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A spiritual care staff member came to visit today.  A group of us gathered and he passed out sheets with questions on the topic of peace.  We took our time thinking through our responses and then sharing them with each other.  It filled a part of me that has lacked attention lately.

The truth is, I didn’t want to participate in this group.  I saw some of the other patients who were attending and thought they would have nothing to offer me in a discussion of peace.  I inaccurately judged both them and myself.

When a nurse that I have good rapport with encouraged me to attend the meeting, I decided to go and I checked my judgmental attitude at the door.   I have learned in past experiences that everyone has something to teach me.  In my role supporting adults with developmental disabilities I have often found myself in a place of awe at how those, whom society may think have little to offer, give me so much.

As we discussed the various questions, I reflected on the day in 2010 that we had to say goodbye to my dog, Sasha.  After I left the vet’s office, I went to the lake, to a spot her and I had visited together on several occasions.  It was early in the morning, and I had been awake most of the night.  I’ve never seen Lake Ontario so calm as it was on this morning.  The stillness of my surroundings nestled inside of me, and although I felt a great loss at losing my sweet canine friend, I also felt peace rooted in acceptance of my pain.  It was a moment etched in my memory that I return to from time to time.

Later, the question was asked, “is there a downside to peace?”  At first I stared blankly at the question, not sure of any adequate response.  Then unexpectedly, as I listened to the responses of others, they began to help me formuate a thought that has been milling in the back of my mind for a few weeks.

I have often quoted Max Erhmann, who wrote, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”  I use this phrase to cultivate peace within myself, to relax from anxiety and find a sense of inner trust that all will be well.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about it and wondering, is it really true?  There are aspects of this life that I cannot accept as part of the universe’s design – when confronted with the brokenness of my community or myself, when I catch a glimpse of our devastation of the natural world, when I grieve for injustices occurring globally and in my own backyard.

Yes, pain is a natural part of life, but there is some pain which cannot be justified.  The abuse of those who are vulnerable has at times caused me great anguish.  There is no circumstance, no universe, where this type of pain is part of what “should be.”

So I’m left wondering, how do we cultivate a sense of peace in the midst of this type of pain?  I don’t have a good answer.  I do believe peace is something which must be cultivated, like a garden, and that we have the choice to act towards peace.  We do not need to wait for peace to come.  It’s likely that we must be intentional in our action and our awareness in order to experience peace.  Peace in the face of pain may at times look like healthy anger, it may look like lament.

In any form, the root of peace must be acceptance.  I cannot cultivate true inner peace while denying pain.  I must accept my brokenness to begin to heal.

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