.peaceinschools.org/mindfulness-research
8.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/smi.2551
9.https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/podcast/loving-kindness-meditation/
10.https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/programs-training/public/cultivating-kindness/
11.https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-03-23/the-surprising-benefits-of-compassion-meditation


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