“You find peace, not by rearranging the circumstances of your life,
but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”
There’s that internal locus of control again
Well thank you, Eckhart Tolle. Frankly, there are an awful lot of circumstances of our lives at present that we are not able to rearrange. Those who have worked with me will be familiar with the phrase, “internal locus of control.” It is easy to lose any sense of peace, to lose hope and to find joy to be a distant stranger when we believe that any of those things depends on what’s going outside of us. When we focus on the things that are in our control, we come to a much better understanding of who we are, what we bring to the world, and how it all might fit together. That, is peace.
Peace on… where?
Many traditions offer messages of peace. It’s a Jewish thing, a Christian thing, a Muslim thing, a Hindi thing, a Pagan thing, a Humanistic thing… I think it’s fair to say it’s a human thing. The humans appear to be hungering deeply for it right now. I certainly am.
Peace can be a hard thing to find right now. Our COVID numbers are up in such a way that very few people can continue to think of them as simply numbers. They are our fathers, our husbands, our sisters, our aunts, our neighbors, our friends. Finding peace while we are grieving can be incredibly challenging.
I don’t know too many people who aren’t grieving right now. Some are grieving lost loved ones, some lost dreams, some a lost sense of stability and confidence in a sane-enough future. Most of us are grieving something, and holidays have a way of throwing it all in our faces.
Commercials scream “JOY! JOY! JOY!” at us. The demand magnifies the lack of joy we feel. Faith communities sing, “HOPE! HOPE! HOPE!” sometimes leaving us thinking that even the Divine doesn’t understand how much we are hurting. The songs around us can seem to drone on about this idea of peace on earth when it is the last thing we could take hold of right now.
It’s almost like the whole world is against us. Listening to my clients, family and friends, however, I think the whole world is with us. We are experiencing a trauma that is simultaneously global, national, local, familial and most personal. But we are all doing it differently, at the same time.
Grieving differently, together
If you have ever shared a loss in your family, you’ve probably been through something like this before on a smaller scale. When someone in a family passes away, everyone in the family and that person’s circle of friends experience a different loss. We each had a different relationship with the person, and we are each different people.
One person in that social unit might need time alone to sift through it all. Another may have an intense need for connection. One person may be working through grief by telling story after story about the person who is gone. For others, even the sound of the person’s name feels like barbed wire being scraped across their hearts. At different times, each person may take on any of these roles with needs unpredictably switching, without notice. Grief can be nervy, demanding and wily.
Now that the entire world is grieving, those grief expressions are also on the grand scale. The disconnects can likewise seem larger than life. Perfectly gentle and loving people are fighting urges to rip the sound system out of stores to make the HAPPYJOYHAPPY music stop. One faith-filled Jewish client told me that she had been especially grateful to set up her childrens’ menorahs for Hannukah this year because it gave her a sense of connection and momentary okay-ness while everything around them was feeling so very not ok. Her 12-year-old confided in her on the fourth night that he really just wanted to take a baseball bat to his lovingly placed menorah and go to bed.
Competing grief expressions.
Don’t be polite; Be respectful, loving, honest and kind.
Just as advise families who are grieving differently together, I want to encourage the global family as well: When someone, or some community, business, media outlet or whatever, is expressing their grief in a way that is making your grief more challenging, don’t be nice. Don’t suck it up. Don’t stuff your feelings so that you don’t “rock the boat” or “rain on someone’s parade.” When you harm yourself that way, you also cheat the community around you of an opportunity to grow and to learn, to become more thoughtful and collaborative.
See how “nice” can become un-loving, un-kind, un-thoughtful and enable unhealthy behavior? Yah. Don’t do that. In a respectful, kind, thoughtful and honest way, speak up when you can and/or remove yourself from harmful triggers even if it isn’t what would be socially expected. Being healthy is so much more important than conforming to social graces. After all, “social graces” were originally intended to promote the wellbeing of the community. So, let’s.
Snippets of peace
While the above suggestion might seem to be external locus of control, what it takes to get there is internal locus of control. We determine that our wellbeing is a priority. We make changes to take care of ourselves. Interestingly, when we do what’s healthy for ourselves, it is an opportunity for those around us to be healthier too. When we take responsibility for our emotional well-being, others are left to manage their own emotions. We can care about people without taking care of other people.
When we figure out that we have the ability to find and create our own peace internally, we no longer need things outside of us to be peaceful.
Peace in tumult
It is the oddest thing – even in the midst of pain and struggle, there can be moments of peace. Sometimes when we cry for a long period of time, or spend time with our anger, disappointment, rage, frustration, there comes a point where we are just too tired to stay in that mind state. Exhaustion can help us settle our bodies, regather, and for a moment, experience peace.
You might find a moment of peace in a single breath. You might find it in noticing some glimpse of natural beauty. It could be a snippet of music, the feel of a pet, a memory. Gather those moments of peace like pictures in a scrap book, and review them whenever you forget what peace can feel like. Putting your focus there, even for short periods of time, will change your body chemistry, giving you more of what you need for resilience and endurance and less of what you don’t need. Every movement that direction, however small or fleeting, does help.
Here comes the sun…
I am finishing up writing this blog on December 20, 2020. Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice – the shortest, darkest day of the year. Do you realize what that means? Slowly, imperceptibly, we are moving closer and closer to the sun, to (literally) brighter days, away from the time of darkness. Tiny little scraps of sunlight are combining and gaining volume, just like our “scrapbooks of peace.”
I have to tell you, even just typing that does something inside of me.
Those who have historically celebrated the Solstice honor the gifts of the darkness It can be hard to think of darkness as a gift when it has been laying over us like an oppressive blanket all year, but think about it: Seeds sit in the dark, gathering strength to grow and push through the dirt. Caterpillars work and struggle in darkness to grow wings. Humans multiply all of our little cells in a dark and hidden place, becoming who we are, getting ready to be born. Darkness is a place where we gather ourselves, where we build strength and become something new and amazing. It’s where we prove Eckhart Tolle’s right and learn who we are at the deepest levels.
Peace in the dark
The darkness we feel in the world right now tries to steal our peace. Like depression, it lies to us and tries to pretend that darkness, suffering and pain are all that exist. I’m challenging you to see it differently today. I’m challenging you to use the darkness around you and even inside of you as a kind of retreat where you can boldly explore who you are, what you want to keep and what you want to leave in 2020.
I also want to remind you that every single day most sincerely is getting longer and brighter from this point forward.
Gather your scraps of peace. Gather your deeper knowledge of who you are and what you bring to the world around you. Bring your best and leave the rest.
We need you.
Wishing you every scrap of peace you can wrap your heart around, today and always.
If you find yourself struggling to find any scraps of peace, please contact me here. I’ll do my best to connect you with resources that can help.