Peace has been on my mind a lot lately. Whenever we move into another holiday season, I think about how we can increase peace in the world, in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our families, and in our own hearts. Peace is something that transcends religion, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, or something else, or nothing else.
Peace on Earth is a deep desire of the heart. Our country has been through a challenging election season with much disagreement and anger and no matter what side you find yourself on, it seems peace has eluded us- at a national level, in conversations with family and friends, and most certainly on social media. For those of us who scroll through the Facebook feed on the daily, we see images of war, pain and suffering, and grief and loss throughout the world, and maybe not enough images of hope, love, nature, peace, and joy.
For those individuals in the eating disorder recovery process and their families and loved ones, peace may feel like a distant dream. In fact, our personal struggles, along with the turmoil we may feel going on in our communities or the suffering in the world, it can all start to feel like our lives are filled with the exact opposite of peace.
Some of the common things I hear from patients I work with that illuminate the feeling of being in opposition to a state of peace are:
· I’m not enough, or good enough
· Everything I do fails
· My relationships are broken
· I hate myself
· I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin
· I feel torn up inside
So, you can see from these shame-based statements, the need for peace is great for those journeying on the recovery path. Peace is essential for us globally and personally… and for me, it is something I notice I am craving as of late, craving on a deep-deep-deep level.
I crave peace in my body, in my mind, my soul, in my relationships, in my work, and for all of those around me, for my community, for my nation, for our world. It is a multi-dimensional and multi-layered craving.
I started thinking about ways to give this craving some hope of fulfillment, a way to taste peace, savor it, and some ideas for how those individuals in the recovery process can experience peace on the journey, and really taste it, savor it, digest it, and find the beautiful nourishment that peace can bring to our lives.
Here are five things I have found useful in a deeper exploration of my own peace-craving.
I encourage you to explore one or all of these in your own pursuit of peace.
The path to recovery is about learning new things, new ways of being in the world, new ways of being vulnerable, of getting our needs met, and connecting with others and ourselves.
I think (and deeply hope) that some of these things can help you with that process.
1. Challenge Gripping by Practicing Release: I recognize the sentiment and value in the idea of “let it go” or “don't worry!” but wow, something about those words also create a little irritation inside me. I realized that I was associating it with “giving up” so I think this idea needs a bit of clarification. Letting go doesn’t mean giving up- I now prefer to think about it as “releasing” or the opposite of gripping. This is about relaxing control. We don’t throw our hands up, say whatever, and walk away. Instead we release the idea that we can control what is going on and instead explore an inner openness to what is there in front of us and to what is possible.
2. Find Moments of Silence: I thought I was finding moments of silence, until I had a real encounter deep in nature with silence in its fullest expression. I encourage you to find moments to turn off the TV, put down the phone, stop the scrolling, and find silence. This may be in your house, but it may also be in nature. A walk listening to the crunching leaves, laying in freshly fallen snow, a hike outside of the city noise to hear the wind, the birds, and your own inner whisper.
3. Pick One Thing: We can sometimes get overwhelmed by all the things that feel like they are crashing down around us creating a wider and wider gap between us and peace. Simplification through mindfulness is a great antidote to this level of overwhelm. Through this practice, of picking just one thing, and focusing on it, with intention, we can start to narrow the gap between us and peace, bringing it closer to our reach.
4. Practice Peaceful Interactions: Peace isn’t just about happiness. It is about an inner state when things are not going as planned. When our therapist challenges us on something, when our family member gives us feedback, when we find out we didn’t get the promotion, or the grade we wanted, how do we respond? Can we actively invite peace into the interaction? We do this by pausing, breathing, thinking about our response, and only then do we respond, from a place of compassion and love, two qualities that I don’t think can be separated from peace. At the end of the day, ask yourself, how did I practice peace today? And what intention do I want to set for practicing peace tomorrow?
5. Meditate. And Meditate Again.: Meditation can connect us to peace and it can also help us generate inner peace, and increase our commitment to extend peace outward to our own communities. Meditation can focus our mind, bring us into stillness, and allow a deeper connection to life. This can be a prayer, a poem reading, lighting a candle and listening. The important thing is that we make a dedication to it, breath into it, and extend it out into the world from our personal practice, to a way of interacting, to a way of being, to a way of improving our relationships.
I want to leave you with something one of my favorite yoga teachers ends every class with: “Peace, for all beings, everywhere, no exceptions”.