Crying Peace When There is No Peace
We live in a world where peace is elusive and difficult to find.
Our world is one of conflict and aggression, full of wars and rumors of wars. We hear news several times each day about how someone is pushing someone else around. Even when we get together and try to work things out, our efforts often end in pain and grievance and frustration.
It feels like those of us who want peace are powerless to make it happen, while those of us who use force will stop at nothing.
Some of us can become frustrated with people who pray for peace. They believe praying and reflecting is a waste of time when we need to be out working to make things happen.
Each of us needs to make our own decisions about putting ourselves on the line to peacefully resolve conflicts. Some of us are called to use our bodies to stop tanks, while others are not.
It is easy for us to assume we are not asked to put ourselves at risk, or make any real changes, to support peace.
The monks I know are praying for peace. They are not only praying for the peaceful resolution of conflicts between armies or countries, and between individuals. What they seek is more than solving conflicts without bloodshed.
They believe the conflicts between us grow our of the conflicts within us. Our lives are full of strife because we do not know how to find peace within ourselves.
We pay attention to conflict and strife, and rumors of war draw us more deeply into argument and frustration. They are so loud in our minds and hearts we cannot remember the power of sacred stillness.
It is easy for us to lose track of spiritual life working in us.
Paying Attention to Peace
We become accustomed to living in a world of aggression and conflict. Some of us believe the only way to get what we deserve, our fair share, is to intimidate other people. It is easy for us to assume we need to act in accordance with the way the world works.
When we focus our attention on wars and rumors of wars they begin to shape our attitudes and behavior. We grow more comfortable with aggression, and often become more aggressive.
If we pay attention to peace we become more comfortable with acting peacefully. We appreciate peace in the sacred stillness within us and in the world all around us.
Many of us find ourselves reflecting and sharing peace with people around us. We become instruments of peace in the world.
I am not prescribing specific solutions to particular problems and situations. Taking time to reflect and listen will not solve all our problems. We will, though, over time, become more peaceful people.
When we pay attention to peace we gain insights into how it works. We begin to see its power and adaptability. Our first reactions change from aggression to sharing peace.
While it is not easy and it takes time, we gradually grow into the rhythms of grace and peace.
We learn how spiritual life lives and works in us, and through us in the world.
It grows in us as we grow into more peaceful people. We practice regularly paying attention to it and it grows within us, shaping who we are becoming.
Like the monks I know, we start to recognize there is more to peace than we have noticed before. It is not merely avoiding conflict, but a calm balance which holds us and our lives together.
Peace Which Passes Understanding
We are paying attention in a new way.
Our practice is not about becoming experts or mastering special knowledge about peace. We are learning how to open ourselves and allow it to embrace us in its arms.
It is not about analyzing and applying peace in the world. We listen and pay attention, and are transformed in ways beyond our understanding.
The calm balance seeks us and embraces us even when we have forgotten how it feels. It is beyond our abilities to analyze and measure it. We forget how we found it and where to return to it.
It is easy for us to get caught up in the struggle to find the right balance and disregard the calm it gives us.
Many of us put all our time and energy in trying to understand. We fail to appreciate how balanced our peace can be.
While we may learn lessons from other people’s experience, they cannot give us the peace we seek. We find it on our own, often when we stop struggling, stop searching, strop trying.
It is a challenge for us to recognize the calm balance which has been waiting patiently for us all along.
Sharing Peace In the World
Some of us want to share peace with other people as aggressively as we can. We believe it is important and feel it is urgent. It may be the most significant thing we can share with anyone, and we want them to know it.
People may not appreciate it when we are tempted to try to force it down their throat. It indicates we may not have learned as much about peace as we think we have.
We need to take time to practice acting peacefully. The world has taught us about force and aggression, but we need to learn how to act peacefully.
Each of us must find our own way to live peacefully. We cannot require anyone else to follow our path, but need to help them follow their own.
Some of us assume it would be easier, or quicker, to put it all in a checklist or a chart. We could then measure and assess our progress.
It is not for us to prescribe how other people receive or share peace.
How will we recognize the peace within us today?
When will we share peace in our world this week?
[Image by frankieleon]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.