Character Strengths as Pathways to Personal Peace | VIA Institute

Character Strengths as Pathways to Personal Peace

By Ruth Pearce

Best laid plans

For several weeks I have been planning to set up the furniture in our screened in porch. We love to sit out there among the trees and birdsong. I kept planning (Prudence) and things kept getting in the way – coaching, teaching, a bout with an illness that was all too similar to Covid-19 (thankfully I tested negative), anything and everything got in the way. Then we had a full week of heavy rain and cooler weather so there did not seem to be much point in prioritizing the porch.

Then this weekend, we had a break in the drab weather, the sun came out and I put Self-Regulation first and followed up on the plan and set up the room. It is not large, but it is comfortable.

Moment of Peace

Immediately I felt a sense of peace. Peace from being able to be outside in a comfortable way, peace from knowing I had completed the task, peace from creating a space that is away from human noise, the television, news cycles and general stress. Just to sit in that space slows me down and connects me to the bigger purpose of life (spirituality). I have said in several posts recently that the rest of nature is not obsessing about Covid-19. That is not to downplay the risks or the stress, but just to point out that nature has other priorities!

On Saturday evening, we sat for hours in the porch, and as the time came for us to go to bed, the frogs chorus started. The call and response were cacophonous and yet it made me focus on all the sounds of nature around us. There was rustling from animals in the wetlands behind our property, there was the hoot of an owl, the warning tweets of birds, there was rustling of the leaves of the trees, and despite the new moon, the sky was strangely light – making me aware of all the lights that we have burning all the time. (Appreciation of Beauty) I was reminded of the start of the poem by Wendell Berry “The Peace of Wild Things”.

When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry

And, I felt compelled to sleep in the porch. I wanted to be outside, to hear all the natural sounds, and experience the rising sun, the dawn chorus, the comings and goings of nature all around me. And this surrounds us even though we live on a corner lot of a development. Life, the urgency and magic of it, is all around us among the houses. (Curiosity, Creativity, Spirituality, Love, Zest). To hear and feel that sense of life, brought me back to “earth”. It did not replace the anxiety and stress about what is happening now, but reminded me that joy and despair, and everything in between can live side by side.

Next door to us is a garden that is certified bird friendly – our neighbor has worked diligently to make the garden a haven for local birds. Two doors down, there is a beekeeper. The bees visit our back yard for water.

bees.png Bees visiting our back yard – Summer 2019

The richness of our location struck home and I wanted to be immersed in it. So that night, I set up a makeshift bed, brought a duvet and a pillow and settled in for the night. The gradually cooling air blew across the skin on my arms, the sounds became clearer and distinct. It was a wonderful night, and the following morning as the sun came up, the birds began to sing. First one, then two then ten. In a few minutes, it sounded as though 100s of birds were singing in this carefully orchestrated performance. For about 20 minutes I just lay there listening to the surround sound display of auditory beauty. As quickly as it started, the singing started to wane. The orchestra put away its instruments, and a new day of foraging, flying and surviving was underway. To be able to experience the simple joy of being in nature was refreshing, grounding and uplifting. Honestly it was not the most restful night of sleep I have had recently, and yet it was one of the most satisfying. (Honesty, Zest, Gratitude, Appreciation, Hope, Humility) • What is one way you can connect with nature? • What is one way you can change your routine and enjoy a new experience? • How can you enlist your top character strengths to create a moment of personal peace?

butterfly.png Tree with butterfly – summer 2019

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