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The Nature of Peace

After four days of fasting in the Inyo mountains, our group sat in a circle and we each told what happened to us during our time alone.

When I described the place I'd chosen for my fast—my mountain peak, the grandmother juniper, the vast silence in all directions—I said, several times, "it felt like peace."

One of the elders mirroring my story said that when I go out into the world again, I should ask myself, "what feels like peace?"

These words have felt increasingly important to me lately as our world speeds up again.

It is a time of uncertainty in my life. And as a result, I feel a powerful pull toward security. But security is not the same thing as peace.

Security is about managing fear by managing risk.

Peace is about knowing there is, ultimately, nothing to fear.

Security can be a good and healthy thing. It gives us time to rest, heal, and play. It helps the children within us feel at ease. And that counts for a lot.

Peace is something else. It is the calm knowledge that love cannot be taken from you, because you are the source of love. It is the knowledge that while all your money may be lost, your true inheritance remains untouched. It is the calm of knowing that the world does not rest on your shoulders, and that everything that is truly important will be accomplished on its own and in its own time.

Peace is a descent. It is rooted. It is grounded. It does not rush or earnestly try to get ahead. It moves slowly and honestly. It walks in the light with a strong, steady heart, and slow, steady steps.

Instead of darting back and forth, a person at peace sits still until they know which way to go. Then they get up and walk slowly in the right direction, and in the end get there faster than those who rushed.

In this sense, peace does not mean "non-violence," although that's usually the result. Rather, if violence is required—like the killing of an animal for food—it is carried out with respect and reverence. After the deed is done, there is peace in the soul.

I believe this is a quality that indigenous peoples often carry. This deep-rooted peace emanates through ancient traditions and practices.

It's no wonder that pockets of our modern society—with its heady, rushing quality—look with increasing admiration and longing to the peoples that have maintained their rooted nature.

Tyson Yunkaporta writes that this indigeneity is not some special quality that particular ethnic groups or skin-colors carry in exclusion to the rest of the world.

Rather, he reminds us that we were all once indigenous. From the Celtic peoples to the ancestral Norse, from the slavic peoples to the Germanic tribes to the ancient Israelites and the animistic Berbers of the Arabian peninsula.

This indigeneity, as Yunkapora puts it, has not been lost in "modern" people. It is always near the surface. These qualities emerge naturally when we slow down and connect with the land, with one another, and with the depths of our souls.

When we are at peace, the world itself goes quiet. We feel steady, like a large, old tree whose roots go deep, and whose limbs sway slowly.

Stop and ask yourself, "what feels like peace?" Then slowly walk in that direction. I'll meet you there.


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