The Quest for Harmony and Peace

The warm – and sometimes lazy – days of summer are almost over. We had some weeks with fewer (if any) deadlines and meetings, less people to get out of the house in the morning, and less traffic on the trip to the office. We might even have spent some time at the cottage or in the yard, blissfully hanging out in the hammock and dipping in the lake occasionally. Harmony and peace have been ours for a while. But now it is all about to end.

September brings cooler weather and hotter deadlines: school resumes together with all the extra-curricular activities that require attention and time. The boss and all colleagues are back from summer vacation, ready to go and make up for lost time during the low days of summer. And with winter biding its time just around the corner there is much to fix up in house and yard. Suddenly the days are short of hours again and we scramble each night for the time to sit back and breathe.

On top of that September brings some distressing memories: September 11th and the anniversary of Katrina hitting New Orleans being the biggest and freshest ones. All of this is bound to eat away at that peaceful, relaxed feeling we had this summer past. So what is one to do?

One of the things that we often forget in our quest for peace and harmony is that these feelings are based within ourselves. It is so easy to blame their loss on the events and people around us: a hectic work schedule, dangerous weather, the obnoxious colleague. But although these things / people influence our lives they are not responsible for our reactions to them.

For example, most of us remember that there was one food in our childhood we really disliked. Being faced with it ruined the meal and the day and made us grumpy. If it was something that others really liked or that mom was sure was good for us we anticipated every meal, fearing the dreaded food to be presented to us again. However, as time past and we grew up this might have changed. We might have decided to face our fear and eat that cursed food just to show it how is the boss. Or we might have been “tricked” into eating it. Or we might just have decided that it was time to grow up.

I.e., I didn’t like beets growing up. Since my mother loved them there were usually some pickled beets in the house and every now and them she’d offer them to me. However, just smelling the pickle juice made me feel sick and I resented having to defend my choice over and again. I didn’t like my mom when it came to the topic of beets.  Then I grew up. At one point I tried beetroot because it was the only choice of vegetable in the meal – and I was truly surprised that I liked them. Indeed, I liked them so much, I now buy, prepare, and serve beets frequently. And there is no disharmony with my mom any more around beets, pickled or otherwise. I created a little piece of harmony and peace in my life simply by switching a perspective.

It works similarly for the bigger events in life. People who suffer from debilitating illness react to it differently: some are devastated, others become angry, and yet others seem to find peace in the very illness that takes a hold of their lives. Why is that? They have taken different attitudes to the same event.

There are many different ways to change one’s view of the world. There is the slow and sometimes painful way of exploration and discovery, where confrontation and experiments lead us to new insights and understanding. We can be started on this path by our own curiosity, through the influence of new people in our lives, and sometimes through adverse events such as loss or illness.

Then there is the path of learning and thought where reading and study change our concepts of the world and with that, hopefully, our action and attitude; “hopefully” because it is not always a given that the heart and body follow the changed ideas of the head. Anyone who ever woke up tired and grumpy wondering why they stayed up so long last night even though they knew they had an early morning meeting knows what I mean.

Then there is the path of the spirit where we connect to a higher consciousness, be it our own or that of the Creator or one of His/Her helpers, and ask for change and insight. This path is built on faith and requires dedication to this faith. It is a gentle and powerful path. However, I have seen many people struggle with additional feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment when they stumbled on that path. This struggle didn’t come from the higher consciousness – it came through the part of them that hadn’t been connected yet.

The path that I find most helpful and practical leads through the heart. Taking that path means taking life one step at the time. It means learning to understand, accept, and forgive our own urges, hopes, fears, shortcomings, and mistakes as well as those of others. It also means looking for the silver lining in everything that happens to us and that we make happen in the world. This is not an easy path either (if any of this was easy I wouldnÕt have to write about it because we all would be doing it). But it is made somewhat easier because it is a step-by-step path to walk.

The work done by the Institute for HeartMath in Boulder Creek, CA, is very helpful for walking this path. Not only have the men and women there used scientific research to show that the heart has indeed its own “little brain” and that there are clear and measurable benefits to our physical health if we connect to the heart frequently, they have also developed a few simple and easy to use methods to create and anchor this heart-connection.

If you don’t feel like reading up on the HeartMath methods, try this: the next time you are standing in line at the supermarket check-out and you are beginning to get agitated, take a nice relaxed breath and focus on your heart. Feel it beat inside your chest, imagine it moving and pumping life-giving nutrients and oxygen through your body. Say thanks to your heart for working so hard and “ask” it what it needs from you (just try to still your mind, listen to your heartbeat, and pay attention to any feeling or thought that comes up when you do so). You might be surprised to find that it is your turn at the check-out in no time. And you might be even more surprised to find a smile on your face. And if you don’t feel any better you have at least paid attention to something of importance to you (your heart) rather than to something you can’t change anyways (the line-up in front of you).

Listening to the heart has many faces: it includes listening to our feelings and memories, setting and accepting boundaries, listening and focusing on those with whom we come in contact, looking at the world with an attitude of thankfulness and acceptance, being grateful for the gifts we got, being active and positive in the world we live in, and so much more. It is a journey of its own and it lasts a lifetime. But it is a journey that leads to more harmony, peace and joy inside of ourselves and in the world around us every day.

If you want to know more about this journey and would like some help with the first steps, go to the Events Page . I have a course starting this fall and again next spring that will take you to the start line. It would be fun to see you there.

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