The Advent scripture today advises us not only to love one another but to “live quietly” ourselves:
Now concerning love for the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, NRSV)
Today, I understand “live quietly and mind your own affairs” to mean that it is important to develop inner peace. This has been much on my mind since the passing of Nelson Mandela last week. In 1993, he and Frederik Willem de Klerk were awarded the Peace Prize for their work in ensuring the peaceful ending of apartheid and laying the groundwork for a democratic South Africa. Although he did not eschew violence in his early years, Mandela later became convinced of the pragmatism of nonviolent resistance and emerged as a world leader known as a great man of peace and humility.
Often, becoming a peaceful person involves hard-won inner struggles with anger. Do you consider yourself to be a peaceful person? Just because we don't hit someone when we are angry doesn't mean we are peaceful. Thich Nhat Hanh said:
"When you get angry, go back to yourself, and take very good care of your anger.[...] If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. The Buddha gave us very good instruments to put out the fire in us: the method of mindful breathing, the method of mindful walking, the method of embracing our anger, the method of looking deeply into the nature of our perceptions, and the method of looking deeply into the other person to realize that she also suffers a lot and needs help.”
Look deeply into your anger the next time it arises. Be curious less about the story of your anger than about the felt experience of it, how it is created, how it moves and changes, how it affects your head, neck, chest, and gut. Notice how the emotions and sensations emerge and then dissipate unless you stoke your self-righteousness into outrage. You can simply allow the whole catastrophe to be there. Your mindful breathing and walking will ventilate it, breaking up all the stuck energy, loosening the knots. Then you can go to the person toward whom you feel anger and deal with them from a stance of peace and compassion.
"Live quietly" -- be peaceful. "Mind your own affairs" -- the emotion within -- in order to better "love all the brothers and sisters."
What are you noticing today?
for Mindful Monday
Post 12 in the Crystallize Meaning through Creativity: An Advent Event Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. Please offer a link to your Advent Reflection using the comments or feel free to leave your thoughts.
© 2013, post, Donna Pierce
© Hanh, Thich Nhat (2001). Anger: The Wisdom of Cooling the Flames. New York: Penguin Putnam, p. 24-25.
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