I’ll never forget the summer afternoons of my childhood when my mother would call my siblings and me in from playing outside with the neighbors to take a half hour nap. Our friends didn’t have to go in for a nap; why did we? It was kind of embarrassing since we weren’t toddlers anymore; we were in grade school. We didn’t have to sleep, we just had to spend that time alone and quiet in our rooms. It was “rest time” for my mom as well. She told us when we got older she did that so we would learn to value quiet time alone. Back then we didn’t have electronic devices, so there wasn’t any interference from the outside world to captivate our attention. It was an opportunity to read, think, create, imagine, and rest. What a gift!
As a young adult and a mother, I continued to carve out quiet time alone as a morning ritual, rising before the rest of the family and sitting in my comfy armchair with devotionals and my journal. I have always been an energetic extrovert, but I cherish this time alone. It grounds me and helps to restore my balance. I have found it to be essential to my well-being and the key to creating a peaceful, healthy home. When we discover and demonstrate peace and wholeness, we raise the vibration in our environment.
My spiritual practice has taught me that any change we wish to see in our lives and our world starts with change on the inside. As the song says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Peace, Wisdom, and Love are ever-present at our core, and silence is the portal. We have to unplug from the outside world, our devices, and the noise in our heads, then breathe and shift our attention inward. Meditation is a powerful practice that increases our awareness of the Presence of Love which is our essence. As we take time to abide in it, we absorb it and radiate it outward. It transforms our lives, our relationships and our homes. It increases the peace!
Children absorb and reflect our consciousness and our energy, which makes them excellent teachers for us. My first child was strong-willed, or “spirited,” and she turned my world upside-down! She infused it with an intensity that challenged my every notion about being a calm and peaceful parent. She was a wild and wonderful teacher. “One of the strongest messages of peace we can send our children is to honor their true natures” (Louise Diamond, The Peace Book, p. 28), and I needed help understanding and embracing hers. A friend gave me the book, Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, which changed my life. My eyes and my heart were opened in a way that increased my compassion and capacity as her mother. It empowered me and helped me to find peace, which benefitted her as well. What a gift!
In the time that I raised my daughters, technology exploded and began to permeate every home and family. We held off as long as we could before getting cell phones for the girls, but we knew many families whose young children had televisions, computers, and video games in their bedrooms and cell phones in their pockets. This has changed the parenting game completely, increasing the need for new pathways to peace and power. Children and teens are bombarded by a world beyond their control that threatens to erode their sense of stability and peace, their very “okay-ness,” which can result in anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and despair. On top of that, they are growing up in a world that is scary and violent. This sad reality can make us all feel shaky and anxious, hungry for peace and comfort. The constant presence of our electronic devices is like keeping the windows open during a thunderstorm! We get addicted to checking our news feed, social media, emails, and text messages, and our culture reflects our collective anxiety, unrest, anger, and pain. How can we all bring more peace into our lives and our world? It is an inside job.
“Solitude is as necessary for our creative spirits to develop and flourish as are sleep and food for our bodies to survive” (Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance). We need a shelter from the world, a safe haven, and time for rest, renewal, and release. As parents it is our responsibility to create a culture of peace in our homes, to build that safe haven for ourselves and our children. This includes using our words and actions to communicate love and respect and to set healthy boundaries. We can also establish “bookends” for each day – morning and evening rituals to connect with inner peace. These can include relaxing music, reading, writing, meditation, and other quiet activities without any electronic devices. This is time to unplug from the world and plug in to peace. “The bigger, more real, and friendlier the world inside me becomes, the safer I feel in the outside world. As above, so below; as inside, so before us.” (Anne Lamott, Almost Everything). Start this yourself and set the example, then have a family meeting to establish new patterns and practices. Start with one step, one change, and then add another. It may take time to adjust to new routines, but when we decide to run a marathon, we enter into a period of disciplined training to achieve the goal. The goal here is significant and sacred: a peaceful, healthy, happy home and family. That accomplishment will have lasting benefits for everyone and extend beyond your domain.
Parenting in this generation seems scarier than ever before, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. The best way to empower and protect our children is to give them a solid foundation and show them the portal to their inner wisdom. Peace and power come from knowing who we are and where to find guidance and strength. Everything we seek in this life starts with a sure and steady inner compass. We develop that through a regular practice of tuning in and learning to trust it. In so doing, we establish ourselves in the way of peace and bring more peace into the world.