Week Two: Monday

Finding Peace Within

In this fallow season, in a world that so desperately needs peace, as we hear the ancient carols proclaim, “Peace on earth, good will to men,” I wonder about the peace we have within ourselves.  We are told that we cannot truly love others until we first love ourselves, and so it follows that we cannot really extend peace to others until we find peace within ourselves.

We are composed of many selves, or parts, or voices, of shadows and of light.  The voices of which we approve (because society, religion, people we want to please, and authority figures told/tell us that those voices were/are “good”) are the ones we listen to first and foremost.  The others, perhaps those selves speaking from the broken or alienated parts of us, desperate to be heard, are the ones we deny or bury or avoid. Doing so prevents us from becoming holy (whole) and sets us in opposition with ourselves; thus, peace within becomes difficult to find.

If this dark season is truly a time to find peace, then it is also an invitation to make peace with all the clamoring, or hidden, or ashamed, or hurt parts inside of us.  In considering how to make that kind of peace, an ancient guide came to mind, St. Francis of Assisi, and the well-known prayer of peace attributed to him that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”  I don’t know the mind of Francis at the time he supposedly penned this prayer, but my guess would be that he intended it to be a prayer for his community, even for the world.  But it is also a prayer for our various inner voices and parts. 

I consider the words of the prayer in regard to all the parts of me:

Where there is hatred toward myself (because of faults and failings and comparisons), may I listen and sow love there;

Where there is injury (old wounds from old records, past hurts from former grievances, current slights), may I listen and grant pardon;

Where there is doubt (in my “enoughness”), may I acknowledge it and have faith;

Where there is despair (that I will ever be “good enough”; that I will ever “get it right”), may I hear with the ears of my heart and embrace hope;

Where there is darkness (in all my unique losses, missed opportunities, personal fears and anxieties), may I acknowledge the pain and allow the light to shine;

And where there is sadness (for this present time; this broken world) may I hold it with compassion and introduce it to the daily miracles around me.

The Buddha is claimed to have said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  The Christ said, “Love others as you love yourself.”  May the Light lead us into those shadows places that need its recognition, acceptance, acknowledgment, and healing, and then may it lead us to peace, the deep peace of knowing we are beloved, just as we are.  Blessings to you.

The Table

You know these voices,
if you have ears to hear.
They are legion, whispering
(or shouting) within you
desperate to be noticed,
coming from all corners
of your life, east and west,
north and south, from infancy,
to old age, and all the seasons
in between,
soloists tugging at
your sleeve for attention.
You wonder why they bother
you and what they want
while you try to swat at them
like so many buzzing gnats
and go your unlived way.
It is, after all, so much easier
pretending to be deaf, instead
of inviting them in for tea,
laying your table
with a freshly pressed cloth
fetching the fine china cups,
the ones you keep in the glass-
fronted cabinet,
or even the chipped mug,
brewing the tea and baking
the cookies. But if you did
greet them as guests,
what would you say to each
voice, each self, that approaches
your table with caution
and desire? Maybe your only
role as host is to be silent,
do nothing but pour the tea,
pass the cookies, listen
to their stories unfolding
like morning glories,
exchanging compassion
for the gift they bring,
the wisdom of your own
unique life.

© Rosemary McMahan

Published by rosemarymcmahan

Poet, writer, minister, traveler on the way

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