Kate Monkhouse reflects on how the ‘gathering points’ in the Creators of Peace Circle might prove to be useful staging posts for reflection during these difficult months.
Now with the advent of the coronavirus global pandemic, and as we start to come to terms with the fact that we are not going to be hosting any peace circles any time soon, I wanted to offer a reflection. How might those of us who have already participated in a peace circle use this shared experience to resource ourselves and explore how we might respond during these challenging days.
I have for this purpose revisited our familiar gathering points. (In a different order – with Jean Brown’s permission! we will of course maintain the usual order again for peace circles.) Over the next weeks, we will explore ways to connect online, there may even be mini online peace circles! But for now, how might we start to discern what is ours to do as individuals and as Creators of Peace during the pandemic?
Here are some prompts for to reflect on, either by ourselves, maybe to share with a friend via zoom or on skype. Perhaps to work through together. Don’t try all at once, just see which of the Gathering Points speak to you at this time. Or simply take time for some quiet time, journaling, drawing or whatever helps you.
First, inner listening. What a gift we have been given! An invitation to pause, to be quiet, in the midst of any turmoil, to listen – to ourselves, our bodies, our interior life. To find wisdom, to measure our actions against our values, to listen to what we know of God. And just to see what ours is to do in the day ahead.
Second, listening to others. As our troubled world rushes to make meaning of this pandemic, could it be that we are asked to listen first? To set aside time in the day with those in the households we share, with our family members or friends by phone and our local communities as they try to express themselves.
Third, inner peace. Not so easy during tough times, you know that already. All of us who have lived through life’s troubles – civil war, poverty, discrimination, health problems – know how hard it is to maintain this. What would you like to do you to take care of your well-being and resilience during this new challenge?
Take a pause here, rest a while – take good care of yourself. This is important, but not urgent. When you are ready, later today, next week…
Fourth, qualities of a peace creator. What are the qualities in yourself that you will want to draw on at this time? What are the qualities that you can uphold in others? Which role models will serve you well as you go from day to day? None of us need to be paragons of peace! Take time to choose one for today.
Fifth, circles of concern. Take some paper to map out the people in your immediate circle, then the wider community and world at this time. Choose which ones you could intentionally reach out to and accompany, perhaps in the short term. Remember, to not to take on too many, just a few from the three circles.
Take another pause here. Maybe we can’t do more than what are already doing. Maybe we are not able to take any extra on. That is okay. Maybe someone has already marked us on their circle (thanks friend!) and will reach out to us to remind us we are loved and supported.
Sixth, what destroys and creates peace? At some point, we will no doubt need to question the suffering and express our frustration at the inequalities. This gathering point offers a simple way to consider some of the underlying problems. And also, to highlight the beautiful responses of many to do what they can to help.
Seventh, peace in practice. An opportunity to review what we feel led and able to do – or not to do – in the everyday. And also, to see if there is some wider effort that we might yet be part of. A campaign to reduce the impact of the pandemic, a donation of time or money or a call to be solidarity with others in prayer.
Time to pause. Breathe. Stretch. Eat. Drink water. Do an energiser! Come back to this when you are ready.
Eight, forgiveness. Yes, this one often stands alone. We need to give it time. As our global community recognises life may never be the same again, this is another invitation for inner change. Some of us will acknowledge that at the same time as working to the end of the injustice and suffering, this may also be a time for letting go. For healing. For reconciliation. If and when are hearts are ready. Revisit inner listening!
Take your time. Most of us are not going anywhere fast these days, unless we are on the frontline of key services. So, hold steady yourself, but pray for others too.
Nine, celebrate and commit. Look up & look around. The chances are that there is immense creativity around you. Appreciate the tiny joys. Sing on your balcony (if you have one!). Call a friend. Design a meme or a gif. Share something funny. Take out your tapestry. Dance a little. Dream of a project. Enjoy a flower.
Ten, what is peace anyway? Just as at the start of the peace circle, we may be unsure how to articulate this most precious of aspects of our shared humanity. Just because we try to be peace creators it might not mean that we still know what it is or how to create it. But we have some clues or glimpses. And we can try.
As we journey through this, each one of us will have our own story – a story to tell or a story to keep dear to our own heart. A story that tells how once again we have been challenged and changed by this life and all its troubles. A story that speaks of the longings of our souls for peace. We will need to make meaning and maybe grieve too. We will want to love again, travel again, meet again. As our global community of Creators of Peace stays connected over this next while ahead, we can advocate for a new story. For ourselves, for others and our precious world.
Meanwhile, dear ones, be kind to yourselves and those around you. Let’s do the best we can, as we always try to do.