The Place of Peace Within

There is a place within where there is no fear and no worry. There is a place that sooths the ragged edge of sorrow and takes away loneliness. A place where pain cannot enter.

Our lives are so easily filled with hand-wringing concerns as we dash from one problem to another, never fully solving the underlying anxiety. The worry and fear just moves from one difficulty to the next.

Some of us try to calm these fears and worries with prescription pills or alcohol. Or we try to extinguish the dark discomfort through escape into TV, into food. Some use sex and emotional attachment to find relief. The respite from the pain feels real, but the rough emotions return as the chemicals wear off or the escape comes to an end. The then darkness comes back stronger.

Some try to face these difficulties straight on, believing that problems are for solving, and to some extent they are. But how can you solve regrets, resentments, or the gnawing feeling that something is not right, that some trouble is about to encompass you?

We were not created to live in endless pain and fear. We are created to live in the realm of happiness, joy and freedom. Deep on our bones we know this. And yet the pain persists, leaving us with the bitter conclusion that happiness us not possible in this broken world. We may come to believe that we are what’s wrong and broken in the world.

From this sad place, it can be hard to let go and find the presence within, that place of wellbeing that is not an escape from life’s tangles but rather a returning to the acceptance and peace that is available to all of us. It is the essence of who we really are.

In the next blog, we’ll look at ways to reach the presence.

What Does Love Got to Do with It

I watched a panel discussion on YouTube with Eckhart Tolle and Ram Das that was recorded in October 2011 on Maui. The discussion by was great, but a funny thing happened at the beginning – the first question posed to these NOW gurus was about love.
The response was awkward. You can’t answer a question about love until you define the term, and that’s not easy. Tolle and Ram Das managed to get through the question, but it was not an easy navigation.
Love is such a troublesome word in spirituality – it comes with so much baggage. The notion, “all you need is love,” is fraught with misunderstandings about what love actually is.
So many times I’ve heard this statement by spiritual teachers: “When you strip away everything and get to the core of our true being, what you have is love.” What the heck does that mean?
Spirituality discussions work best with words like acceptance, presence, peace, well-being, or contentment. We have a general notion of what these words mean. Not so with “love.” Part of the problem is that love is commonly used as an action, such as “I love you” or “I feel loved.” Probably the closest synonym for love in spirituality is acceptance.
When you experience oneness, it is often described a feeling of acceptance. There are aspects of “love” that include acceptance, but a mother’s love or a father’s love is not necessarily acceptance. Romantic love with all its varieties, its passion, its insecurities, is rarely experienced as unconditional acceptance. Romantic love nearly always comes with a list of conditions.
When spiritual teachers use the word, love, they usually mean acceptance, for acceptance is a large part of our experience of the presence within.

The Presence Who You Are

What is the presence that we feel during spiritual moments? I’ve experienced this presence while using hallucinogens, while meditating, during spiritual meetings, out in the mountains, during marathon runs.

While it’s hard to explain the feeling of a presence, I’ll try. It can feel like a hum that is both inside and outside. A warmth. A sense of well being. Connectedness with – I don’t know – spirit, the divine, whatever you call the ethereal that seems more real than real. Connectedness with everything. Calm. The absence of anxiety. The absence of emotional pain. The absence of fear. Peace.

For many years I only experienced the presence in rare moments. Then, I reached the point when I could feel it pretty much whenever I meditated for more than five or ten minutes. My breathing would reach that place where it didn’t feel like breathing. My thoughts would grow quiet or go away altogether. And I would feel the presence.

For a very long time, I believed I was connecting to spirit (God, higher power, the angels, whatever). For a very long time, the feeling of the presence was proof to myself that the divine is here on earth, at hand, with us, available.

What I came to realize much, much later is that the presence was me. The real me. Not the little me walking around in the world bumping into stuff, hurting and getting hurt. The presence was who I was. Who I was was the presence. Going on and on and on and on.

That ended the intermittence. The presence elongated into everything. You are the presence, and I am the presence, and my dog is the presence, and this laptop is the presence. When I think that something is not the presence, my thoughts are mistaken. And on and on and on and on and on.

Who Needs Secret Knowledge?

Making things simple can take a long time. We have pored over books, attended metaphysical services, classes, and workshops, met with advanced leaders only to discover that we are one with spirit and that spirit is here right now. The only special knowledge we need for that realization is the simple awareness that it’s true.

Be still and know that I am God. Or, be still and know you are one with the presence, and that presence is here now, always, and you cannot help but be one with the presence. There. No more books, no more services. No more classes, no more workshops.

Perhaps not quite so fast. In our daily lives, we can fall into the great forgetfulness. But lucky us, we can wake ourselves up again and again. A friend asked me, “How do you wake up? What’s the process?” We can use whatever brings up to awareness: meditation, prayer, chanting, stopping what we’re doing and paying attention to our surroundings, taking a walk, altering the pace of our breathing.

We experience peace in the wakefulness. I don’t know if our walking-around life gets better as we move to more wakefulness. I like to think it does, but that doesn’t really matter.

We can be of more use to others if we’re more conscious of the presence. In awareness, we can be of more use to ourselves in the world. Thankfully, drama dissipates – both the drama stirred up by our own little selves, and the drama of the world around us.

As we awaken, the world around us calms down. That makes it easier to be still and know that only the presence is real and I am one with the presence.

Is Faith Required for Peace?

What do you need to believe in order to experience peace? Does faith take you there? Many use faith to find peace. They experience peace through faith. Have faith in God, and God will take away your troubles and calm your mind.

For many faith becomes a blanket of divine substance and calming protection.

Yet faith in things unseen is not required for peace. Peace is at hand, in all of us at all times. In your true essence, you are peace. When you let go of the world, peace is what remains.

You do not need a belief system to find peace.

We can experience peace in meditation. In the breathing. In the exhale and the pause before the inhale. Peace becomes a presence.

For a long time, I thought that presence was something outside myself. Something I was reaching. Or something that was reaching me. Spirit. God. The divine consciousness.

No. The presence is not something outside yourself that comes to visit, then goes away.

You are the presence. The presence is your true existence. Your essence. Connected to everything.

We don’t have to struggle to connect. We are connected. We don’t have to work to find peace. We are peace. All that is required is awareness. Not religion. Not a set of beliefs. Not faith.

Over time, the connectedness becomes easy to experience outside of meditation. For it is you in your essence, as close as anything you can experience. Intimate. Essential. Here now. In every breath.

You cannot get this peace wrong, for it is you, and it is always with you. The peace is you. Your troubles are not real. Your thoughts are not real. And yet, you don’t need to let go of your troubles or your thoughts to experience your essential peace. For it is you, here, now, and it cannot be otherwise.

Peace of Mind Is Not Peace

Most people believe calming the mind is the path to peace. Per the quotation by Mahatma Gandhi in my last post: “There is no ‘way to peace,’ there is only peace.” And peace is not in the mind.

Peace is all around us. Peace is our natural state. The mind is naturally busy with all of its worldly worries, excitements, and plans. Deeper inside each one of us is true peace, the eternal peace that goes on regardless of the comings and goings of the world.

In time we can begin to see that peace really isn’t inside us. It’s all around us, everywhere. It only seems deep inside because at times it can be so hard to find. In the past, I have gone years with no awareness of the natural peace within and without.

We can work on calming the mind and not find peace. We can have a very busy mind and still experience peace. The mind has nothing to do with peace. It doesn’t matter if we feel good, bad, or indifferent. We are in peace at all times. If we just realize it.

This is what Jesus meant when he said “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” and “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

That’s peace, and it is always with you. It has nothing to do with your mind. Many of those in spirituality work to calm the mind in order to feel peace more fully. For many, working with meditation and breathing helps.

But the mind doesn’t have to be calm in order for you to experience peace. Peace is simply not of the mind. Calming the mind does not necessarily bring peace, and a noisy mind does not necessarily disturb peace. The mind is temporary, while peace is eternal.

What Is Peace?

Definitions vary, but generally, peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress or conflict. Many believe that inner peace is a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer and meditation. Similarly, the state may be achieved through calming movement such as Tai Chi or yoga.

Buddhists believe that peace will be attained when all suffering ends. The idea is that suffering stems from cravings, aversions, or delusions. Leave these behind and you will experience peace.

Some call peace the absence of war or violence. Yet intuitively we know that peace more than the absence of something. Peace is a substance of its own.

Some believe peace comes through total involvement. Involvement distracts from the self. If you can let go of the self, you’ll experience peace. Yet you can’t find peace by simply distracting yourself from life. Virginia Woolf said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

The novelist Milan Kundera noted that “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”
Gautama Buddha put is most simply – and probably most correctly: “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
As for seeking peace, Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no ‘way to peace,’ there is only peace.”

I believe all of creation is peace. When we see creation as something other than peace, we experience something other than peace. If we let go of that misperception, we create space. Peace will fill that space unless we fill that space with something else.

Consciousness meditation

Relax now. Slow down your breathing and let the tension go.

As you slow down your breathing, your consciousness

shifts, just so slightly, and you will become aware of your body,

aware of this room and aware of your surroundings.

Focus on your breath going out.

The breath coming in will take care of itself.

As you breathe, your consciousness will shift just so slightly.

That’s all it takes. Just a small change in how you

experience being here, how you see and feel

your surroundings, just this moment, just now.

 

We are new here today, but we have always been here.

We are new here today, and we will always be here,

In this moment, now, breathing in and letting the air

all the way out. There is peace in this breathing.

Let it wash through your body. You are here now;

let yourself be at peace. Let all your concerns

go with each breath. There will be plenty of time

to address your concerns later. For now, let them go.

 

There is nothing more important than to be here now,

with your breath moving in and out of your body.

You are consciousness made manifest in your body.

Your body is consciousness. Your presence is consciousness.

Your entire being, your entire life, is consciousness.

Change one thing, and your consciousness changes.

Slow down your breathing, relax in your presence here,

and your consciousness rises. Be aware, and everything changes.

 

You are one with the consciousness that makes up this world.

The very fabric of this world is the very fabric of you.

You are part of all this surrounds you. You are not alone.

You are more vast than you could ever imagine. Right here,

right now, you go on forever. Your small self is an illusion.

You are part of everything around you and you go on forever.

 

You are more than your thoughts let you believe.

Right here. Right now. In this present moment.

You have always been here, and you go on forever.

Spirit Is Singing Everywhere

As I began to awaken to the spirit within me, I also began to awaken to the world. During most of my life, I had difficulties with the world and in the world. I believed that only after this life would things begin to make sense. I saw this world filled with massive contradictions, barely inhabitable – in many areas and for many people, uninhabitable.

That has changed remarkably.

I look out my back window as I write this and I can see elm branches rustling in the wind, heavy with April seed pods. I hear a basketball thumping on cement next door. I hear the cooing of a mourning dove. I hear the chirping of our pet parakeets in the room behind me. I see a stone rabbit in the backyard garden that has yet to bloom – and all of it is beautiful.

I didn’t realize spirit was on the outside too.

I am still aware of the pain and fear that dampened my world for so many years – the constant gnawing inside – sometimes a low hiss other times a bone-crunching intensity. This is the pain and fear we all experience.

That pain and fear forces our growth. It insists we find a way to solve it, to move beyond. Leaving it behind takes work, daily effort. That effort takes practice, experiments in grace, and the risk of entertaining the stupid belief that life can be welcoming, healthy, and beautiful.

Once the spirit begins to grow inside, the outside reflects the glow.

I see that beauty on the outside now, in the dazzling world of wood and leaves, on the streets that used to seem so vicious, in everyone’s eyes. And the rushing vitality outside reflects again back through me.

I am not Pollyanna. I know there is much work to do in this world. But there is so much more that I can do now that I see the world as worthy and pain and fear no longer cloud my vision.

We All Shine On

“Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear.” These are lyrics from John Lennon’s song, “Instant Karma.”

Lennon used intuitive powers to reach this metaphysical point. He knew about pain and fear and knew those emotions couldn’t possibly be the point of life. In the chorus of the song he repeats, “We all shine on.”

When you strip away the pain and the fear, we do all shine on.

In Ana Karenina, Leo Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” He was right. Our pain and fear differentiates us. We’ve all heard someone say, “You don’t understand what I’ve been through.” They’re talking about their pain and fear. We never hear anyone say, “You just don’t understand how happy I am.”

We identify with our pain and our fear. We are not as quick to identify with our happiness or peace. We tend to see those as temporal.

When you strip away all our ego identification, our roles, our childhood pain, our adult trails, the addictions and compulsions, the obsessions and betrayals, when you take all of that away, there is something that remains that’s powerful, something that remains that we share alike. We all shine on.

It’s the presence. In the presence we are one. Our truest self lies beyond the particulars of our lives, beyond our likes and dislikes, beyond our promises and failures, beyond the short-lived triumphs, beyond illness, beyond our pain and fear. While our truest self may sometimes seem far beyond our reach, it’s actually right here. It’s here in the now.

When we strip away those things that are not our truest self, the pain and fear, we release our suffering.

What’s left when we let go of our pain and fear? The here and now, the happiness and peace, the love and acceptance.

To be here now is to demonstrate the awareness that is the same in all of us. All that’s left when we take away the pain and the fear is love and acceptance. In that we’re all the same, in that we all shine on.