Play the Peace Game…

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We are in the traditional holiday season, and whether you celebrate these holidays or not, you are sure to feel the energy – the “hustle bustle” as people sometimes caught up in a frenzy of commercialism, parties, and appearances.

But of course this isn’t the origin of the season. The origins of these holidays have more to do with “peace, joy, and goodwill to all.” More about being your best, most giving, loving self. And yet sometimes, I think it can be the hardest time to find these parts of ourselves.

When we get so caught up with commitments, both actual and self imposed, we sometimes get frantic and stressed, far from that peaceful, loving self.

So, what can we do to find that better part of ourselves in all this chaos? Begin by pausing regularly, and noticing your surroundings in that moment. Make one commitment to yourself, to stop, breathe in, a few times each day. As you do, take in the moment. Where am I right now? How am I feeling? Can I let go of thinking of past or future for just a moment?

As Eckhart Tolle says, becoming aware of the present moment and accepting it as it is, slows down the overactive mind. And the overactive mind leads us to shallow breathing, and to putting stress hormones into our bodies. Deep breathing and letting go of our overactive mind accesses the body’s natural ability to release calming hormones into the body.

Perhaps you find yourself waiting in line, waiting to mail something or purchase something. Or maybe you are stopped in traffic. Take a deep breath in, and check out your surroundings. Do you hear the people around you? Maybe it is a bit crazed. But you, for this moment, can be still. Just observe. Imagine a large circle around you and noticing what is in the circle. The sights, sounds, smells, energy, all of it. Now do it again for a smaller circle, noticing the area just around you. And now, encircle yourself only. Listen to your breath. Notice how your body feels. Are you standing, sitting in a position that supports your body? Are you slumped over or sitting/standing tall? Perhaps think about why that is. And do you want to change it?

When you do this, you are calming the waters, so to speak. I think of it like this; each person creates energy ripples or waves, like in a lake, as they walk around and interact with each other on this planet. Are you aware of your ripple effect? Are you stressed, frantic, and unaware of how this affects those around you? That is often where I find myself. And sometimes the waves I am creating are not only unpleasant for those around me, but even destructive – just ask those I live with! The thing is, when I take time to pause more often, the waters stay calmer and that is better for all those around me.

So the first step is to stop periodically and check in. Calm the waters, and take charge of the ripples I am putting out into the world.

This can all be done in a moment. You can center yourself, still yourself for that moment. Then breathe in deep again, and start the ripple – the movement of the water again. With clarity and purpose. With awareness. And I believe the affect can be huge.

If we are peaceful, if we are happy,

we can blossom like a flower,

and everyone in our family,

our entire society,

will benefit from, our peace.

 Thich Nhat Hanh
Being Peace

 And so, I invite you to play the peace game this holiday season. There are two parts – play one, none, or both.

1 – Pick a number of times that you will stop each day and breathe in, take in your surroundings, calm yourself briefly, and then proceed with your day. I leave the number up to you. At the end of each day check in and see how you did, noticing only, not judging that you did well or poorly. Just noticing. And then the next day, start again with the same number or different. And keep noticing. Give yourself pointers – a note at your desk that says present moment, or a gentle bell alarm on your phone. Whatever works for you and keeps it fun.

2 – Consider a retreat – or a treat – as Thich Nhat Hanh describes below.

From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax, to be peaceful,

we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness,

when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend,

enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.

This is not a retreat, it is a treat. During walking meditation, during

kitchen and garden work, during sitting meditation, all day

long, we can practice smiling. At first you may find it difficult to

smile, and we have to think about why. Smiling means that we

are ourselves, that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we

are not drowned in forgetfulness. This kind of smile can be seen

on the faces of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

 What would happen if we took time like this, a day, in the middle of the holidays? We might not get all those things done. But how much of the doing is about appearances anyway? About what others think?

Maybe if we chose to pause instead, we could find that smile that can be seen on the faces of Buddhas and bodhisattvas on our own faces.

And imagine what the ripple effect might be.

One of my favorite songs when I sang with a choir was Let There Be Peace On Earth, and here my favorite verse –

Let peace begin with me

Let this be the moment now.

With every step I take

Let this be my solemn vow.

To take each moment

And live each moment

With peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

And so if you feel inspired, play the peace game. If you want some accountability, tell someone about it and play it together. Keep it light – be easy on yourselves. It’s a game, remember. And have a happy, peaceful joyful holiday season. What a great way to end your year and prime the pump for 2015!

Sunset Bettingen


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