We are all familiar with the lyrics of that old holiday tune “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” but with so much unrest, political debate, acts of terrorism, and war torn lands all around the globe and pumped into our homes via television news outlets, it’s sometimes hard to grasp the concept that anything we do, on an individual level, could affect any peace at all. In fact, we get so caught up in the discord around us that we start to feel helpless, hopeless, anxiety ridden, depressed, and fearful; adding to the divide between ourselves and our fellow humans.
During this time of year, as we talk about coming together, honoring traditions of old while celebrating with family and friends, the subject of ‘peace on earth’ peeks in through the decorations, carols, tv programs, and even the ugly Christmas sweaters read ‘peace’; in fact, we are reminded, during this season, of peace at almost every corner. But what does peace look like on an individual level? What does peace look like when cultivated in one’s personal practice?
It’s waking each day with gratitude. It’s breathing a bit deeper. It’s greeting strangers with a smile or holding the door for the person coming in behind you. It’s pausing before reacting. It’s being mindful of the feelings of not only those you love but those you hold in contempt. It’s releasing feelings of unworthiness, judgment, fear, and un-forgiveness. Peace looks like a calm ocean mirrored in the eyes of one who isn’t quick to anger. Peace looks like a mother proud of her children in the Christmas play. Peace looks like the kiss of two lovers under the mistletoe. Peace looks like the tiny fingers of an infant tightly gripped around your adult sized finger. Peace is ultimately an understanding and acceptance of the Love that governs all of the universe. Peace is extending that love to one another freely, gladly, and without hesitation.
If you find yourself in a situation this week, during the sometimes hectic rush to get all of the things done before the big holiday, I offer you a simple practice that can center you and welcome peace into your heart.
Try reciting the mantra (silently in your head) “Peace begins with me.” Touch your thumb to your index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and finally the little finger - each finger is assigned one word of the mantra. So ‘peace’ is the index finger, ‘begins’ is the middle finger, and so on.
Wherever you are, when feeling a bit overwhelmed, close your eyes and take a deep and slow inhale while reciting the mantra “peace, begins, with, me” and counting down each word with the fingers. On the exhale repeat the process. Do this several times or maybe one to two minutes until you feel the feeling of peace wash over you as you deepen and slow the breath down.
When you’ve finished you will feel a little more centered, calm, and indeed more at peace.