In the last few weeks we have witnessed some of the most disturbing events in recent history. It's a challenging time to be alive. And it's a challenging time to stay steady, positive and open-hearted when there is so much hurt happening everywhere.
When times are tough, what do you do? How do you maintain your equanimity? How do you diffuse your frustration or anger? How do you calm your worry?
What helps me?
I go to the water's edge. (Today, I am at the library writing this, sitting overlooking Boardman Lake.) I stay away from crowded, noisy places. I honor my need to be still and reflect on what is happening around me and within me. I pray.
Lately, I go to short prayers. Organic prayers. "Help us." "Help me." "Please ease the pain of all those who are suffering." "May the heaviness in our hearts be lifted." "May we not lose faith or give up hope."
Sometimes, I pick up a book that contains beautiful prayers; prayers whose language is so universal, so openhearted and filled with love for the Divine that all my emotions pale and bow to the passion expressed by the poet.
Today, I am perusing God Makes the Rivers to Flow: Sacred Literature of the World, selected by Eknath Easwaran. If your thoughts are running wild or your emotions feel difficult to control, you may want to go to prayers/meditations like these to anchor your attention. And keep your heart open.
My new book, Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook is an equally valuable resource for staying steady in challenging times. It offers 52 original practices, one each week, to help you stay calm-bodied, clear-minded, and open-hearted no matter what is happening in your life. Or in the world!
Learn more and order your copy here.
I had someone unsubscribe from my e-mail list the other day saying my work was "flat, boring and irrelevant."
My main response to this unexpected missive was, "Really?" I'd been promoting my new book Portable Peace to my list. It's possible s/he had had enough e-mails about the book's release. It's also possible inner peace was not important to this person. Or that they thought peace was not even possible in today's world.
The timing of his/her comment was ironic. Just as the book was being published the Paris bombings occurred. More acts of terrorism ensued and I could feel a flood of fear begin to wash over the people I knew. I watched it surge through Facebook. I thought to myself, this is exactly why inner peace is so important.
The world is a crazy place, perhaps getting even crazier by the minute. I choose not to focus on the insanity in my postings or blogging because I believe that what we focus on expands. If we focus on fear of attack, we will become more fearful. If we worry that we or our loved ones might become victims of attack, we already are victims because that's how terrorism works. Terrorism is about instilling fear in an attempt to control the minds of others.
I choose, instead, to focus on "the good, right and true." I point myself (especially my thoughts and actions) toward what will help. What will uphold the values that we long to see more present in the world. Like peace and compassion and kindness.
If we want to "fight" terrorism, the best thing we can do is take control of our own thoughts and feelings. We must learn how to work with them skillfully so they do not run us—making us even more fearful, worried, anxious or sick. There is a deep well of calm within each of us. We just need to learn how to tap into that reservoir so it cools down our wild thoughts and fiery emotions.
It's imperative to know how to stay calm, wherever we are, no matter what is happening in our lives, or we will suffer immensely. We cannot let fear control us. Being run by fear is a terrible way to live.
The Buddha taught that peace in the world is absolutely possible and I believe this with all my heart. The peace we seek in the world begins with me. And with you. It has to. If we don't do our part to stay calm, clear and wise in the midst of adversity, all we are doing is contributing more suffering to the world. Peace is a matter of individual responsibility. Choosing it again and again all throughout the day is our path.
Inner peace practices are absolutely relevant—and completely necessary—for life in the real world. In fact, they might actually be more important now than ever before as our world community teeters on the edge of normalizing terrorism and offering warlike responses.
Staying calm may seem insignificant to some, but not when you put millions of equally calm people in one place. The results can be profound and game changing. I hope you will join me and make inner peace your priority, as it is mine. Breath by breath, choice by choice, we can create ripples, waves, of kind peace and change our lives as we currently know them.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.