Living at Peace
During the past two decades, the scientific literature showing that a quiet mind is critical to mental and physical well-being has moved into the mainstream. It’s no longer “alternative” to assert that peace of mind is essential to a healthy life. It is inarguable that stress and depression underlie many chronic diseases and that we could seriously improve quality of life and cut health care costs with effective solutions to stress and depression that actually elicited sustainable peace, calm and a sense of well-being in people.
So the problem is clear. The solution, however, remains elusive because we are still looking in only one direction for answers.
Because the underlying assumptions of the current science are that we have to do something to get something that we need but do not have, we are continually investigating practices that temporarily soothe or quiet our overactive minds. And, not surprisingly, people who consistently engage in activities or practices that quiet their minds do notice health benefits. Some quietude, some relief, some respite is much, and measurably, better than none.
But relief is not the same as cure. The quest for relief assumes the toxic experience is inevitable and the best we can do is cope.
As of yet, very few in the scientific community are asking: What if people could actually spend their entire lives in a quiet state of mind, no matter what was going on around them, no matter what challenges they undertook, no matter what careers they chose, no matter whether they were rich or poor, no matter what their family or neighborhood or workplace was like, no matter what? What if we needed no external cure for stress and distress? What if we could simply live at peace?
In order to investigate that, science would have to question the underlying assumptions of current research that people have no choice but to be in constant reaction to the stressors of living and that’s just the way it is. It would have to assume the possibility of an intrinsic human resource that worked in such a way that our peace of mind had absolutely nothing to do with what was external to us. It would have to investigate the possibility of a inchoate energy before the form of our brains, our bodies, our experience — an innate, universal source of quietude that could inform our lives. This would be very different from the assumption that we need a practice or a medication to attain intermittent relief from our hectic lives.
Instead of seeding the clouds, or building stronger vessels, or taking evasive action to avoid the storms of life, we would be looking to move with the serene and constant flow of the deeper currents that run below the surface and have nothing to do with the variable weather. We would experience the weather, but it would have no power over our passage.
When people ask me, “What is the difference between your work and all the other approaches to serenity and quietude?”, I point to the assumptions.Those who address life from the understanding of the Three Principles operate from the assumption that it is natural for people to be at peace, and that although it is possible for us to think our way away from that peace, it is our gift to return to it effortlessly. We can know that we are creating our own thinking and that we can allow any thought to pass. This is opposite to the more common assumption that it is normal for people to be caught up in or upset by life, but it is possible for them to think their way out of it and get brief respite. It is a 180 degree difference. We assume that peace is the essence of life, but we can use our thinking to create temporary upset. Others assume that upset is the fact of life, but we can use our thinking to fend it off for periods of time. In our case, we can rely on inner peace as a natural default. In others’, we can expect only inner turmoil when we’re not doing something to keep it at bay.
One assumption: We were born to be victims of circumstances, constantly forced into emotional upheaval by life events, our environment, our needs, always looking for someone or something to help us to find our way, helpless to control our own actions and reactions in the face of troubles. If that is the prevailing assumption, then we are trapped in an endless search for something to give us intermittent relief from the very fact of being alive in the world.
The other assumption: We are born into the constant energy of creation to take part in it, endowed with all the gifts we need to find our own way, use our creative powers to respond to the adventure of life and draw from wisdom to learn and evolve when we encounter the unexpected, the difficult, the unknown? If that is the prevailing assumption, then we are enjoined in weaving the huge tapestry that is life flowing through the universe, and each of us is contributing threads that will intermingle to manifest it. It is happening through us, not to us.
The intrigue is that our assumptions are just thoughts, too. Whether we know it or not, our thinking is creating our reality. Our lives individually are shaped by our thinking, moment-to-moment, and our time in this world is defined by the assumptions that we accept and re-think without question. Or question. Reflect. Wonder. Allow to pass. And keep creating new thought.
Thought, like the rudder of a ship, steers us to the safety of open waters or to the doom of rocky shores.
The wise man says, “I think, therefore I am.”
The fool says, “I don’t think so.”