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  • Writer's pictureClinton

“Peace and Pawsitivity”







Erin – 17 months. Her name was chosen from an English transliteration of εἰρήνη, (eirēnē ) the ancient Greek word for Peace. It was either Irene or Erin, and Erin obviously won the day!


Peace. A common word. It can stand alone as a greeting, a closing or departing salutation, or even an emoji ✌️. It can be spoken amid the extending of a hand towards another or during an embrace. The combination of the spoken word, “peace,” and a gesture of similar sentiment, can be spontaneous, filled with excitement and jubilation over the arrival of a friend. The very same spoken word, “peace,” may very well intend to convey warmth, heartfelt compassion, and comfort within a shared embrace, during any number of moments of sadness, challenge, or upheaval, in a family member’s, friend’s, or other’s life. If it were to be omitted from the Order of Worship, the responsive liturgical phrase, “Peace be with you. And also with you,” from within my own faith tradition, it would likely cause confusion, if not a great level of uneasiness! “Peace,” whatever its use, may be filled with great meaning and intent. Or, the very same communicative phrase may quite possibly occur without thought, sincere purpose, or intent; put forth with an eerie sense of rote numbness.


Open almost any news source, your choice of medium – printed on actual paper, webpage, electronic “app,” podcast, or even turn on the television – but whatever the medium you choose, if it’s news, it seems unlikely any headline or top story will highlight anything that remotely indicates a broadening experience of peace. Certainly not within our local, state, or national levels of governance, or global society in its entirety. We could debate all day why this may be the case. We could blame the media moguls for focusing on anything other than expressions of peace within society because “peace” doesn’t sell – at least according to the latest analytics. Instead, articles portraying suffering, pain, evil, or some celebrity’s train wreck of a life, gets read more often, are more sensational, and receive more clicks, longer view times, and more beginning-to-end views. Then, driven by a complex algorithm, those articles, and those of similar content are repopulated throughout the media world. If there was an article that related any good news of peace, it may seem that on the world media stage, it doesn’t stand much of a chance. Particularly, as further analytics are used to drive the strategic pricing and placement of advertising space. If the news wasn’t already scary enough, those strategically placed ads might just shake you to your core in an attempt to drive public opinion, garner votes, or sell potentially “lifesaving” products. None of these really have anything to do with peace.

Quite frankly, the previous paragraph might have eroded some amount of inner peace you may have had. Or, it may have even given you a further negative balance in your “inner peace savings account.” Yet, please keep reading. If peace, or any accounts of it are so elusive, then what exactly is peace? Is it the difficulty with which it is understood? Is it the seemingly evasive nature peace can take in our personal lives? Or, is it too often lacking visible presence in society (it isn’t exactly getting prime ad space), that makes peace feel so very absent?

So let me extend to you a few words and experiences (or pictures) of peace.


“Peace be with you.” Seriously! Peace be with you, my friend. If you have read this far, then you must be a little curious about peace. That alone makes you a friend; holding a shared interest or curiosity regarding peace. Before we continue, let me explain where this entire blog post began. I struggle with peace! It seems to be just as elusive for me personally as it is for many others. I might find myself at peace at some moment in the day, but without intentionality, it seems to vanish the instant I realize I’m experiencing peace.


Take for example, there are moments, just upon awakening, when everything feels at peace. I relish this moment. Yet it never seems to last long. My mind kicks in and I am off to the races. You too may have been at that point and made that bumpy transition as well. Might you relate? You find you are in a moment of peace. Then your mind mentally reviews the calendar or “to-do list” for that day. This occurs before you have even actually picked up whatever electronic “smart” device that is on your nightstand. Then comes the temptation to open an app, any app, even the most benign. On the off chance you don’t open any app and only pick up your phone to see what time it is, the “locked” screen begins dumping a slew of “highlights” that occurred while you were doing your best to sleep. The Reality: You and I have just gone from 1 to 1000 mph in a few short moments.


Most likely because of my vocational training as clergy, it is helpful for me to consider some of my own tradition’s understanding of the term “peace.” In Hebrew, שׁלום, shalom means peace. According to sources the root of shalom means, “to be complete.”[1] That is, “relationship[s] between people…comes to be understood as being in good health or good condition.”[2] In Biblical Greek, εἰρήνη, or a transliterated English pronunciation, eirēnē, peace is closely related to harmony, particularly the promotion of harmony.[3] The author of James writes regarding wisdom and peace in Chapter 3, “18 And the fruit of righteousness[e] is sown in peace by those who make peace.”[4]


There is an inclination, both within Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, that peace often has to do with relationships being maintained in good health, with balance or harmony, which does not occur passively. Peace is active. Accordingly, peace requires intentionality. Peace grows within the realm of peace. Other means simply cannot maintain the “good condition” needed for relationships or the promotion of harmony. If I try to force myself into a state of peace, or anyone else for that matter, from any other disposition than love, kindness, compassion, and an openness to seeking understanding, then I have already gone off the rails before the journey has even begun. Acceptance is key here. Degrading myself (or negative self-talk) for not already being in a state of peace does not help me work toward inner peace!





One of the first training tips I was given, upon receiving Erin into my home, was that whatever I am feeling travels straight down the leash and into the dog. If I’m anxious, there is a good chance Erin will sense that and become anxious. If I am confident, Erin is more likely to remain confident. Although, at times, I think she is just plain confident! Erin has become a treasured companion. She is a challenge, but that is good. She pushes me. She pushes me to engage with her, with others, with the present moment. We do plenty of training. She knows a laundry list of commands to do, and a list of things she is not to do. She is currently working on her AKC Advanced Canine Good Citizen certification.


Erin is also very intuitive. She reads me well. She knows when I would benefit from spending time rubbing her belly. When I am stressed, she will look up at me and will lean in against my leg. Erin has spent almost every night, since arriving home in April 2022, sleeping beside me in her kennel. When I am having nightmares, she already knows. I find myself waking from nightmares with Erin looking from the closest edge of her crate to my head, literally inches from the bed, and she is typically sitting back on her haunches, gently tapping at the crate with her paw. She does this to help wake me up and interrupt my nightmares. She then remains in that position until I take her paw. There are ways to develop this behavior via scent training techniques, as dogs can recognize changes in hormone levels, but Erin has learned this on her own. Sure, it may need some refinement as she transitions out of her kennel over the next number of months, but she deserves a “paw-bump” for this one!


So, what do I do to find peace? While I have tried many different approaches, I have listed some of my most common practices at the end of this blog post. On any given day, one approach may work better than another.


Again, life itself is a precious gift. So how we decide to care for ourselves, as well as others, has tremendous implications for our well-being, sense of joy, and that of future generations. Until next time!

Grace and Peace,

Clinton

My Current Peace Practices:


1) Take Erin for a short walk. Especially early in the morning as the mist and fog are lifting from the country hills surrounding our home in NEPA.


2) Take time to do mindfulness meditation. If you need help with a guided meditation, check out YouTube for both 5-minute and 10-minute meditations.


3) Prayer (If you prefer reading prayers, I enjoy Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder).


4) Writing a Gratitude List.


5) Pick up a book you have enjoyed in the past or one you have looked forward to reading:


Currently Reading for the third time: The Joy of Full Surrender (Paraclete Essentials, 2008)


Favorite Reads:

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams

The Book of Joy by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams

God Has a Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu


6) Distress Tolerance Techniques. I was introduced to a number of these concepts years ago when I was working in the Mental Health field as an Advocate. If I really need to change gears, I splash cold water on my face while holding my breath. You can do a Google Search for Distress Tolerance Techniques. Or check out this link for several ideas in a pdf document:



If you are in crisis, help is available. To speak with a Crisis Counselor text/dial 988. If you need immediate help, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.



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