Sleep in [a Little Better Feeling] Peace

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“Silent Night” – arranged by Richard Walters
{click title to link to the recording}

Isn’t it lovely how Christmas music can so perfectly reflect the peaceful serenity exemplified in our homes during this most calm and grace filled of all the seasons?

Joke.

We’ve been doing a lot of work this year rewiring our mental bent to be more positive.  Some suggestions seem to completely ignore all shred of ill and encourage a version of denial. As one who has chronically dealt with depression, I can say that this technique can at times feel not just ineffective but utterly repulsive. It’s too hard to jump the chasm from chaos to calm, from melancholy to merriment. 

I so resonated with advice I heard recently to “reach for the better feeling thought.” We don’t have to vault across the river at once but just find a stepping stone a little bit closer to where we want to be.

What is something that is true and present and feels just a little bit better?  And then what feels a little bit better than that?

This practice forms a basic element in music therapy called the iso principle – the notion that in order to influence someone’s mood with music, you don’t introduce the desired state right off the bat, but rather connect with whatever their current state is and then gradually shift toward the goal.

A completely agitated person probably won’t respond well to Brahms’ lullaby without something more upbeat in between to connect with where they are.  A lethargic and depressed individual will not start jamming at the first note of a polka.  (Neither will a lot of people, but that’s a setarate issue. I digress.) It takes some easing, coaxing, and resonating with their current state first.

We are crazy humans living in a crazy world.  Circumstances are rarely as we hope. Pain is all around us. Noise is all around us. Messes. Messes. Messes are all around us. We have a full spectrum of emotions at our disposal, including ones I would like to put down the kitchen disposal at times.  The sweet little Christmas songs don’t feel like they fit some days.

I love that this arrangement of “Silent Night” by Richard Walters retains some gently jarring textures in the accompaniment.  Heavenly peace isn’t about all your ducks being in a row; it’s about the active decision to choose to rest and to choose to reach for the better feeling thought, even amidst the turbulence of the external circumstances.

Your Christmas circumstances may be less than ideal.

Your post-holiday, sugar-letdown, crumpled-paper-filled life may feel like a not-so-heavenly disaster.

Your mind may be wandering to wishing for so many things to be different.

Or maybe all is well in your home and peace oozes from the floorboards.  Good for you. Don’t force yourself to pity those who aren’t feeling it.

Remember that change happens slowly.  Remember that peace is not the same as perfection.

May you be a little closer to merry, a little more calm, and see something bright as you step, one foot at a time, in redeeming grace.


“Silent Night”
Music by Franz X. Gruber, Words by Joseph Mohr
Arrangement by Richard Walters

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent night, Holy night!
All is calm, All is bright
Round yon virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace,

Silent night, Holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.


This article was originally written in 2018 for Nathan and Naomi’s weekly emails that feature a song they recorded and some words about it. The hope is that your mind and heart be stirred through their songs and words. Want to get the Saturday SongNotes sent directly to your inbox? click here