A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the world’s first Inner Peace Conference. Two days of yoga, meditation and lectures with a focus on creating – and maintaining – inner peace, offered in four churches and the former stock exchange in Amsterdam. What can I say? It was very inspiring, uplifting, fun and – indeed – peaceful. I have never attended an event of this scale that had such a friendly and relaxed atmosphere as this conference. And the great thing is, the Inner Peace Conference has positively affected the world as a whole.
The opening night on Friday had a nice surprise: the World Peace Flame Foundation’s founder Savitri MacCuish had come over from London specially to attend the event. She reminded us that every individual plays a crucial role in creating peace at every level. Having a peaceful mind, at least to a certain extend, is key. One way in which we loose our peace of mind is when we loose our sense of inner power. And, according to Savitri, we loose our power because we constantly leave it behind in places and situations we’ve been. We need to empower ourselves by calling our power back. She then led us through a meditation in which we visualized how we were reclaiming our power from the time we were a child, when we were a teenager, a young adult, and the person we are now. The meditation was surprisingly powerful – I noticed tears gliding down my cheeks. And yet, when the meditation was done, I felt a sense of peace inside that was new and different.
On Saturday morning a friend and I arrived at the Beurs van Berlage (the former Amsterdam Stock Exchange) for a practice with Aadil Palkhivala bright and early. It was sunny and there was a crisp fall freshness in the air. I had been looking forward to this class for a while. Aadi is one of those people you just want to be near. He simply radiates loves. I would have been content just looking at him for 90 minutes. Five minutes before we were supposed to start, I heard someone call “everybody out!” The fire alarm had gone off. Calmly we all went outside. And there we were, on a square in the middle of busy Amsterdam, in our yoga clothes but without our mats.
As Yoga is a practice in being flexible, Aadil decided we shouldn’t let the circumstances influence our practice. He had us stand in two lines, as his own soldiers of peace. In unison – since we were in a tight line there was no other way – we practiced some dynamic movements to warm up, and then stretched our bodies using a partner for support. I noticed how the street noises faded to the background. I just heard Aadil’s instructions and my own breath. It felt great to inhale the cool morning air and to wake my body up by increasing my blood flow. My mind was clear and focused, although I was also secretly thinking what a great promotion this was for the conference, as tourists stopped to take pictures. Working with a partner – and staring her in the eyes for several minutes, as Aadil instructed us to do at the end of the class – created a strong sense of community, and reminded us that we are all connected. We wouldn’t have experienced this in the same way if we had practiced inside, our mats defining our own space. Going with the flow, rather than resisting the ever-changing situations in our lives, is an important catalyst for a peaceful mind.
The next event in my (self-chosen) schedule was a class with Paul Dallaghan at the beautiful Posthoorn Kerk. I had never practiced yoga in a church before and now wondered why. It makes so much sense to use, often underused, churches for a practice that fosters union and peacefulness. Different from what I had expected, Paul offered no dynamic movements whatsoever. For 90 minutes we sat, we breathed, we laid down, we breathed, and sat up again. Sort of; I don’t remember exactly all we did (as my analytical mind turned off quite quickly). I do know that we hardly moved, and that it was the most interesting practice I had done in a while. It was purely an investigation of my inner world, where there is a lot to explore. Sometimes less is more. And in this case the stillness created for me an opening towards a deeply hidden peacefulness.
In another beautiful church my inner quietness continued to be nurtured by a relaxing mindful yoga class with Kristin Vikjord Paternotte and a Yin Yang class by Rolandjan van Mulligen with expert live music. During an evening lecture by Tulku Lobsang Rinpoche I was reminded that inner peace isn’t something that can only (or maybe even won’t) be attained by being serious and stern. The Tibetan Buddhist’s talk was hilarious and yet profound. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much during a lecture about inner peace. The biggest take-away: “When you meditate, just relax. Be like a turtle.” The combination of all the yoga and such a light-hearted end of the day made that I didn’t even mind walking home because of a flat bicycle tire. Inner peace in practice!
The aim of the closing session on Sunday night was to get enough people together meditating that it would actually create a shift in consciousness in the world. How many people does it take to create a peaceful world? The answer is 8613 – the square root of one percent of the world’s population. Research on the effect of people meditating together has shown that this number is sufficient to create a state of flow that is experienced across the globe. The catch is: these 8613 people need to be coherent, meaning that they are silent, transparent and open to Life Force. Not that many people had come to the Beurs van Berlage, but at least enough to create a change in Amsterdam and its surroundings. And since we had all experienced inner peace one way or another during the weekend, the energy in the room was palpably calm and grounded. I could literally feel a connection with all my fellow meditators, as well as with all other beings on the planet. This feeling was so strong I was able to sit absolutely still for the full hour we meditated. And that was a first; I had never sat still for longer than 45 minutes. A small personal victory and a large contribution to the world as a whole.
There are many ways to inner peace. Which way you choose is personal and may vary per day. One thing is sure, however, if we all make a conscious choice to take a first step on this path, the world is already a better place.