Peace and love and fear of the future and burnout and all that

I’m in love with the peace that goes beyond all understanding.

But what is it?

It certainly has a religious origin in the bible, and represents the peace of God.  But for me, it’s not about religion, but it is about faith.  It’s a sense that no matter what happens in my life, and in life, on some level I am okay and it is okay.

It is what I am talking about when I say “Give up hope and keep the faith”.  This is what people who have driven themselves to burnout have to do: give up the belief that only as long as we can hope to have this, get this, achieve this, have this quality, can we be okay, and yet know that we will be okay anyway.

But if it’s not a religious understanding, then what is the faith based on and where must it come from? It came to me this morning that it’s really about unconditional love. It means that I am asserting that I will love myself and love life no matter what happens, because the love does not depend on any conditions.

Another way to refer to this is compassion for ourselves and others–that sense that whatever we have done, or whatever has happened to us, we still deserve to be loved and cherished and cared for. We still have a right to remember who we are, and for others to see that essential nature of who we are too.

So what does this have to do with fear of the future?  What I have discovered when i have interviewed people about their worst fear of the future is that while we think it is about an event, like poverty or illness or loneliness or loss, and we have a very clear picture of the terrible event we are afraid of, it is actually about who we will be if that event happens.  In that picture, we look small, shrunken, hopeless, helpless. We are no longer eligible to be loved and honoured even by ourselves.

But if we go into that imagined future and send that person unconditional love, remind that person we imagine we will be of who we really are and will always be, the picture changes. The person in that imagined future starts to stand up straight, smile, take charge, in other words, remember who they are and remember that they are still loved and still powerful.

So the peace beyond all understanding is about the love beyond all understanding, and it means that we don’t need to fear the future because whatever happens we will continue to honour ourselves and the people who love us unconditionally now will do so too.  Whether it is under the arches, or suffering from Alzheimers, or sitting alone in a featureless white room in a hospital, or whatever the picture is, we are loved and loveable.

How do we get to that faith?  Don’t ask.  Just know it is possible if you want it enough.  I certainly do.