Amplifying Peace in Time of War
by Gloria DeGaetano
I cherish the word, amplify! In an age where screen machines dominate a lot of psychic space, it becomes critical that we make a conscious choice (every moment?) that we amplify in our lives what we want. TV is so good at amplification. The images, "news," and priorities they present to us these days amplify negativity, death, and destruction. Like a gigantic megaphone continually blasting to its maximum capacity, visual messages are very difficult to ignore or refuse.
Yet refuse we must.
What we pay attention to grows. I think we have all experienced the simple truth of this complex principle. Thinking of the goal already completed instead of the aching back and sitting at a computer to finish before a deadline becomes bearable. Encourage people from their strengths and their abilities multiply. Notice what works and positive energy propels more to work in our lives.
These anguishing times call us to become masters at amplifying peace; to think, talk, and walk peace more and more each day. Why? We are human after all and the tally of the suffering we can see every night takes is toll on our individual hearts and collective psyche. If we let ourselves become saturated with sadness and disconnected by despair, we lose precious opportunities to counter the amplification of hatred and brutality all around us.
What if we arranged our lives to be conscious amplifiers of peace? What would we pay attention to? Perhaps we would amplify…
Instead of staring in isolation front forward, we would turn off the TV, face each other and look deeply into each other's eyes to explore what is truly in our hearts. Through attentive listening and focused intention meaningful dialogue erupts. Realistically, adults can get all the "news" about what is happening in Iraq with a 15-minute read of a paper; a 10-minute peruse of the Internet; a 30-minute session with NPR or a TV station, after the children have gone to sleep. With less viewing and more eye contact comes opportunity for emotional expression. Continual conversations with children are critical right now. There are many resources available for parents and teachers who wish direction for talking with children and teens. (See below for some of the best.). Let us remember that the main pre-requisite to feel safe, secure, and loved is unabashed, deep connection with loved ones. Look love into the eyes of those we love and watch the fear subside.
It's true as jazz singer Karin Allyson points out, "We won't be hurried after we're buried." The full lives most of us lead keep us hopping from one thing to the next and under most circumstances, we can make it work. War time, though, calls for us to be rigorous with ourselves in considering how we spend our time. It's now an critical to make sure that our busyness is not just distraction or denial. By giving ourselves contemplative space, we can tap into the peace inside. Our life choices spring from internal values. By making sure each day holds "open time" for introspection, prayer, and reflection we connect to that which is greater. Our hunger for understanding our place in the grand scheme becomes a bit more satiated.
Brother David Steindel-Rast, author of Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer and pioneer in forwarding the spiritual practice of thankfulness states in an article on his website (www.gratefulness.org):
"By living the gratefulness we don't feel, we begin to feel the gratefulness we live."
As we experience deep thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives, we tend to rid ourselves automatically of anxiety and stress. At a time when many things were happening in my life that seemed overwhelming. Definitely down by a seemingly endless up-hill battle, a friend suggested this was the exact right time to make a list of 100 things I felt grateful for. I didn't think I could come up with even one, but as I actually forced myself into the exercise, I was feeling very grateful for my friend who suggested it as I neared the 99th blessing on my list. Sprinkling shorter practices of gratefulness throughout our busy days can lead to peaceful acceptance of our challenges and restored vitality to engage them in different ways.
Using our talents and abilities to create also restores vitality and connects us with the peace within. We know our best work comes out of a centered place inside. Since humans were born to co-create a better world with each other and the Divine, the best antidote in times of war is to tap into our unlimited potential for creative expression. If you have been meaning to take a class, begin a craft project, or do more art activities with the kids, but haven't gotten around to it; turning off the war news and attending to your creative yearnings can bring comfort and consolation. Children's natural creativity can be unleashed in so many ways and they truly need examples of adults delighting in their own creative process. Ultimately, if are to continue as a species, we will have to find creative, peace-full solutions to conflict. The future imperative is for massive human creativity to stop massive human destruction. That means our children must know themselves as highly competent, confident creators, now!
Seemingly small life-affirming actions such as cleaning off a messy desktop, taking time to snuggle with a beloved pet; planting a garden, or taking a walk in the sunshine can counter depressing thoughts. Hopeful people are peaceful people who stay clam and observant in crisis; expecting positive results in the end. The function of most of mainstream media today is to communicate fear and mindless reactivity. Refusing to enter that house; we can enter the sanctuary within ourselves by daily reminders of what brings us and our children more hope. Newspapers still bring stories of community leaders making our world a better place. Radio and TV often carry narratives and documentaries which inspire and enlighten. Choose to find an example of hope everyday to highlight in your family. Sometimes you don't have to look very far. Children who learn hope learn to teach hope.
Resources for Parents and Teachers for Talking with Children About War
New York University Child Study Center offers a wealth of resources,
including media guidelines and parent letters in a variety of
- The National Mental Health Association offers tip sheets for coping in challenging times including, Helping Children Cope with Loss, Your Mental Health in Times of War, Tips for College Students, and Drawing on Your Faith to Cope.
- The American Red Cross developed Facing Fear: Helping Young People Deal with Terrorism and Tragic Events, a school curriculum designed to help alleviate worries and clear up confusion about perceived and actual threats to safety.
- Purdue University's Child Development Website presents many useable resources for parents and educators of young children, including audio segments on Helping Children Cope and Talking with Children about Terrorism.
- PBS Parents has put up an easily navigated website which makes it easy for parents to find information for children of different ages in the section, Age by Age Insights. Noteworthy for parents of young children is the advice from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood regarding scary things.
Beliefnet provides hopeful advice through the wise writing of Naomi Drew
author of Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain
World. Her article has many practically beautiful tips for
families. She concludes her suggestions with:
Light a candle each day and say this affirmation together:
Give me the gift of hope.
May I always believe in
the beauty of life,
the power of goodness,
the right to joy
for all people everywhere.
Gloria DeGaetano, Founder and CEO of The Parent Coaching Institute, presents keynotes and workshops to parents, educators, corporations, and professional organizations. She may be contacted at 425-449-8877. Her latest book is Parenting Well in a Media Age: Saving Our Children from the Corporate-Controlled Culture, Personhood Press, January, 2004.