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Peace And Independence On The Fourth Of July

by Len Ellis

July 4, 2020   

The Fourth of July holiday is today, and again I find myself questioning the true meaning of this day.  July 4, 1776 was a remarkable day in history, a significant shift in consciousness to the need for freedom.  Many people see the Fourth of July as a holiday, a day off from work, barbeques, etc, and of course fireworks, yet when I put the day in perspective by using the formal name - Independence Day - I must ask myself, am I really independent?  Am I truly free?

We start out in life dependent on our parents or caretakers.  We usually conform to their standards, to their values, to their likes and dislikes.  If we were blessed, they taught us to be free thinkers, to question, to figure things out for ourselves, to exercise our independence, and we only saw their control when we needed protection.  Otherwise, and I daresay is the majority of cases, we were held captive to what they wanted.  So I ask myself again, is this independence?  I think not, as those caretakers are still having a degree of control of my life.

In my adult life, I am pressed to conform to “the norm”, and if I am truly independent and free, I will politely nod and continue on my path.  I know in my own life there are times when I do give up a piece of my freedom and independence to conform and compromise, but the result is a false peace of mind. 

Where I find I lose my independence, however, is when I hold on to resentments or judgments toward others.  Indeed, in holding on to any resentment, my life is then shaped and controlled by my feelings about that situation, about that person or group.  Until I am able to find compassion and forgiveness, I will continue to be a prisoner of the feelings I am holding on to.  It’s not the other person or group controlling me, they probably have no idea of what I am holding on to, it is totally and absolutely ME who is preventing my own freedom!

So let me begin right here, right now, with me.  What I want most is to be free of the compulsions that keep me from living in peace with myself.  When I can do this, I can then live in peace with my friends, my neighbors, with the earth, and yes, even with my so-called enemies.  I have a deep desire for freedom and to be free and independent.  Therefore, I have to be honest about my feelings, not hide or stuff them, and commit to resolving whatever situation comes up.

And yes, life does have conflicts and disappointments, so how can I be free when these come up?  To live truly free and at peace, I must first acknowledge these, then with compassion, love those who might not be loving me.  By doing so, I will no longer be dependent on how others act towards me.  By loving those I am in conflict with, whether it is right here right now, or from years ago, can I win my freedom, heal myself, and raise my level of consciousness. 

Today, I can make the choice to hold on to the hurt and anger and resentment, or I can forgive and release it, thereby freeing myself.  Yes, many times this will go against the conditioning I have received, and the choice may not be easy.  It takes real courage to make these choices, yet I know once I experience the freedom these choices bring, I will be inspired to continue, I will find immense joy and happiness.

I will enjoy the festivities this Independence Day, as I hope you will.  At the same time, I invite you to join me in looking at the ties that bind us, because independence and freedom, just like peace, begins with ME! 






Peace Begins with ME! Have We Become More Peaceful Since 9-11?

- Leonard Ellis


September seems to be filled with opportunities for peacemaking. September 21 is International Day of Peace with many events scheduled, and of course, September 11, the remembrance of the 9-11 World Trade Center attack and destruction.

While the emotional impact of 9-11 seems to lessen each year, the question of "why?" is always there. Why did people put their energy into destruction rather than finding nonviolent ways to express what they need? How do we minimize the possibility of this happening again? I don't have an answer in terms of an ironclad defense, and I don't believe there is one. What I do know is that if people feel disrespected and ignored and desperate and isolated, they may choose to draw attention to their plight in destructive ways. All the walls and missiles and bombs and bullets will not protect anyone from someone who is determined to harm another. Just reflect on all the mass-shootings over the past several years. The energy that created the 9-11 attacks is no different than that of the energy that someone uses to justify a mass-shooting. So it comes down to the question of what would mitigate the desire to kill another human being.

I believe the only way to prevent people from killing or harming each other is to dissolve the walls that we have constructed to divide us. When we recognize each other as human beings, as brothers and sisters, as all having a common connection, then we will stop the violence and harm to one another. This may seem like an impossible task, but it has to start somewhere, and we can't wait for "the other" to start. And our society doesn't help with this message, either. We are constantly shown how revenge and payback are the ways to resolve conflict, rather than forgiveness and compassion. This reinforces the false belief that we are different, or better than, or separate from others. And unfortunately, we now have a role model in the White House who demonstrates this mode of interacting. .

In the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, he asks to be an instrument of peace. When we ask to be made instruments of peace, what we are really asking for is the boundless determination to empty ourselves of every state of mind that disrupts relationships - anger, resentment, jealousy, greed, self-will in any form. Our first priority is to have compassion and understanding for ourselves, which will then bring about change in the way we deal with others. In the ultimate analysis, our resentments and hostilities are not against others but rather, against our own alienation from our inherent state of love and connectedness.

Learning to return love for hatred, being always aware of the unity of life, these things are the most difficult achievements on the face of the earth, and the most rewarding, because Peace begins with ME! I encourage all to look inward and recognize and heal those emotional scars that prevent us from being truly loving, caring, human beings. By doing so, we will each help create a more loving and caring world, and indeed we can then say the world has become more peaceful.






Peace Begins with ME! Recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

- Leonard Ellis


Today we recognize and honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I believe his words and actions are no less relevant today than they were over 50 years ago. More than just his words, but in particular, his actions. I may never be the orator that he was, but I can be a similar active, participating force, an agent for change, a contributor to peace and nonviolence. In voicing his commitment to nonviolence, he said "If I am the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence, that I will do." And so the relevant question today is "am I willing to be the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence"? Am I willing to express my deep desire for peace? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to never give up hope, never give up the message, never submit to apathy, never to say "oh, let THEM take care of it"? 

Because what I see today, and I think what Dr. King saw in his day, too many people are too quick to say "I don't have time", "What difference could it make?," "My friends/family don't agree."  So perhaps an even more important question is if I am willing to promote, recruit, encourage others to join and participate in the quest for peace and nonviolence so that we will never come to a point where there is a last, lone voice.

Those committed to the power of nonviolence see it as a philosophy of life, not simply a method of social change. Those committed to the power of nonviolence see its relevance to their personal conduct and credo in everyday life. Those committed to the power of nonviolence stand in the face of bigotry and anger and hatred and injustice with the courage to show another way, and model what real freedom is.

Dr. King challenged us to work for a greater humanity, for something greater than ourselves as individuals. So what am I doing to meet this challenge, to honor his legacy? What am I doing with not just the dream he left, but with the love and the faith to act?

Yes, I am challenged every day to act in integrity, to be a voice speaking for nonviolence. And sometimes I fail, but more often the universe confirms it is the right thing to do. Dr. King is gone, taken from us by an act of violence, the very thing he dedicated his life to change. But he left us a challenge, to interact with our world and do our part; what am I doing to honor the challenge, to create a better world?  When I look in the mirror in the morning, do I recognize the one person who can leave the world a better place than he found it? If not, why not?

I challenge you to ask yourself, as I am asking myself: if I am truly committed to peace and nonviolence, what am I doing to live in that integrity?  To stand up for what I believe.  To raise my voice! To be the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence. To never stop asking myself “If I don't, who will?”  If we don't, who will?





Peace Begins with ME! Earth Day

- Leonard Ellis


April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, which began in 1970 as a way to raise our consciousness about environmental concerns. It occurs to me that it is also is an opportunity to bring to the forefront two concepts directly applicable to peace: awareness and oneness. I'm not sure why we don't celebrate Earth Day every day of the year, but at least we have set aside one day to honor and recognize our relationship with our mother earth. Like so many other things in life, our relationship with the earth is a reflection of our inner feelings, thoughts, and relationship with ourselves.

I was recently asked what peace activism has to do with Earth Day . . . or was it what Earth Day has to do with peace activism? To me, the answer was obvious, as I see the people who are concerned with peace and nonviolence issues are generally also very concerned with environmental issues.  This goes far beyond war issues, where the obvious environmental effects of bombing and destruction are easily seen.  No, the connection is more rooted in the recognition that if our environment is toxic and does not sustain life, the people who live in that environment are not likely to be at peace, as they are in a constant state of fear, or depression, or hopelessness. Conversely, when the environment is maintained and improved, this brings about a sense of peace and security.  People who are sensitive to, and who understand the source of peace, also tend to understand that peace extends beyond our human interactions to this place we call Mother Earth, and the need to protect, embrace and honor it. 

Once we are aware of the impact each of us has on the environment, we can then take action to bring about change.  What we recognize is that everything in the universe is connected, that each of us cannot separate ourselves from the consequences of any of our thoughts or actions, no matter how inconsequential they may seem at the time. How many times have we dropped some trash on the ground, or threw a cigarette butt out the window, never to be thought of again? But if we are aware of the consequences of each of these small actions, we might well do something much different, and by doing so, be in integrity with ourselves and the law of the unity of life.

Nonviolence extends from our personal selves, not just to our brothers and sisters, but to the earth as well, to every living thing. When we act in a way that violates the unity of life by polluting the air, by wasting resources, by not paying attention to our actions, then we will find our health, our peace of mind, and our happiness seriously affected, just as the environment is affected.

Each of us make the final decisions about what is bought and sold in the stores, how much carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere and what is dumped into the lakes and rivers and ocean. Each of us can begin to heal the environment by changing our daily habits. As mentioned, this earthly environment is a reflection of our internal environment, specifically, the way we think affects the way we treat the earth. When we put our attention on our internal environment, when we are aware of our actions, we are not only making ourselves more secure and fulfilled and at peace, but we are also making an important contribution to the health of the environment.

Whether we are learning techniques to be at peace with our neighbors, or with the earth, the goal is the same - provide a world that works for all, developing an awareness and implementing strategies that enhance and protect our environment.  I can look at my attitude and actions about the environment and make changes, I can take responsibility for my footprint on the earth, because peace, and my environmental impact, begins with ME!




Peace Begins with ME!

- Leonard Ellis

November 22, 2016 marks the 53rd anniversary of the tragic assassination of John F Kennedy here in Dallas. The day and the events still bring tears to my eyes, although I find it no more horrific than the almost weekly shootings of police officers. You may ask – how does the assassination relate to seemingly senseless killings? It relates because each and every one of us contributes to the consciousness of our communities, to the consciousness of our planet. Yes, we are all connected, and what I do makes a difference, what you do makes a difference, and that is why I ask everyone who reads this to start promoting programs such as BePeace and Nonviolent Communications (NVC), insisting they be taught in all our schools. By doing so, we will be raising a generation of children who will know how to handle their anger issues, how to deal with conflict and perhaps - no, for sure - we will eliminate these senseless killings.

Reflecting on JFK's assassination and the seemingly endless, senseless killings, I find hope and wisdom in the words of John F Kennedy. I believe he was the last world leader who truly understood the importance of, and the power of, the individual. He recognized, honored and encouraged each person to take action and ownership of what happens in the world. In a June 1963 speech on disarmament titled "A Strategy Of Peace" (1) at American University, JFK said “. . . every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward – by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace . . . First: Examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable - that mankind is doomed - that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade - therefore, they can be solved by man. ”

To me, these words are empowering, inspiring, and hopeful. Can you imagine every person, every day, looking inward and examining her or his own attitude toward the peace? Can you imagine in every interaction, if people got in touch with what was alive for them, how they could bring about a peaceful resolution to any conflict? If we can imagine it (and YES we can!) then we can create it.

JFK continued this idea in a speech to the UN (2). He said “ . . peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people . . . let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”

And so the question becomes – What am I willing to do for peace? Am I willing to raise my voice, to speak up for justice? Am I willing to be a model for nonviolence in my community? Not just rail AGAINST violence or injustice or inequity, not just give lip-service that killing one another is deplorable, but to stand FOR a nonviolent community, to stand FOR justice and respect and tolerance and equality, to take action FOR a nonviolent world. Folks, it’s the only way I know – to get off my butt and get involved, do my part (and I hope you will, too!) because I absolutely know - Peace begins with ME!


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