Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement. Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.
"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."
That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?
In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction. But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!
Hard to Hold Inner Peace
Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.
- Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds. Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses. I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently. How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
- Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations! Ugh! It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others. And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
- Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?" So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives. It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story. I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life! It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?
How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace
Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons. This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.
It's hard to hold our own peace around others. They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us. Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears. Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)
Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.
But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:
To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones. But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.
It's a concept I'm holding to. I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace. But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?
It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning. It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.
So if you're annoying, bring it on! :) I have lots of room to grow!