As we usher in a fresh, new year, I cannot help but reflect on the one that has past. While my husband and I were fortunate to purchase our first home in 2018 (a true highlight), and bring our puppy home to stay with us, other aspects of the year were far less pleasant to say the least. From start to finish, many of our family members (myself included), struggled with some serious health issues. Just when we thought we had a handle on one, another would crawl out of the shadows.
At this time last year (2017 being a trying year for me as well), I remember wishing for improved health for myself and family in 2018; however, it is clear that the universe did not get my memo. So, this year, I decided to wish for something else – something that I can actually have a hand in making come a reality, at least for myself – peace. Peace of body, peace of mind, and peace of spirit.
I expect that the broad concept of peace – harmonious well-being and freedom from hostile aggression – has been around almost as long as beings have roamed this earth. Given that there has always been conflict between heterogenous groups, I would expect that there has always been a concurrent wish for peace.
While humanity has yet to find the key to world peace, it is not for a lack of trying. Extraordinary leaders have used benevolence to defeat social injustices (a la Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.) for decades, and since 1901, the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to those who have done the most of, or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Throughout history, there have also been many symbolize for peace. For example, the dove and olive branch was used symbolically by early Christians, and then eventually developed into a secular peace symbol, popularized by Pablo Picasso after World War II. In the 1950s, the “peace sign”, as it is known today, was designed by Gerald Holtom, as a logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group at the forefront of the peace movement in the United Kingdom, and adopted by anti-war and counterculture activists in the United States and globally.
So, with all of this urning for peace, why is it so incredibly difficult to achieve? While admittedly an oversimplification, I expect that it has something to do with the fact that there cannot be peace amongst people, until people foster peace within themselves. I know, cliche perhaps, but there is certainly an element of truth to this, which is why I have decided to make peace within myself a priority this coming year.
Now, let me be clear that in my pursuit of peace, I am not embarking on a significant overhaul of my life, as we know that rarely ends in success. Rather, I am using the three pillars – body, mind and spirit – as a guide, and within those three pillars, starting with three simple changes to my habits. In time, as these changes become more natural and ingrained in my daily life, then I expect that I will add more over time.
If you’re curious to see which three changes I am making effective today, read on:
Peace of Body
For the past three years, I have suffered from a functional gastrointestinal disorder, that while not terminal or degenerative (that I know of), causes me a great deal of discomfort on a daily/weekly basis.
Overtime, this disorder has come to have a tremendous impact on my life, as I have no way of knowing when the symptoms will hit, and these symptoms are often unpleasant and embarrassing. As one can imagine, this disorder has negatively impacted many aspects of my life, most notably social and occupational.
While tests have yet to pinpoint a particular dietary trigger (still working on it), admittedly, there is another area of my life, which I have ignored for years, that is equally critical to digestive health – daily movement.
Historically, I have had great difficulty committing to an exercise regime of any kind, and could never understand why I was so disciplined in some areas of my life, but couldn’t seem to find a way to be in this one. Then, more recently, I found the missing link – enjoyment. In all other disciplined areas of my life, I find enjoyment in both the process and accomplishment; however, because I find zero enjoyment in running on a treadmill, I have never stuck to it.
Enter – yoga. I have contemplated practicing yoga for years now; however, either the cost of the classes, or the inflexibility of my work schedule gave me ample excuse not to. That was until Annie Jaffrey (a beautiful YouTuber that you must check out), introduced me to this world of free yoga instruction on YouTube.
Armed with several beginner yoga videos (BoHo Beautiful is one of my favourites), and my trusty yoga mat, I can now practice yoga wherever I am, for free, and I look forward to developing my peace of body by committing to practice twice per week (more, if I wish).
Peace of Mind
While the past three years of physiological distress have certainly not done my mind any favours, I would be lying if I said that I had enjoyed a peaceful mind prior to. In fact, I have always struggled with this, mostly because of my personality. Perfectionistic, Type A personalities are really a gift and a curse, because unless you have learned to master your mind, and use the pursuit of perfection to your advantage, then the perfectionistic drive is almost always cancelled out by that defeating self-doubt.
I have never had a quiet mind, though I don’t expect many do. For as long as I can remember, my mind has raced, and seemingly, I have had very influence to change that. Over the years, I had almost resigned myself to the fact that my mind was an entity unto itself, one that I had absolutely no control over. It would simply do as it pleased, and I was just an unfortunate witness to it all.
Over the past year, I have been working more diligently towards mastering my thoughts, and only giving credence to the ones that are healthy and helpful (I may discuss this in upcoming posts). That said, what I have come to find, is that it is incredibly difficult to rewire 34 years of hardwiring, and I understand why most people try and fail, or don’t bother trying at all. Countering thoughts that have become ingrained in the mind is not for the faint of heart.
Enter – meditation. I know, meditation is popular, hip and trendy these days, and I can understand the skepticism that comes with anything trendy. That said, these new apps and courses are founded on simplistic principles that have been practiced for centuries, and now you can do it right from the comfort of your own home, or office. You no longer has to shave your head, take a vow of silence and move to Tibet 🙂
In all seriousness, while academic literature on the subject of meditation and its effects are still in its infancy, the results are promising, and really, at this point, what do I have to lose?
So, this time, armed with my meditation pillow (because you clearly need one of those) and the Headspace app, I can now meditate wherever I am, for a small fee, and I look forward to developing my peace of mind by committing to meditate for five minutes twice per day (more, if I wish).
Peace of Spirit
While the mind and body are clearer constructs for me, I knew that there was another part of me (spirit, for lack of a better word) that I needed to foster peace in as well.
Over the past three years, with my body and mind increasingly out of whack, I felt that third part of me waning as well, most clearly illustrated by my lack of creativity and appreciation of the beautiful things in life.
I used to gain so much joy from sending handwritten notes on beautiful stationary, sitting down with a cup of tea to read a book, or write posts for the blog. I used to love sitting down to paint, or sketch, and take photos to share on Instagram; however, this past year, it seemed that my mind and body were too much to manage, leaving no time for the soul.
In fact, with the heft of this past year, I had begun to question the importance and value of such pursuits. Sending a card doesn’t cure cancer, nor does anyone really care to receive then. Further, with all of the horrible things going on in the world, why would anyone care to read my silly thoughts on the blog? It was a slippery slope, to where I was doing very little of what I had once found so much joy in.
Enter – an unapologetic return to all of those things that once made me happy, and an immediate end to any critical assessment of their importance or value; for if they bring me joy, then they are of the utmost importance and value.
To be clear, this return is not necessarily in any particular order, or frequency, but rather with the goal of fostering more peace in this soul of mine.
Thus, once more, armed with my favourite pen or paintbrush, I look forward to developing my peace of spirit by committing to 30 minutes of engaging in any of the above-mentioned activities each evening.
It is my hope that with these small additions to my daily and/or weekly life, I develop more peace internally, and thus, radiate more peace externally as well.
One more quick thing, before I sign off. While watching Christopher Allen (another inspiring YouTuber), speak about his intentions for 2019, he mentioned that deciding on a quote, and/or a little symbol that relates to your intention, will go a long way towards keeping that intention top of mind throughout the year. I loved this idea, and so, for 2019:
My quote is: “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” This quote, by Mahatma Ghandi, spoke to me, as we are so often focused on the destination or outcome. This is reminder that when you choose peace, you will always move in the right direction.
My symbol is: The Tiffany Olive Leaf Pearl Pendant by Paloma Picasso. As I mentioned at the top of this post, Pablo Picasso popularized the dove and olive branch as a symbol of peace following the second World War, which I found so interesting, as his daughter, the legendary Palmoa Picasso, continued this theme by designing the stunning Olive Leaf collection for Tiffany and Company. When speaking with my husband about this, he agreed that it would be the perfect reminder, and graciously gifted it to me for Christmas.
Both the quote and the pendant will serve to remind me of my intention for this year – peace of body, peace of mind, and piece of spirit.
What are your intentions for 2019? Please leave a comment below, as I would love to hear about them.
Wishing you and yours, a peaceful 2019.