Is it Time for an Inner Cease-Fire?

Is it Time for an Inner Cease-Fire? May 6, 2016

Recently my husband and I saw the movie Barbershop: The Next Cut, which explores the social issues around gang violence in the south side of Chicago.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.
Photo courtesy of YouTube.

At the heart of the story is a 48-hour cease-fire, an agreement between warring gang lords (negotiated by Calvin, the barbershop’s owner, played by Ice Cube, above) to put down the guns for one weekend so the neighborhood can go through two days without a shooting. The barbershop then becomes the safe space, neutral ground, a south-side-Chicago Switzerland.

The idea of cease-fire also came up last month when I attended a conference for A Course in Miracles, organized by the Community Miracles Center. James Twyman, one of the presenters, recounted his recent visit to Syria, where he and other spiritual leaders offered Christian, Judaic and Islamic prayers.

When they arrived at the appointed spot, Twyman said, an impromptu cease-fire occurred.

“Hours before we arrived, a battle raged just beneath where we stood,” he said. “Bombs exploded and guns fired at the bottom of the hill just beyond the security fence. It seemed that we were up against more than we anticipated, but then something incredible happened. It was as if the war stopped while we joined together as one. The battle simply ceased, and remained that way through the entire meditation.”

Clearly cease-fire is a powerful concept. The idea of saying no to violence for a period of time lets the conflict rest, of course. But it might also shine a light, as it did in Barbershop, on the futility of the fight.

One of the most famous examples of this is the Christmas Truce of 1914, when warring British and German soldiers set down their arms for a week and exchanged holiday messages, sang carols, buried their dead and even played football together.

Like everything in this world, the idea of a cease-fire originates in the same place as the fight: in our own minds.

Our higher mind remembers who we are as a child of Divine love, while our ego mind constantly acts and reacts from fear.

The higher mind isn’t in conflict with the ego, because it’s not in conflict with anything. It just is.

The ego mind, however, is in constant conflict with itself and everything else, because conflict is its very nature.

Anger, annoyance, guilt, remorse, judgment…the ego’s vocabulary is an entire dictionary of fear-based emotions and thoughts. It can run rampant with little urging. It can convince us that we’re right to live with an undercurrent of worry or anxiety. And it feeds on the conflict in this clanging world, where we’re bombarded every day with warring words about politics or  terrorism—or even the local Little League game.

So what if you announced a cease-fire in your own mind? Maybe 24 hours. Or 24 minutes. What if, during that period, you commited to inner peace, naming your intention for what it is? Cease-fire. You’d be addressing the ego directly and saying, “Stop. No more.”

If you choose to do this, start by holding a media moratorium. Turn off the TV, computer, tablet, phone and other devices so you’re not swept away by combative words, images and plot lines.

Pay attention to the thoughts that draw you into a position of attack or defense with others, and with yourself.

Then shift your focus to the examples of beauty, kindness and compassion that are all around you.

This is not denial. It’s choice.

Your cease-fire may be impermanent and imperfect, just as truces are in the “real” world.  The fighting continues in Syria, as it did during World War I.

And in the Barbershop story, one young man was shot and killed during the weekend truce. But instead of folding, as they were temped to do, the Barbershop peace activists renewed their resolve and carried out their 48-hour commitment, spreading their message and influence with greater reach and clarity.

Like them, we get to choose whether to engage in the battle or call a truce. And contrary to what we’re taught, fear will lead to more fear. Peace will nourish more peace.

It’s worth doing, if for no other reason than to give your mind a rest. And who knows? Your inner cease-fire might be the first step toward a deep and lasting armistice, turning a temporary truce into your own private Switzerland.

Debra Engle is the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need. You can find her on Facebook and at

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