S2 EP139 – Peace on Earth, Peace in Your Heart

Episode Summary

This holiday season let’s focus both on peace on earth and on inner peace. It’s by learning to create inner peace that we can extend that out to others and create a wonderful holiday experience, regardless of your circumstances. Even if you are alone or with challenging family, you can be an agent of peace.

Transcript

Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with Dr. Erika Chopich. Today, given the holiday season, we are talking not only about peace on earth, but also about your inner peace. Here is what Dr. Erika offered about this topic, which she suggested. I was deeply moved by what she said.

(Erika) Most people are drawn to the holidays. They’re drawn to the warmth and the generosity and the close family time that the holidays represent and bring to them. Holiday lights reflect our own lightness of being and presence and reflect our generosity of spirit. But therein lies a paradox. People love celebrating holidays for all the things they experience but forgot the most important lesson of holidays, which is, that the spirit of a holiday must begin with you. You need to nurture the spark and the glow within you that causes you to reach for the holiday and become the peace – the peace on earth. You cannot experience the love, the warmth, and the spirit of a holiday without finding the peace within you first.

I always thought that the phrase peace on earth was referring to outside the person: peace on the planet, peace in our town, peace in our homes. But now I know that the phrase peace on earth is our starting point. It begins with us – our peace, our generosity, our love, our warmth.

I notice how many people respond differently to holiday music. It reaches into their soul and touches them, but yet I rarely hear them sing the songs themselves. It’s not the external lighting up your internal; it’s you the person, the soul, that lights up the external and gives the music meaning.

This year celebrate you! Celebrate all the love and warmth that you are and spread it outward with a deep breath and a deep song in your own heart, and you will have the most wondrous holiday season to enjoy now and in your memories.

I used to feel sad around the holidays because I have no family. For me, the holidays we’re just me being an outsider looking in through a bell jar or a snow globe, watching everybody else celebrate the fun and joy. Then one day I realized that I am indeed the spirit of the holidays. With every breath I exhale I spread that wonderful sense of spirit and generosity all around me, and in doing so I’m the one who’s healed. I’m the one in joy!

As a chaplain, I not only devoted my time and energy to first responders in crisis, but more importantly I traveled the country coast to coast working with homeless families with children and getting them reintegrated as best I could. Recently, that life experience led me to another.

I was in a grocery store behind a gentleman who was trying to buy a simple sandwich and a carton of milk. He was $1.57 short to make his purchase, so I quietly leaned over to the checker and said, “Please just put that on my bill.” The gentleman, who was clearly homeless, was touched by my offer. He thanked me and I smiled at him and wished him well. I turned back to the checker and asked. “Is this one of your regulars?” He answered, “Nah, he’s just some homeless guy.”

As I exited the store, he was waiting for me. He said “Ma’am, I have $4 here that I want to give to you to at least pay my part, and I appreciate what you did so very much.” We struck up a conversation and I learned that he had spent 26 years in the army, and I immediately recognized the ring on his finger. He was an army Ranger.

He is what we call a high functioning homeless person who was very neatly dressed, very clean, and everything he owned was in order. He told me he had lost his home during COVID when he lost his job and could no longer pay the rent and was living in his car but then someone stole his car. He said, “Wait a minute. I have something for you.” I watched him carefully reach into his backpack and pull out a brand-new bar of dark chocolate which he quickly opened and broke off a piece for me and a piece for him. Chocolate to someone living in the streets is worth gold, yet he wanted to share it with me. We clinked our pieces of chocolate together like fine wine glasses and enjoyed the moment of connection. He reached again in his backpack and pulled out a bag of Milano cookies that had not been opened. He said, “I’ll bet you’ve never tasted this,” as he offered me the cookie. He said “Remember, only eat dark chocolate because that’s the healthiest.” I was struck that he knew that and wanted me to know that.

He asked me what I did for a living as we chatted, and rather than intimidate him by telling him I was a PhD psychologist, I told him I was a chaplain. He quickly smiled and said, “Then we work for the same boss!” “How is that?” I asked. “I used to protect and fight for the country,” he said, “and now I fight for the people here. You have no idea how dangerous it is when the sun goes down for the women and the women with children here. It is my mission and my training to protect them and to look after them. God gave me a strong body and the training to do what needs to be done out here, so that is my mission. Now, instead of fighting for my country, I fight for the people who need protection.” He said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I may not look like much (actually, he’s about my age) but I can still take them down with one punch and always will if they threaten any kind women and children who live in the streets.” I struggled to keep the tears out of my eyes and kept my smile as I held his eye contact.

This gentleman, who had lost everything, managed to have the internal resources to give his life purpose and meaning, especially during such a vulnerable time as holidays. He was an extraordinary man, and I will always remember him. I promised to look out for him when I go back to the store, and I will in fact keep a close eye on him. This man gives a great deal and should not be overlooked. This is the true spirit of the holidays.

Let peace begin with you. Become the peace.

(Margaret) I was quite choked up by the time Erika finished. Erika often has these experiences because she is so tuned in to people in need.

What comes to mind when you think about the holidays?

Do you groan, feeling burdened by all you have to do? Do you dread going shopping for gifts or cleaning up after Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or other holiday celebrations?

Or do you feel a sense of fun, delight, and joy in the celebrating and in the giving and receiving?

Which part of you is in charge of the holidays – your judgmental, ego wounded self or your spiritually connected loving adult?

As a loving adult, you might think thoughts such as:

  • I’m excited to share the holidays with loved ones
  • I love buying presents and sharing them with the people I love
  • I look forward to the yummy food and the sharing of our lives
  • I so enjoy the children’s excitement at the holidays
  • I look forward to the kindness that people express during the holidays

When your wounded self is in charge, you might think thoughts such as:

  • I’m very sad that I’m alone again on the holidays
  • I so dislike buying presents. I never know what to buy, and I don’t like the commercialism
  • I always eat too much and then I gain weight and I don’t feel well
  • The noise of the children is hard for me
  • I find the conversations boring
  • There is so much conflict in our family that it isn’t fun at all
  • I hate family gatherings because I never feel accepted by my family
  • It bothers me that people don’t act as kind throughout the year as they do during the holidays

Think for a moment about the little child in you – the child who may have loved the holidays. What delighted you about Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or other holiday celebrations? Most kids are really excited about receiving gifts, but many children also feel equally excited about giving gifts. Did you enjoy decorating your house?

Or were the holidays a sad time, a time of heartbreak due to not having enough money? Or a time of loneliness due to the loss of a loved one? Were they a time of stress in your family? Was there abuse around holiday times?

Whatever the situation of the past, you have an opportunity now, as an adult, to give your own inner child the celebration he or she wants and deserves. You have an opportunity to move into gratitude for what you have rather than anxiety for all you have to do. Instead of choosing to dread or resist the holiday spirit, why not open to it, embrace it and feel the grace of it? Why not become the peace?

Let the child in you do the shopping for gifts. Let the child in you receive the delight of picking out just the right gift for a friend or loved one. Or let your loving soul find some way to give, some way to share your love, as the homeless man who Erika met does every evening in protecting the homeless women and children. Even if you are alone or without money to spend, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, find a way to give your caring to someone who has less than you or who needs your help.

The holiday spirit is about gratitude and giving. Take the opportunity to notice how fulfilling it is to joyously give rather than to resist or be angry about the work involved, or about not having family and being alone.

Take this opportunity to discover how full your heart feels when you choose to be grateful rather than grumpy and feeling like a victim.

If you choose to think, “Oh no, the holidays are here already. There is just too much work to do,” you may feel anxious and overwhelmed. If you choose to think, “What a drag to have to go out and buy presents,” you may feel resentful. If you choose to think, “Another holiday season and I am still alone,” you may feel depressed. If you choose to think, “This is just a commercial holiday so businesses can make money,” you may feel angry.

However, if you choose to instead think, “How can I make this fun?” you may feel excited. If you choose to think, “How can I give to others this holiday?” you may feel open hearted. If you choose to think, “I get to buy things for the people I love,” you may feel grateful. If you choose to think, “Even if I can’t buy the kids much, I have so much love to give them,” you might feel peaceful.

So who do you want to be this holiday season? You can choose to be a Grinch, close-hearted and angry about the holidays. You can choose to be tense, anxious, judgmental, depressed, fearful, withdrawn, or resistant.

Or you can choose to be happy, peaceful, excited, grateful, loving, open hearted and joyous. It is all up to you. How you feel is the result of how you choose to think about the holidays.

Why not try an experiment this holiday? Refuse to engage with negative thoughts. Instead, make a list of positive thoughts and as soon as a negative thought comes up, imagine changing channels on a TV, switching to the love channel. Then notice how you feel!

Are you willing to challenge yourself to love yourself through the holidays so that you can truly share your love with others? Are you willing to notice how you might be abandoning yourself rather than loving yourself?

Since people and life tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves, the holidays offer you a wonderful opportunity to notice how you might be abandoning yourself.

  • Do you leave yourself alone on the inner level, staying in your mind rather than present in your body with your feelings, or judging yourself, or numbing out with addictions, or making others responsible for whether or not you feel worthy?
     
  • Do you put pressure on yourself to buy the exact right present, or are you in resistance to getting into the joy of giving?
     
  • Do you put your wounded self in charge of what you eat at a holiday meal?
     
  • Do you give yourself up with family, not speaking your truth?
     
  • What are the various ways you reject yourself rather than accept yourself, especially around family or friends?
     
  • How kind are you to yourself and to others? 

I encourage you to see each of these challenges as an opportunity to connect with yourself and your higher guidance about what would be loving to you.

  • If you find yourself alone, what would be loving to you? Can you have a celebration for others who are also alone? Can you volunteer at a soup kitchen or at a domestic abuse shelter? Can you participate in giving gifts to underprivileged children? What would be fulfilling for you?
  • Can you dig deep and find the place in yourself that loves the sharing of gifts and get into the fun of that?
  • Can you put your loving adult in charge of what you eat at a holiday meal?
  • Can you let your inner child play with the children rather than getting annoyed?
  • Can you shift the conversation to something that interests you rather than sit there being bored?
  • Can you speak your truth for your inner child at your family gathering?
  • Can you work on accepting yourself so that you don’t need your family to accept you?
  • Can you practice kindness with yourself and others, rather than judge the lack of kindness?

The bottom line is that in each and every moment, we have the opportunity to focus either on loving ourselves, or on what we don’t like and don’t want.

This holiday, why not focus on love? Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? And since we can’t love others unless we love ourselves, it only makes sense to focus on what is loving to you this holiday season. Peace on earth truly stems from inner peace.

I have found that there are six choices we can make to release stress and create inner peace. None of these choices are hard in themselves, but especially during the holidays, they can be challenging due to the insistence of the wounded self to do the exact opposite.

  1. Be Present with Feelings and Guidance

Peace and joy exist in this present moment – not in the past or future. If you are in your ego wounded self, you are likely thinking about the past or the future with a desire to have control over something. The moment you are out of the moment with a desire to control, you cut off access to the spiritual gifts of inner peace and joy, as well as to the gifts of love and truth.

The wounded self is addicted to focusing on the past or future – ruminating about the past, perhaps with regret – and worrying about the future – trying to control it. If you notice your body while you are ruminating or worrying, you will notice that your body is tense. The tension is your inner guidance letting you know that your wounded self is in charge, and you are abandoning yourself.

When you notice this, shift into being in this present moment and notice the peace and relaxation that floods your body. This is the peace you may want to bring to the holiday season. 

  1. Open to Learning

The wounded self is devoted to trying to control others and outcomes, and to avoiding painful feelings. Again, if you notice your body while you are controlling and avoiding, you will discover there is stress. When you shift your intent to learning about loving yourself and others, notice the relief you feel. The intent to learn generally creates an instant relief of stress. As your heart and mind open, your inner child feels safe that there is a loving adult onboard, and you will then be able to share your inner peace and love this holiday season. 

  1. Value and Accept Yourself Rather Than Judge Yourself

Stress is created when you indulge your wounded self in judging you for things like looks or performance, telling you that you are not good enough, that you aren’t allowed to make mistakes, and so on, rather than valuing the love you are in your essence. If you tune into your feelings when you are judging yourself, you will notice the stress this creates.

We are all love in our soul essence. When you value the love you are, as well as the inner gifts you’ve been given, you will notice that the stress releases. That’s when you will be able to share the gift of your love with family and friends, not just over the holidays, but all the time! 

  1. Gratitude

The heart needs to be open to receive the gifts of spirit. Nothing opens the heart faster than deep gratitude – gratitude for your life, your soul’s journey, for the body your soul lives in, for the food you eat, for friendship and caring, for shelter, and for anything else that you are blessed with – eyes that see, ears that hear, arms, legs, health, and so on. Being truly grateful for your particular blessings opens the heart to peace and joy.

The wounded self loves to focus on what’s wrong and what could go wrong. It is highly creative in its ability to find SOMETHING to be upset about and is great at making up stories of all that can go wrong. This, of course, creates much stress.

How often do you remember to express gratitude – or is your mind often preoccupied with what you need to get done, or how to avoid rejection, or with complaints or endless self-judgments?

When you choose to focus on what is going right and on what you have, there is an immediate release of stress. Peace floods the body when we genuinely feel gratitude for whatever is good in our lives. The holidays are a wonderful time to practice opening to and expressing gratitude.

  1. Compassion

    Equally powerful is compassion for your own and others’ feelings. Compassion is a balm to the soul. Compassion from spirit to my own feelings is what calms me and opens me to my higher guidance. Compassion is such a powerful energy that when I bring it inside to my own feelings, and then extend it out to others, it becomes an invisible shield against taking in the negativity of others, and a powerful way to feel connected with others.

  2. Faith

As you open to your guidance and begin to receive the gifts of spirit, you are able to move more and more into the faith that you are truly not alone – that what we often call God is here always supporting you in your highest good and always manifesting your thoughts and beliefs. Faith that you are loved and that you are in co-creation with God supports you in thinking the thoughts and taking the actions that open you to the gifts of spirit.

Having faith that we are always being guided by a loving presence toward our highest good is, for many, a challenging choice, because we live in a challenging reality. Loss of loved ones, financial hardship, fears regarding basic survival, illness, physical and emotional violence, acts of nature such as fires, earthquakes, tornados, and floods – all create much fear.

However, when you remember that you are always being guided, there is an immediate release of stress. When you remember that we are spiritual beings on an earthly journey to evolve our souls in our ability to love ourselves and each other, and to fully manifest the gifts we have been given, we move out of fear and into peace. When we remember that each event in life provides us an opportunity to learn, to grow and to deepen our faith, then we can move through the challenges of life with equanimity and inner peace. The holidays are a great time to remember this!

So, who do you want to be this holiday season? You get to choose!

I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course to learn or deepen your Inner Bonding practice: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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