At times, the world’s chaos may feel overpowering, especially when we are facing a stressful life situation. While we cannot always control outside circumstances, there are things we can do for ourselves to lessen our inner turmoil.
One piece of my mosaic is this blog. It is a simple thing. It is also a part of me that I share with you. Whatever your work in this world, don’t give up. Valuable fragments often come from ordinary, daily pursuits. No one can duplicate or replace your piece in this life.
Today, we understand that we are the mothers of children everywhere. We perceive holiness in the eyes of every newborn child. We resolve that reverence for all living beings is a necessary virtue for any leader. We insist on the protection of our animal friends who freely roam this planet. We decree love for our brothers and sisters calling across the winds for kindness, respect, tolerance, and compassion. We proclaim world peace. And we remember that the universal principle of our religious and spiritual practices must be love.
Many of us occasionally find ourselves overwhelmed with job demands, caring for aging parents, raising children, paying bills, dealing with health issues, or facing significant losses. During such challenges, serenity may seem like a far-off, distant planet. We know tranquility exists, but we don’t actually believe it’s feasible to visit (let alone live in) a place so alien to our current worldview. In turbulent life circumstances, we might doubt that inner peace is even possible.
Our cultural, race, religious, gender, and ethnic differences are not the enemies. The real enemies are: ignorance, greed, hate, fear, and prejudice. Alice Walker says, “I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.”
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” —Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible.” —Thich Nha't Hanh With all the world’s incessant noise and chatter, it can sometimes seem nearly impossible to find calm moments of peace. That loss of quiet reflection can feel even more pronounced in our current age of information overload via computers, smart phones, and other mobile devices. A calm inner state may be especially difficult to attain during the holiday season if you’re already feeling added stress or profound sadness. Peaceful moments, however, are available. Like the sun on a stormy, overcast day, we may not feel its presence. Yet, peace is always there. How do we find calm in times of chaos? Where is it during family strife or heartache? I’m one of those people who does better with lots of sunshine and not quite as well in the winter months. Living in the Midwest means I have to be much more intentional during the long dark days of winter to practice self-care, to slow down and rest, and to find ways to keep myself warm, cozy, and content. The same is true of my spiritual well being during stressful times. If I continually subject myself to an influx of negative information from multiple sources, I start to feel depleted. Taking time to fill my inner well—during the winter months, during the holidays, and during a crisis—is critical to my sense of calm. Here is what helps me: Stepping back. Breathing. Time alone in silence or prayer. Soft music. A walk. Inspirational readings. A catnap. Three deep breaths. Meditation. Writing. Time in nature. A cup of hot tea. Another deep breath. Peaceful moments are here. We may need to make small daily choices to seek them out. But when we do, it’s like walking through a gate. On the other side of all the mental churning and emotional upheaval, there is a place you can go for a moment of respite. That calm space is available to you whenever you need it—behind whatever else may be going on in your life—because it is within.
For me, taking some time for self-care, quietly breathing, and doing something that nourishes the soul allows space for inner calm to surface. Gratitude also helps. Whatever negative thing may be gnawing at your serenity, find one thing in your life for which you can say “thank you.” My gratitude today is for my circle of friends. When times get tough and the night seems long, they are like Carrie Newcomer’s Three Women song, “Here's to the women who bind the wounds tight … And here’s to the strength in women, holding hands.”
Perhaps in 2013 we can find ways to bring peace into our lives and create more peace in the larger world community. To do so, we might have to examine our emotional triggers. We may have to understand the conflict and anger within ourselves. We might need to listen to the suffering we have caused others. We may have to share our own sources of suffering. “Practicing nonviolence is first of all to become nonviolence. … This applies to problems of the family as well as to problems of society.”
At a recent event, Jill Bolte Taylor (author, Stroke of Insight), Sandy Sasso (Rabbi), and Carrie Newcomer (folk singer), shared their stories. They joined the stage in an effort to build community and embark on a public discourse regarding the human spirit. They asked, “What do we want our world to be?” and “How do we love the stranger, not just our neighbor?” and “If not now, when?” They spoke of embracing cultural, religious, political, gender, ethnic, and racial differences. How do we do so? We can start by telling our stories. We can listen to the stories of others. We can recognize the collective whole.