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One of the things I like about December is the uplifting music. For example, we’ve all heard Vince Gill’s familiar song:

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

A sentimental cliché? Perhaps. But sometimes clichés mask a deeper truth.

Suppose I actually wanted to let peace begin with me, how would that work?

In his poetic essay Desiderata, Max Ehrman begins with these words:

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

I like this reminder to relax and go peacefully, go gently, go quietly, go kindly through my days and years—especially in the midst of all the noise and busyness. (And it’s a reminder I often need!)

But how do we cultivate that ability? Ernst suggests, two things:

First, be on good terms with silence. Not an empty silence, but a deep, quiet listening—a warm, friendly fireside chat with my life.

They say a good friend is one who knows the worst about you and still likes you. We need a silence where we become that good friend to ourselves.

The busier our days, the more we need to put down our phones and turn off the tube, turn off the noise in our brains and make a little time for real, enriching silence.

The second suggestion is to do everything I can to be on good terms with all kinds of people—but without surrendering my genuine self, without being false.

The more ornery the person, the more we can learn from learning how to be with him or her in a human way.

In fact, maybe peace is simply about the work of learning how to be with yourself and how to be with others.

And that’s good work. It’s no small thing to do the “inner gardening” that helps you become a person at ease in the world—especially in a time that has so much dis-ease.