“Peace can be difficult to feel because of the chaos that surrounds us.”
I wrote that line more than a year ago for my 2019 Mindful Advent series, but is really true now. Everything in this year feels like chaos — the disruption of a pandemic, the helplessness created by a system that devalues and murders black and brown bodies, the painful divisions exposed by an election that is about so much more than policy differences.
When I was a very new seminarian and I was serving as a student pastor at a church in the Chicago suburbs, I was completely overwhelmed by the chaos that was Sunday morning worship and the socializing that immediately followed. I told my fellow student pastor, who had been at it longer than I had, about this struggle. She simply replied, “It’s all being calm in the chaos.” Something about what she said mentally made sense, but I didn’t know in my body what it meant for quite a long time.
Our tendency to be freaked out by chaos must be why the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament say over and over again, “Fear Not,” and “Do Not Be Afraid.” It must be why yoga and so many other spiritual practices are geared toward calming the body’s stress response. If we are willing to admit it, fear has us by the throat a lot of the time. In a pandemic, in racial strife, in an economic downturn, in times the likes of which most of us have never experienced — how can we possibly find peace in that? Shouldn’t fear be totally strangling us by now?
No. Not at all.
Outside forces do not dictate peace — even inside the hurricane in which we find ourselves. Peace comes from a higher source. This Divine peace is what Christians like myself are remembering this second week of Advent, the season preparing for Christmas. Think about the story Christians tell about Jesus’ birth: His unmarried parents are forced to travel late in Mary’s pregnancy in order to comply with a Roman edict to be counted in a census. Mary then is forced to give birth in a stable (likely a cave) because all their fellow census travelers make it impossible for them to find a room. And in the midst of that chaos, Jesus is born. The one who some call The Prince of Peace. Peace is born through the fragile, tiny body of a baby in chaotic, oppressive and painful times.
Peace is always available, perhaps even more available because of the chaos. We know we need to find our calm in the chaos — like that eye of the hurricane that is strangely quiet in the storm. In my meditation practice, I have often explored emotions in the body and the feelings or sensations associated with that emotion. Here’s how: Feel into an emotion you are working with. Then feel the opposite of that emotion. Finally, feel both in your body; move between them; hold them both at the same time. This practice helps you strengthen your resilience muscles — feeling that both peace and chaos (or any opposite emotions) can coexist in your body. (Watch this video for more on moving through opposite emotions.)
Feel into your emotions — even fear — and light the candle of peace this week. May your light of peace shine toward others in a chaotic world.
Experience a small sample my Mindful Advent practice above. Then, join me to move through the rest of Advent — Joy and Love —during my 30-minute Mindful Advent practice each Sunday at 8 p.m. ET prior to Christmas. These practices are held via Zoom and are free, but please register to get the link. Feel free to bring your own candles!
New Year’s Eve Day from 1-3 p.m. ET is fantastic opportunity for restorative yoga and meditation designed to release 2020 and welcome what is to come in 2021 in my Releasing 2020 Yoga/Meditation event.Regular registration lasts through Dec. 30. Register today before the limited spots run out!