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9/11 Anniversary: Time to Bring Peace into Your Life

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9/11 Anniversary: Time to Bring Peace into Your Life

peace in my time

    Today is the 8th anniversary of 9/11, that fateful day when two planes demolished the World Trade Center in New York.

    Everyone remembers just where they were when they heard the news. I was working in the City of London at the time and watched the world-changing events unfolding on a screen at a hairdressing salon. There was an eerie silence all around as we watched in shock, hardly comprehending just what was happening.

    We had an American colleague working with us at the time, who only a year before had been on a work assignment at the top of one of the towers. As the Twin Towers came down, it dawned on her that some of her ex-colleagues and friends were likely to have been involved. Shock set in and I found a cab for her, making sure she got home okay as the trains were temporarily suspended in fear of a London attack.

    On the way home, I joined a small crowd outside a TV shop, looking in awe and shock at the repeated clips of the towers coming down.

    Eight years later, the world is no safer or wiser and there seems no end to the troubles around the world. Indeed today the world is struggling more than ever with growing inequality, poverty, economic and global warming challenges.

    Today there is more angst in the world than ever before. The world is a far more dangerous place and we are all more vulnerable to attack, uncertainty and upheaval. The saddest part of it all is that we are no nearer to resolving any of the disputes and grievances that let to the 9/11 attacks in the first place.

    Schisms between nations are becoming wider and there seems to be an ideology standoff between Christianity and Islam. All terrorism is blamed on Islam, which is portrayed as an unyielding, fanatical religion out to conquer the world and impose itself.

    However it is time we all realised that multiculturalism does not lead to disintegration – we need to celebrate our differences, not ridicule them. In our hearts, we are all people with the same aspirations, hopes and ambitions. We all strive to better ourselves and create a better and secure future for our children.

    Islam is not a monolith – I believe it actually covers 53 nations in the world. The fight today seems to be not between religions, but between ideologies

    We need to remember that being a Muslim is just one aspect of people’s identity. Yet, that identity seems to have become paramount and sadly militarily defined. Whether one admits it or not, there is certainly a lot of Islamophobia out there.

    It is time that we saw people as just people rather than judge them on their religious ideology. Ultimately peace can only come if we put our selfish motives to one side and think about the future of our children.

    Today, rather than looking back once again on the events of eight years ago, let us focus on how we can bring peace into our own lives and work from there for peace in the world. And then maybe the legacy of 9/11 will be to bring us all together for the greater good of all.

    The onus today is really on us to take a step back and look at our own lives and see where and how we can bring more peace in our life and in the world on an ongoing basis. Ultimately, if we bring peace all around us, then it can spread from there.

    Have you ever wondered how you could make the world a more peaceful place? And how you yourself could feel greater peace of mind?

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    Well, I believe that peace has to come from within you and there are two key questions we all have to address in our lives:-

    1. How can I find internal peace within myself?

    2. How can I bring more peace into the world through my work and my being?

    Here is a very timely and poignant quote from the Peace Pilgrim:-

    “We can work on inner peace and world peace at the same time.

    On one hand, people have found inner peace by losing themselves in a cause larger than themselves, like the cause of world peace, because finding inner peace means coming from the self-centered life into the life centered in the good of the whole.

    On the other hand, one of the ways of working for world peace is to work for more inner peace, because world peace will never be stable until enough of us find inner peace to stabilize it.”

    So the first key is to become more peaceful within ourselves. Here are my key tips to start bringing more peace in our lives:-

    1. Create some daily peace routines

    As one begins to bring more peace into our lives, it is important to have some peace routines.

    To me, early morning is the best part of the day. There is generally a feeling of peace and quietness then that you do not experience any other time. People are gradually getting into the day and there is none of the hustle and bustle you get later one.

    I suggest that you create a space in your life so that you can spend a bit of time early in the morning in self nurturing, rejuvenation, meditation. Also, you can use this quiet time to review the day and plan for what is ahead.

    You can start your day with some meditation, soothing music, gentle exercise, whatever works for you. Follow this with a healthy and leisurely breakfast with your partner, the family or on your own.

    Get into the habit of waking up early – and going for a walk or run in the morning. Not only will you be exercising, but your day will be off to a great start and it will increase your productivity.

    2. Clean up your space and simplify your life

    A key for peace in your mind is to have a physical space that feels neat and tidy. Psychologically we all feel better in a pristine clean home than in one that is a mess and full of clutter.

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    So a prerequisite for inner peace is to get your space clutter free and tidy. Do whatever you need to do to get rid of the clutter.

    As you begin to bring more peace in your world and hence the world in general, make the most of your early mornings – a precious and peaceful start to each day.

    As well as creating a clutter free space, there is a lot to be said for simplicity and focussing on fewer things and commitments in your life. Just imagine how much more peaceful your life would be if you didn’t have to think or be concerned about too many things.

    I remember listening to a Buddhist master who kept repeating – “Let go”. So let go of all things in your life that do not support you anymore. That also includes letting go of people too, though that may sound harsh to some of you.

    buddha1

      3. Look for ways to contribute to others

      As we reflect on 9/11 and the lessons learnt, the sad truth is the world isn’t working right now as we threaten to bomb each other into oblivion.

      What is truly missing is compassion. I sincerely believe that if more readers take this one thing to heart, the whole world will evolve.

      Compassion is about putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and seeing the world from their perspective. It is about feeling their pain and empowering them to be their best. It is not about pity or patronizing.

      “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike – each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.” – Buddha

      “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

      Just how can we learn to treat each other with more kindness, care, consideration and dare I say it with love?

      Check out all these 29 ways to ……… and choose one or more methods to bring more kindness into the world

      4. Celebrate our differences

      When we see the world today in the state it is, we are left to ponder why we are even fighting each other.

      At the end of the day all of us have the same hopes and dreams, the same challenges and issues.

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      Indeed we share the same planet, breath the same air and drink the same water.

      Are we really that different? Somehow we just need to learn to get on with each other.

      Wherever you go in the world there is a wonderful, common theme – people:

      – Small, large, fat, thin.
      – Loud, quiet, croaky.
      – Brash, timid, aloof, cocky.
      – Honest, innocent, mischievous.
      – Black, white, brown, mixed.
      – Anxious, laidback, schizophrenic.
      – Colourful, drab, naked.

      holy man

        It takes all sorts of people to make our world so interesting and colourful. So let us celebrate our differences rather than fighting for a warped cause.

        At the same time, searching for peace is also not about becoming a tree hugging hippy. Though there is nothing wrong with this, and each to their own path, the majority of the people in the world just want to live “normal” fulfilling, happy lives in peace with enough for their daily needs.

        5. Forgive and move on

        We all hang on to petty grievances and misunderstandings amongst our friends, work colleagues and most sadly amongst our family members. It is such disputes and simmering fights that ultimately energetically create bigger battles amongst communities and nations.

        So ask yourself:

        • What grievances can I let go?
        • Whom can I forgive?
        • What toxic or negative habit can you let go of?

        This is not to say that you let others trod all over – it is also about respecting your own needs and boundaries and creating your life as best you want it to be.

        6. Desire less

        A while ago a friend sent me a quote which really sums up very eloquently a key way of bringing more peace in our life. Though I am not sure who actually wrote these words, it seems to have some Buddhist connotations:-

        “Desires cause peace to disappear. You think that acquiring things will make you feel secure, but the reality is that the more you have the more fear there usually is of losing it, and the further you are from peace

        Desires are the cause of all conflicts. When you want something and cannot get it you become frustrated. Learning to be free from desires is learning how to stay peaceful.”

        So by curbing our lifestyles and aspirations we would not only benefit the planet but also bring more peace in our lives. Isn’t it amazing how all of these things are so intertwined?

        7. Listen to your heart and follow your own path

        Finally, it is all about getting clear about your own truth and following that. Cut through all the media hype and determine for yourself just what is really going on in the world around us today.

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        For your own peace of mind, get more information and insights into the conflicts around us and with that knowledge support a just cause rather than being led along blindly with the rest of the masses.

        On a micro level, to resolve any conflict, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and listen to the promptings of your heart. Give up trying to control others and focus on your own life.

        Here is another insightful buddhist message which is very relevant:

        Do not believe, just because wise men say so.

        Do not believe, just because it has always been that way.

        Do not believe, just because others may believe so.

        Examine and experience yourself!

        So for your own peace of mind, just remember to closely examine any situation and then let your heart rule rather than your head.

        To conclude, the main question to ask yourself on this 9/11 anniversary is:

        How can I bring more peace into my life today?

        To help you get started, reflect on these following questions and apply in your life:

        • What will YOU do to bring more peace into the world?
        • What will you NOT do?
        • What peace habit will you apply EVERY day?
        • WHO will you forgive and let go?
        • Who will you STOP trying to control?

        Reflect on the answers to these questions. You may also want to come up with your own questions and reflections.

        And remember that it is not just about bringing peace in the world today – it has to be a daily and life long practice.

        By bringing more peace within us and around us, we ultimately bring more peace to the world and make it a better place.

        On this 9/11 anniversary, surely that is not too much to ask for?!

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        “One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

        change yourself before changing the world

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          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

          How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

          Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

          When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

          Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

          What Makes People Poor Listeners?

          Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

          1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

          Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

          Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

          It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

          2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

          This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

          Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

          3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

          It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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          I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

          If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

          4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

          While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

          To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

          My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

          Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

          Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

          How To Be a Better Listener

          For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

          1. Pay Attention

          A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

          According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

          As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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          I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

          2. Use Positive Body Language

          You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

          A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

          People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

          But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

          According to Alan Gurney,[2]

          “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

          Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

          3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

          I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

          Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

          Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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          Be polite and wait your turn!

          4. Ask Questions

          Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

          5. Just Listen

          This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

          I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

          I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

          6. Remember and Follow Up

          Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

          For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

          According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

          It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

          7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

          If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

          Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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          Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

          Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

          NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

          1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
          2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

          8. Maintain Eye Contact

          When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

          Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

          By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

          Final Thoughts

          Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

          You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

          And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

          More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
          [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
          [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
          [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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