Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let It Begin with Me

Music inspires us. Once during December, someone asked me my favorite song of the holiday season. It’s Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me. Even though it’s played most often during this time of year, Let There Be Peace wasn’t originally written as a holiday song. That’s fitting, for peace is not a season, it’s a way of life.

Yet when we see the headlines, peace probably seems like a pipe dream. War is rampant. Years later, we are still reeling from 9/11. Is it just me, or have more people on the edge gone over? We see senseless killings, mayhem, and discoveries of physical and sexual abuse, even by priests, parents, and other adults most trusted by children.

Peace is not a season; it’s a way of life.

It’s easy to feel helpless and wonder if the world has gone mad. Do you ever ask yourself, “What can I do? I’m only one small person.” I can’t stop countries from fighting. I can’t keep crazy people off the streets or out of airports.

But I’m going to tell you what you can do; how your small daily acts of peacemaking are more important than you ever imagined at a time when they were never more needed. Like pebbles of caring, your acts of kindness ripple outward when dropped into the ocean of our collective consciousness. The little things you do every day can have a divine domino effect.

And while songs inspire us, a picture is worth a thousand words. We first got the Big Picture when Earth was photographed from our Moon in the late ‘60s. Its beauty was magnificent, and that image should fly on a global flag to remind us who we are—one planetary people and organism.

Use peaceful words—cooperate, consensus, fun, together, common ground, everyone, love, and friendship. Avoid “fighting words” like us and them, some people, those kind of people, and what kind of a person would…

Here are my Five Tips for a Peaceful Day (Week, Month, Year, Life):

1. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment. Take a moment and start noticing when you react to something with anger or a desire to lash out. Ask yourself: What inner conflict is this stirring up in me? Almost always, we are merely projecting our own struggle onto another person. When this happens collectively, it escalates into war. It can be nipped in the bud, as in you ‘n’ me, bud!

2. Watch your thoughts like a hawk. Thoughts are powerful, because they lead to actions. Every thought leads to a collection of thoughts called a mindset. Set is the operative word. We can become fixed in negativity—a negative mindset—which leads to hate, conflict, even murder and war. Or we can notice and build on what’s good. Accentuate the positive, as another old tune goes. It leads to love, joining, and a sense of community—even a global community.

3. Watch your mouth. This is the partner of Watch Your Thoughts, because one of the actions thoughts lead to is talking. Use peaceful words—cooperate, consensus, fun together, common ground, everyone, love, and friendship. Avoid “fighting words” like us and them, some people, those kind of people, and what kind of a person would…. You have the power to redirect any communication, to neutralize it and lighten up its energy. Above all, don’t gossip. I define gossip as idle talk about others with no constructive value, usually mired with judgment.

4. Consider that you don’t necessarily know what’s going on with people. When someone acts like a jerk, instead of getting angry, wonder what’s really hurting him or her. I’m a sensitive person who tends to take things personally; so, this one’s a challenge for me. Just for a change, assume it’s his or her stuff (that projection thing in #1). Then exercise compassion. Assume this person is having a bad day, a problem, or a rough life. Don’t escalate by responding to the sharp word. If you’ve ever seen someone good at this, it’s a joy to behold. (They turn grumps into gold). Some customer service people are experts at it.

5. Find common ground, even with so-called enemies. Everyone has something they really care about. Find out what it is and talk with them about it, whether it’s old cars or their pets. Give up having to be liked in favor of doing your best to make all communications as productive as possible. And don’t forget, common ground may be that you and the crab learn to live in the same airspace!

Peace on Earth. It’s an inside job. It’s a good virus. It’s contagious in the best possible way, capable of morphing into forms of good beyond your wildest imaginings.

The holiday season is a time for thinking and doing “big.” Just as John Lennon did, I invite you to do just that--Imagine.


Photo credit: My great great niece, Ana, mesmerized by the menorah.

Note: Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me was written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson, © 1955 by Jan-Lee Music.


Eileen Williams said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely sentiments for the Season. Although I'm not sending out holiday cards this year, I always have gotten ones with the word "Peace" prominently displayed. I try to aspire to your suggestions for keeping our thoughts and our lives in a peaceful state. But, being human, I often fall short of the mark. Thank you for the all important reminder.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for your comment, Eileen. We're all works in progress, and I certainly note the irony that the extra stress of the season often results in my being cranky and needing a big dose of my own advice. :) Still, bearing the goal of peace in mind really does help get me there more often than I would without it. Happy Holidays!