Creating Inner Peace in a Troubled World

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
― Etty Hillesum

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were all able to work towards inner peace to such a degree that it resulted in global peace? It seems too far-fetched to imagine, yet still we must continue to strive to find that place within ourselves, as Etty Hillesum did in the midst of the holocaust. Etty was determined not to let hatred take over her soul, and to learn to see the beauty that remained.

I am learning to let go of hatred and to instead focus on love. I am learning that love is free, and hate always comes at a price. It takes precious energy to hate, investing in memories from the past in order to keep it going. In order to maintain the darkness of hatred, we must deny the cracks of light that penetrate that darkness. The small acts of love that surround us, even in the midst of this hatred, can sustain us if we allow ourselves to see and experience the true essence of our being. Indeed, I want to be the person who choses to take the path of love in each moment.

As Etty learned after being taken to a concentration camp, love requires a certain amount of discipline and practice when surrounded by hatred and savagery. We can always find a justifiable reason to hate, but don’t forget, we can just as easily look for a reason to love.

“I know and share the many sorrows a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them; they pass through me, like life itself, as a broad eternal stream…and life continues…” 
― Etty Hillesum

Advertisements

Winter of the Soul

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”  — Robert H. Schuller

Planning my Next Adventure

I went hiking in West Virginia this past weekend with my niece. There is something so exhilarating about hiking in the freezing cold with several inches of snow on the ground. I like the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially right now when my life is in flux.

I’m still grappling with my feelings about the way this past year has turned out, having left the comfort and security of a job I had for twenty years to try something new, only to find out the new job was a bad fit. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the comfort of my old job, even though the last couple of years there were especially difficult.

Now, here I am, searching for something else. I am impatient with the process, having worked since I was a teenager. I have a little time to figure out how I want to spend my final years working. The time off is giving me room to breath, recoup a little, and set some personal goals for the upcoming year.

During the past year, I have become obsessed with listening to and reading stories about women who have gone off on big adventures, and I dream about doing something like that myself some day. Recently I’ve been fueling this desire by listening to Tough Girl podcasts, and I have decided to set a goal for myself in honor of my big birthday this year, and also the ten-year anniversary of my dear brother’s death. The year Scott died, I did my first half marathon and also went on a medical trip to South Africa. I never got to talk to him about these adventures. Scott and I had always dreamed of doing the Amazing Race together, and I want to honor that wish by doing a week-long bike ride this summer. I will write more about it once I finalize my plan.

Is there more to life than the quest for happiness?

I have been pondering this question and am interested in hearing from my readers:  If you had to describe what you want from life without using the word happiness, what words would you use to describe a life well-lived?

“Our culture is steeped in a kind of pop psychology whose obsessive question is: Are you happy?” – Rebecca Solnit, from the book, The Mother of All Questions

I started reading Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Mother of All Questions, and came across the above sentence in quotes. It was as if a switch was turned on in my brain and I experienced one brief moment of clarify.

“Happiness is often described as the result of having many ducks lined up in a row — spouse, offspring, private property…”  – R. Solnit

Aside from being out of work, life has been good for me lately, according to this formula of happiness. Yet I know life can change, and I have this tendency to think about what happens if one of the ingredients for this one-dimensional definition of happiness is lost. Especially for women, who have historically been forced into a very narrow existence where their version of happiness is meant to be derived solely from another’s identity.

“The problem may be a literary one: we are given a single story line about what makes life good.”- R. Solnit

We all know that there are plenty of people out there who have all the outward appearances of the “good life”, and yet they seem to be miserable, or spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of self sabotage. The unraveling of this formula for happiness happens more frequently and easily than one might expect and is rooted in a dissatisfaction with the one-dimensional definition of what makes life good. Deep within oneself is the awareness that this one short life we are given is much more complex than outward symbols of happiness.

“There are entirely different criteria for a good life that might matter more to a person – loving and being loved or having satisfaction, honor, meaning, depth, engagement, hope.” R. Solnit

Living life according to my own set of principles and values, having compassion and concern for future generations, and caring about more than my own small dot on this planet is what I strive for in my short time on earth.