We tend to think of peace as the absence of violence as quiet is the absence of noise, but is it more? Perhaps peace is active. It exists in the kind word offered, the refusal to meet hate with hate, the comfort of following higher principles, the strength of the outstretched hand. It is so easy to lose, to slip into mirroring the hate and violence we see around us, to sit silent in front of a bully, to trade barbs, to slide down. Peace is active. We maintain it in our hearts and mind. We breathe deeply to draw us back to that peaceful place. We remember truth, honor, decency, compassion. We breathe in all that is good, we exhale the bad.
Author Shauna Niequist talks about the anxiety we are all experiencing now and suggests breath prayer:
“Christians have been practicing breath prayer since at least the sixth century & there are lots of ways to do it. One way that’s been helping me lately: choose one word to pray as you inhale–what you’re asking God to bring into your life/body/spirit/world, and one word to exhale–what you’re asking God to carry for you, so that you can release it as you breathe out.
Inhale healing/exhale fear.
Inhale peace/exhale anxiety.
Inhale hope/exhale despair.
Inhale hope/exhale chaos.”
As you move forward into your day, remember to take deep breaths, center yourself, and carry on.
Would it surprise you to learn there are people in this world actively trying to make you unhappy? It’s their job. For others, stirring up discontent and friction between people might be an avocation. More like sport. And we, faced with people actively working to make us unhappy, have the choice about how we respond.
Some of those attempts to unsettle us may be fairly invisible. Consider this passage by Matt Haig in Reasons to Stay Alive:
Add to this list, all the media posts designed to separate people rather than bring them together, governmental warnings about the danger level designed to keep people in a state of fear, and the negative rhetoric coming from people living in a deeply divided world, and it’s hard to not be overwhelmed, let alone happy.
But seeing attempts to manipulate us by our emotions and fears for what they are helps us to not get played. Instead, of rushing right to a knee-jerk response, we can notice that a message is trying to get us angry, or sell us something, or to make us turn on our neighbors. That breath between stimulus and response is where we can bring our critical thinking skills to analyze what is before us rather than responding mindlessly to the attempted manipulation and just jumping right into the fray. We don’t have to play along. We don’t have to be angry or dissatisfied.