Peace, Be StillContention does not profit a people.
One simmering summer, I arrived at a retreat center expecting as a presenter to be given a private room. Instead I found I had been assigned a top bunk in a tiny, unairconditioned students’ room with three other women with an adjoining, mildewy bathroom. On the third day of the four-day teacher training course I was giving on virtues in religious education, I found myself intensely irritable and agitated. I felt like I was about to blow a fuse. Hardly the attitude of virtue I wanted to convey to students!
During a break between sessions, I fled to the dormitory to steal a moment’s peace. Thankfully it was empty. I stretched out on my bunk and asked, “God, help me to understand what is wrong with me. I feel so angry!” a gentle reply came: “All your senses are overloaded. And you have had no space for reflection.”
When the afternoon class was over, I opened the door of the main building to a blast of hot air and went to sit on a small bench in a grove of trees. I attempted to meditate, going down an inner path to a meadow where I normally met a holy figure who would give me whatever was needed. The heat was so intense I couldn’t concentrate. In my mind’s eye, the whole scene was scribbled over with a red marker. In despair, I started to get up to go back into the building but I saw Him beckon to me from behind the scribbles. I sat back down. He handed me a box of chocolates, waved His hand around in a grand gesture and smiled. The meditation ended abruptly. What it said to me was, “Share with them the sweetness of meditation.”
That evening I drove off in search of chocolate. The next day a woman from another course asked me, “What were you doing in your course today? I kept seeing people licking their fingers and wiping their eyes.”
-Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues.©1996
As an inspiring international speaker on the cultivation of personal and corporate virtues, character education, women's development and community healing, psychotherapist and organizational development consultant Linda Kavelin Popov is a charter member of the National Think Tank on Character for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is on the Advisory Editorial Board for the Spirituality and Ethics segment on CTV National News in Canada. In 2001 she received a Women of Distinction Award from the YW/YMCA. Her work is being applied in communities traumatized by student murders, in day-care centers, prisons and by diverse faith communities. She has been a guest on the Oprah Show and many other talk shows addressing strategies for transforming violence to virtues. She co-produced the television series Virtues: A Family Affair and has written the books and materials which form the core of The Virtues Project.
We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio and television to fill up the void . . . Even daydreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone . . . And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before . . . one is whole again . . .
--Anne Morrow Lindburgh
[The following is by guest author Peace Pilgrim. This is a brief summary of his philosophy on obtaining inner peace. I understand his use of the term “inharmony” to indicate a spiritual or emotional dissonance, as opposed to harmony of the same. Take some quiet time this week to consider these preparations, purifications and relinquishments, and how they apply to your life. Enjoy! - Michael]
1. Assume right attitude toward life
Stop being an escapist or a surface-liver as these attitudes can only cause inharmony in your life. Face life squarely and get down below the froth on its surface to discover its verities and realities. Solve the problems that life sets before you, and you will find that solving them contributes to your inner growth. Helping to solve collective problems contributes also to your growth, and these problems should never be avoided.
2. Live good beliefs.
The laws governing human conduct apply as rigidly as the law of gravity. Obedience to these laws pushes us toward harmony; disobedience pushes us toward inharmony. Since many of these laws are already common belief, you can begin by putting into practice all the good things you believe. No life can be in harmony unless belief and practice are in harmony.
3. Find your place in the Life Pattern.
You have a part in the scheme of things. What that part is you can know only from within yourself. You can seek it in receptive silence. You can begin to live in accordance with it by doing all the good things you are motivated toward and giving these things priority in your life over all the superficial things that customarily occupy human lives.
4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.
Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. Many lives are cluttered not only with unnecessary possessions but also with meaningless activities. Cluttered lives are out-of-harmony lives and require simplification. Wants and needs can become the same in a human life and, when this is accomplished, there will be a sense of harmony between inner and outer well-being. Such harmony is needful not only in the individual life but in the collective life too.
1. Purification of the bodily temple.
Are you free from all bad habits? In your diet do you stress the vital foods - the fruits, whole grains, vegetables and nuts? Do you get to bed early and get enough sleep? Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and contact with nature? If you can answer "Yes" to all of these questions, you have gone a long way toward purification of the bodily temple.
2. Purification of the thoughts.
It is not enough to do right things and say right things. You must also think right things. Positive thoughts can be powerful influences for good. Negative thoughts can make you physically ill. Be sure there is no unpeaceful situation between yourself and any other human being, for only when you have ceased to harbor unkind thoughts can you attain inner harmony.
3. Purification of the desires.
Since you are here to get yourself into harmony with the laws that govern human conduct and with your part in the scheme of things, your desires should be focused in this direction.
4. Purification of motives.
Obviously your motive should never be greed or self-seeking, or the wish for self-glorification, you shouldn't even have the selfish motive of attaining inner peace for yourself. To be of service to your fellow humans must be your motive before your life can come into harmony.
1. Relinquishment of self-will.
You have, or it's as though you have, two selves: the lower self that usually governs you selfishly, and the higher self which stands ready to use you gloriously. You must subordinate the lower self by refraining from doing the not-good things you are motivated toward, not suppressing them but transforming them so that the higher self can take over your life.
2. Relinquishment of the feeling of separateness.
All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all.
3. Relinquishment of attachments.
Only when you have relinquished all attachments can you be really free. Material things are here for use, and anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you. You can only live in harmony with your fellow humans if you have no feeling that you possess them, and therefore do not try to run their lives.
4. Relinquishment of all negative feelings.
Work on relinquishing negative feelings. If you live in the present moment, which is really the only moment you have to live, you will be less apt to worry. If you realize that those who do mean things are psychologically ill, your feelings of anger will turn to feelings of pity. If you recognize that all of your inner hurts are caused by your own wrong actions or your own wrong reactions or your own wrong inaction, then you will stop hurting yourself.