How peaceful are you feeling? After all, peace is the theme of the holiday season. And serenity is commonly championed in Twelve Step programs. Shouldn’t peace be showing up everywhere these days?
If seasonal serenity is eluding you, I invite you to join me in taking a fresh look at the word peace. Let’s consider what its letters could stand for that might induce a more peaceful state.
P = Possibility and Passion
The first “P” word that comes to my mind is possibility. When I’m not feeling serene, it’s often because I think there is only one answer – or no answer at all – to a problem. Then it’s easy to slip into panic or despair. But it’s rare that problems are intractable. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, I like to ask, “What’s possible?”
I couldn’t find my hearing aid the other day and was sure I’d lost it in my car. After a thorough but futile search of the vehicle by both me and a friend, I was increasingly aware of the high cost of a replacement. Sheepishly, I asked my son to also conduct a car search, thinking, “Just maybe…” Within moments he returned with the hearing aid in hand. A fresh look (or fresh looker) often reveals a solution.
Another “P” word I like is passion. I can be pretty content if I know what I’m passionate about and keep my attention there, instead of on my problems. I’m passionate about simplicity, for example, and prefer low-keyed holiday activities. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of buying, decorating and disposing of a Christmas. So I hang my Christmas decorations on a pretty room divider. It is made of bamboo, not pine, but it looks strikingly beautiful and brings me great joy. Decorating it has become a simple family ritual that I enjoy with my son and his family. What are you passionate about these days? How can you go about creating what you want in a peaceful manner?
“E” is for empty. I know, that doesn’t sound exciting. But consider, is your life way too full? Oddly, both excessive activity and possessions can also leave us feeling empty at the end of the day. I just went through my bookshelves and donated over 100 books to a charity sale. I’ll admit I also bought a few at the sale. But still I’m enjoying the open spaces in my shelving, and my life feels less crowded. I also just bought some clothing at a thrift store but donated more than I bought.
With gift giving season at hand, it may be time to get rid of, as well as, acquire things. Our “stuff” crowds our homes and our minds. Not much peace in that.
A = Ache
“A” is for ache. Sometimes we overcrowd our lives to cover up our pain. What is your ache? Wanting more closeness to the important people in your life? Missing some dear ones no longer with you? Longing for the courage to change directions? Maybe it’s time to befriend this achy nudging. Our bodies often reveal an inner state of distress in the form of an illness, a muscle strain, a heavy heart, lethargy, cravings or digestive discomfort.
I like to take extended time to hang out with whatever area in my body is aching for attention. Sustained, curious, non-expectant awareness of this area can be quite revealing. Words and images may come to mind. Some kind of movement or shift in sensation may happen. Often, feelings are stirred. I allow my ache to have its say, without trying to make it go away. With compassion, I ask what it needs and become willing to supply that.
The more often I do this process, the more my body reveals. A sense of trust builds, leading to new understandings, integration and freedom. Peace and well-being settle in.
C = Caring
“C” is for caring. I know of no better way to find peace of mind than through service. When I give with genuine care, feelings of peace and joy are natural outcomes. This is true on the personal level and also on the macro. When TV news seems anything but peaceful, I find no serenity in being fearful or ignoring what’s happening. But when I take some step to address the problems, I move closer to finding peace of mind. Whether I make a call to a legislator, donate to a group I believe in, or join in a public action, I know I’m doing my share to bring about a better world. I “change the things I can,” as the Serenity Prayer says.
E = Easy
The final “E” in PEACE is for easy. When the path ahead looks daunting, I like to ask, “How can this be easy?”
One thing I’ve noticed is that most everything in small bites is easy to swallow. So I try to break it down into things I can do, one at a time. This fall I bemoaned how dirty my windows were. How would I get them washed since I have limited strength these days? They’re heavy to take out and put back in, and I was sure I couldn’t manage cleaning 16 heavy windows. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to wash 16 windows at one time. Doing one or two a day would get the job done within a couple weeks, and I had enough strength for these short spurts. “Easy does it” makes everything easier.
Peace is more than the word for the season. It’s an inner state of mind we can all cultivate through following simple principles, such as those offered by your faith community or by the Twelve Step program. May your passion, possibilities, emptying, aching, caring, and easeful choices bring you peace one day at a time.
Pat Samples is a writer and a facilitator for creative aging, spiritual growth, and