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This time lockdown seems very much noisier and more chaotic than before. There is traffic, more people outdoors, and the news has been overwhelming… an attempted coup in the US Capital, the pandemic escalating on a scale never imagined, not to mention the uncertainties created by Brexit. So now, maybe, is a good time to draw on one’s own resources to cultivate inner peace… sit back, breathe deeply and relax. If you have the benefit of a garden or a view of the garden, you are blessed, and if your garden is a window box or a house plant, you may be happy to settle down in the evening, and light a candle. In either case we invite you to enjoy the thoughts and words we are offering today.
Unusually, we open with a suggested video link, entitled Morning Birdsong, and that’s about it. One hour of birdsong and a view of a small bird-table somewhere in Cornwall — a colourful spark of inner peace. The natural music of birdsong is enchanting, and the sheer variety of birds is just uplifting.
We open Words of Connection with a piece of prose by the great Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s called Stopping, Calming, Resting and Healing and it comes from his book The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching. This is followed by four prayers for inner peace. Then we have some poetic thoughts, one kindly submitted by Charlotte Gravestock; it’s by Ian Fosten who led a ministry team in the Norwich group of the United Reform Church. Thank you, Charlotte. The opening poem was written by Madeleine L’Engel Camp, poet and author of A Wrinkle in Time.
Today’s selection closes with thoughts and observations about the inner life from different great thinkers and spiritual leaders.
I do hope that the pain of the pandemic and lockdown are not affecting you too adversely. Please take care of yourself at this harsh time.
Very best wishes
STOPPING, CALMING, RESTING, HEALING
Thich Nhat Hanh (From The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching)
There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.
We have to learn the art of stopping — stopping and thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick up a book and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can we stop our fear, despair, anger, and craving? We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.
PRAYERS FOR INNER PEACE
Circle me Oh God
Keep peace within
Keep turmoil out.
Circle me Oh God
Keep calm within
Keep storms without.
Circle me Oh God
Keep strengths within
Keep weakness out.
Oh God, you are the unsearchable abyss of peace,
The ineffable sea of
And the fountain of blessings.
Water us with abundant streams
From the riches of your grace;
and from the most sweet springs of your kindness,
make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.
From the Syrian liturgy of Saint Clement of Alexandria (c.150 – c.215)
I am serene because I know thou lovest me.
Because thou lovest me, naught can move me from my peace.
Because thou lovest me, I am one to whom all good has come.
Ancient Celtic Prayer
Calm my troubled heart; give me peace.
Oh Lord, calm the waves of this heart, calm its tempests!
Calm thyself, Oh my soul, so that the divine can act in thee!
Calm thyself, Oh my soul, so that God is able to repose in thee, so that his peace may cover thee!
Yes, Father in heaven, often have we found that the world cannot give us peace,
but make us feel that thou art able to give peace;
let us know the truth of thy promise:
that the whole world may not be able to take away thy peace.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
PEACEFUL POEMS AND READINGS
Sonnet, Trinity 18
Peace is the centre of the Atom, the core
Of quiet within the storm. It is not
A cessation, a nothingness; more
The lightning in reverse is what
Reveals the light. It is the law that binds
The atom’s structure, ordering the dance
Of proton and electron, and that finds
Within the midst of flame and wind, the glance
In the still eye of the vast hurricane.
Peace is not placidity; peace is
The power to endure the megatron of pain
With joy, the silent thunder of release,
The ordering of Love. Peace is the atom’s start,
The primal image: God within the heart.
By Day, By Hour, By Moment
By Day, by hour, by moment the world contracts
Into a small circumference – waiting for a test, a next step
a word of clarification…
As time hangs heavy and grey
I might succumb to its leaden thrall:
alternatively, I might take a ride on eagles’ wings;
shout the glory of love renewed;
and recline, as might a pool-side sunbather,
in the palm of Your hand!
Grasping Things Too Tightly
Bhaghavad Gita (c.400BC)
Grasping things too tightly…
To the things of this world
Holding only to how we want it to be,
anger is born.
Not understanding the inevitability of change,
Confusion clouds the mind.
Meet this transient world
with neither grasping nor fear,
trust the unfolding of life,
and you will achieve true serenity.
WORDS OF PEACE AND INNER PEACE
The mind should be a vastness like the sky. Mental events should be allowed to disperse like clouds. Longchenpa (1308-1363)
Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquillity. The Dalai Lama
Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.” Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.” Marianne Williamson
The world of the inner is as infinite as the world of the outer. Just as you become a part of the manifold essence of the world through your body, so you become a part of the manifold essence of the inner world through your soul. This inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Carl Jung (1865 – 1961)
All life is sacred; every moment, even the less than glorious ones. When we recognise the sacredness of all, we are at peace with all. Gangaji
Peace wants to blossom inside your heart and nowhere else.
You and I created the world by the vibrations that we offer to the world. If we can invoke peace and then offer it to somebody else, we will see how peace expands from one to two persons, and gradually to the world at large.
There is no human being on Earth
Who does not have the capacity
To offer the message of peace
To the world at large.
For what is needed now
Is the soulful willingness. Sri Chinmoy (1931 – 2007)
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart. Lao-tse 6th Century BCE
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Baha’i Prayer for Peace