Striving for Peace Within, and Throughout the World
Greetings lovely one,
I recently returned from my first spiritual retreat of the year. Feeling refreshed and renewed, I felt better prepared to be fully present with regard to what’s taking place around the world, including the zoomed-in personal narratives around world news. One of those rare moments of realization where “contemplation and action” became more than a catchy phrase to toss around – because people in similar healing and activism spaces were using the expression, if not actually living it out. I like this quote by Rashida KhanBey Miller:
“Self-care is not the practice we implement after we’ve been working ourselves into the ground, overextended, overworked and wrecked. This isn’t the time to say ‘Oh I need self-care’ … this time is now crisis management.”
I thought about those words and added contemplation to the mix because action without the contemplation piece is where trouble occurs: We often remember the contemplation piece in crisis management, but not as a preventative practice. For those of certain faith leanings, we read that even Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray (Luke 5:16) before giving sermons, feeding and healing people, and yeah, even turning over tables and disrupting systems.
I feel like the world has been teetering back and forth between crisis management and just downright crisis for a while and it’s so easy to get sucked into that. It’s too easy to feel the chaos of everything outside of the self, especially when you have vested energy into co-creating an equitable and sustainable world, one that respects the dignity of others whether or not they fit our definition of familiar and normal.
We are already restless and anxious. Some of us have lost loved ones and so we’re still grieving, we’re in times of transition that feel like deserts, swamplands, and misty foggy nights, we’re quitting jobs en masse. We’re outraged that the rights to claim our own bodies how we see fit is being taken away, we’re praying for respite from the destructive powers that seem to not care about people over their own wallets and inflated egos. It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. Yet our spiritual practices need not bypass that truth. Sometimes, in the midst of our ministries, our activism, our changemaking work, our writing the times while we’re thick in the eye of the storm … we have “bible in the trunk” days.
By referencing the Kendrick Lamar lyrics from untitled unmastered, F/friend, fellow Quaker minister and seminarian, Zae Illo affirmed the struggle with those “I feel like giving up/I feel stuck in this muck” moments experienced when our calls to higher purpose and deepening work feel burdensome. This reminded me of the stage that comes after action according to the transtheoretical model of behavior change: maintenance.
Sometimes after-action maintenance looks like resonating with rap music about the chaos all around and remembering that slice of peace I put in my trunk, rolled up after that yoga class, left at the altar of surrender in the wilderness I came down from hoping to be the change. That subtle reminder of the foundation and preparatory work I did before I opened the door, smacked by the reality of a world not so much at peace.
“There are some things within us that are far beneath the surface of our movements and our functioning that are unmindful not only in their presence but also of the quality of their influence on our decisions, our judgment, and our behavior. In the quietness we will their exposure before God, that they be lifted to the center of our focus, that we may know what they are and seek to deal with them in keeping with our health and our innermost wisdom. “ - Dr. Howard Thurman
And so, during my spiritual retreat, I kept coming back to my desire for peace; not only world peace, but peace within. If I am unable to fully realize a world at true peace in my own lifetime – one where nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4) – then I need to be at peace with who I am and what I was able to contribute when I (we as a nation) experienced times of stability, when I had enough in me to pour out to others as best I could in whatever ways I could, in terms of time, money, talent, gifts, etc. I could rest in knowing that my ancestors already laid groundwork for me to build on for the next generation and the next after that, and that I am already their dreams come true.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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