My goal for 2017 is to have more peace. What a year to choose that resolution! I crave inner peace and resist letting external circumstances affect my mood, my sense of safety, my blood pressure. When I draw from my center, I feel calm. But this year brings unique opportunities. It’s only January and I can see where the year is heading.
Now, more than ever, I wonder how I’m going to stay in balance in the midst of turmoil? Friends suggest limiting exposure to CNN, Facebook, or Fox News. This doesn’t feel right. Being informed is a value I hold dearer now than ever. So I have to ask myself: Can I tune in without freaking out? Can I be informed and not thrown off course? Can I hold my center in the middle of mayhem?
When life runs smoothly, the kids are thriving, the writing is flowing, the washer and dryer are working, the president seems mentally healthy, it’s easy to feel all is well on a personal level. When I look around and outer circumstances reflect my worldview, I have a larger sense of wellbeing. But what about when they don’t? The country and the world seem wildly off course. So how can I possibly experience inner peace?
Anyone who has dealt with personal struggle knows how hard it is to feel at peace when your home is not a peaceful place. As a parent, when I was in the depths of working with a struggling child, I realized that I would lose my mind if my inner wellbeing hinged on how his day went. It was hard not to let it. But it forced me to cultivate the peaceful “home” inside of myself. For me the path home was through writing. Writing became not only a way to ‘let it out’ but also a refuge from life’s storms. From that place, not only did I experience more inner serenity, I became a more peaceful parent. And, slowly, the calm inside our house grew, too.
Now, I have the opportunity to take that lesson and apply it in the larger context of world politics. My inner wellbeing can’t hinge on what I read or what I watch. I already know I will be a more effective advocate if I hold my center. Freaking out won’t help. A thoughtful, measured approach from a place of peace grounds me. It helps me dig beneath emotional upset to the place where authentic advocacy thrives. From that deepest place, the desire is simply for the best and highest good for all living things. This is a place of strength. And peace.
So where is this place? Once, when my oldest daughter was little, we sat down and drew our inner places of peace with colored markers. We gave each other gifts by drawing on each other’s papers. I drew a purple vase with pink and green flowers for her peaceful place. She drew an angel with yellow wings and a blue halo for mine. We taped the pictures onto the refrigerator. I’m sorry they are not still there.
But the peaceful place inside of me still exists. It’s timeless. Its existence does not depend on outer circumstances. When life runs smoothly, I may visit it less often. I may forget it’s there. I may even begin to think I feel calm because everything around me is going calmly. But, in truth, that is just a fluke. Sometimes life is even and then, suddenly, there’s an election and the world goes crazy. Not to mention, my personal life still marches on: my mom gets sick, the ceiling leaks, the dog throws up, homework is forgotten at home, bills have to be paid, the list is endless.
But my inner peace? It’s right where I left it. Inside.
When life feels like crashing waves, my first instinct is to become a grain of sand, tossed out to sea, thrown by the currents, and forced to shore, with no ability to self-regulate. I hate this feeling. Then, I remember there is another way. The inner room of peace beckons.
There are many paths to find your peace. Writing works for me. But, for many, the path includes yoga, meditation, reading, gardening, exercise, walking in nature, listening to music, etc. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it just matters that you go.
I often forget that my peace isn’t predicated on how anyone’s day goes or even the state of the nation. I am not a grain of sand at the mercy of the current. I can be present in my life, watch the news, read the paper, even ‘put my body where my beliefs are,’ and all the while, hold fast to my place of peace. I just have to remember to visit. Often. Now more than ever.