The presenter asked us to think of something that made us feel peaceful and good, and to focus on that image and let ourselves become totally involved with it. The conference I was attending included this session on visualization techniques to reduce stress.
I finally came up with a mental image of a cabin in Maine that's part of a summer camp I visit. However, I got so involved with questions about the color of the porch railing, number of windows, and landscape details that the picture was anything but peaceful.
Later, the whole thing became rather amusing when I thought about it. I had this mental image of the roughly 300 people in the room: 299 having peacefully blank mental balloons over their heads and the 300th - me - having a mental balloon full of question marks.
Still, the question nagged at me. Where could I find relief from stressful times? I realized that, for me, peace isn't tied up with a particular place or object. It comes when I turn in prayer to God. Not that I meditate on God as an abstract word or thought and close out the world. Rather, I become truly conscious of God's care and control right where I am. This brings me peace.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, wrote, "God fashions all things, after His own likeness. Life is reflected in existence, Truth in truthfulness, God in goodness, which impart their own peace and permanence" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 516).
I actively look for evidence of God's peace-giving goodness and love.
This can be found in small things or large. Once, when I had to attend a conference when I had an injured leg, I was grateful to find a parking space very near the first session. A tiny thing, but right then it was such a proof of God's presence that I was able to attend all the sessions without difficulty, and the residual pain was gone after I prayed some more that night. A bigger thing was getting my wallet back, intact, with all its contents, after it had lain in a parking lot for three days, unnoticed. The cumulative effect of these small experiences is a calmness and confidence.
The 23rd Psalm in the Bible has helped me a lot in finding peace. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul." To me, God is Love. By letting God shepherd me, I've found peace even under the most stressful conditions.
A few years ago I was embroiled in a battle. Both sides in this particular organization held their views fiercely. Although everyone was polite, mental daggers were flying.
After a meeting so brutally stressful that I didn't know how I could return, I turned almost desperately to God. I prayed to feel His shepherding of all of us toward whatever would do the most good. I kept affirming that God really was in control and that somehow I would be able to perceive the peace He is always giving us.
The morning of our next meeting, I was still afraid about how it would go, but my conviction of God's love had become stronger. Since the last meeting, I had felt God's love in other situations, and I took those instances as proofs that this love would be with our group. Other people in this group were also praying, each in his or her own way.
The result was astonishing. Everyone still held strong feelings, but each committed to finding a solution. And we did. My growing conviction of God's presence, guiding us, eliminated the stress I'd been feeling. Everyone was willing to compromise, and by the end of the day, we had resolved every issue.
When stress starts to build up, God's shepherding presence continues to be a haven of peace for me, where good is permanent and unlimited.
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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor