This month I am writing a series about the many aspects of peacefulness. Last week we explored what it can mean to find inner peace. This week I want to talk about peaceful places and how finding or creating such places can ease anxiety and stress. We will also discuss which places seem to be the antitheses of peacefulness and can trigger anxious responses.
I remember a neighbor I had for a brief time when my family and I were living in an apartment complex. I would take my toddlers to the apartment complex playground and overlooking the playground were terraces of nearby apartments. An older Indian gentleman would come out onto his deck to watch his grown son play with his grandson on the swings or slide. Now and then he would spark up conversation. I learned a lot about his culture and also about what he liked and didn’t like about our American culture. One day I told him we were going to visit the mall and I asked if he ever liked going to the nearby malls. He replied, “Why would I want to do that? I only like to go to peaceful places.” His comment first struck me as curious but the more I thought about it, the more I could understand why he enjoyed sitting outside on his deck far more than going to a crowded mall.
At the same time my youngest son was about to be diagnosed with autism. When we did take him to crowded places such as the mall, we found that his senses became so overwhelmed that he would either cry or shut down and go immediately to sleep. I think he was in pure agreement with our neighbor. My son enjoys nature and open spaces far more than any confined area.
Over the years I also find myself overwhelmed and anxious by such places as crowded stores, swimming pools, and amusement parks. I remember one of my first panic attacks occurred at a crowded wave pool at a water park. I became more and more worked up by the thought of all those people in such a confined space and had images of being trampled by the mob. Crowded stores sometimes triggered the same fear response. When I was a teen I would enjoy big loud bustling places such as Atlantic City or the endless boardwalk of the Jersey shore lined with amusement parks. Now I crave the peace and tranquility of a mountain cabin far from the maddening crowds.
There is a quote from Albert Camus that I have always liked about the attempt to find peaceful places:
"There are no more deserts. There are no more islands. Yet one still feels in need of them. To understand this world, one must sometimes turn away from it; to serve men better, one must briefly hold that at a distance. But where can the necessary solitude be found, the long breathing space in which the mind gathers it strength and takes stock of its courage?"
Where indeed? It is my belief that the world’s occupants would feel a whole lot less anxious if everyone could find that peaceful place of solitude as a place to physically, emotionally, and spiritually recharge one’s batteries.
Everyone has a mental list of places which trigger anxiety or places which induce calm and tranquil emotions. What would your list of places look like?
My list of anxiety triggering places might include: Crowded stores especially during the holiday season, crowded buses or trains, getting stuck in traffic in a large city, hospital waiting rooms, crowded elevators, construction sites, and swimming pools filled to the capacity with people.
My list of peaceful places includes: My garden, remote nature trails, old farms, secluded mountain cabins, cemeteries, corner rooms of old libraries, piers, park benches, or riding in a boat on a lake.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find a tranquil place to find some peace. It may be necessary to create your own respite within your home. My bedroom is my retreat with all my books and music. I find relaxation right here typing on the computer, composing a story or poem. The feel of the solid wood of my desk, the comfort of my blanket, and the light filtering in through the blinds provide the sensory elements necessary for me to feel calm and at home. You never know how much you miss the comforts of home until you leave for some days. I fully recommend spending time away from home just so you can appreciate the peacefulness and safety of what you normally take for granted.
In addition to creating a tranquil sanctuary in your home, you may have to visit peaceful places vicariously. I have several coffee table books which serve this purpose. I bought a large photo filled book some years ago about people who bought a farm in Maine in order to live the good but simple life of homesteaders. The images are breathtaking of fog rolling over the grassy knolls and lake of their property. You watch the creation of a stone wall and the autumn harvest of their vegetable garden. A porch swing beckons at dusk for weary bones to sit after a hard day’s work. Even though I am not physically there, the photos give me solace to know that such a place does exist.
Everyone deserves a peaceful hideaway, bit of nature, or corner of the home to retreat to when life becomes overly stressful and chaotic. I would love to hear about your peaceful places. Where do you find calm, tranquility, and solitude? What images give you comfort? What are the characteristics of your peaceful places? We would love to hear your thoughts and stories. Your words and images may provide comfort to someone who needs to feel less anxious and stressed. Thank you to all who participate on this site. We couldn’t do this without you.
Published On: July 13, 2010