Peace Be in Your Heart

Cultivating peace in our hearts requires awareness of wherein the heart lies.”


Article by Mary Bea Sullivan


Unity Center for Peace in Chapel Hill, North Carolina ends each service with congregants reaching across the aisles to hold hands as one large, winding, human chain belting out, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be … ” Years ago when I attended these services, singing this song was the highlight, a culmination of community grounded in personal responsibility for creating peace.


Recently I was visiting Park City, Utah, and attended a service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  The service ended in much the same way … joyful voices joined, raised high with the intention to be a peaceful presence.  The universal message ringing true for two very different congregations on opposite ends of the country.


Like many moments in the pews, we can choose to leave the meaning in the building, or, we can choose to carry the meaning out into the world.


So, how can we cultivate a sense of peace?  There is so much to this question!  My focus today is … our awareness of the moment when we become reactionary.


For most of us, when we begin to tighten or “brace” in our body, it’s an indicator that some internal trigger is firing.  Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, the renowned contemplative prayer teacher instructs that if at all possible, we want to avoid responding from this place of “bracing.”  My sense is the reason we want to be mindful of when we are being reactionary is because underneath the sensation is some degree of violence … be it a violent thought, feeling, or action waiting for an opportunity to see the light of day.


Often when we think of violence, physical violence comes to mind.  Yet we can be just as incendiary with fiery thoughts – thoughts directed at ourselves or others.  Hurtful speech can be as a brutal as a well-placed blow.


It’s common for us to experience anger or fear (two of the most common seeds of violence).  What impedes our ability to cultivate peace is ignoring the power these thoughts and feelings can have on our behavior …


Cultivating peace in our hearts requires awareness of wherein the heart lies.  It requires living awake.


Imagine the difference each of us could make if we created the intention to be a peaceful presence.


Try this: make an effort to be aware of any “bracing” or “tightening” in our bodies; or a sense of our hearts “closing off.”  Notice the sensation and then silently breathe “peace” as many times as necessary.


Perhaps you can take a moment right now, place your hand on your heart and pray, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”


“If peace be in your heart,

the wildest winter storm is solemn beauty,

the midnight flash but show your path of duty,

each living creature tells some new and joyous story,

the very trees and stones catch a ray of glory,

if peace be in your heart.”


- Charles Francis Richardson, “Peace Be in Your Heart”


Mary Bea Sullivan is the author of Dancing Naked Under the Moon – Uncovering the Wisdom Within, a compelling story about her pilgrimage toward wholeness.  She facilitates spiritual retreats and workshops for women’s groups and faith communities.  Mary Bea lives with her husband, Malcolm Marler, and their yellow (white really) lab, Daisy, on Smith Lake in Alabama. For more information about Mary Bea Sullivan and her work, please visit


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Posted on 5 November, 2009 in Gratitude, Happiness, Spirituality
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