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Seven Steps to Peace

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Ten years ago, Damen and I met while he and my friend James were both housed at High Desert State Prison near Susanville, California.

 

Damen currently lives in Kern Valley State Prison near Bakersfield, California.

James is in Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City.

 

I’ve not visited either since that initial meeting.

 

But, I do correspond with each by mail and text.

 

***

 

Damen wrote to me: 

 

Rabbi! I seek solace in peace, spiritually…in hopes that being able to reach a peaceful space within myself, that’s unexplored, could enrich an area in my existence that’ll equip me to better digest the right of my life, as it is today.

 

***

 

I thought:

This is a good challenge. To write out my recommendations about finding serenity.

I’m going to try my best. 

 

***

 

Seven steps to peace

(1) 

Is peace something you want?

If so, let’s analyze how important it is to you.

 

Is finding peace something you think you “should” do?

 

Is it something you 

(a) might do

(b) would like to do

(c) want to do

(d) plan to do

(e) promise to do

?

 

How much do you want peace? 

 

Pick one of the above: (a)-(e)

 

Whichever feels like the “real” one.

 

(Not the one where you think you should be.

But the real one. Where you actually are.)

 

It’s good to know where you are starting.

 

 

 

 

(2) 

Let’s think about how much trouble you have because you lack peace. 

 

Make a list of problems that come up related to your lack of peace

 

a- don’t sleep well

b-

c-

d-

e-

f-

 

The worse the problems you have because of your lack of the peace, the hungrier you probably are to rid yourself of them.

 

 

 

 

(3) 

Let’s make a list of “ADVANTAGES” to losing patience/not having peace.

 

a- it’s easier to react

b- it feels good in the moment

c- getting to feel big

d-

e-

f-

 

We make this list to see, with honest eyes, what we are giving up.

 

The more easily we see what we have to give up to get peace, the better our changes of giving them up and getting peace.

 

 

 

 

(4)

For a moment, let’s pretend that a light is flickering.

 

And let’s make a list of some other annoyances that are equally small.

 

a- bug bites

b- a book not being where you thought it was 

c-

d-

e-

f-

 

We are going to actively start a peace practice with annoyances of this size.

 

Because if we are annoyed by small things, we can bet we’ll be annoyed by big things.

 

So we will build up our “peacefulness” muscle.

 

How? 

 

By trying to develop curiosity when we notice any of the things on the above list.

 

“Oh, the light is flickering,” I say to myself. “How interesting!”

 

I try to get to this curious thought before I react to the small annoying thing.

 

Because curiosity about annoyance is better than annoyance.

 

Sometimes I don’t notice and get curious before I am already annoyed.

 

So, I shift.

 

“Oh, look; how interesting. I am getting annoyed that the book isn’t where I thought it ought to be.”

 

We train ourselves.

 

Like karate. 

Or playing the recorder.

Or anything else.

 

You start small. 

And slowly. 

And practice a lot.

 

Not always doing it so well.

 

Until it becomes a habit.

 

And then you pick up the speed and…. 

 

 

 

 

(5)

 

On to harder things.

 

Yes. 

Slowly.

Build up to larger annoyances.

 

 

 

 

(6)

 

All you have to do today, beloved, is be patient one moment more than your average patience last week.

 

And keep doing that every day.

Until you find yourself patient.

Like moss on a rock.

 

 

 

 

(7)

 

Also.

Make certain to be congratulatory toward yourself as you go.

No need to shame yourself when you lose your patience.

 

 

 

***

 

Let me ask you two questions: 

  1. Do you, <reader name>, seek to be at greater peace this week than you were last week?

  2. Are you willing to put in the work to get it?

 I hope the answers are yes.

 

***

 

Want a live, twenty-minute tutorial with me?

Click here.

 

***

 

$6.42 a month ($77/year) sends 40 issues of this newsletter every year to people (in prison) seeking peace.

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