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Excerpted from The Tao of Inner Peace by Diane Dreher. Copyright © 2000 by Diane Dreher. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Most people are still at war with themselves and one another."

  Diane Dreher
The Tao of Inner Peace
, Part 1

How did you begin your search for peace? I began mine with political activism in the sixties. My college friends and I marched, protested, and worked for social change. For a while, I felt personally empowered by the protests. We saw ourselves on the evening news and felt we were making a difference. In time our country even pulled out of Vietnam. But by the mid-seventies, most of us were exhausted and disillusioned. Placing all our hopes in some distant cause, we had ignored our personal needs. Many of us even wondered who we were.

So we plunged into the human potential movement, seeking solace in encounter groups, hot tubs, bodywork, and a colorful procession of gurus. The Maharishi, Maharaji, Bhagwan, and Werner Erhard all sold their own brands of inner peace. Blocking out the conflict around me, I went from Gestalt groups to gurus to physical therapies. Hundreds of classes, workshops, and self-help books later, I was a certified massage practitioner, teaching yoga at a holistic health center in northern California. I got my Ph.D. in English and began my career in college teaching. My friends and I tried very hard to be peaceful. But something was missing. The conflict remained.

Most people are still at war with themselves and one another. We run through days of competition, confrontation, and mounting frustration, driven by the fear that we're "not good enough." At home and on the job, our lives are filled with stress. Our economy is troubled, our future uncertain, and the divorce rate has never been higher. Caught in a struggle between our ideals and grim necessity, we wrestle with the contradiction between what we are and what we "should" be. We live in the richest nation in the world, yet we are chronically insecure and defensive. Every day assaults us with new crises and conflicts on the evening news.

My personal search led to the Tao Te Ching, which offers a simple yet comprehensive vision of personal and planetary peace. In the Tao inner and outer peace are intrinsically related, as we are related to everything in our world.

Instead of waiting for the right guru or political leader to bring us the answer, the Tao asks us to take responsibility for our lives, to follow its path of action and contemplation. Through a shift of attitude, we can begin to experience greater peace right now. By seeing the larger patterns, we can take effective action, moving beyond competition to cooperation, harmonizing with the natural principles underlying all existence from the smallest cell to the largest social organism.

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