How can I find peace right now?
Ah, peace. Sitting at my table, trying to rest my voice before tonight’s Book of Hours Workshop, I found it after choosing to see things differently.
Cradling a sick child while dodging arrows hurled at me by my son, I chose not to get worked up. As my husband and I began to bicker about the best way to get to the bank as I started running late for my workshop, I stopped.
Each time I took a deep breath and rested my voice.
In that moment, I chose peace.
Yes these are small moments. But here’s where the practice lies. Here’s where the most important work happens. If you choose peace in these instances over and over again, then you will be ready to tackle the bigger stuff. It is in the everyday and the ordinary where peace lies ready for us to receive it. It is the choosing to be silent and listen when it’s so easy to keep talking.
How much is our peace worth to have that last word? Can I let go of expectations and have faith that there is always enough, that I am fully supported, and that I am now equipped to give to others and to work on shortening the gap between my reactions and my awareness of peace, love, abundance? I don’t have the answers but I do know that some days it’s easier while other days it’s harder.
We get together with other homeschooling families once a week for a “learning day.” In the morning, the older kids do their independent lesson work together and in the afternoon, all of the kids work on a group project. We worked on a play in the early fall and for the last month or so we have explored this very theme – peace. By working with the kids, I have tried to break down what peace means and why it’s so difficult to maintain on a personal level and on a bigger scale.
In our group, I introduced an exercise. Each child has a piece of paper and a few crayons. They are not allowed to look at each other’s paper. I call out simple drawing instructions: “Draw a circle in the middle of the page.” “Draw 5 lines.” “Draw your favourite thing in nature.” “Draw 2 hearts in the corner.” etc. etc. After I finish calling out instructions, we all gather and compare our drawings. The kids love seeing how differently they interpret a very simple instruction. Some circles are small. Some are big. Some are coloured in. Without explaining too much, I am trying to get them to see how we all see things differently. We can understand concepts differently depending on where we come from and on the stories that make up who we are.
We elaborated on this exercise the following week. The kids broke off into pairs and sat back to back so each person couldn’t see what the other was drawing. One person had to do a simple drawing with shapes. The person who did the drawing now had to describe in detail their drawing so that the other person could draw the exact same thing without looking at it. The person who was listening could also ask questions to get more details like “How big is the circle?” or “Where on the page should I draw the line?” Then they compared their drawings to see if the one person was able to re-create the picture without looking at it.
It was interesting to note that some children found it more difficult to listen while others found it more difficult to articulate what was going on in their picture. I asked them to imagine what would happen if you tried to define right and wrong or good and bad. What if peace eluded people because they just couldn’t articulate their needs due to language or cultural barriers and what if the other side wouldn’t validate them or listen to them because of those barriers?
Maybe I’m not ending wars by my decisions to forgive or my choices to let go being right. After airing my grievances, can I really move on and let things go? Can I choose to fully engage in life and find peace amidst the chaos and as the storm rages on around me? Sometimes setting the intention to see peace instead of whatever conflict is arising inside of me is all I can do. It give me a space between breaths to rest even if I don’t choose peace at that moment. What it does do is slowly soften the edge. It gives me wiggle room to phone a friend for some advice or some laughs (or both) and I gain perspective.
I can always choose again.
And sometimes I choose peace as I rip up my holiday to-do list that has been giving me anxiety and glue it into my Book of Hours upside down and paint over it.