B4peace

B4Peace 2014: Living in the presence of an attitude of gratitude

Last year I participated in the Bloggers for Peace movement and I am doing so again this year. Kozo’s Monthly Peace Challenge for January 2014 is about The Neuroscience of Peace. In his post, he shared this quote:

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

It reminded me of this passage from the Bible:

Romans 5: 1-5 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) ~ 1 So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom [peace] with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. 2 Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. 3 But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope; 5 and this hope does not let us down, because God’s love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit] who has been given to us.

To my way of thinking, bringing peace into the world outside of me, requires that I develop a peaceful character inside of my self, which infiltrates all aspects of my life. For me, peace comes from trusting God and choosing to think, act, and speak on the basis of that trust that God loves people and is in the business of reconciliation and restoration of relationships between people and Himself, each other, and within themselves.

All the conflict and less than peaceful interactions in this world stem from people not being at peace within themselves and not being able to accept and trust that ways and experiences other than their own are as valid as theirs.

We also tend to believe that pain and suffering shouldn’t happen to us and that if it does happen, someone should be held responsible and accountable to make reparations for the pain and suffering we have experienced and been subjected to.

Here’s the this about that: pain and suffering are part and parcel of living life in a world full of people who have experienced pain and suffering. I’ve seen the statement: “Pain happens, suffering is optional.” At first I thought it was kind of a callous statement. Then I thought it was overly simplistic.

Now, I’m coming to understand how profound it really and truly is.

Suffering is a choice we make, whether we realize it or not. When painful, negative, disappointing things happen in our lives and we are affected, we can get stuck in the emotional and mental point of impact, reliving the loss moment after moment, creating our own sense of suffering. We often carry that into our next set of experiences with an expectation of more suffering, and unintentionally create the attitude and atmosphere which brings that expectation into fruition. This is neuroscience at work.

I’m done suffering. I’m done taking my suffering out on those around me by being anxious, stressed, angry, bitter, resentful, and expecting bad things to continue happening. I don’t want to do it anymore. That means I have to retrain my brain to think differently and react differently to the things which happen in my life, most of which I have little or no control over, specifically how other people think, speak, act, and how they interact with me.

So, that means, doing something different than what I’ve habitually done in the past.

Back in December 2013, I shared about developing an attitude of gratitude and exchanging complaint for appreciation. My goal in 2014 is to make this my new default response to trouble, affliction, and painful circumstances. Any time I find myself in a negative frame of mind or overwhelmed with unmanageable emotion, I will recite and repeat these declarations of gratitude, and apply them in context of the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings I am experiencing. This is my plan for bringing more peace into the world in 2014.

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A Travelling Smorgasboard Work Party for Peace

Let’s close out 2013 and bring in 2014 by having a Smorgasboard Party for Peace!

The theme for the final Monthly Peace Challenge by Kozo at Everyday Gurus is: Party On, Garth! We were challenged to plan a party that would promote peace throughout the world. Who would we invite? What music would we play? Who would we want for entertainment?

I’m not a party person. The thought of parties kind of leaves me in a cold sweat of anxious panic. I don’t do well in crowds. I get overwhelmed by the contrasting and conflicting cacophony of sound, sight, and smell. I like low-key events where there is space to move, room to breathe, and an openess of thought and mind for people of differing backgrounds to come together and explore each other’s ideas and experiences. I enjoy exploring the environment of the host: seeing the pictures, art, furnishings, and memorabilia the host has around. I also enjoy seeing and learning about the mundanities of the host’s life and experiences.

I suspect that if more people took the time to get to know these things about others in the world, instead of pushing personal agendas of accomplishment and aspiration, we might co-exist a bit more peacefully.

I once heard of a kind of travelling party where various people within a community hosted an open-house style of party on the same night or succeeding nights. The premise was that people attending could spend time visiting each location, getting a bit more familiar with the hosts and those in attendance at the same time. It kind of reminds me of attending a school’s open house where the students do special projects and put together special portfolios in each of their classes. Then, their families visit each classroom and view, not only their student’s contributions, but get to see the contributions of their classmates, become familiar with the teacher and the subject at the same time.

I recently remembered something which happened in early elementary school. I’m pretty sure it was a social studies unit. We were studying our family tree and learning about the countries and cultures in our family origins. At the end of the unit, we had a potluck smorgasboard with each student bringing a dish which came from a country our ancestors had originated from.

This past Summer, I joined in with others from my church community, in partnership with another church community to bless and serve the local public high school and the community of students and families which are connected to it. Some of us provided supervision and activities for the children, some of us prepared food, some obtained donations, while many others took on the various down and dirty tasks of garbage pick up, painting, weeding, cleaning, and making repairs around the school and its grounds.

Yesterday, I saw a posting about what one person did, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox, to provide relief efforts to the Phillipines after it was hit by a typhoon, instead of a movie trailer.

So, here’s my concept for a party to promote peace:

Have a person, family, or organization host an open-house party where they share the artifacts and memorabilia of what it means to be from their culture/country. They could play a mix of the cultural variants and styles of music which represent the fullness of their experience. They would serve a tapas-style variety of foods which express the full-spectrum of gastronomic experience, including historic and cultural stories which may underly the development and creation of the music and food. The decor would reflect the culturally significant art – folk, functional, and fine. Each one would also show, through all of these things and whatever else they could think of, historical and current areas where their culture was not at peace and where peace has had an impact. Finally, a service opportunity for the attendees to participate in peace efforts would be provided.

If I were to do this in my community, I might host it at The Portland Art Museum. In each different room or section, I would invite leaders, musicians, artisans, and residents of the different segments of Portland to create a representation of their subculture in each room: LGBTQ, Street Youth, Homeless families and individuals, representatives from the various ethnic and cultural communities, immigrant and non-immigrant.

I would like to see someone else host and ecumenical open house party hosting the various faiths and spiritual paths. The various denominations and sects of Christianity, Islam, and Jundaism would be represented, as well as other world faiths, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Practitioners of alternative spirtual paths commonly identified, accurately or not, as Pagan, New-Age, Wiccan would also be represented.

An ideological open house would be interesting. Representatives from the different schools of thought and philosophies where readings from different teachers and philosophers would be recited and discussed, would be enlightening.

The only way we stop being enemies to ourselves and each other is to explore and understand the histories, roots, origins, beliefs, and passions which make each individual and collective what it is and learn to embrace the differences as necessary to the functionality of us all. Celebrating each individuating experience of the collective is what will create unity and enable peace.

Retroactively Loving My Enemy: Belated Peace Challenge for November 2013

When I read Kozo’s Peace Challenge for November 2013, Love Thy Enemy, on Everyday Gurus, my mind went spinning, wondering how I could do this challenge justice and give it the depth of attention it deserves. I truly do not see any individual, group, race, or follower of another creed as an enemy of mine.

That being said, I will be completely honest and acknowlede that there are those with whom I share enmity. People whom I don’t feel safe and comfortable around and those whom I believe share that discomfort, who may or may not view me as their enemy. There are people whom I have been in conflict with and with whom I desire mutual reparation and reconciliation in our relationships with one another. Primarily, these are people I love or have loved and who have been or are of great importance and significance to me and in my life.

The first thing I thought of was, “Loving my enemy as I love myself.” Let me see if I can piece together where that thought came from:

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

13 If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends.

I have experienced feelings of enmity, bitterness, resentment, and anger toward loved ones and strangers alike. When I start having hateful, negative, vengeful thoughts and experience the choking sensation of tension and bile from harboring the darkness of these thoughts and feelings, which are often triggered from my own inner woundedness and pain being triggered by words and actions of those other people around me, I know I am making myself sick and poisoning the atmosphere around me, infecting the interactions and relationships I have with others.

There are a lot of people, whom I love and care about, who I feel at odds with and feel as if, on some level, they see me as an enemy. Despite how much I love and care for them and desperately wish I could be in relationship with them, I do not feel “safe” with them and know they feel the same with me. This puts up my defenses and some of those defenses are the thoughts and feelings of enmity which crop up whenever I think of them, hear or see their names, or encounter them in person.

Part of this feeling stems from and results in how I feel about myself and my ability to love who I am, as I am, unconditionally.

The longer I am on this healing and recovery journey, the more I’m coming to understand that I can’t love myself unconditionally without understanding, accepting, receiving, and internalizing the unconditional love of God. As I grow in this area, my capacity to practice patience, kindness, gratitude, humbleness, generosity, forgiveness, authenticity, belief, and hope in mysef and who I am increases. Growing in self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-love is enabling me to grow in my ability to authentically and sincerely be loving toward others, especially those who have been difficult for me to express love to, those who have treated me as an enemy, even if I did not see them as such.

Retroactively Visualizing Peace: Belated Peace Challenge for October 2013

Back in October, my life: mind, body, spirit, environment, relationships, was anything but peaceful.

I visited the Monthly Peace Challenge for the month of October, posted by Kozo on Everyday Gurus, but I could not wrap any part of myself into visualizing what peace looks like or could look like in my day to day life, much less in the larger world. Here’s my vision for World Peace 2014:

Reverse the organizational pyramids ~ Individual people in positions of power and leadership: economic, political, familial, spiritual would stop seeking more power in order to assert their self-interested agendas. Instead, they would commit to humbling themselves in service to the betterment of those whom they have authority over. “Ask not what the people can do for you, but what you can do for the people.”

Return to interdependence ~ Each individual will come to recognize and honor all other individuals as members of the same human body.

“Many Gifts but One Body

3 For by the grace(G) given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.(H) Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith(I) to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body,(J) and all the parts do not have the same function,”

Romans 12:3-4, HCSB

I know this passage is a bit out of context, since it is speaking to a first century sect of Judaism, which we now call Christianity. However, I believe that all of humanity is a creation of God, whatever name or understanding any human may have of that. That belief falls within the belief that the God which was, is, and shall be pre-existed all of creation and all of creation was formed from God’s own essence and returns to God when it ceases to be. Therefore, in my understanding, even if we are divided in our spiritual/religious beliefs, we are still living, breathing, walking, talking pieces of God, with function, worth, and purpose, whether we believe it or not, regardless of our own awareness or cognizance of our connection to one another or God. Just as the human body has many parts with many functions, some deemed desirable and good, others deemed undesirable and offensive, all are necessary to the continued functioning of the body. Independence, superiority, and dominance are false constructs obscuring the reality that all people are reliant and interdependent on all other people in existence. “Humanity divided against itself, cannot stand. Humanity united and functionally interdependent, will get back up and keep going.

I fully believe that if we, as a species, can internalize these truths, that peace is possible on a world-wide scale. That being said, it starts with me, in my home, in my relationships, in my life today.

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Dreaming of Peace

Peace is such a rare thing, at least it is in my life. From my observation, it is also quite uncommon in the world at large. Conflicts erupt over the least likely things.

Currently, in my home, multiple conflicts seem to erupt daily. Space is limited and finances are even more so. Some big changes have been happening and even bigger ones are pending.

In the midst of it all, I’m on my internal roller coaster, traveling at whiplash speed through hypomania, depression, and all points in between, while trying to operate the controls from the front of the ride.

There are so many wounded, hurting, anxious people living and reacting in fear and anger, at odds within themselves and the world around them.

In the midst of dodging life’s speeding bullets, running to keep up with the time we believe is running out, and scrambling to avoid the pitfalls and crumbling constructs around us, it can be difficult to remember peace starts within and we either choose it, by first imagining and dreaming of its possibility or we never even realize it is anything other than an improbable, impossible ideal.

In those moments, quotes and lyrics can interrupt the dissonance and evoke a harmonic sense that peace is real and possible, if we dare to dream it and open our hearts and minds to imagine what true peace could look and feel like.

Kozo, from everydaygurus, had this to say about September’s Peace Challenge:

I love reading an in-depth post on peace, but sometimes I need a quick fix. At these times I love seeing an inspirational quotation posted in an artistic manner. For this month’s Peace Challenge, I challenge you to post a quotation that will bring peace to the world.

I decided to combine this with Creative Buzz prompt #15: Dream.

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Dreaming of Peace
Imagining a
Dream of peace inside of me
My home and the world

“Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

(c) 2013 KDdL: Image and poem inspired by “Imagine” by John Lennon

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Creative Buzz Hop hosted by Michelle, of Muses from the Deep, and Tamara Woods, of PenPaperPad.
This was prompt #15: Dream

    Related articles:

Quotes for a peaceful mind, Spunky Wayfarer

Women’s Work, My Little Spacebook

These dreams won’t let me down, Considerings

A Song for Peace: Fly Like An Eagle

Kozo at Everydaygurus set this month’s Peace Challenge to music:

For this month’s Peace Challenge I want to invoke the power of music.

• Post a song or video of a song that has brought peace to your world. Feel free to explain how this music has created peace.

• Tell a story about how music “tamed the savage beast.”

• Write a song for peace. You don’t have to write the music, just the lyrics.

• Sing a song for peace and write a post about what you felt.

• Make a top 10 list of songs/artists that bring peace to our world.

• Interview a songwriter about what inspired them to create music that you find peaceful.

• Post anything about the intersection of music and peace.

I have always enjoyed Steve Miller’s, Fly Like An Eagle. If you aren’t familiar with or need to to refresh your memory of the lyrics, you can read them here. Initially, since I was about eight years old when the song was first on the radio, it was the feel of the music ~ a kind of quiet urgency to escape, which was reflected in the lyrics:

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free

Later, as a young, single-mom, struggling to make ends meet while working with teen moms, I heard this song playing while out dancing and socializing with friends, and it struck me that while this song is about freedom, it is more about what that freedom should be in the context of social justice:

Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution

I declared it as the anthem and theme song of social workers everywhere.

More recently, I came across a YouTube video of a live performance on The Midnight Special, “an American late-night musical variety series that aired on NBC during the 1970s and early 1980s.” (Wikipedia)

This 7:07 length version of the song was profoundly powerful for me, especially in the context of my Christian belief system. It opens with a beautifully haunting guitar solo, which I quickly realized was the Christmastime song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

God rest Ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ, our Savior, was born upon this day; to save us all from Satan’s power, which long had gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.

Hearing that oft sung, traditional tune juxtaposed with the ethereal psychedelic tone and rhythm in this version, combined with an arrangement I had never heard before, emphasizing the idea that the revolution for freedom is not about fighting, but about reaching out and offering care, comfort, and provision for those not able to attain it on their own.

Matthew Matthew 25:34-40 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

(Bible Gateway)

While it has become the accepted expectation that governments provide funding and programs to provide the minimal necessities for the survival of their constituents, it never has been, and never will be the role of any governmental system to nurture, care, and love the individual people, simply because it can’t. The role of government is to perpetuate itself and to maintain its power and presence, hopefully for the betterment of its population as a whole. However, every governmental system has proven itself incapable of doing so because the people in it stop serving people and begin serving and maintaining the system.

Individual people are the ones who are ultimately responsible and accountable for how we show compassion, concern, and care toward the other people we encounter each day, whether they be familiar or stranger. This is a basic tenet of the Christian belief system and, as far as I know, most belief systems throughout our world – however distorted and obfuscated that message has become.

Intentional acts of kindness, from one individual toward another, have deeper and more significant impact in the lives of those around us, than any government, agency, or organization ever will, because of the attitudes and actions of the agents themselves being bound and limited by rules, processes, policies, and the agenda requirements attached by funding sources. The programs and services are necessary and helpful, but only provide a subsistence level of care to ensure survival and do very little toward aiding people to thrive and grow. That takes a personal connection.

Individuals like Kozo are revolutionary leaders sharing vision and calls to individual action. Another such person is John, founder of the Suspended Coffees community on Facebook.

I know there are many who shun Facebook because so much self-promotion, inane memes, petty drama, and horrific behavior is often displayed by so many users. I understand. However, there are MANY who are using it as a tool for constructive change. It is a tool which reflects those who use it.

John uses it to inspire others to step beyond the boundaries of their lives as individuals to reach positively into the lives of other individuals. He, Kozo, and many of my fellow bloggers and FB friends fly like eagles every day into and through the revolution of freedom for not just the bodies of their fellow humans, but also for freedom in mind and spirit.

Let’s become like eagles and join them, shall we?

May Peace Be Yours: A letter to my children

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July’s monthly Peace Challenge from Kozo at everydaygurus for the Bloggers for Peace (B4Peace) is to write a letter for peace.

My Dearest Ones,
Marco, my son, born into this life
so full of conflict, chaos, and strife.
You gave me reason to live
in a time I had little to give.
All I knew was how to survive,
giving you no peace on which to thrive.
Seeking validation for myself, I left
you in the care of others, emotionally bereft.
Believing I had little of value to offer
I sought those better able to proffer
what I’d never experienced, things I’d never had:
Stability, wisdom, faith, hope, love – I left you mad.
Off and on, in and out, up and down,
one moment smiling, laughing followed by an angry frown;
you rode the roller coaster of my madness,
neither of us safe from my sadness.
My heart rejoices for yours
and your family where love pours
and flows like a healing balm,
on the inner storms saying, “Peace be calm.”

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LaLa, my sunshine, you’re another
born into a stormy life, like your brother.
Tender-hearted, sensitive and bright;
your loving spirit was a spark of light
illuminating the shadows of my heart and mind.
Stability I sought desperately to find.
So certain of your need, my lack,
again I looked outside to take up the slack.
Filling our lives with more conflict and anger,
I placed your heart and spirit in danger.
Inevitably, unwittingly, against my will,
my madness continued, causing you ill.
Confused, lost, abandoned in essence,
despite my continued physical presence,
you sought and fought the best you could.
Chasing after what no child should,
rebellion and substance to fill the void,
you connected to those best to avoid.
Never truly letting go of hopes and dreams,
your spirit and self are stronger than seems.
Your life, so young to be full of such pain,
has given you wisdom and strength so plain
to see. Your inner light still shines so brightly.
Never allow yourself or others to take you lightly.
I now see and understand my mother and divinity in me.
I pray peace for the me held within you. Namaste.

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Luna, my moon princess, with your conception, it all changed.
My hopes, dreams, and goals once again rearranged.
Determination, born of fear so profound,
to do a better job this time around.
Immersed in bitter tears of blame, shame, and pain,
I resolved to end the pattern, break the chain.
I knew I still didn’t have what was required, yet,
to give you the life, the future, the me without regret.
Twenty two years had passed since the first.
Despite all effort, an unquenchable thirst
existed in the very depths of my soul
to become worthy of this thrice held motherhood role.
To break the cycles, once and for all,
of conflict and strife, this task is not small.
Finally, with deep sorrow, I’ve been learning
to face what’s inside, without turning,
losing what’s true, wallowing in guilt,
ultimately forgetting what’s been built.
Finally, focusing inward, opening my eyes to see
I’m transforming, growing, healing, becoming a new me.
Because I’m learning my lessons from our past,
the changes from the inside out will last.
You are growing as I am able stand upright and release
myself to understand while storms rage, inside reigns Peace.
A firm foundation under shifting sands,
We are ALL loved, held in omnibenevolent hands.

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I have loved you all, my whole life through.
May inner peace always be with you.

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