“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work; it means to be in the midst of those places and still be calm in your heart.”~Unknown
For most of the days of April, I read these words from an unknown author on the calendar that graces a door where I do most of my morning ‘getting ready’ ritual. Getting ready for work. Getting ready to enter a new day. Getting ready to be surrounded by the noise that creeps in, surrounds and fills any available space, often sucking air from the rational mind, the tender spirit and the vulnerable heart. Reading these words nearly every day I hoped for the wisdom of them to sink in and become the calmness it proclaims.
Like many, I am troubled by the harshness that seems to have become our daily bread, a harshness that seems to have no home for peace of any kind. The divisive nature of our community life, our political life, our church life…our life. Each day I vow to try to make sense of it. To soften my heart. To put judgment aside. To turn the noise of it into a peaceful way of being. My success rate has been negligible. Even as I listen to less and less news on the radio and watch less and less on television, the clashing and banging creeps in on social media and in conversations I overhear. The din of it is often overwhelming.
When I was the parent of young children, I learned a very important lesson…lots of lessons really…but this one seems to bear on this peace I am seeking. When our boys were having a ‘melt down’ and were crying or upset, if I allowed my own anxiety to elevate until I was melting down either inwardly or outwardly, it only made the situation worse. But if I could find a calm place within, if I could breathe deeply into the Stillness, it seemed to allow the space for my child to calm himself, something I could not do for him. It was not always easy. I wanted to fix it. Stop it. Have it be over! I have witnessed this playing out on planes with an inconsolable child. If the parent is calm, the child almost always settles down quite quickly. If the parent gives into the anxiety, there is almost always a melt down of biblical proportions.
What to do? I am not naive enough to believe there will ever come a time without trouble or threat of hard work. The very act of living, of traveling the planet with other human beings, teaches us that we each have such unique and different lenses with which to glimpse the world. It is both gift and challenge. And the reality is that the chaos of trouble often gives rise to our most creative work, work that is hard yet can lead to surprising results. I am saying these things to convince myself of any truth there might be in these words. I am saying these things to help create a space where peace might find room to snuggle in.
Today I sat in my backyard and watched a baby rabbit move slowly, contemplatively like a yogi. Nearby a chipmunk darted and dashed gathering who knows what. Over head the songs of birds wafted in the air creating a soundtrack for the unfolding color of flowers and the greening promise of summer. I was reminded of the Wendell Berry poem entitled ‘The Peace of Wild Things’.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things…….
This poem seems to call to that place I could often find as a parent. In a world that may seem to be having a ‘melt down’, the peace of the wild things can call us to an inner connection with the Stillness that moves through us and all Creation. Perhaps that calmness of heart I so long for can be touched by not only turning off the news but by spending more time observing those wild things who continue to live out their lives without words. Perhaps that calmness of heart can be glimpsed in the spare words of the poet. For today, it is worth a try.