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Finding Inner Peace In An Uncertain Life
by Robin L. Silverman

In 1997, a disastrous flood swept through our region and changed our lives forever. As we sought to rebuild our homes, restart our businesses and reestablish our schools and houses of worship, there was only one thing we knew: We couldn't count on anything. The river's moods remained uncertain. The Army Corps of Engineers couldn't decide where to build a permanent dike. The city wasn't sure whose damaged property would be bought out. Friends and family were trying to figure out whether they wanted to go or stay. It was a situation similar to when you receive a devastating diagnosis or your spouse walks out on you—your knees buckle, your heart skips too many beats, and your brain goes numb.

That's when I went looking for what would create an unshakable core of inner peace. When all bets were off, I wanted one sure thing that would guarantee a happy ending to a crazy nightmare. I wanted it for myself, but just as much, I wanted it for all the people I knew who had struggled with life's curveballs. I could live without my house, my job or running water for a while. But without peace, life would feel more threatening than thrilling; more empty than full.

I started to find peace in the hundreds of emails, phone calls and faxes that were coming in from good people everywhere who wanted to help. It was in the essence of their stories and messages. Although few had ever survived a flood, all had experienced "natural disasters" of one kind or another. I cried as I read stories of absolute, complete surrender and roared with tales of the impossible made real. They talked of seeing the beauty in others, taking a first step towards something that would be fun or reinventing a new role for themselves. I posted the essence of these stories on my computer, and in time, I could see that we all have ten gifts.

Everyone has the Ten Gifts

The gifts are natural wonders common to every man, woman and child on this planet. They can be used to help us escape trouble or create amazing new opportunities. Regardless of why we use our gifts, what we get is what we need when the past is gone and the future is unclear: Inner peace. Working with this peace, things have turned out better for me and others than any of thought possible. Those who have ignored them have, more often than not, gotten stuck in a quicksand of frustration, disappointment and bitterness.

The Ten Gifts have familiar names, although the definitions are new. The first two help us shake off our fear of punishment or rejection, so we can move forward. The first is Faith, which no longer means, "Be patient." Using the gift of Faith offers an immediate payback, as it asks the question: "What problem or opportunity can I surrender to God?" The gift of Love follows, now much larger than a simple rush of feeling for another. It asks, "What beauty do I see in this person before me?" During the flood, tens of thousands of people either lived with or were fed or helped by total strangers. Without the gift of Love, there would have been unrelenting distrust. With it, there was not a single story of harm.

As the first two gifts help remove barriers of tension and reluctance, the next two put us back in touch with the desires of our hearts and souls, the places where our creator resides within us. The gift of Dreams is unique to human beings, as we are the only species on the planet capable of imagining something better for ourselves. It asks the question, "What would make me happy now?" The answer is assisted by the next gift, Courage, which is no longer bravery or risk, but rather, something that is much, much more challenging for most of us. It asks, "What would be fun to try to make my dream come true?"

Peace is made real by Unity and Joy

The next two gifts align us with the best in the people around us, and help us feel peaceful as we work and cooperate with others to create visions that are far greater than anything we can do alone. The gift of Unity is no longer consensus, but the answer to the question, "Who can help me?" It is followed by the gift of Joy, which is not the happiness that life brings to you, but an unbridled enthusiasm for life that is expressed by and through you. Joy asks the question, "How can I share whatever happiness I have?"

Trust and Character are the next two gifts. As we grow more comfortable with our Source and the world around us, these gifts make us peaceful with ourselves. Trust is knowing and responding to the still, small voice within each of us. It is acknowledging the inner radar that tells us that whatever we are thinking, saying or doing is either building or destroying our peace. It asks the question, "When do I feel good?" Our bodies become our barometer, and we can tell by our aches, pains, twinges of regret or tears of joy whether we are on or off track. Trust is a necessary adjunct to the gift of Character, which asks, "What new role do I want to play on life's stage?" As we reinvent ourselves day after day, Character allows us to become the best we can be.

Peace is kept by Thanks and Intention

The final two gifts fulfill the promise that we are never alone in this wonderful universe, and that ultimately, all is well. The gift of Thanks empowers us to be of value and service to others. It asks the question, "Who or what can I bless with my gifts?" The gift of Intention keeps us safe, no matter what. Even if appearances remain uncertain, it allows us to align our souls with a higher power and be ourselves, regardless of conditions around us. It asks the questions: "What now? What next?"

As the holiday season dawns, I use my ten gifts to experience life no longer as a seeker, but as a finder of peace. It is everywhere: in me, in you and in everyone and everything else. There is nowhere that peace is not, if we choose to acknowledge it. It's in the surrender caused by the storm that closes roads and forces everyone to stay home for a day. It's in blessing the work and errands that are ours to do. It's alive in loving tears of reunion and released when we have the courage to lay aside our work and pause long enough to share laughter with friends. Peace is in the music of kindness and the lighting of candles. It's a shared table, an open door, a willing heart.

In my religious tradition, we have a holiday called Hanukkah, a word which means "dedication." If we dedicate ourselves to peace, if we are willing to have it and use it and enjoy it, we will be gifted in ways few of us have ever imagined. I wish you peace, not only in the coming weeks, but for the rest of your life. For when you have peace and live it, life will never again threaten who you are or what you have. Of that, I am certain.

© Robin Silverman. 2000. 

Robin Silverman is an author, motivational speaker and consultant specializing in human potential. She is the founder of CreativisionsTM workshops and lectures, which have taught thousands of men, women and students how to eliminate problems and achieve more satisfaction and personal peace both on and off the job. She writes and presents visualization programs that reduce stress and improve individual and team performance. She also teaches public speaking at the University of Minnesota. Robin has published more than 1200 newspaper and magazine articles celebrating the best of the human spirit, and is the author of the new book, "The Ten Gifts" (St. Martin's Press) and the forthcoming book, "Something Wonderful is About to Happen."

Silverman is the author of the award-winning middle-grade book, A Bosnian Family, the story of refugees from the war in the former Yugoslavia. She is also the author of two audiotapes: Love From Home and Relaxation for Busy People, which are being used by men and women nationwide to reduce stress and create happier, more fulfilling lives. Her stories are featured in the bestselling books Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul, Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul, Small Miracles for Women and Heartwarmers. In addition, her work has appeared in a variety of national magazines, including Inc. magazine, Ladies' Home Journal, New Woman, Teen, Woman's World and more.

Originally from Westfield, New Jersey, Robin now hails from the Heartland: Grand Forks, ND, where she lives with her husband Steve, two daughters and their collie.



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