Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 2: Peace

I came home today after another full day at work and made myself a salad. It was then that I remembered my commitment to write and that tonight I was to write about peace. Suddenly I felt a need to shop. "It won't take long", I thought. "I'll just run into the Target up the street, pick up a couple of things..."

Seduced by the air conditioning on this warm and muggy evening, I found myself wandering about, searching for items of little significance and feeling undecided about what to buy. I finally left with my new stapler and a small tube of hand lotion.

As I was finishing up my purchase, I reflected on whether some part of me had thought that I could find peace in the cool world of retail newness. I knew that no conscious part of me would endorse that belief - but it hardly seemed a coincidence that I suddenly needed the stapler tonight.

The true gift, however, came when I emerged from the building and beheld a sky that had been painted bright shades of pink and orange in my absence. In that sky of setting sun, I was being offered another view at "peace", one that I could not so easily run from.

In my work as psychologist, people come to me in their anguish, crying out, "I just want some peace...", with tears often following. And I know what they mean. Of course, I can never fully know or understand another's pain, but I do know what it is like to feel a great turmoil within. One part of me will make a simple decision - only for another part of me to castigate myself for being so selfish (or whatever the fault-of-the-month may be). Then another part of me will try to reason with the harsh part of me and it can go on and on. If I allow it.

As I gaze upon the image above, I consider that this lovely flower has no turmoil. It lives in simple communion with its Creator, not striving to be anything more than what it is, not judging itself negatively for what it is not. It is simply being itself. If someone were to approach this flower and point out its flaws, real or imagined, the flower would continue its flowerly functions without dismay. Peace is in its nature and it cannot be otherwise.

However, you and I are not like the flowers. Peace within us and peace between us often seems elusive at best. As I reflect on this, it occurs to me how very fragmented we are, in our own minds and hearts, as well as in our species. In our selves, we often seem to be in a state of tension, with one part of self criticizing or negating another part of self. Some of us may experience this severely, with self fragmenting early in life because of abuse or other trauma. But probably most if not all of us experience some lack of wholeness in ourselves that keeps us from knowing peace.

Within our species, with its many cultures, we are also fragmented. We do not see ourselves as connected to one another, with our different colors and textures woven together into a single beautiful tapestry. Instead, we tend to see our own little patch of fabric as the real one, with the other patches in the quilt of necessity (called Earth) barely tolerated. We do not have to look across the world to find that the threads that bind us together are stretched to breaking. We may only have to look to the person in the car next to us in traffic or to the neighbor across the street.

How then can we ever find peace? Can our fragmented selves ever become whole? Is our species doomed to extinguish itself as we tear our "quilt" apart?

There is, of course, no simple answer. However, perhaps we can learn something from our friend, the flower. It is, after all, living in pure communion with itself and its Creator. As I gaze upon its image once more, not just with my eyes but from my heart, I see a truth. Though only one flower, I see that it has many petals. At first glance, they may all seem the same. But closer observation shows me that each petal is unique, perhaps a slightly different length or shape or hue. And each has one end that is free and unbound by the others. And each has one end drawn to a center of oneness. It is whole. It is holy.

Join me in allowing this image to enter your heart... May you know peace always, a living, growing peace that starts in this moment and never ends.

(If you would like to share your reflections in narrative, image or poetry, please e-mail me as outlined in the introduction to this 7 day series here.)