Because I love the Christian season of Advent that leads up to Christmas, I will again be writing each week of Advent a piece around the week’s theme and inviting you into a spiritual practice with me.
I felt almost everything but peaceful this week.
Scattered. Overworked. Jumpy. Jittery. Overstimulated. Yes.
As part of my meditation teacher training, I completed an entire month of doing the Metta Meditation in November. A Buddhist practice, this meditation involves sending heart energy first to yourself, then to a person you love, someone about whom you feel neutral, then, if you are able, one with whom you feel challenged, frustrated or hurt. At the end of the meditation, you send pulsing heart energy out to your surrounding neighborhood.
During each phase of the practice, you say to yourself —
May I/they/we be happy.
May I/they/we be healthy.
May I/they/we be peaceful.
May I/they/we be filled with loving kindness.
Upon the suggestion of my teacher, I played around with the words of the meditation to see if any different ones resonated. When I landed on the word peaceful, I began to experiment. Contentment was an alternative that emerged.
Though I wasn’t in my conscious mind when that word arose, contentment has a slightly different connotation than peaceful. Peace, at least in our Western culture, refers most often to either the absence of physical violence or a calm mood. Contentment, which we use less commonly in daily speech implies to me, a state that is longer lasting than a transient state of calm or the absence of violence (which I can certainly not control alone). Contentment is a state of mind/body/spirit that I can maintain even when faced with anxiety, fear, dis-ease or violence.
Contentment echoes for me the deeper meaning of the Hebrew word shalom — health, prosperity, wholeness, soundness. In this the second week of Advent during which Christians’ light the candle of peace, we recognize the deeper connection to God’s peace — shalom — that passes all understanding. In the Revised Common Lectionary this past Sunday many Christians read from the Gospel of Luke 1: 68-79. This passage is know as the “Prophesy of Zechariah.” Zechariah, the father of John (later, “The Baptist”) speaks God’s words and predicts who his son will become — “the prophet of the Most High,” (v.76)
John then spends his whole life preparing to be the one to bear the terrible and wonderful and awesome news of the Jesus’ miracle — that he is the Messiah, the God-light, the Prince of Peace, who was made manifest in human flesh.
Simply writing these words in a work-fueled, frenzied week brings me back to contentment, to shalom, to peace, to the feeling that moments spent in Metta Meditation gave me. Knowing that the extraordinary power of the God light manifested as flesh and blood and bone and emotions and thoughts and actions reminds me that I am also God-light capable of shining like a beacon amidst my own worry, fear, frenzy and stress.
Peace Practice: Practice the Metta Meditation and see what you experience.