Matt Niswonger

Why peace is more important than ever

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.42.39 AMAfter my last editor’s note about communication an ASJ reader sent me a link to an interview that Oprah Winfrey did with Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn. They were discussing what he calls compassionate listening. Feeling moved, I really got for the first time in my life that listening could be a form of healing that passes from one person to another.

Watching Thich Nhat Hahn provided a key insight. Like many people, I often wrestle with a vague sense that something is wrong. Even while running or mountain biking or surfing – activities that generally make me feel peaceful – I sometimes catch myself thinking about the past or the future through the lens of “something is wrong.” As a result I am often not able to engage in compassionate listening with the important people in my life because I am preoccupied with an internal dialogue.

So what exactly is wrong? Why am I distracted and not 100% present for the people and the fun in my life? Recently I realized that through meditation – which for me means running, climbing, surfing, and mountain biking – I can distinguish my experience that something in my life is “wrong” and choose to be free by just letting go of the notion that something is wrong. What always follows is a sense of peace that allows me to come back to the present moment.

Right now it seems hard to let go of the feeling that something is wrong. After the attacks in Paris I have been feeling that the world is heading down a dark path.

In the practice of peace sometimes we have to let go of the idea that something is wrong even if there really is something wrong. It will be important to pursue ISIS and bring them to justice, but it will be more important to spread the values of compassion and peace throughout the world as we head into the holiday season.

The practice of peace is just that: a practice that requires rigor and commitment. This is what I understand from the work of Thich Nhat Hahn. There has to be people who work hard for peace because war almost seems like the default human condition.

One way to practice peace is to go outside and appreciate what a fine winter this is shaping up to be. With a series of cold winter storms rolling through California the table is set for the form of meditation that we have not enjoyed recently: copious powder to remind us of why we love skiing and snowboarding so much.

Having emerged from a couple of tough winters California’s ski resorts have successfully made it through the lean times with a commitment to providing the absolute best experience possible for skiers and riders. In our ski resorts speed dating feature we break down all the particulars to help you plan the absolute best snow experience possible depending on which resort is right for you.

Do you agree that outdoor sports can be a form of meditation? Can we give up that something is wrong and be 100% present for the people in our lives without feeling distracted? I hope so. Otherwise the terrorists have won and the cause of peace has lost. Feel free to drop me line at matt@

Thanks for reading!

— Matt Niswonger

Reflecting on peace, integrity and gratitude on a walk through Sierraville. Photo: Michele Lamelin

Reflecting on peace, integrity and gratitude on a walk through Sierraville. Photo: Michele Lamelin