As memories of the magnificent Olympics put on by my native country begin to fade there is something that will never fade for me. And that is the evocation during the Olympics of the classic wartime slogan that helped the British people meet the challenge of the Blitz.
Keep calm and carry on
"Keep calm and carry on." If these words helped an entire country face the horror of systematic, indiscriminate bombing in WWII – I was a 7-year-old living with my mother in central London when the bombing began – perhaps they can help us meet the challenges we face in our lives today.
For me the words convey a beautiful truth. Attitude and action are one. They can't be separated. When we choose calm, when we love calm, and when we stay calm, we open a door to positive, victorious action.
It took me a long time to discover that we don't have to look for calm as if it is somehow outside ourselves, hiding perhaps in a mysterious faraway place. Calm is our true nature. It is who we truly are.
Difficult feelings – fearful feelings – arise in all our lives. They sure did for me one night in London when the apartment building in which my mother and I lived began to sway back and forth like a tree in the wind because of the blast of the German bombs.
But that moment of blind panic did not last. My mother was beside me, her arm around me, and I remember as vividly as if it was yesterday how she kept saying soothingly, “It's all right, it's all right."
Challenges can lead to a greater experience of our unconquerable spirit
We can't help but feel the impact of difficult feelings as they rise up in us. But one of the most important lessons we can possibly learn is that while difficult feelings come and go – there is something in us that is unchanging. It is our own true nature. It is our unconquerable spirit, not subject to external events.
Ultimately, it does not matter what life throws at us. We may bend when challenges beset us -- just like the tree. But as we persist in our love for what does not change – for the truth -- we discover that challenges can lead to a greater experience of our unconquerable spirit and the joy of our true nature.
Keep calm and carry on. In a way it’s a paradox. But they really do go together. I have found, as I’m sure you have, that as I proceed with the simple tasks and activities of life – what needs doing -- perhaps stopping to make a nice hot drink as the Brits did in the Blitz – the simple fact of "carrying on" helps me stay calm.
Where does the calm come from?
But where does the calm come from? As I say, it is our own calm. It does not come from any external source. We don’t have to beg for it or engage in complicated practices to try to entice calm into our experience.
There are practical things we can do to help us stay calm, of course. Going for a walk. Taking time to be in Nature. Doing some abdominal breathing. And so on. But fundamentally, if you love calm, calm will love you, because it is who you truly are. And because calm is the precursor of wisdom, you will know what you need to do next.
Calm is our birthright
Calm is our birthright. And as you claim your birthright you will come through the exigencies of these days in fine style just like the Brits did in the Blitz. Not only that, but you will find kindred spirits on the way whom you might otherwise never have met.
I send greetings and best wishes. Keep calm and carry on. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above.
Picture credit: Sheffield Libraries and Archives