Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

This song, written by Sy Miller and his wife Jill Jackson, has been one of my favorites for decades. (View full lyrics here.) Unlike other popular music, I don’t recall when I became aware of it, but I do remember sitting at the piano playing it over and over again in the seventies.

Let peace begin with me ... That was a thrilling thought, even forty years ago, but the only way I knew to bring it about was “turning the other cheek.” My understanding of turning the other cheek was limited conceding and stuffing my rage to achieve a sort of unilateral cease-fire. Quite predictably, this often led to war-like eruptions later, not the peace I sought.

As time has passed, I’ve come to realize that there is a different sort of peace — an inner peace that involves looking at life and people differently. It involves a shift in perspective and a willingness to look at things from things from the point of view of people who irritate me. It involves giving others the same freedom to be quirky or eccentric (in my view) as I hope they’ll accord me. It involves realizing that at any given moment, other people are doing the very best they know how, the same as I do, and if it seems otherwise, that just means they don’t fully understand what they “ought” to know.

In short, it involves compassion, pure and simple.

Please don’t think I’m claiming I’ve achieved perfect control of my thoughts. Not so! If anything, I’ve become more aware of inner turmoil. The good news is that although I’m aware of it, it does arise less often and resolves sooner. By my own critical measures I have made progress.

The one tool I’ve found most helpful for becoming more peaceful is writing. Journaling  helps me focus on feelings and distill them to their essence. Memoir makes sense of them, fitting them together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to form a larger picture of life that sizzles with color and meaning. As I write, I’m reminded to explore other points of view, to look for other ways to explain things. After years of this exercise, that’s becoming more natural and easier to do on the fly, as thoughts occur.

People have always sought peace, but with each passing month and year, we come closer to the point where we must either learn to live in peace right now, or Planet Earth will become uninhabitable. It is no longer an option. By writing about our angry, warring thoughts and calming our own hearts, we contribute to calming those around us, and ultimately all of mankind. You’ll be reading more about specific tools for “peace writing” in future posts.
Let peace begin with me. By writing about it, I hope it will also spread to thee.

Write now: jot down some thoughts about your understanding of personal peace. What do you feel like when you are peaceful? What keeps you from feeling peaceful? What changes in you or others are needed to make your life more peaceful? Don’t try to make any changes or explain anything. Just write about how things are for you now.

Photo credit: Mary Anne Enriquez

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