We usually neglect the importance of breath except when we are nervous, distressed, or down with asthma and colds. We often take the breath for granted as something involuntary and does not need much attention as long as it works. We neglect its presence without understanding that it is our breath that makes us alive. Most of us know that we breathe, but few of us are aware of how powerful it is, especially on something more profound: breath as a way to promote peace.
Why breath? Is it not something vague and simple? How can breathing effectively promote peace? Is it not too abstract and invisible? In experiencing each breath, these questions are irrelevant. As we inhale, peace imbues our minds and bodies. As we exhale, we return peace to the world. No need for words at this breathing moment. No need for any reasoning and explanation or any external and aggressive actions. The experience of peace is always accessible right under our noses. This is no metaphor: breath is Peace itself.
There is an ongoing peace project here in the Philippines, launched and spearheaded by my peacemaker friend Orlan. It is a project of its kind: no rallies, no activisms, no criticisms against anyone or anything. It is a project that seeks to go back to the basics of our desire for peace. A peace movement that relies neither on method nor ideologies. An advocacy not of debates and arguments over policies but something ancient – a radical experience that has been largely ignored. A peace project that is closer to our breath, for it involves our breath nonetheless. Known as the Breathe Peace 12-12-12 Project, the aim is to build a critical mass of 121, 212 people paying attention to their breaths every 12 noon starting November 11, 2011 until December 12, 2012 (Hence, the target number of people). Moreover, it is spreading the culture of breathing as a way to peace in all levels, areas and aspects of the word.
So many issues on social order are abound in many countries (including the Philippines), places that are wounded by war and apathy. Governments and their political and military machinery have always resorted to external interventions to control these conflicts, measures that are beyond our reach and means. We sometimes numb ourselves from these issues and have difficulty relating, unless we are threatened by any apparent instability. We detach ourselves and go on with our lives, with no regard for those affected in the crossfires. We have heard the news announcing many people who die helplessly in their struggle for peace. And we have remained disconnected, for we have always thought that our own peace is unfazed and unperturbed.
Breath is Peace itself.
But this kind of peace is incomplete. We must imbibe a newer framework, one that recognizes an encompassing, multi-dimensional understanding of peace. This is the aim of this breathing project: for an individual to recognize that his or her peace is connected with the peace around his or her environment, as well as with the peace of the world; and for government, policy-makers and military officers to recognize first the importance of peace within themselves. In Orlan’s words, this is the stable tripod of Breathing Peace – May Peace within me prevail, May Peace around me prevail, and May Peace in the world prevail. It completes the whole picture of the possibility of Peace.
Any disagreements, factions, conflicts, wars in our world is mainly a result of forgetting this peace that is found in the breath. The breath anchors our awareness of life, how precious it is, and how we must revere it. Our breath is our invisible connection to everyone and everything, and any ways we remember it is a sacred process of seeing our oneness despite differences. All sacred traditions have a name for it: chi, pneuma, neshama, ruach, spiritus, prana, panna, ha, ginhawa. Its universality is a proof that the breath has no boundaries of enmity, ownership and competition, but rather a shared truth of life that is found in every human being.
Breath is both the symbol and energy of Peace. This project does not just campaign for a radical ideology, but more of remembering what Life is about for all humanity. We must not forget where true peace comes from. It is always comprised of a virtue enveloping our own lives and those of others. We breathe each other’s existence and we cultivate this power of peace in our hearts and allow them to expand throughout our communities and the whole world. In each breath on each day, may we be always reminded of its essence.
For those who like to join this peace project, visit Breathe Peace 12-12-12 Project or contact Mr. Orlan de Guzman for details.