> In my case I stopped watching television altogether a year ago and see how
this has increased my serenity, and cultivated a new sense of peace. I share
my experience with the members of my
congregation and I tell people to become
aware of what causes them fear and to
avoid those messages.
Swamiji: Being dispassionate or detached does not mean being cold, it means
knowing that beyond our emotional reactions is a much larger picture. This way
our responses to what life brings us can
be grounded in this deeper awareness.
So we practice inner serenity and detachment so that should we be tested by a crisis or disaster ourselves, we won’t have
to panic, because we will be able to bring
these inner resources to bear.
Anneke: Aside from knowing we are
not our emotions, and monitoring our
news intake, what else can help us find
peace in the midst of crisis?
Peter: To begin this work of “inner transition,” we start with a fair amount of
truth telling about giving up the illusion
of external security. I want to give people a chance to reflect, and a chance to
express their emotions and concerns because sharing the burden is a way of dealing with the stress. My role is to create a
space where people can be encouraged to
explore through conversation with others
what we are all going through.
Swamiji: In a way this is all about
dealing with change. I’ve lived through
a lot of change in my life and I have a
comfortable relationship with change,
which is inevitable anyway. I’m excited
by idea of the kinds of change we discuss in Transition movement. Learning
to live differently, to do with less, or deal
with loss, is a process that can be empowering but it generally means letting
go. I encourage people to examine what
they need to let go of to find out what
they are made of and what is at the core
of their being. We have to come back to
what is our goal in life? Is it comfort or
is it self-realization?
Peter: I talk about spirit and the journey
we are on together as people of faith. I
speak of presence of the spirit and my
hope that we are being used by the
Prayer, meditation, mantra, Yoga, the teachings and wisdom of elders;
Speaking and listening from the heart, connecting with others;
walking, gardening, cooking and eating consciously; a media fast;
reading scripture and other inspirational literature, engaging in poetry,
music and art; coming together in community and doing service.
spirit now and that we try to discover
how we are being used at this particular
place and time. If I have wisdom and insight to offer, I do so. However, it’s also
possible that I have no clue and in that
case I will say that. We clergy like to let
people think we have the answers, but
sometimes we don’t, and actually it can
be a trap to dole out answers because it
keeps people coming back and encourages a culture of folks who are takers.
Sometimes we just have to say: “What
are you going to give? This time of transition trouble is an opportunity for you
to reach inside and give some.”
Anneke: What specific practices do you
recommend to deal with fear and change?
Peter: I start by saying, “Don’t feel like
you have to do this on your own. In our
culture we tend to isolate and numb ourselves by working 90 hours a week, exercising excessively, and using drink and
drugs. So I commend people who reach
out and ask for help and encourage them
to find a community who pray and practice together, and who learn and study
and sing -- people who garden and meditate and do Yoga.
My church has a twice daily time of
meditation, services on Sunday, and educational programs. We try to sense the
needs of the people and then schedule
teachings to enrich and support our community. We have Bible study, book groups
that deal with specific issues, such as race
and social justice, cooking classes, and the
We are an inclusive community, where
members don’t have to prove any denominational affiliations. We welcome
everyone: people of faith or people who
have no faith!
Swamiji: It’s about quieting the mind
long enough that we get clearer direction
for where change should take us. I believe a mantra [sacred syllable] gives us
huge protection; it keeps reminding us
of who we are and will take us back to
the source whatever happens. We practice asanas [postures], so we can become
aware of our inner energy, start to experience inner peace. The Sivananda Yoga
center offers Satsanga – which means
being in the company of those who are
more established in their spiritual life.