Yearning for Peace

It is a deep privilege in my life to listen to the stories of many people. Although my own life may seem quiet and hidden at times, I sit at the front row seat of many others through spiritual direction, retreat work, and the many programs I am a part of through the work of soul care.

In listening to hundreds of individuals and the many stories of each of these people, there are some common themes that arise. One of these themes is the longing for peace and tranquility. There is a sense that when peace will come, well-being will be known. I can hear the longing for peace externally as well as internally.
Some are waiting or yearning for peace in a relationship, a vocation, or in the wider community. I hear comments such as, ‘When so-and-so stops doing this or that, then peace will come.” Or something to that effect. The implication is that the surrounding circumstances are impacting my peace of mind.

front garden area

Others are desiring to respond peacefully in the midst of turmoil and chaotic times. Questions of how to be a peacemaker or to bring peace are questions of longing and discernment. Desire to be calm and a person of wisdom is a beautiful yearning, but it can over-step an important internal process.

Both desires, to have a peaceful internal or external environment and to be a person of peace, are noble in and of themselves. However, inner and outer peace or a peaceful response cannot happen through the choice of the will, they emerge through a process of the heart.

I discovered a word a while ago that I have come to love: circumambulation. To circumambulate means to walk around something. Circumambulation means looking at something from all directions, to walk around and get full perspective. This takes time and intentionality. This takes effort and invites us into a posture of curiosity rather than quickly solving a problem, which is usually how we try to attain peace.

The journey towards peace is often a bit of a mess, a journey of circumambulation towards another or a situation through understanding, letting go, relinquishing power, and perhaps allowing things to be what they are, and not as we hoped they would be.

When I am struggling with a lost sense of peace, it is like a red flag calling for an internal time out. What is being evoked in me? What is a longing, a yearning, a frustration that has been poked? Where am I attached to an outcome that is out of my control? How is my sense of peace attached to another person or circumstance? It can be hard to turn towards oneself in times of upheaval, but that is often the invitation.

I see the internal life like a garden that needs regular maintenance and attention. Even if one has developed a beautiful interior landscape, there are squirrels!! Recently, I found some unexpected plants in my garden. I discovered that there are three walnut trees growing in my yard through the donations of a neighbourhood squirrel. I will need to take these lovely trees elsewhere as there will not be room for them to fully develop here. But it was another reminder to me of how the garden needs care and how things will unexpectedly come into our lives without our planning.

Another image that has been helpful to me has been the waves of the ocean in a time of storm. What was a smooth surface can be erupted into chaotic waves. And so, with our lives, the still, peaceful waters can be turned into a wild storm. It is helpful to name these waves at times, allowing a truth-telling of what is causing the sense of disruption. Anxiety, fear, anger, loss, can all create inner turmoil.

The invitation is to do a deep dive underneath the waves – to find an internal space that is still, quiet. This requires attending to our inner lives with gentleness and kindness. Most of us are hard critics of ourselves and don’t give ourselves the time of day, but we all need to be listened to. We all have valid reasons for the fear and confusion we may feel.

Under the reaction to life’s circumstances, we can listen to Wisdom. We can drop underneath our reactivity and discover elements within that may need attending – sorrow, longing, grief, fear. It is when we attend to these tender places within that the peace we were yearning for may gently emerge. Peace is not a choice of the will, it is a response to Wisdom, which is available to us when we pause and listen.

“A garden is a profound outer symbol of the interior journey of the soul. Caring for a garden can be a profound teacher of how to tend the inner life and can offer wisdom for how we see the ebb and flow of personal growth.” P173

“Rest allows us, when we pause and listen, to receive deep provision for our lives, like roots being energized from the wellspring under the ground. When we understand the value of this kind of rest, we will be hungry to pause, so that we can receive the wisdom we need for the next step.”p195

Quotes from Pause, A Year of Soulful Meditation

Even now, right here as you read this text, you can stop.  Breathe.  Notice what is happening internally.  Allow.  Honour your feelings with kindness and compassion.  Listen.  Notice.  Receive wisdom for the next step.  The issue or problem may take much time, but you can know provision for this particular moment, insight for the next step.

May we be people who pause, who listen, who respond with kindness – who carry peace.

If you desire to be accompanied through spiritual direction or take part in a course that can help you deepen practices of stillness, listening, and tending your inner garden, please contact the team working with me here.

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