“Shalom Bayit” is Hebrew for “Peace in the Home”, an important concept in Judaism, which places Shalom Bayit above other requirements. For instance, in the Talmud we find that when “Peace” and “Truth” conflict, we must abandon “Truth” and instead work for “Peace”. (TB Yebamot 65b)  The ideal is that when a Jewish husband and wife are fighting, one or both of them will abandon the argument for the sake of “Shalom Bayit”.

Peace means being in the moment.  Here and now.  In peace, I contain energy and hold holiness.  This feels like bliss.  I am relaxed and calm.  I am joyful and excited about the work in front of me.

I find that as soon as I wish to be elsewhere, or even for any little thing to be different, I lose touch with peace.  This happens constantly.  The triggers can be big:  guilt, worry, regret, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness.  The triggers can be small:  irritation, impatience, missing someone or something, running out of time.  When I fall out of peace, my container of energy leaks.  I feel tense, anxious, out of sorts, tired.  Usually the bad feelings snowball and collect other negative feelings that are hanging around, waiting to be claimed.

Being a working mother, I find my ability to create Shalom Bayit depends on my attitude to my work.

When I am with my children, if I think about the work I could be doing, I grow restless very quickly.  I might be missing my work (or the ability to be in my studio alone), worrying about deadlines, or feeling irritated about an interruption.  When this happens, I am not in peace with my children.  This happens constantly.  In fact, it requires an effort to be relaxed, calm, joyful and excited about being with children.  The best moments are when I grow playful and immerse myself in games with them.  They teach me to be in the moment because that is where they live.

When I am working, if I feel guilty or regretful about being apart from my children, I lose touch with peace.  I experience my work as a burden.  I grow frantic, trying to fill the hours of work with productivity to justify the expense of childcare.  The best moments are when I embrace my work as a gift:  a welcome break from being with children, a chance to grow and meet challenges, an opportunity to work quietly and be in my own head, a chance to focus completely on a conversation with another adult.  Then my work rejuvenates me.  I remember this feeling being especially powerful the first time my two year old daughter went to school.  I remember breathing more deeply than I had in a long while.  I yearn for that elusive experience of deep peace and joy with my work.

I am learning to notice the thoughts that take me out of peace.  I cannot force myself to be constantly in the moment, but I can maybe learn to return quickly.  With practice.

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