Shalom for Life

Shalom for Life

Steve Rees

I want to spend this time with you talking about something very dear to my heart. It seems that the culture around us is so divisive these days. Political divides, family divides, cultural divides, race divides and on and on. I want to make sure you understand that I am not singling out any one group. I want to address this chaos in a more general fashion.

I believe that it is essential to gain an understanding here because it affects our lives so much. I have spent the past decade-plus making and recording calming harp music to help people be able to sleep and settle down from disturbing events in their lives. Many people have written me letters and emails of how this music has done exactly that for them. In a world teeming with chaos and trouble, we need to have reliable ways of coming into a calming place to meditate and rest.

I have found in my own life that I can get sucked into chaos and tension, sometimes before I even realize it. When I become aware of what's going on, I ask, "How did I get here?" The only way out for me is to decide to step aside and change the environment. I can turn on some music; go to a quiet place; make a phone call to a "real" friend who understands what I am going through. I find that in some way, I need to disrupt the events unfolding around me. It has to be a conscious decision; it doesn't just happen.

Another thing I try to do when it comes to philosophical debates or political discussions is to try and listen to what the other person is saying. I tell myself, "There might be a valid viewpoint here that I haven't considered before." I say try because sometimes it is easier than others, but that is my goal.

One time, while visiting a friend in New Zealand, we were discussing some political issue about which we both agreed. We realized that there was an opposing view, as well. She said, "My father told me one time that a bird only flies well if it is using both wings. It needs a right-wing and a left-wing to be able to navigate properly." Pretty good advice, wouldn't you say?

That, I believe, is the key to gaining control over the chaos that tries to envelop our lives. It is vital to have both sides of a debate in place to offer another view than the one we believe. It is essential to hear the other side of a discussion to gain some perspective. The other party may not be right as far as you observe, but at least you understand where they are coming from and can gain knowledge about what is worth pursuing.  If we can take that position, we can step out of the competitive fray and spend more of our time in the "Calming Arts." That will help us lower our blood pressures and address the more critical matters that affect our lives.

I have found that meditation is a handy tool that is used by many disciplines. The Psalms of David that I have been bringing to music form frequently talk about meditating, and I find that many, including myself, use this music as a background for meditation. Alternative health practitioners often refer to meditation as an excellent tool in gaining control of health and wellness. Many religions engage in meditation as a part of their daily routines. Meditation helps you focus on more positive things and less on negative distractions. It enables you to be more in control of what your thoughts are instead of just being a victim of whatever is going on around you.

It is impressive to watch a person who is calm and centered through meditation, approach a chaotic situation. It's almost like watching a ship navigate through a troubled sea, unphased and steady. The waves lash at its hull, but it moves on undisturbed.

That is the way I want to navigate life. I want to be able and ready to go through the storm steady and sure; letting the waves of chaos pound against me without deviating from my course. That is the "Shalom" that I talked about last month. That Shalom allows me to stay focused on the things that matter and let the other distractions slide by. That Shalom will enable me to be thankful while people around me are complaining. That Shalom allows me to see the positive while others around me see only the negative. That Shalom enables me to be positive and joyful no matter the circumstances I find myself in.

That Shalom also brings health and wellness to my body. Multiple research studies have shown us how stress affects our bodies negatively. We are also learning that stress is more a matter of how we perceive an incident or conditions rather than what they are. A person with a positive mindset can be placed into an environment with a negative person and experience much less stress than the negative person.

An article:  Crum, A. J., Salovey, P., & Achor, S. (2013). Rethinking stress: The role of mindsets in determining the stress response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 716-733 found that there was a very different response to stress, depending on the mindset which they quantified with a test given before the stress was introduced in the study.

I believe we can learn to calm ourselves amid chaos and reduce the effects of the stress that enters our lives. In doing that, I think we can experience a much-improved level of health and wellness. If we can achieve this calming through calming harp music and meditation, even essential oils, instead of pharmaceuticals, that's even better! I believe that simple is better.

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