A Holiday Gift

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Disaster breaks hearts. And that’s an opportunity. If we can find some grace inside a loss, the heart grows back with even more flexibility and strength. It’s hard to believe, but our own heartache offers us the chance to share the greatest gift we can ever bestow on anyone: the gift of peace.

In a time when no one seems to know what to do, when so many well-intentioned people are becoming depleted and discouraged, maybe it’s time to change how we think. Nothing would be more welcome right now, than a peaceful world. But how can we expect people in dire circumstances to find peace if we can’t do it from our relatively comfortable positions?  Are you at ease right now? Most of us aren’t. Our minds are busy racing in and out of stories about family, work, finances and world news.  There’s no time to slowly enjoy a meal or sleep through the night, let alone be at peace. We are consumed with thought, waging emotional war on ourselves.

And what about helping others? If anger, retaliation and establishing controls were effective, we’d be feeling better. But we aren’t. New social challenges will continue to come up. Will we apply a band-aid to each one? Like that game we used to play as kids (whac-a- mole), every time we hit a problem with a hammer, another one is going to pop up. Will we buy more hammers? Bigger hammers?

There’s an alternative to this emotional slavery. Instead of reacting negatively to circumstances, we can learn to drop into a place inside ourselves where creativity and inspiration are born. Rather than scanning for problems, forming opinions or creating action plans, we can do something that actually helps us and the rest of the world, too. But the focus has to be inward. Everything happening on the outside begins on the inside.

I have to warn you, this idea doesn’t sound like much. It may seem useless or selfish – like it’s doing nothing at all. Maybe it’s why so few people even try.

Here it is. Once a day, for just a few minutes, do this:
Stop.
Be quiet.
Listen.
Listen with more than your ears, listen with your whole body. Listen with your knees.
Smile at the voice that says this is a waste of time and not doing enough.
And then listen some more.
Be gentle with your tender heart. Sit with it quietly and allow it to ache, if it does.
As if separated from them, watch your thoughts come. And then watch them go.

That’s it. Now you’re ready. When mental chatter is no longer captivating you, you’re ready to make a positive difference. Inside and out. Without having to understand how or why, things will change. Inside and out. This can take a little time and patience, but not much. What do we have to lose?

Suddenly, I’m eleven years old, sitting in music class in the church at my grade school. Sister Leonita is leading us in song. It feels like torture. The pew is too hard. I hate the hymn. I don’t understand it. Why do I need peace? I’m not at war with anyone. I’m a kid. And how could my finding peace have any impact on the world?

It’s taken awhile, but I think I’m finally getting it: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.