Tag Archives: peace



Michael A. Singer’s book, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection, blew my mind wide open when I first read it. Having been recommended to me by a similarly wonderful TED Talk in the series TED Talks to Watch When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, I had high hopes. In this memoir of sorts, Michael talks us through his journey to self-realization (an admirable endeavor, although still an ongoing, evolving, and challenging process for most of us).

To break decades of self-discovery and learning down into a digestible format, he divides the book into nine sections: I: Waking Up, II: The Great Experiment Begins, III: From Solitude to Service, IV: The Business of Surrender, V: Something Priceless Is Born, VI: The Forces of Natural Growth, VII: When Dark Clouds Become Rainbows, VIII: Embracing Explosive Expansion, and IX: Total Surrender. As you might guess from such titles, the road to self-realization was not paved or immediately obvious to Michael along the way.

In the first section, he introduces us to why and how exactly he decided to start this course of moving beyond “mental chatter” and surrendering to “life’s perfection”:

“I was gradually learning that life was not as fragile as that voice in my head would have me believe” (pg. 28).

He began this journey “not with a shout – but with a whisper” (pg. 7). One evening, he was sitting with his wife’s brother, Ronnie. They had been chatting when Michael noticed that there was a lull in conversation. He immediately started to worry about what to say next, trying to think up topics for conversation, when he stopped himself and actually observed himself being uncomfortable:

“For the first time in my life, my mind and emotions were something I was watching instead of being” (pg. 8).

This simple realization soon blossomed into a constant and vivid awareness of the voice inside his head – what it was saying, how it was feeling, and how it affected every decision and every moment of his life. He started exploring meditation and yoga as methods of quieting the voice inside and, slowly but surely, he was learning how to disconnect “the panic button” (pg. 30) – he was learning how to be completely at peace with any outcome.

In section two, he thus begins the “experiment of a lifetime” (pg. 53). An experiment in which he was attempting to free himself from “all the mental chatter”:

“I clearly remember deciding that from now on if life was unfolding in a certain way, and the only reason I was resisting it was because of a personal preference, I would let go of my preference and let life be in charge…

The rules of the experiment were very simple: If life brought events in front of me, I would treat them as if they came to take me beyond myself” (pg. 54).

Throughout this process of surrendering, he ends up (through no intention of his own) completing his doctorate, founding a construction company, building a world-renown meditation center, creating “the first Buddhist group in the history of a North Florida prison” (pg. 79), and developing a billion-dollar public software company – all by refusing to let his personal preferences of like and dislike determine the course of his life.

“Time and time again” he saw that if he “could handle the winds of the current storm, they would end up blowing in some great gift”:

“I was beginning to view these storms as a harbinger to transformation. Perhaps change only takes place when there is sufficient reason to overcome the inertia of everyday life. Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change. The problem is that we generally use all the stirred-up energy intended to bring about change, to resist change. I was learning to sit quietly in the midst of the howling winds and wait to see what constructive action was being asked of me” (pg. 160).

This journey of Michael’s is utterly inspiring, thought-provoking, and existentially challenging from start to finish (if anyone ever really “finishes” this type of journey). The reader experiences a rollercoaster of emotions as they follow him on this path – between sadness and elation to stress and absolute peace. As a result, this book is a great read for everyone in a wide variety of life stages.

Whether you’re having a quarter-, mid-, or finale-crisis – or whether you’re just searching for a fascinating, influential read – I think you’ll enjoy Michael’s odyssey as much as I have.

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Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people

“Turn off the TV, calm down and stop trying to convert people to your religion.

These are among the top 10 pieces of advice issued by Pope Francis this week as part of his recipe for a happy, more fulfilled life.

Speaking in a very frank interview published in the Argentine weekly “Viva”, the Pope drew on his personal experiences to come up with his own lifestyle guide with a humble, anti-consumerist twist.

The highlights include a call to families to “turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime doesn’t let you communicate with each other”, according to a Catholic News Service translation of the interview.

And Francis said people will also be much happier when they stop trying too hard to bring others round to their way of thinking – including on religion. He said the church grows “by attraction, not proselytising”, and added that the best way to get through to anyone was with “dialogue, starting with his or her own identity”.

The number one piece of advice actually came in the form of a slightly clichéd Italian expression, roughly translated as: “Move forward and let others do the same”. The equivalent in English would be “live and let live”.

Pope Francis’s secrets to happiness

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said “consumerism has brought us anxiety”, and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the Pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising,” the Pope said.

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

Translated by Catholic News Service

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If you look at …

If you look at the world and say “Yes, there are enough homes for people, yes, there is enough food for people, but if we give it away for free they won’t have earned it and the economy will collapse.” Then you have chosen money (a constructed medium of exchange) over living beings who only want to continue living in peace and safety.

And I have no qualms telling you, that is the wrong choice, and you have been brainwashed by this destructive, exploitative system.

– Markus Bones

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June 11, 2014 · 1:15 am

Taliban to Start Talks With U.S. and Afghan Government

Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters

Muhammad Naeem, left, a spokesman for the Office of the Taliban of Afghanistan announced the opening of an office in Qatar on Tuesday to help restart talks on ending the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan.


By  and 
Published: June 18, 2013

“KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban announced on Tuesday that they were prepared to take the first step toward peace negotiations with the Afghan government after 12 years of war, and American officials said that they would meet with Taliban representatives in Qatar within the week to start the process.

If talks begin, it will be the first time that the antagonists in the Afghanistan war have undertaken negotiations to end the conflict, begun in 2001 when American forces entered the country to rout Al Qaeda. Efforts to get such talks started have long been stalled, hijacked by conflicting demands from the main parties with long-term goals in Afghanistan: the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, the exiled Taliban leadership, the United States and Pakistan.

In a televised speech announcing the opening of a Taliban political office in Doha, the capital of Qatar, Mohammed Naim, a Taliban spokesman, said that their political and military goals “are limited to Afghanistan” and that they did not wish to “harm other countries.”

Senior Obama administration officials in Washington said the Taliban statement contained two crucial pledges: that the insurgents believed that Afghan soil should not be used to threaten other countries — an indirect reference to Al Qaeda’s sheltering in Afghanistan with the Taliban regime’s blessing before the Sept. 11 attacks — and that they were committed to finding a peaceful solution to the war.

“Together, they fulfill the requirement for the Taliban to open a political office in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government,” a senior administration official said.

American officials had long insisted that the Taliban make both pledges before talks start. The first element, in particular, is vital — it represents the beginning of what is hoped will be the Taliban’s eventual public break with Al Qaeda, the officials said. The ultimate goal of such talks, from a Western and Afghan government point of view, would be to persuade the Taliban to disarm and accept the Afghan Constitution. But officials warned that many hurdles remained in what was sure to be a long process.

President Obama called the Taliban’s announcement “an important first step towards reconciliation.”

But “it is a very early step,” Mr. Obama said at a meeting with President François Hollande of France at a Group of 8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland. “We anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road.”

In the next step, United States officials said, American envoys will meet later this week with Taliban representatives in Qatar. Members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which is to represent the government in talks, will then sit down with the insurgents.

But the first meetings will probably feature little more than an exchange of agendas, another senior administration official said, cautioning against expectations for the talks to yield substantive results any time soon. Indeed, one major obstacle for the peace process has been the outright refusal of Taliban negotiators to talk directly with Mr. Karzai’s administration.

“There is no guarantee that this will happen quickly, if at all,” the official said.

President Karzai referred to the impending opening of the office earlier in comments at a ceremony celebrating the transfer of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces from the American-led multinational forces in Afghanistan.

While he signaled his acceptance of the office’s opening, Mr. Karzai has repeatedly said that the talks must be Afghan-led, implying that the neither the United States nor the Pakistanis should be interlocutors. And he wants the talks held in Afghanistan.

Both demands are difficult to meet. Realistically both Pakistan and the United States have to be guarantors of any peace effort. Ultimately it is the United States that has bargaining chips — the Taliban prisoners that it holds at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — that might help bring the Taliban to the table. And Pakistan, as the home of most of the Taliban leadership and as the place where they have been able to receive funding and training for the fight, would have to play a role in encouraging the Taliban and backing their participation in a peace plan.

As for relocating the peace talks in Kabul, the Taliban are opposed to that because they feel they would be at an immediate disadvantage on the turf of their opponents, the Afghan government.

“The president should not use the term ‘immediately’ or ‘as soon as possible’ in talking about moving the peace negotiations to Afghanistan,” said Sayed Agha Akbar, a onetime Taliban commander now living in Kabul.

“Using such inflammatory words would be a serious blow to the peace talks at the moment when they are about to start.”

The Taliban statement on Monday said that in addition to initial negotiations, the Doha office would be used to explain the group’s views to other countries, and to meet with representatives of the United Nations and with regional, international and nongovernmental organizations. The Taliban also said they planned to give media statements about the current political situation.

Mr. Karzai’s concern is that the Taliban will use the office as a forum to try to re-establish their political legitimacy, especially in international circles, rather than confining the office to peace talks.

“Peace is the desire of the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Karzai said at a Kabul news conference after the transfer ceremony. “Peace is a hope that the people of Afghanistan make sacrifices for every day.”

Talks between the United States and the Taliban “can help advance the process, but the core of it is going to be negotiations among Afghans and the level of trust on both sides is extremely low, as one would expect,” the second senior Obama administration official said. “So it is going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all.”


Alissa J. Rubin reported from Kabul, and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington. Jackie Calmes contributed reporting from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.”

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June 18, 2013 · 5:58 pm