Today we’re talking about pursuing peace, and it is a pursuit. It doesn’t come naturally for most of us, or in most circumstances. We must actively seek it out.
I want to do something different today. I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to write down your answer quickly as soon as you read the question. So get a piece of paper and a pen. And let’s begin our Q&A!
And please make sure you write down an answer. It’s important that you write your first reaction to the question. Take a moment or two to give your answer. And then, I’ll make some comments.
A Course in Miracles, which is my spiritual discipline, says this about peace: we say we want peace but to say it is nothing. To mean it is everything! Meaning it is not just doing lip service to a concept, but actually engendering that peace in your life.
Are you able to reserve judgment when speaking to someone who has a difference of opinion and listen patiently or do you tend to make a snap decision about who this person is, and then shut down and not continue listening to what s/he is saying, or rush in with your own opinion?
(Write down your answer)
Be honest. This is not about finding fault with yourself. This is about inner exploration because if you don’t know yourself, you can’t make changes for your own growth or applaud the things about yourself that are working well. This is not about feeling guilty but just being honest with what the truth of the matter is for yourself. Reserving judgment of others will greatly stimulate your spirit and bring you peace.
Are you clear on your core values; what you believe is true for yourself and how you interact in the world? Do you know what your values are? Write down a couple of them.
Of course, the opposite of knowing your values is that you’ve never thought about what your values are! Or perhaps you are conflicted about your core values. This is indicated when you say one thing and then do another. St. Paul recognized he had that problem. He said, “I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Rom 7:15
I’m sure we find ourselves in that conflicted place at times. But don’t go into denial and say, “Oh, I never do that.” Or beat yourself up: “What’s the matter with me? Why did I do that?”
That is not the point here. Rather, can you notice your discordant thoughts, and then make a decision to change your mind because you are not peaceful?
Are you committed to a cause that benefits the needy, whoever those needy may be?
The needy aren’t necessarily people living in the streets. They could be people who need your expertise, in whatever way that you can serve your community. Are you, in other words, honoring your own expertise and sharing that with the people who could benefit from it?
Of course, you may also choose to donate to a local or international charity. There are so many organizations that do incredible work that you can support. I give to local food banks, especially at the holidays. I also love to support Heifer International which works to eradicate poverty by supplying poor women with animals they learn to raise and breed for sale.
Are you saying, “I can’t afford it?”
Do you go to Starbucks and get a $3.50 latte every morning? Do you go shopping on Fridays after work to soothe your soul and buy a new pair of shoes or some apparel? Let’s be real here.
Do you commune with nature and/or the arts in some fashion regularly?
And when I say the arts I don’t necessarily mean music or dance or the opera. The arts can include the ancient arts: animal husbandry, carpentry, gardening, stargazing, etc. They all necessitate creativity and are wonderful artistic endeavors. Everybody’s garden is different. If you came to my garden, you’d see my landscape but if you went to somebody else’s garden, it would look entirely different.
Peace comes when we allow ourselves to be in tune with nature, with things that are beautiful, with things that are living. Our spirit revels in those experiences and the mind becomes calm.
Do you take care of your body by eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise? Give examples.
You can’t be peaceful if your body isn’t feeling good. And if you’re not supplying it good nutrition and proper rest, your body will let you know! (But you have to be listening.)
It’s so easy to say, “I know I should eat well.” (This is getting back to our core values, right?) But do you find yourself stopping at the local Chick Fil A on the way home from work because you’re too tired to cook? Nurturing your body is a shortcut to stimulating your spirit!
Do you have hope? Do you have a positive outlook on life?
Negativity is the opposite of peace. You can’t be peaceful and complaining and worried all the time. There’s no peace in that. Stimulating your spirit will help you to develop a positive nature, a sense of hope in life, even in the darkest of times, like you may be experiencing now. It may seem like you’re standing on shifting sands but there’s always another way to view a situation so that you see peace instead of grief. I always have hope because I focus on the light rather than the dark.
Do you accept death as part of life?
In other words, are you willing to recognize that nothing stays the same forever here in this world?
That can be a good thing if you’re suffering. Somehow you’ll find an answer. If you’re listening to your guidance, you will find a solution, and the suffering will end. And this also applies when you are having a great time doing something or a project at work is successfully completed. And then you’re faced with a new daunting task.
I mentioned acceptance of death because recently I was talking to someone who has been mourning the loss of a loved one as so many are these days. We’re losing a lot of people.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross said there are steps in the mourning process, and we need to go through them. It is crucial to your well-being to mourn the loss of a loved one but there does come a time when grieving needs to end so you can get on with your life. To be alive is to share who you are with the people around you.
In Jodi Picoult’s novel, Leaving Time, she tells a story about a mother elephant whose calf dies. She covers the body and then stands over her dead infant and mourns for 24 hours. 24 hours in a constant state of mourning. And then she moves on. Now I’m not suggesting we should mourn for 24 hours. What I am saying is that it comes to an end. And we go on with life. Because there are others who need us.
When you remember that you’re needed, you can get past your sadness and loss, a little more each day.
Do you spend quiet time, every day, with an open mind, listening for guidance from your inner wisdom?
Peace doesn’t just happen. Do you treat it like your fanciest garment which you reserve for special occasions only? To stimulate your spirit, you must choose peace. And you will only choose peace by being in a preparatory frame of mind to allow it.
How many of these questions rang a bell and caused you to say yes, I really don’t allow myself to commune with nature often. I do feel kind of negative and annoyed a good deal of the time. Or, I leap out of bed in the morning and zip into my day and don’t spend any quiet time getting prepared. These are the kinds of things that will make a huge difference and bring you the peace that you say you want. But you have to be willing to do something to gain that peace.
Peace is an acquired skill. It takes time to develop. By spending quiet time, every day, in what I call ‘meditative contemplation,’ you build your peace muscle.
So if you’re anxious, if you’re worried, if you’re hyperventilating over some issue, there’s no room for peace in your mind. You cannot accept it, you will not allow it into consciousness. Therefore, it’s really important that you prepare yourself for peace. And that is what your morning quiet time will do for you. It sets you up for the day so that you can feel good. You can go into your day feeling needed and peaceful and prepared. On the rare occasion that I don’t do my morning quiet time for some reason, I miss it as much as if I left home without my cellphone!
Please allow yourself to let these questions sink in. Reflect on your answers. Now you have some guidelines. Start with one thing and work on it daily. A good habit takes at least 21 days (or probably more) to really let it settle and stay with you. Give yourself a chance! What have you got to lose but your stress!
Remember, it’s not about feeling guilty that you don’t do these things. Rather, say, “Ah, now I see that there are things that I can do to encourage peace in my life!”
Stimulate your spirit by pursuing peace.
Love and Peace Always,
In my new book, Calm, Creative, Joyful: Lessons in Transforming Your Life, you will acquire abilities you didn’t know you had, to transform the thoughts that hurt so that your life becomes a play of endless opportunities for success and happiness.
Available on Amazon.
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