Searching for peace Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Friday, 12 December 2014 13:49
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Take heed. It happens every year. It happens in the big rush towards a ‘perfect Christmas’; a mad dash that leaves so many casualties along the way that “Here be dragons” should be printed on all calendars at the start of December.

These almanacs should be hung on the back of toilet doors to warn the unsuspecting, while conveniently captive. Except, you know, the unsuspecting aren’t the ones who ‘do’ Christmas, are they? Women ‘do’ Christmas.

So, let me tell you what women want; specifically what they want during the festive season. And I’m not talking about perfume or jewellery. Women want peace; the kind of peace “that passeth all understanding”.

Somehow, however, we’ve become convinced that this kind of peace is only attainable on a mountain top. By a hermit. Or by a nun in one of those orders where you’re not allowed to speak. Better still, by an anchoress.

The word ‘anchoress’, means ‘a woman who has retired from the world’. It usually refers to someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society to lead an ascetic existence. But, here’s the rub, unlike hermits, an anchoress has to take a vow of stability of place.

It means that she has to be enclosed in a cell, often attached to a church, and would be considered dead to the world after her religious rite of consecration, which closely resembles the funeral rite.

Julian of Norwich, who was born in 1342, was such an anchoress. She wrote a book, ‘Revelations of Divine Love’, which was the first book in English, known to be written by a woman.

Very little is known about her. Julian wasn’t even her real name. She only got the name from the fact that her anchoress’ cell was built onto the wall of the Church of St Julian in Norwich, which was at that time the second largest city in a plague-ridden England.

Okay, wait – I digress. I didn’t actually mean to tell you Julian’s life story; just wanted to say that sometimes, during the festive season, being walled up somewhere, actually anywhere, plague-ridden or not, appears to be the only way to find the elusive peace we’re searching for.

But what exactly is peace in any case? I mean, you cannot really define it by what it is not – the absence of anxiety, can you? They say that anxiety is fear of the future. Sounds too Hollywood therapy-ish to you? Actually Lao Tzu, mystic philosopher of ancient China, said it in the sixth century BC already.

He said: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Madisyn Taylor writes that if you can shift your focus from what may happen years down the line and return it to the day that is before you right now, you may find a measure of calm and renewed confidence in your capabilities. You may also discover an inner faith that the future will take care of itself.

Okay, she didn’t exactly say that the day in front of you would be Christmas day, but still – if we can remain fully engaged in the day at hand, enjoying all it has to offer and putting our energy into making the most of it, we will find that we are perfectly capable of handling any future when it arrives. The keyword here is ‘any’ future; not necessarily the one you want.

You see, it’s because inner peace doesn’t come from getting what you want. It comes from remembering who you are. So says life coach Lorraine Cohen.

And who-you-are is beyond labels. If you continue paying attention to labels such as wrong and right, good and bad, you will only be living a slice of life. Same with Christmas, girlfriend.

And you don’t just want a slice, you want the whole shebang. That’s why you cannot allow the opinions of others to control your life. If you do, you empower others to control your joy. And that simply won’t do on Christmas day.

So, let go of the big rush towards that elusive ‘perfect Christmas’ and rest in the knowing that, in the end, all will be well. That’s the quote Julian of Norwich is best known for. She said: “. . . all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”


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