Turning the Wheel: From the Outer to the Inner
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha
Twenty years ago, I was a scholar of international human rights and worked many years at the United Nations. One of the positions I held at the United Nations was a Human Rights Officer at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), currently known as “UN Woman.” My function was to manage projects that benefited the lives of women and children around the world, especially in warring and developing countries. The most notable projects that the fund supported in the 1990s included: protection of victims of domestic violence in Latin America; provision of shelter and basic living needs for women victims of “ethnic cleansing” in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; and the elimination of genital mutilation of girls and other discriminatory practices against women in specific traditional cultures.
Prior to joining UNIFEM, I was a delegate of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations. Some of my responsibilities included assisting a Japanese Counselor in the codification of International Human Rights Treaties, and utilizing my academic knowledge and experience in the development of human rights law.
As a result, I gained extensive experience in policy making in an international system as well as scholarly work in the field of human rights. I always believed that global change was essential for world peace, and I still do. Contributing to this desired goal of global change through academic and humanitarian work at the United Nations was my purpose for over 20 years. I was living with “purpose,” as many would describe it.
Still, life brings all kinds of surprises. Yet, nothing happens by chance. I noticed, after joining the United Nations, many things in my life did not flow as I had expected. With this in mind, I slowly entered into a spiritual exploration. I began it in earnest in the mid 1990s. I began intensive “inner work,” while still carrying a full heart for peace and justice in the world.
I did not just dabble in this “inner work” over a few months, as one might imagine, but I engaged in steady progress and transformation over a period of five years. Meanwhile I continued working at the United Nations. (For those who may be interested, I will write more about my spiritual transformation on another occasion.)
This inner work allowed me to build an “inner peace” that could be shared with others through compassion. When I experienced profound inner peace from my own transformative inner work, I recognized a new suffering began within myself. I could no longer perceive the external world and daily life in the same way as I had before. As I shifted my perspective, my views and vision changed entirely, including those about obtaining world peace.
While I valued many positive impacts that the humanitarian projects brought to women and children worldwide, I simultaneously began sensing the overwhelming energies of victims in areas of conflict, such as those who had suffered from systematic rapes and killings that occurred in warring countries. I intuitively sensed their emotions such as massive pain, anger, trauma, despair and hopelessness. Once I became aware of the consciousness of those who were suffering, then I began to ponder about the potential processes for their healing. How would they be able to heal their own trauma, or the trauma of their countries? With this insight, I could no longer ignore the inner voice that allowed me to sense their pain in such a visceral way.
I recognized the amount of suffering in its emotional, energetic and spiritual levels would require an approach beyond traditional measurable political, legal, social and humanitarian interventions. Now my vision for world peace had shifted permanently.
With this perspective, attaining inner peace in each one of us could be the primary component for creating world peace. This concept could apply to those suffering in warring countries, but also the rest of the entire world population, since the inner peace of each person would contribute to the level of global consciousness.
Pursuing the Path of Inner Peace
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
– The Dalai Lama
Once you know them, there are certain things you cannot unlearn. This became the turning point in my life. I could continue working for external (world) peace or I could choose to contribute towards achieving inner peace by allowing self-compassion to positively affect others.
I did not judge or devalue external peace as opposed to inner peace. It became a question of which path I would choose to take. I came to understand that my purpose was to help individuals build inner peace. True knowledge comes from experience. It is not just an academic theory. It turned out I needed to experience the challenges of humanitarian work – the work of trying to build world peace at the United Nations, before I could come to this realization.
After deep contemplation over a five-year period, I resigned from the United Nations. My new career path in healing and spirituality had begun. I went back to school to receive a master’s in acupuncture and became an acupuncturist. I gave up most aspects of a material lifestyle as I had to let go of the past to build my new life purpose. And yet, I remained a humanitarian and a human rights defender at heart.
My acupuncture practice soon grew into one that provided integrative healing services and cultivated spirituality. My services aimed not only to help heal physical illnesses, but also to transform inner suffering into inner peace. By healing the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects simultaneously, individuals could evolve into who they truly are. This work continues to this day.
The Anatomy of Peace
“There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that peace which is within the souls of men.” – Black Elk
There is a book that describes creating inner peace that is an absolute masterpiece on the subject. “The Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute teaches deep lessons about this process, and I highly recommend it.
Briefly, the book recounts how people become reactive when their hearts are at war.
It offers a story of an intense, successful CEO, whose son was troubled. The son repeatedly committed criminal acts. In his desperation, the CEO and his wife brought their son to a youth camp in hopes of correcting his bad behaviors. Instead, it turned out the camp’s aim was to educate the parents. It gave the parents an opportunity to reflect upon their own inner emotions in a two-day meeting with a group of other parents of “troubled” children. Here in this supportive setting, the parents had transformational conversations, which allowed them to get in touch with their own unresolved inner emotions which ultimately would benefit their children.
These parents learned a valuable lesson from the camp organizers that we all can take to heart. When we are at war in our hearts, we act in war-like ways. Others around us might then consciously or subconsciously recognize that emanating negative energy and in turn react negatively or aggressively. If our hearts are in peace, our actions toward others are peaceful and compassionate and then our counterparts are likely to mirror our tone with acceptance and respect. Surprisingly the wise camp organizers taught the unsuspecting parents how important it was to look inward, and to create inner peace within themselves for the sake of others.
“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” – The Dalai Lama
This principle affirms my belief that attaining inner peace is the heart of spiritual growth. Attainment of inner peace should be the ultimate goal of all humankind. This cumulative process has the hope of bringing world peace. The ongoing experience of doing this work of achieving inner peace brings forth love and compassion, not only to ourselves, but to all.
In honor of these ideals, I named my private practice “Love & Compassion” to reflect my own evolution and my purpose. This has been my path, and I look forward eagerly to sharing more of my journey with you.
“If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.” – Lao Tzu
With love and compassion,
This article “Bridging The Gap: Global & Inner Peace” was originally created and published by LoveandCompassion.com under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Mika Ichihara, M.S., L.Ac., LL.M., B.Phar., Founder Owner and Grand Master in Eastern Medicine and Energy Soul Medicine. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio. For more information about her and her practice, please visit www.loveandcompassion.com.