International Day of Peace is a day established by the United Nations to strengthen and focus on the ideals of peace and to encourage non-violence throughout the world. This year’s theme centers on recovery for a more equitable and sustainable planet.
In this post, I offer books that center on connecting our daily lives and habits to the world around us, which makes them perfect for the International Day of Peace. All of them also highlight the importance and value of finding peace inside of ourselves, so we can build a more harmonious existence. This list includes books that I, as a parent, have found helpful, as well as books my children use to encourage their own meditation practice and understanding of peace.
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Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
When I first read Being Peace, I was struggling with the “big question” of what to do with my life. I sought to discover what my “purpose” was. I felt uncomfortable finding my place as a peacemaker in the world, while also feeling drawn to such a calling.
This book underscores that being a voice and a presence for peace is all-encompassing. It can be done every day from anywhere. The book’s message reminds the reader that changing the world begins first with ourselves. All of our actions matter. Every interaction with another person is an opportunity to foster peace, mindfulness, and compassion instead of anger, resentment, frustration, hate. As a parent, my ability to “be peace” affects my children. If I can focus each day on being peace, I will model this for my children. I will be mindful of my thoughts, actions and attitudes, and this makes me a better parent.
“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh
Another Thich Nhat Hanh book, True Love, brought me a new understanding of fostering peace in my relationships with others, like my life partner. But it also encouraged internal understanding and kindness. This book helped me on my journey toward fully loving and accepting myself. There are traits I am not proud of. I carry deep hurts and sometimes this pain creates limitations. But, Thich Nhat Hanh’s nurturing words foster healing. For example, he writes “When the mother hears her baby crying, she puts down whatever she has in her hands, she goes into its room, and takes the baby in her arms….The mother does not know yet what is the matter…but the fact that she has it in her arms already gives her child some relief.”
He offers this example to encourage readers to engage with their feelings in this same way. Instead of burying them or pushing them aside, we should pick up our jealousy, our anger, our resentment and hold it, recognize it. This allows for release.
I’ve used this practice to help my sons work through their emotions. When my oldest son was 3, he was full of anger. Additionally, he often needed to defy me. My initial reaction was to demand that he stop. I wanted to shut down his feelings. However, this response actually escalated his anger. So, I tried a different approach. I accepted his feelings, but focused on helping him manage them. I encouraged him to tell me he was angry with me. Soon, rather than hitting me, he would run at me and give me a big bear hug. Then, we would embrace until his anger dissipated.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
This book offers insight on moving through the grieving process. It is also a book of healing when faced with difficult times. Like True Love, it reminds me to create space for my emotions. Likewise, it encourages me to create space for my children’s emotions, as well. We must honor our feelings, even the painful ones. So often, we want to shield our children from pain and sorrow, but this is impossible. Instead, we can help them navigate their feelings. We can be there for them when they fall apart. As a parent, sometimes I am falling part. I am grieving for a world that confounds me and fills me with sorrow. Chödrön reminds to channel that feeling into action as I seek to foster care and compassion in the world. Through this, I can be a force for good. I can “be peace.”
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chödrön
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
My youngest son loves the four pebbles meditation presented in this simple book. We actually don’t own the book. But, we’ve checked it out of the library so often in the past that we now know the meditative practice without even having it! The act of passing the stones from one hand to the other and contemplating different things is calming for my son. Often, children find meditation hard or intimidating because they think they have to be absolutely still and keep their eyes closed, but meditation is the act of quieting your mind. Helping children understand that meditation is a focused practice in which they quiet their mind and pay close attention to one simple thing makes meditation accessible. This book offers children, especially young children, an entry point into meditating.
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh
This is another book my sons love. Now that my youngest son is 10, he appreciates this book a bit more than the pebbles one. What we love is that it comes with a CD. It is perfect for relaxing at the end of the day while listening to the songs or guided meditations. Often, we use the CD more than the book. The book improved my understanding of leading meditation for children and encouraging a meditative practice within the household.
The Mindfulness Room by Amanda Loraine Lynch
This book is a perfect introductory book to the concept of meditation and body awareness for young children. A great read-aloud, children get to walk like a dinosaur and breath like a chicken as they focus on their bodies. The book also includes a Mindfulness Room set of ABCs, a useful tool for expanding children’s interest and understanding around mindfulness and meditation. The Mindfulness Room author Amanda Loraine Lynch was a guest on the Brown Mama Blueprint Podcast discussing Mindfulness and the Pandemic.
Flora, Fabric and Fauna of Callen: A Five Nation Coloring Book from Tumble Creek Press
This coloring book offers lovely, detailed drawings, including several mandalas, that both adults and children will enjoy. Coloring can be a useful meditative tool for individuals, young and old, who benefit from a slightly more active form of meditation. Coloring books have seen a renaissance of sorts in recent years, largely because of the calming effect they have on users. Through mindful coloring, people can focus on the colors they are using and the details in the drawings to achieve deep presence, which is a central aspect of mindfulness and meditation.
Take a moment today, on International Peace Day, and every day (if you can), to sit quietly and be present to the moment at hand. Perhaps one of these books can help. Or, perhaps you can sit with a handful of pebbles (or any other items) that facilitate slowing down, focusing on your breath, and finding your peaceful place in the world.
Please share the best books and mindfulness practices that work for you. We’d love to hear about them.
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