Shalom (Hebrew: שָׁלוֹם shalom; also spelled as sholom, sholem, sholoim, shulem) is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye
When I was Desire Mapping before Christmas, I was looking for words that encompassed more than just one meaning. Last year, I’d carried round the words ‘at peace’ as one of my #coredesiredfeelings; I feel at peace, I am at peace. It did bring me back into the present moment and remind me of the good things I had going on when things were topsy turvey through out this past twelve months. I’d remind myself that my preferred state of being was ‘at peace’ and work from there to cultivate it, however small, into whatever was going on. It’s a deeply grounding practise and was a life line in the chaos of last year.
It did feel clunky though. I wanted to have a word this year that encapsulated that beautiful deep calm that I longed for but which was more than just the absence of conflict or stress.
I’ve been brought up in a practise of the Christian faith with a deep respect for its Jewish origins and having delved into Old Testament theology, I love the complexity, the both/and of the word Shalom.
Yes, it’s a greeting. Yes, it means peace but it is even bigger than that because it implies a Divine dimension to it that augments and deepens the experience of it.
The Shalom, or Peace of God, in Jewish thought is deeply connected to the idea of wellbeing, of there being enough, of being enough. It brings to mind good food, shared tables, warmth and kindness, solidarity. When I think of Shalom I think of smiles and conversations even in the cut and thrust of disagreement.
John’s gospel recounts Jesus saying these words in chapter 14, verse 27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrased translation The Message, which I think gets to the heart of it even better.
I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
In these days, when all our hearts are troubled and we look on with fear and anxiety at the uncertainty we face, I find it helpful to connect with this ‘peace’ that bypasses my logical, reptilian brain and connects me to a flow of wholeness and goodness that is freely available to me when I take a moment to drop into my heart.
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