Peace In, Peace Out
This article was originally published in the Llewellyn Journal 2004.
By Scott Shaw
Simplicity in life is a complex paradox, with seemingly never-ending disagreements, differing opinions, dissenting philosophies, emotional manipulations, and even physical confrontations. Some people seem to not only instigate this adversarial mindset but appear to actually thrive on it.
One may assume that if they walk away from the world and enter onto what is commonly known as the “Spiritual Path,” they will no longer be subjected to conflicts and encounters. Unfortunately, the predominance of the world’s population is not made up of individuals whose minds are focused on the spiritual elements of life. In fact, it is so common that we encounter people who are willing to do whatever it takes to gain whatever moment of gratification they desire that modern society has given them positive designations: “Motivated,” “Driven,” “Hungry,” or “A Goal Seeker.”
More than being simply an external social phenomena, many people find that they are constantly at odds with themselves—continually robbing their own inner peace. “I shouldn’t be doing this,” “I’m so bad,” “I can never succeed,” and “I’m unworthy,” are just a few of the examples which ramble constantly through the minds of many individuals.
We can easily understand that certain people may have developed a negative self image due to childhood trauma, economic or emotional destitution, interaction with unsavory people, or being psychologically manipulated and guided down a negative road by an unworthy dominator. But, why don’t these people immediately leave behind this disruptive inner dialogue the moment they realize it is robbing them of their tranquility?
Some people believe that if they could go someplace else, do something else, then they would know peace. But that place is not here. That action is not now. Thus, it is forever someplace else—where the grass promises to be greener. What commonly occurs, if a person relocates to a new location or takes on a new lifestyle or employment position, is that they are no more satisfied, fulfilled, or peaceful than they were before the move, which they believed would change their life.
Some individuals realize that they possess a lack of peace and wish to change this mindset, so they look to the lives of ancient spiritual masters, believing that their teachings hold the truth to contentment and enlightenment. Though this is a generally held belief, it was not always the case. For example, if we look at the historical foundation of Zen, we see that in the Seventh Century C.E. the monk Hui-neng defeated his Master, the Fifth Patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism, Hung-jen, in a spiritual poetry writing competition. As he won the contest, he believed that it proved he was more enlightened than his teacher. His teacher was not so pleased and set about on a course to destroy his onetime disciple. Because of this, Hui-neng had to flee the region. Though this action was instrumental in giving birth to the Northern and Southern schools of Ch’an Buddhism, which eventually lead to what is commonly known today as Zen, it clearly illustrates that not even the ancient masters were free from competition and conflict.
Conflict is a part of life. If you allow your peace to be taken away from you by external occurrences or internal disharmony then you will never know contentment.
Peace is an inner triumph. It is not something which someone or something can give to you. To embrace peace, in all life situations, you need to develop the skills to become like the calm in the eye of the hurricane— peaceful in a world torn by conflict.
The Foundations of the Pathway to Peace To begin on your pathway to peace you must ask yourself, “What would bring me peace right now?” Would it be a certain amount of money? Better employment? A new place to live? To be in a relationship with a specific person? Maybe to be ten years younger? Perhaps to be more beautiful, thinner, or taller? Or, to be enlightened?
Step One Your first step to Peace Realization is to consciously understand—anything which you do not currently possess, anything you are not right now, does not exist in this moment. As long as you choose to hold onto the desire of something you do not currently possess or something you are not, you will never be at peace. You will continue to torment yourself with the desire of attainment. This is not to say that you cannot move forward with your life. But, you must do so in a manner where you embrace the here and now. You must decide to love each moment for what it is, and then move forward in a state of peace, not a state of disharmony.
Disharmony is contagious. Disharmony is addictive. It is addictive because it provides the body and the brain with a constant source of adrenaline. It is invigorating. But, it is not healthy. Remember, peace can also be contagious and addictive. Peace, however, is not only better for the person, but better for all those who inhabit this place we call life.
Step Two As long as you choose to believe that something outside of yourself will bring you peace, you cannot experience peace. Let go of your desire and peace will surround you. This is not to say remain stagnant. Instead it means love each step of the way. Embrace the moment and love each experience you encounter in this moment. It may not be what you desire, but it is, nonetheless, what you are living. Embrace it, whether you like it or not, and peace will find you.
Step Three Know that the essence of peace is not outside of yourself. Understand that it is in you. Take a moment and find that place of peace. Begin right now. Close your eyes. Let your mind stop racing. Allow your inner guide to take you to that place in your body where peace emanates. For some, it is their heart center. For others, it is the third eye. Wherever it is for you, go there and embrace the totality of peace—even if just for a moment.
Do this several times a day. Come to know this place. Understand this experience. Then, whenever you find your mind torn by desires, when you are attacked by the negative energies of others, or when you find yourself lost in desire, hating your current moment—go to this place in yourself and find peace.
Copyright © 2004 — All Rights Reserved.
No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.