A Way to Peace
It was such a long three months for my son and me: two detoxes, two hospitalizations, an AMA from another treatment center, back and forth to the streets, incommunicado for days. I was still holding on and calm, engaged in my own supports and recovery actions, but I was feeling fragile due to the steady flow of crises, this run being the worst in ten years.
We were coordinating admission to another treatment center with the support of my son’s social network, but it wouldn’t be available for three weeks. While he stayed with me, he agreed to some supports (choice of trauma therapist, recovery coach, meetings), but within the first two days he declined all of it. It seemed that anything could set him off. Though our relationship was strong, he was raw, in conflict within and with others. Though he didn’t want to project it onto me, he was pretty helpless to the automatic reactions of his mind and body.
We agreed to a calm conversation to explore next steps until he could be admitted to the treatment center. Unfortunately, that conversation started to go sideways within a few minutes. I expressed that I was feeling uncomfortable and would like to continue the conversation when we were both calm again. As I walked to the next room, the living-room table was thrown, its little stones with inspiring messages strewn across the room, the lamp pushed off its stand, a door pushed into the wall, the closet door torn off its hinges. It all happened so fast.
I was blinded by the surprise of it, blinded by images of the past, blinded by so many racing thoughts that made me defensive and put me into a full-blown trauma response of self-protection. By the grace of God, it didn’t escalate any further than it did, but we both had gone far enough. We agreed to a time-out, and he would leave the house for two hours.
I put the living room back together again. I put the stones back on the table that now sat right side up. I noticed the little stone that said “Peace” was missing. Yes, I thought, peace is definitely missing, and I dropped onto the sofa exhausted, crying, feeling an avalanche of emotions: fear, guilt, anger, blame, worry, anything but peace. After some time to cry and feel, I resumed the search for the missing stone. There, under the sofa, it lay.
After returning the peace stone to its home, I sat appreciating the solitude and quiet. That’s when I heard it; I heard God’s inspiration saying, “Peace didn’t leave you; it’s always here for you. Stop looking at the past and the future; you don’t find peace there. It’s right here, right now; it is in you. Peace is under the sofa. Come, sit down with me. My peace is here for you. You’re not alone. I am with you. Receive.”
The divine turnaround was already here, all things used for good, for learning, for purpose. God is in all of this, too, of course. With me, with my son, using the conflict and these two hours to prepare for return: a return of connection, compassion, forgiveness, peace, support for both of us. Gratitude. Love. Doesn’t mean it was easy, but it was possible, and doable.
So how do we find peace, especially when it seems to be far away or not accessible? How do we find peace when circumstances are so confusing and conflicted? There are many ways, ways that when practiced build upon themselves and in us, ways that have a cumulative effect and calm down our central nervous system. And we sure need that! The following is one of those ways. You can even try it out now, today. I invite you to do so, and notice how you feel before and after doing this exercise. Here we go:
- If you need to vent, do that in a safe place on your own and out of earshot of anyone else (in a parked car, for example), or write your thoughts on a piece of paper (no need to have it make sense or be legible. You can shred or burn the paper if you want after you get it all out). Move your body to release any tension. Swing your arms, lift your knees one by one, touch your toes a few times, etc.
- Be willing to feel whatever emotions show up. Our emotions want to be honored. The intensity of our emotions will be relieved with time and doing this exercise.
- Sit down or lie down. Be willing to allow peace to find you. Get still; sink into the sofa, chair, bed; invite the quiet space.
- Just breathe. No special way, just breathe. Eyes can be closed or open. If they are open, try to keep them focused on one spot, one object. Or gaze downward toward a spot on the floor.
- Notice. Let everything be just as it is. Allow your mind to wander or jump around. It will. Allow your breathing to change. It will. Allow sound in your environment to be what it is. It will. Allow your body to readjust as it wants to. It will.
- Begin to breathe consciously and deliberately now. Inhale through your nose, with an extended exhale through your mouth. Bring your focus to the exhale, to whatever count feels right for you. (Try breathing in for four counts, exhaling for six to eight counts; then adjust to your needs. Your body will let you know.) Repeat this cycle of breathing five to ten times.
- Still allowing everything to be just as it is, begin to breathe naturally, remaining in your quiet stillness.
- Listen. Are there soft whispers of wisdom speaking to you? What guidance does Love share when unconditional love is the speaker? How is God showing up for you, and what does he say? What insights are offered to you in these still, quiet moments? Make a mental memory of this inspiration.
- With a heart of gratitude, silently express thanks that these moments are available and provided, and that you took the time to co-create them.
- As you complete this exercise, notice how you feel. Affirm your personal experience by stating, “Breathing in, I breathe in calm. Breathing out, I am at peace.”
- Repeat as needed.
There are other tools and methods that nurture inner peace and that will enable our calm responses. Using them is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves, so we can be the most helpful for our loved ones. For me, it’s necessary. I don’t even want to imagine how much worse it could have been had I not been regularly engaged in my own peace practices. My son and I were able to quickly restore calm and productive communication and build on our connection. He was admitted to long-term treatment three weeks later, as planned. Though it was a very difficult time, we both learned from the experience.
There really is no shortcutting this journey of healing. It takes deliberate choice and effort to cultivate inner peace and self-care and to develop skills to put our love into helpful action and effective communication. These choices absolutely help us in the midst of insanity and inspire recovery—for ourselves and those we love. With our choice and ability to be a peacemaker, we increase the peace within us as we increase the chance of peace around us, too. It’s a practice, and it takes practice—practice that is so worth it to empower our love, the very thing we want most of all.
When you get those gifts of inspiration, say yes, follow, and live it in action. That is when it transforms from an idea into change: a change in you and a change in circumstances. In stillness and with gratitude, peace be with you and your family.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Certified BALM Family Recovery Life Coach
Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie
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