Keeping the Peace without Sacrifice

toys, 2 lambs It was the custom in my family when I was growing up to invite a non family member to the holiday dinners held at the home of my grandmother or my Great Aunt Alice, so that there wouldn’t be any “rows” as they were called…what could be termed family arguments. People were more likely to be on their best behavior with a relative stranger or at least a distant relative in their midst. The family I grew up in was rather vociferous.

My parents tended to discuss their differences at the top of their lungs. Their shouting made me cringe. They must have grown up doing this. My father and his mother my grandmother, used to have loud disagreements. My mother once told me they would telephone each other, call and then hurry to be the first to bang down the phone. My mother also talked about the “fights” she had with her sister; she too grew up in the habit of loud disagreement. Disliking my discomfort, I resolved when I grew up there would be no fighting in my family.

When neighborhood children played in my yard, they knew if they provoked conflict they would be sent home. If my children were to begin fighting I would separate them and send them to their rooms. In addition, if I strongly disagreed with something their father wanted or said, I would wait until they were out of earshot before I discussed it with him. I had determined there would only be peace throughout my entire household. No one was permitted to fight.

There is one problem with doing away with conflict entirely: any resentment or unhappiness can linger and come out in sneaky ways, like cutting or sarcastic remarks or other hurtful behavior. Even today I have to watch myself if I haven’t expressed my personal upset. I am liable to say something mean or unkind and call it a joke when it really is not.

However, in those days I didn’t know how conflict could be resolved while taking people’s feelings into account. I have since learned about conflict resolution and about ways to carry on discussions in a reasonable fashion. The “talking stick” method means one person gets to speak without interruption while holding a talking talisman. When he or she is done, the next person holds it and has his or her say. Even young children can learn to abide by this method.

Keeping the peace does not mean keeping silent, it does mean expressing oneself without being judgmental or vindictive. Feelings can be expressed and people can agree to disagree. What is important is to learn how to express negative feelings responsibly. I can say, “I feel,” not “you make me feel.” When I take responsibility for how I feel, others can do the same. When I speak my truth with kindness, I evoke the same response. When everyone listens, resolutions can be arrived at and peace can be made without anger, resentment or the sacrifice of anyone’s well being.

Peace At Christmas, by Tasha Halpert

Johnnys tree2Even as a small child I was aware of the chaos of war. During the second World War my mother’s parents were still in Germany. My mother had not heard from them for almost ten years. Finally when the American forces broke through, her parents were able to communicate. I watched her wrap packages with food, clothing, and other necessities. Although there was still chaos and difficulty in Germany, at least my mother’s heart was at peace.

My cousin who lived in Cuba in the forties endured strife growing up. She wrote me of how shots might ring out and everyone took cover. I grew up without any direct experience of this kind, and I was fortunate. Now it seems that no one in the USA is safe from warlike behavior. What can we do to combat the fear that has begun to pervade our once peaceful atmosphere? I believe that on one hand we can raise up our courage and refuse to be intimidated, and on the other that we can work for peace within our own lives, most especially now.

The words “Peace on Earth” resonate throughout our Christmas carols and scriptural messages, and even our Christmas cards. Yet to think about peace amidst the hectic shopping, baking, wrapping, mailing hustle bustle of the holidays seems difficult. However I can promote peace in small ways.

I can invite a friend to Christmas dinner, bake cookies for the kind man who takes care of my car, listen sympathetically to someone who needs an ear. I can hold the door for someone or the elevator, volunteer to be of help where help is needed. Equally important, I can nurture peace in myself through meditation, eat well for a peaceful stomach, and of course, get enough sleep.

Taking time for myself is vital to my sense of peace. Remembering to breathe deeply, especially during a nature walk helps me feel peaceful. So does hugging a tree. When I am on my feet a lot I take fifteen minutes to lie on my bed with my legs straight up against the wall. This feels wonderful and it pacifies my body. When I feel more peaceful within myself, I influence the atmosphere around me to harmonize with my peacefulness.

I can talk all I want about the need for peace and the lack of it in the world, and that will change nothing. Alternatively I can set about making peace myself, promoting peace in my own way. I can be of service in the cause of peace. While I cannot influence nations or even large groups of people, I can be of help in small ways and thus help make peace.

There is a story about monkeys on an island learning to wash their food. When enough monkeys did that, those on neighboring islands began doing the same. There was no communication between them yet they were influenced. When we are peaceful within ourselves we help others to become more peaceful. When I work for peace in my own life, I am also working to bring peace in the world around me, and perhaps, who knows it may even spread out from there.

A Place of Peace by Tasha Halpert

Peace Village Bridge ReflectionIt is easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life. For me it is often difficult is to pause and to take the time for an opportunity to do some self exploration. Such an opportunity was recently offered me. At first I found myself wondering how I could fit it in to my schedule, as well as make sure Stephen would have good food to eat while I was away. Yet because it included time to be with my daughter I didn’t hesitate long before saying yes.

She invited me to go with her to a spiritual retreat at a very special center in the Catskill mountains in New York State. Peace Village, a tranquil place of residence halls and meeting rooms is run by the Brahma Kumaris, a worldwide organization that originated in the 30s in India. The organization is devoted to self study and progress toward enlightenment. The Brahma Kumaris have created an atmosphere there that is highly conducive to personal growth.

At one time I studied and taught yoga. Later after we moved to Grafton my husband Stephen and I for many years had an inner peace center in our home where we held weekly meditations as well as what we called Peace potlucks, monthly. Stephen and I meditate almost daily, so I anticipated enjoying my time at the retreat which was said to include that as well as other opportunities to learn and to grow.

My happy expectations were fulfilled. During the three day retreat called By Ourselves In Company, the twenty-five of us were given a exercises designed to help us to become better acquainted with ourselves, as well as other techniques we could use to learn and grow. The participants were all ages and in all stages of life, more women than men, and several married couples. There were chances for us to interact and to learn from one another’s experiences as well as to be by ourselves and explore our own responses and reactions. The process was well designed and helpful.

Most special for me was the opportunity to do something with my daughter that we could share in as well as share. She leads a very busy life and while we do get to see one another often, it is always in the context of our days. The atmosphere the Brahma Kumaris have created in Peace Village is gentle and flowing. There is no hustle or bustle, no noise or stressful energy. On the hour music would play and everyone would stop what they were doing, breathe and reflect on the presence of the moment.

Here it was easy for me to absorb the lessons given as well as to learn to know myself better. The lack of distraction was key in helping me to focus. Yet what I really learned there was how important a peaceful atmosphere is to the nurturing of my being. The challenge will be to recreate it or at least to bring about some of the elements of that peace in my daily life so that I can continue to learn to see and to know myself more clearly.