“Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.”
At a time when satellite coverage lets us see wars and violence all across the world – and social media lets us see the fear, anger and intolerance in so many hearts – this traditional holiday wish can seem hopelessly naive – or a cruel farce. The systems of power and human impulses that feed physical and emotional violence – on scales large and small – are so entrenched as to make a world that values humanity seem unimaginable, and efforts to promote it quixotic.
Even peace within families can be elusive, as personalities and priorities, pain, expectations and stress rub raw in the delicate dance of relationship – as each imperfectly seeks to hear and be heard, be supported in their struggles and triumphs, and find shelter from the demands of the world.
So for me – for now – it is enough to resolve to nurture peace in my own heart. Enough in that it is a sufficient challenge that I all too often fail to meet, and enough in the value it can bring to my family and my community.
Having a peaceful heart does not mean turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering, or not feeling anguish and grief. It means being able to see the world without flinching, knowing that what we see is the current iteration of the human condition – a replay of struggle, greed, injustice, violence and suffering that is as old as humankind, but that has always existing alongside it courage, nobility of spirit, self-sacrifice and love. By not giving ourselves over to trauma and despair, we can better understand the complexities before us, as well as ways in which our compassionate action might – in some small way – help.
In our day-to-day lives, having a peaceful heart better allows us to listen – which in itself can be a powerful gift and sometimes the best solution to a conflict. It gives us the space to consider situations before reacting and avoid fueling distress with our own intemperate words and actions. And when we must stand in disagreement or speak an unpopular truth, it allows us to find ways to do so with strength, clarity and compassion.
How can we nurture a peaceful heart? I wish I could speak with the confidence of someone who has achieved it. But I can offer that which I draw upon – wisdom from teachers throughout the ages:
Be generous with kindness, patience & forgiveness – for yourself and for others.
Care for yourself. Grant yourself the rest, the nourishment, the solitude and the companionship your body and spirit need. Let yourself savor a soft breeze – or beauty its infinite forms around us. Give yourself respite from the demands of life to create for yourself a space in which peace exists. You deserve it – and the world needs a “you” who is cared for.
And so my wish for you for the New Year is – Peace.
Comfort in your grief;
Hope when you despair;
Compassion and love in your moments of darkness.
With love always – Mary