Peaceful Living (Joan Watson)

Clearly it is desirable for our overall health to maintain a peaceful existence. Living in peace, an outward and inward process, involves living harmoniously with yourself, others, and all beings around you. Unfortunately, a completely peaceful environment isn’t always likely in today’s world--stress finds us, accidents happen, diseases appear, relationships can be challenging, and social justice eludes us.

The resulting stress is a silent killer. Volumes of research support the claim that a stressful state of mind contributes to disease and illness. The following are a few common conditions stress is well known to aggravate: insomnia, depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, over-active sympathetic nervous system, diminished immune function, chronic pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndromes, and headaches.
Perhaps you have heard of the term “monkey mind,” originally coined by Zen Buddhist monks to describe a state of stress, worry, fear, doubt, and negativity chattering in our heads. The visual result -- many little, screeching monkeys running wild in your head causing your thoughts to bounce chaotically making it difficult or impossible to focus on attaining your goals. We all have experienced the confusing, distracting, exhausting, and defeating feelings associated with those monkeys.

However, the good news is, stress and our response to it is a parameter of our personal health/illness continuum that we absolutely can control by quieting our minds and feeling God’s presence. The resulting internal serenity, balance, and ultimate freedom allows us to let go of the stressors and move on.

The Way of Serenity, 2014, by Father Johnathan Morris is a practical roadmap to peace through the well-known Serenity Prayer:
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr

Morris’s premise is, if we can learn to turn over to God our fears, cares, worries, and stressors we cannot change, we become more effective in wisely managing those things we can and should do. Regardless of our circumstances, this book was designed to help us grow closer to God and thereby find serenity.

The Baby Boomer generation has been asserting the need for peace for more than 50 years, but living a peaceful life requires more than just conversation. Jesus teaches us to “love one another as ourselves.” Gandhi’s call to action is much quoted as, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” These messages are clear, and yet most of us struggle to find the perfect formula that will lead us toward peace in ourselves and the world.

There are countless references on the benefits of peace of mind and tranquility. Overall, when your mind is peaceful and you are one with your creator, you are not affected by what people think or say about you, and there is no restless, monkey mind. Also you are not influenced by daily difficulties and challenges, and you are able to maintain a sense of inner strength and calm.

Achieving inner peace takes practice, perseverance, and dedication to change. When you gain this skill, (it is a skill that can be learned!) you remain calm and in control of yourself and your mind, even in the midst of difficult life situations. There are many techniques people extoll to accomplish this goal: prayer, meditation, centering prayer, breath monitoring, yoga, visualization, affirmation, or merely sitting in complete silence for a few minutes every day.

As Christians prepare during Lent to celebrate the resurrection, let us employ prayer and silence to clear our minds of the monkeys so we may embrace the hope, grace, and peace that Easter generates. Peace is a gift from God for those who love Him and want to please Him. The closer we are to God, the more we will experience this peace.

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