December 16, 2017 at 9:35 AM Leave a comment

I had a dear friend who had studied ballet. We were dancing once, and he spun me around. It was immediately obvious that I became dizzy. He told me the dancers’ trick for staying steady while your head is spinning: you need a fixed point on which to concentrate and with which to ground yourself on each rotation. He pointed to a wall hanging. “Look at that,” he suggested. “Every time you twirl back around, fix your gaze on that one item. Your insides will be moving, but the focus on something immovable will keep you oriented and calm.”

Another time a friend took me flying in a small plane. As we took off, I felt a wave of nausea. I groped for the door handle. He quickly said, “Look at the horizon.” I focused front and center. “Don’t look at the other planes as we move away from them or at the objects on the ground getting smaller. Keep your awareness centered on the fixed point where earth and sky meet. That isn’t going to change.”

These two lessons are wonderful visualizations and metaphors for attaining peace. We have to focus on something immoveable, not on the chaos within us as we spin or the chaos without as the world spins around us. Spin we will. Life is never static and we are constantly trying to find our equilibrium as those we love are born or die, as we move from small to big, from innocent to jaded, from student to employee, from single person to family person, from robust health to illnesses and addictions, from calm, steady people to nervous wrecks as our plans and agendas come crashing over our heads. The exterior world spins, too, as technology changes faster than we can adapt, as financial markets collapse, threatening our security, as countries elect saints and idiots to run them, as species become extinct, as the globe warms, and as passions and loves and friends we thought were stable slip away.

Peace will never be ours as long as we are thrown off-balance by concentrating on things that change, like bank accounts and the boss’ mood. For peace of mind we have to accept life “as is” without absorbing the movement of change. We need to observe and acknowledge, the boss is a bear today, without giving in to catastrophizing what that might mean: he knows something we don’t, like the business is shutting down, or he is getting ready to fire me.  How about the reality: he’s in a bad mood. That’s his mood. It belongs to him. Not me.

“I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” is one of my favorite hymns. Have you ever wondered why the image of a river is often used to describe peace? ‘Peace washes over me’ is another descriptive phrase about peace.

Picture a river. It Looks peaceful and placid, moving so slowly that movement is often imperceptible. On the surface the water looks flat, solid, steady. Much may be happening under the surface — the trout and the monkfish may be feuding, the snakes and snails may be relocating, a million new tadpoles may be showing up, but none of that is apparent to the naked eye.

The river reflects what passes by but is unchanged by it. You may see the moon in the river, but the river never absorbs the moon. The moon stays true to its path and the river flows on. Same with the birds flying over, the boats plowing through, even the reflections the people on the boats see which make it look like buildings and trees are “in” the river.

The river is endless and deep. The water moves past and more water immediately takes its place. Moment after day after month after year after generation, that deep, old man river, just keeps rolling along.

I ate supper at a marina one evening, and my friends and I watched boat after boat disturb the water, but moments later the river had regained its calmness. The river, our peace, may be moved by the traffic — whether from events or emotions — but peace will prevail.

We all know peaceful people and we all know people who seem never to have enjoyed a peaceful moment in their lives. Anxious people, people constantly churned by the fear of the future, rather than the trust of that old man river, enjoy no peace. Until they find their fixed point, their immoveable horizon, they are bashed and battered by every internal and external alteration.

At this time of the year, we are all waiting for peace, just as we’re waiting for love and happiness. None of these illusive emotions are seeking us. We have to seek and savor them. Oh, we may have instants and instances where peace “washes over us,” like the sight of the stars last night in the cold, clear sky. I could swear I could see other galaxies last night when I looked up — I could see forever. It was a peaceful space. Standing at a crib, listening to one of my sons breathing his sweet, infant breaths was another unforgettable peaceful time. But those are circumstantial and fleeting, as precious as they are.

Our challenge is to center and ground ourselves day in and night out, and day out and night in. What is the fixed focal point which will allow us to bobble like the weebles and regain our balance every time? What is the immoveable horizon where your earth meets your sky? This is, of course, the work of a lifetime. This is our soul work. We’re off to a good start because we are living consciously, living with eyes wide open, realizing we desire love and happiness and peace. We are willing to seek and receive every approximation until our hearts and souls and minds and bodies rest in that river.

See if you can guess what we’re going to talk about on December 23rd. Bless you each and grant you magical, mystical, majestic moments — Susan


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