July 13, 2011
Learn how safety and peace are not always found where we think they will be.
Joyce and Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They have given me permission to reprint an article from their July 3, 2011, Shared Heart Foundation newsletter called “A Nest of Peace.”
I have chosen to share it because it beautifully expresses the way in which we can all create peace and serenity in places where they are most needed.
Finding peace in your lives and relationships, especially if you feel stressed with financial, health, or relationship challenges, can sometimes seem almost impossible. And yet finding that peace is essential.
There is a story of a king who offered a prize to the artist who could paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried, and the king finally chose two of the best. From these two, he had to choose one to receive the prize. The first picture was of a perfectly calm lake, with majestic mountains around it. The sky was pure blue with soft fluffy clouds. All who saw that picture thought that surely it would win the prize. It appeared to be the essence of peace.
The second picture was very different. It also held a lake, but the wind was creating high waves. The mountains around the lake were bare and rugged. Above was a turbulent sky with rain and lightning. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a raging waterfall. This painting did not look peaceful at all.
But when the king looked closer, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water and noise, sat the mother bird on her nest….in perfect peace.
Which picture won the prize? The king chose the second picture. “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean the absence of noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
When we do couples retreats, we always challenge the couples to create in their lives 10 minutes to connect in a peaceful, spiritual and loving way with one another. There are many different ways to do this. Barry and I say a prayer of gratitude and trust each morning while we hold hands. Saying this prayer together allows us to connect in our hearts and feel our spiritual connection with each other. We create our own nest of peace and safety to which we can return again and again when life challenges us.
Nineteen years ago, we were experiencing a great financial challenge. We had lived the first twenty-three years of our married life without financial stress. We lived in very inexpensive rental homes, drove old cars, and bought our clothes and our children’s clothes from second-hand stores. We kept cash on hand and only bought something if we had the cash for it. We didn’t have a credit card and had never been in debt. All that changed in 1989 when the earthquake destroyed our small rental home. We had been paying only $270/month rent and suddenly were forced out into the real world of high rents.
We decided to follow our dream and were able to purchase 16 acres right next to the rental home at a very good price. We were very naïve about mortgages and decided at the same time to build the house of our dreams, a home in which we could raise our three children and, at the same time, hold some of our workshops. Then we got the first mortgage bill and realized how very high it was. How could we ever come up with so much money each month? Our children were happy to have a home once again, after camping for six months in order to save money. We did not want to leave our new home, but the mortgage was so high that we wondered if we might go into foreclosure before we even had a chance to really live there. We were scared and started taking it out on each other. The picture of the turbulent sky and waves on the lake might describe our situation. Each day got harder and harder for us.
Finally we realized we must create a place of peace for this challenge and it was at that point that we began saying a prayer every single day. We sat for ten minutes each day and asked for help and guidance from a loving power greater than our own minds. Our financial situation did not immediately change, but these ten minutes of peace every day brought a trust into our lives that calmed the turbulence. Every month we somehow made that payment, sometimes by just a few dollars. When we would pray together it felt as if we were sitting in that nest of peace behind the rushing waterfall. We still return to that nest day after day as other challenges and situations come into our lives.
I feel very grateful for this “nest” and the peace that comes from sitting in it each day. For the people who have taken us up on our “ten minute challenge,” their lives change in a special way. We will forever encourage couples and singles to create this nest of peace.
NOTE: The Vissell’s most recent book, A Mother’s Final Gift: How One Woman’s Courageous Dying Transformed Her Family, is a heart warming story that should be read by anyone who fears dying.