Peace, Joy, Love

For a long time, the question, “What do you want?” would fill me with angst. I never knew what to answer. I always had a sense that if I did, I would be forever limiting myself and excluding something important. In a way, that was true because my perspective itself was limited to things I wanted to be, achieve, do or have.

Sunflower.StuartDavies
Photo by Stuart Davies Used with Permission

Now I realize it never was meant to be a trick question. I just needed a broader perspective.

I’ve been asking myself the “what do you want” question a lot lately. What do I really want? And the answer is so simple, it’s astonishing. I want three things. With these three things, I’m assured a happy life. What are they?

Peace

I want to be peaceful. What does that mean? What does peace look like? Firstly, it requires acceptance of what is. I can’t be fighting against reality and wanting things to be other than how they are. I have to learn to be with what is, no matter what. It doesn’t mean I can’t take action to change something, but I have to let go of expectations and outcomes. Secondly, it means I have to cultivate peacefulness inside myself. I cannot afford to harbor ill-will toward another. If I do, I will lose the thing I most want out of life. I have to be willing to choose peace over being right or justified. I have to choose peace over thoughts that would instead bring me disharmony.

Joy

I want joy in my life. To be joyful, I have to appreciate life. Luckily, there’s so much to appreciate: color, fresh air, sunlight, flowers, trees, clouds, rain, animals, art… I also have to allow myself to create and be spontaneous. There’s no room for inhibition in joy. Joy is a natural spring that must be allowed to bubble up and express itself. There’s no room for holding back in fear. Joy is exhuberance. It’s playfulness. It’s willingness. Joy opens itself up to life and says, “Yes!” Joy if full of gratitude and generosity. Joy tries new things and isn’t afraid of being a little silly.

Love

I want to live a loving life. I want to be more loving toward not only others but myself. What does that mean? It means I have to be willing to feel all of my feelings. It means I have to respect others for who they are. It means I have to exercise forgiveness on a daily basis. To be move loving, I have to remove all the barriers I’ve built up to love. It means I have to reexamine my beliefs about love. It means I have to be vulnerable and gentle when I want to protect and defend. Love is compassionate and open. There is room for everyone and everything. Love even has room for fear, but love has the wisdom to know that fear has no real power.

This is all I want out of life. With these three things, I have everything. So, it doesn’t matter how they arrive or what they look like. Whatever manifests, and regardless of what doesn’t, I’d have it all.

Woman Finds Peace in a Cracker

peace“You won’t believe what happened to me this morning. My life is forever changed. I was eating crackers waiting impatiently for the completion of a download on a 56K modem. I broke a cracker with my thumb for more manageable eating, and the cracker broke into the peace sign. Sure, I know what you’re thinking…so what? I didn’t think much of it either until I broke a second cracker into the exact same configuration. Then I had no doubt. It was a miracle…a sign to pay attention. And now I can find peace in anything!”

We all tell ourselves stories. Things happen, people say things, we have experiences, and we interpret and place meaning and value on all of it. We decide whether it is good or bad, important or meaningless, providence or coincidence. We choose. The trouble is, we are so invested in our interpretations we forget that anyone else having the same experiences might tell an entirely different story. And without being attached to our own version, we might find theirs just as valid. We forget that we too can tell a different story, see things in a completely different way.

Instead, we limit ourselves and others with our stories. We cast ourselves as victims or heroes or villains or victors, and we forget that we are just telling ourselves stories. We identify so deeply with the stories we tell ourselves we tend to believe in them whether they serve us or not. Sure, we all have great stories about how we finally got what we worked so hard for or finally spoke up for ourselves. Those stories feel good. But so often, we write like the soap opera writers, with such drama and tragedy! Or in writing a story of great self-importance, we end up defeated, afraid, and confused when things don’t turn out like we expected. And then we tell another story to explain why. So at times like these, it is best to remember, we are just making things up as we go along!

We interpret the signs, the words, the expressions, the events that happen to us. And those interpretations in turn influence the stories that come later. So it’s important to be aware of the stories we tell and to remember it’s all in our heads, no matter how we choose to see things. And we have so many choices! One person may see the shape of a broken cracker as a sign from God and be so inspired that he starts a program to feed the hungry in his neighborhood. Another person could see that same cracker and think of the irony of such a symbol in a time of war, getting lost in the despair of death and destruction. Still another person might have been so distracted that she didn’t even notice the pattern…but had she been paying attention, what story would she have made up for herself?

My cracker incident got me thinking about what kind of storyteller I am. Do my stories serve me or limit me? What kinds of stories do I want to tell? I clearly have a choice. I can shrink myself and my world with my stories or I can inspire and encourage myself and others. I’ve decided I want to tell beautiful and empowering stories. If I can find peace in a cracker, with mindful storytelling, I can find peace in anything.

Incidently, when I ate my third cracker, it didn’t break into the peace sign. I guess it only had to happen twice for me to write this story.