Peace in our prisons

I’m amazed that even after all these years of sharing my peace message, that peace still seems to be, for some people, a distant and unattainable concept. Most people believe that peace is something that only happens on a global level, something brought about by our leaders or political treaties. In truth, peace is a choice that every individual must choose. It is also the most important choice one will ever make. If we choose peace, we will contribute to the peace of the entire world. Yes, that’s right.
We live on a beautiful planet which, in one way or another, we are harming every day. No one knows if there is still time to save it. But I do know this: If we are going to save it, the only way will be through our most valuable asset — our inner peace. After many trips around the world, I know we all have more in common than we think. We all share a common goal to find peace, happiness, freedom and love every day of our lives. This transcends all religions, races and nationalities. It is what unites us and makes us all a family.
On a visit to one of the largest men’s prisons in the city of Bogota, Colombia, I had a revealing experience. I knew I was going to show up and share a chat with the prisoners, j ustgive a small talk. Sometimes you don’t know what exactly is going to happen until you show up. You have to be flexible.
I remember walking in, and after a long wait, and going through many levels of strict security, I realized that I was being taken to the central courtyard of the prison. Yes, right in the middle of the recreation area — the center of all activity. No auditorium. No conference room. And no barriers. I’ll be honest. In the beginning, fear showed up, which was fortunately replaced by the “letting go” and “trusting” that accompanies me at all times. We were immediately directed to a corner where there were a table, a chair and a microphone. I sat down and looked out into the large courtyard as dozens of men slowly approached in silence, but with sublime respect. They were there to listen to what I had to tell them.
My team, who accompanied me, can attest to the prisoner’s attention, warmth and emotion, and how eager they were to squeeze the most out of each word I had to say. They wanted to take my message of peace and make it their own — transformed into their own voices. I was with them for more than an hour, and at one point there was an interruption for a normal count process. As they were going, they asked me not to leave and said they would return soon. More of them came back, asked questions, and shared experiences. True and lasting peace comes when we stop trying to convince others of our point of view. When we realize that we are all different, but at the same time equal, and the only thing that separates us is our decisions, as well as our inability to find peace. The common denominator every time I visit a prison is that inmates tell me that’s where they found inner peace and connected with spirituality.
There are no victims in this world, but only people responsible for their own decisions. For some, this may sound harsh. When I say this to my audiences, I can occasionally see eyes opening with surprise and even indignation. But I am convinced that challenges are really opportunities to correct mistakes, learn, grow and become better people.
Moment by moment, you have the choice to change, to be happy, to be at peace, and to take responsibility for what happens in your life. Ho’oponopono, the ancient Hawaiian art, made me realize that everything in our lives is merely the memories replaying in our subconscious mind that attract what happens in our everyday life. This idea was liberating for me and transformed my life completely.
Today, I realize that peace is always in front of us. We just have to reach for it.
I knew this truth when I presented my peace project at the United Nations in Vienna, as well as during my encounter with the Pope. And I know this truth every time I visit a prison or a school, or give a seminar, or walk the streets of the many cities in the world I visit each year.
Peace is close and waiting for each and every one of us — regardless of how rich or poor we may be, or where we were born, or the religion we follow. Whether we are behind bars or walking the streets free. Peace is our birthright.
Let go and don’t let your opinions and judgments control you. There’s nobody out there doing anything wrong to you. Don’t take things personally, and always try to accept, respect and live without judgment. Peace begins with you.
We all have the same free choice.
The moment we choose peace, we go back to zero. We become happy people. And the good thing is, happiness and peace are contagious.
When you turn on the light for yourself, the light turns on for everyone.
Inner peace is world peace.

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