From Inner Peace to World Peace

© Jane A. Simington PhD.

 

washington-1390854_640

The month of November calls us to gratefully reflect on the freedoms we are privileged to experience as a result of sacrifices made by the family members who, as veterans, served our countries in the maintenance of peace and liberty. Yet despite their sacrifices, the search for peace continues among nations, within families, between individuals, and within the emotions and spirits of the individuals who fought for our freedoms.

My recent involvement with a colleague’s family member, who had completed his course of duties in a war zone and received honors for his services, amplified my knowing that there are really no winners in war! As we dialogued, I heard the intense pain this man was experiencing. He spoke of the guilt he felt about being a part of what he had been personally involved in, as well as from what he had witnessed and heard about from his colleagues. He described feeling judged and shunned, especially by those who had seen him as a hero, for not being able to “just get over it,” and how their inattentiveness to his need to voice his remorse added to his sense of shame.

His dialogue revealed an incremental soul searching examination of every event, every word he had spoken, every command he had received or given, and every action he had taken or not taken. He wept when I asked if this intense search was a search for answers, or was it a search for the parts of him that had remained at the scenes of the traumatic events he had experienced and witnessed.

 

Indigenous peoples from around the world hold a common belief that the soul pain experienced at the time of a traumatic event can cause soul parts to fracture off and remain within the energy of that time and place. As I listened to his soul pain and heard his soul-longing for wholeness, I felt extreme gratefulness to have the knowledge and skills to help him. And while it was not without intense emotion that he reclaimed those parts of himself that had remained as if frozen at those numerous soul fracturing events, it was with incredible joy that I witnessed his look of anguish dissolve into one of deep peace and stillness as he reintegrated his fractured soul parts.

 

As we move into November and ponder ways to thank and honor our veterans let us be mindful of the value in acknowledging their personhood. Let us recognize that perhaps the best way to honor, especially those veterans who are family members, is to listen to them with open minds and hearts, and remaining ever aware of how the horrors of war can damage a human psyche. Even though listening to their narratives may be difficult for it can stir our own unresolved pain, their need to reexamine, in order to heal the horrors they experienced, may be great. When we are able to listen and respond at the depth they require, we do our part in helping them find inner peace and thus one person at a time, we add to a collective movement toward world peace.

As Life Ended He Knew He Had Done the Best He Could

Jane A. Simington

Developmental theorist Eric Erickson1 described our final developmental task as being the need to review our lifeto determine if the gods are pleased. In doing a life review, we sort through the various aspects of our life and conclude either with believing we have done the best we could, or determining there are things we need to make right within our self or in our relationships.

poppy-19658_640
Some time ago, my husband called me for help with the frightening visions that were being experienced by his dying father. As my father-in-law’s life was drawing to a close he began having visions of uniformed soldiers walking around his bed. Each time he described the experiences, he concluded these were the soldiers killed during WWII battles because of the orders he, as their commander, had given.
My father-in-law described that over the years he had often thought about these men, wondered how their families managed their grief and how they had survived without the son, husband or father who had been killed. He mentioned that he had often pondered what the dying soldiers thoughts were of him. Had they blamed him? Had they cursed him? As he reviewed this time of his life and these circumstances, he indicated that over the years, and especially now as he was examining the various aspects of his life, he thought a lot about some of the choices he felt were required of him during the war years.

As my husband and I listened to his testimony, I became aware it was likely that my father-in-law’s feelings about his fears and regrets had become embodied. Embodiment of emotion is not uncommon both during dying and during grief. Known as personification, it is a process in which inanimate abstractions or feelings become endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.
Acknowledging that part of bringing a satisfactory closure to his life required allowing him to share these deep emotions, and to describe in more detail some of the life events he was now reviewing, his son and I listened attentively.
Over the next days we became aware that in relating some of his experiences, most of which he had rarely spoken of, the visions of the soldiers moving around his bed seemed to lessen and become less terrifying for him. Following one such vision, when he described the uniformed figures and how threaten he felt by them, I asked if it was possible these were soldiers from the unit he had commanded, and that they were coming to welcome him to the other side where he would again be in comradeship with them? My father-in-law was able to accept this reframing of his visions, and through it, alter his own interpretation.

My father-in-law’s remaining days appeared to be peaceful, and since he never again spoke of the soldiers, my husband concluded his father had completed reviewing that aspect of his life and was now able to rest peacefully believing he had done the best he could.

Reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, is activated by many things including visits, photographs and song. These things naturally stir memories that when stirred can be explored. Happy memories can be re-lived and re-enjoyed, and ways can be found to release the emotional load attached to the difficult ones. In many cases, it is the sharing of a difficult memory with a trusted person that allows for the release of the emotion attached to that memory.

Robin Butler2 described life review as a human need to balance the good in life against the negative. The goal, when assisting another during life review, is to have the person recognize that while their life was made up of both positive and less than positive events, the good outweighed the negative. Circular questions, such as “Tell me what happened after that,” followed by “And then what happened?” and again followed by “And then what happened?” are valuable when helping the person acknowledge the positive outcomes that flowed from what was initially viewed as a negative experience.
It is also important to help a person who is examining past choices recognize we often judge past events based on today’s standards. There is great value in helping the person view events within the context of the circumstances when their choices were made, and then to assist in helping to reframe perceptions of those past circumstances so the person is able to acknowledge that the best possible choices were made.

References

1).Erickson, E. H. Childhood and Society. New York: WW Norton.
2).Butler, R. N. Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches. . St. Louis: Mosby.

From Inner Peace to World Peace

Jane A. Simington, PhD., 2014

The signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 was a declaration to end all wars. As I ponder the reasons for the lack of peaceful outcomes that many believed would follow the signing of the Armistice, I recall the words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who throughout Living Buddha, Living Christ, reminded us that Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world. People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.

We each view the world through a framework carpentered from the religious, cultural, political, and educational systems into which we have been indoctrinated. We all have powerful priests, teachers, elders, parents, and friends who continually reinforce our initial teachings. And yet regardless of our indoctrination, our unique take on the world is a process of filtering our experiences. We examine every word we hear, every action we view, and we attach judgment in the form of a thought. In turn, those thoughts become our reality. We decide whether the event is good or bad, right or wrong. Shakespeare reminded us that our reality is a product of our thinking. Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

flying birdIn Ageless Body, Timeless Mind Deepak Chopra emphasized that our cells are constantly eves dropping on our thoughts. The neurochemicals produced by our thoughts move through the synapses and biochemical exchanges of our nervous systems and thus, because each muscle cell has an axon, the tail of a neuron attached to it, our thoughts affect our bodies. Our lives, are therefore today, a product of the thinking we have done. Because of the processes of electrochemical exchange, when we change our thoughts, we change our lives. By changing thoughts of, “this is bad,” “this is wrong,” to affirmations of “I love…,” “I value…,” we alter the neurochemicals moving throughout our bodies. While overnight, we will not make complete changes in these exchanges, when we practice daily to change any negative thought to more positive ones, in a short time we will notice alterations in our attitudes. Because thoughts create attitudes which result in behaviors, and behaviors become who we are, any changes in behaviors must always begin with changes in thinking.

Thoughts are energy, and because of that they are free-floating and radiate from us affecting others. This process is similar to what takes place when we throw a rock into the water. The impact made by the rock moves from the point of insertion, rippling eventually throughout the pond. Relative to the Critical Mass Theory, if enough of us increase our thoughts of peace, love and goodness, so as to out-weight the energy of the thoughts of war and hatred, the critical mass of peace will be reached and in turn that will be the outcome. When we truly recognize the connections between our thoughts and their outcomes we comprehend more clearly why it is often said that world peace being within.

 

Marcus Aurelius noted that, “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”As November 11th approaches and as we near the end of 2014, there is a great need to hear and respond to that wisdom and to heed the Great Cry to find harmony within, and to live in harmony with others. We must once again acknowledge as Chief Seattle did: All things are connected – like the blood that unites one family. What befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

 

To transform in the direction of inner peace is to acknowledge that healing ourselves and working toward world peace is the same work. It is to affirm that the “Earth is Christos, is Buddha, is Allah, is Gaia.”

Honoring Our Veterans: A Discovery of Inner Peace

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. (Oct, 2012).

 In countries around the world, every November 11, citizens stop and ponder the freedom they experience as a result of the sacrifices made by those who have served their country in the maintenance of peace and liberty. November 11th honors all living and dead Veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve, and often despite great personal costs. In Canada, the day of honoring our veterans is known as Remembrance Day; in the United States it is Veterans Day. In many other countries this day is referred to as Armistice, for it marks the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I.

It was believed that the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 at 11am (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) was a declaration to end the “War to end all wars.” Sadly, the positive predictions for that day have not been the reality.  

For many of us the search to find ways to end war and conflict has turned into a search for world peace. Peace symbols such as those of a dove carrying a green branch and the brilliant red poppy remind us of this quest.poppy

The red poppy which is now closely associated with November 11th symbolizes the peace brought to the world by the veterans who served during WWI. These poppies bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders; their brilliant red color was thought to represent the blood spilt during the war.
The tradition of wearing a red poppy to commemorate our veterans on November 11th began when a Canadian medical officer, John McCrae wrote this famous poem (1915).

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.”


His poem was published in Punch Magazine and by 1918, it was well known throughout the allied world. An American woman, Moina Michael, added her response.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

 

Yet despite the poetry and symbolism, the search for world peace goes on. Continue reading