Peace is the key to health
Is this the monument?!”
exclaimed a disappointed visitor after arriving at Dag Hammarskjöld’s ’place of meditation’ near the quiet farmhouse1 where the great man took refuge from his demanding work for world peace. Anyone who expects a grand monument in honour of the second Secretary General of the United Nations would feel let down:
On a slope overlooking the sea, a low stone wall surrounds an oval area. Off-centre, a rounded boulder. Letters that form word PAX are precisely cut into the stone. The top of the boulder has a hollow, as if made by a large thumb, and when rainwater collects in the hole, children try to make flowers grow in it. Nearby, a small herd of cows amble about, idly mowing the grass.
The same pared-down, almost bleak experience awaits visitors to the meditation room that Hammarskjöld designed for the United Nations building in New York: on one wall, an abstract mural, and in the middle of the floor, a massive block of iron ore. Dimmed light. You might feel: is that all?
But if you spend time at that meditation place by the sea, you will, after a while, start hearing and seeing in a new way. A new space opens up once the noise of traffic and the ringing of phones have faded away. Your beating pulse slows and your fluttering thoughts settle. A lark is ascending, singing. The deep notes of waves are sounding in the distance, where the sea merges with the horizon. You hear your own calm breathing. It is somehow consoling. Your shoulders relax and your mind fills with new lines of thought.
The crisp outline of the word PAX seems to pose you with a challenging question: how to find peace with yourself and with others? Silent solitude has been transformed into an equally silent sense of being one with the world.
“I feel the need to meet up with myself more often.” One of the people who use this website told us this. His insight is confirmed by research data indicating that self-awareness and inner harmony is critically important to good health.2
To be at peace with yourself is about accepting what you cannot change about yourself. And to stop feeling ashamed about how you have lived in the past. But, at the same time, it is about realising that there are new opportunities as well as responsibilities. One responsibility is constantly to ask yourself questions about how you can change your habits today in order to manage your health and your future.
Being at peace with yourself and with others is not easy. Remember, though: all peace processes begin with listening carefully.
How can you go about living more peacefully with yourself and with others?
1. Backåkra farm, Österlen, County Skåne, Sweden
2. Peterson C. Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. J. Positive Psychology, 2007. 2(3): 149–156