“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” –unknown
Peace is a beautiful idea, easily grasped in concept, but much harder to put into practice. No words can really come close to describing the true experience of peace, but we know a peaceful person when we see one; it’s something we can sense with our bodies and hearts much more easily than we can articulate in our minds.
Part of my vision for this blog is to explore the process of finding peace in the messiness of daily life with young children, with a husband, with a family who is sometimes a bit cuckoo–you know, real daily life with all of its challenges, big and small–with hopes that I might invite and inspire others to identify their own source of peace, and maybe in some small way, some tiny little way, I might contribute to the experience of more peace in this world.
For some reason I felt like tonight was a moment to talk about this vision. Let’s be clear–I don’t consider myself to be an expert on peace by any stretch of the imagination, but I have had a couple of realizations over the last few decades, and I’d like to attempt to put them into words here. At the very least, it will be practice in making sense of what goes on in my head. On a grander level, maybe I’ll end up speaking to a few hearts and souls out there who have experienced something similar; maybe my words will resonate with someone who has a deep longing for connection, and who for a moment will feel the connection they are seeking.
I’m discovering more and more that peace isn’t something that we wake up one day and just acquire. We can’t amass enough money to buy it, no matter how hard we try. Just as a sculptor chisels away at a huge block of marble, removing many tiny pieces of stone over time to eventually reveal the beautiful form hiding within it, the one who is seeking peace must identify what in them and around them is not in harmony with their deepest knowing, and chip away at whatever that is, until they discover the essence that was there all along. The seeker of peace makes innumerable choices along the way to self-discovery, develops discernment, learns from mistakes, lets go of excess, and finally realizes that what they were seeking was always there. Peace is persistence.
As a yoga teacher I strive to find words that penetrate to the core of being so that my students may sense the underlying unity of all that is. Especially in our final pose, savasana, corpse pose, I encourage my students to let go, to remember that at the center of their being there is a peace that cannot be given to them and cannot be taken away, because it is who they are. Just for a moment, to sense that the awareness in them is limitless, and in that sensing, to remember the infinite joy that is their true nature. Peace is natural.
Much easier to experience this when lying down at the end of a vinyasa yoga class that involved regular deep breathing, energizing movement, stretches that put the body-mind back in synch with one another. The afterglow of a good yoga class can carry us to a blissful place during our relaxation without any particular effort on our part. Deep relaxation is awesome in and of itself, for so many reasons–and it could be left at that. But I try to bring my students to a place of even deeper awareness, beyond the body’s relaxation, so that they can really feel the implications of what they are doing–remembering that they aren’t just this body, they aren’t just this mind, they aren’t their personal stories, they aren’t their hopes and fears and relationships and possessions and dreams and goals–they are infinite awareness. We are infinite awareness, all of us, together, in the field of presence, the ocean of consciousness, the ground of being. Peace is absorption into being.
So how do we take this consciousness with us when we move off the mat and back into our everyday lives? This is my aim as Yoga Mom, to bring this awareness of our infinite nature into the little moments when I want to scream because my daughter has trashed her room during her supposed nap time and I was taking a moment to call various health care providers for appointments that were long overdue because I never wanted to call because my kids are loud when they’re awake, making phone conversations impossible, and I don’t want to wake them when they’re actually asleep by making phone calls…whew. Yeah, little moments like when my son has gotten into the art supply drawer again and has drawn on things he shouldn’t have. Or we’re just getting out the door, coats on, diaper bag, sippy cups, my purse, my keys in hand, we’re late to meet up with my mom for lunch, and I discover that the boy has a poopy diaper, or the girl has wet her pants. Or when my husband is about to leave for work and he and I are arguing about the clothes he wants to donate to Goodwill in his effort to declutter the house, but some of which I want to pass along to a friend with a daughter who is two years younger than my daughter and who I know could use the clothes, and my husband accuses me of deconstructing his efforts, and I get charged, and react…and say some things that are certainly not in alignment with the yogini I want to be.
How do we remember our infinite nature when we’re continually–sometimes relentlessly–being challenged by everything that arises in the world of form, the world of everyday life?
Here we come to the idea of practice. Ahh, practice. In a society where we prize efficiency, productivity, reproducible results, and the shortest distant between two points, the process of taking time to spiral around and around, meander, falter, stop, start, and try again until we awaken can seem maddening, unappealing, unnecessary, worthless. It can take a while to experience for ourselves that the only true path is the one that leads inwards, that all else is merely illusion–or us stalling–until we realize that there is a path that leads inwards. Once on the path, it is very easy to give up, to want to quit, especially as all of our shortcomings are revealed to us, by us, by the choices we make and the reflections of those choices in the people and the events around us. We may become discouraged, we may feel lonely, we may want to just roll over and forget the whole thing ever happened.
So, practice. Bit by bit, whenever we show up for ourselves with the intention of discovering our true essence, we strengthen the power to simply be aware of what is. Each moment of our daily lives is a chance to know who we are in relation to the world around us. Practice gives us the strength and the momentum to keep walking, especially when the going gets tough.
Each time I’m feeling impatient, irritated by something my kids have done–and I remember to breathe–it is a small victory. Each time I catch myself going down some path of obsessive thinking, and I bring myself back to this moment I grow stronger. Day after day, moment after moment, trying again, trying again. Peace is practice.
I’m beginning to tire now. It’s the end of a long day and I was supposed to be making this a quick post so that my husband and I could catch up on a couple episodes of the Walking Dead. I’m seeing that I could write endlessly on the subject of peace and never aptly express the feeling of it. Right now, I’m going to sign off, meditate for a while, and get back to my normal life. I’ll tell my husband why it took me so long to come back downstairs when I told him it would be a short post. Maybe he’ll accept it graciously. Peace is honesty, right?
Hopefully I’ll be able to keep the peace if he expresses disappointment at my taking much longer than I said I would. If he does say something that triggers the reactive part of me, I pray that I’ll remain calm, take a breath, remember our infinite nature. Peace is awareness.
Namaste my friends. May you remember the deep peace at the center of your being. May you take your awareness out into the world and be a beacon of peace for all beings. If not now, then when? Start walking on your path of peace, but go easy on yourself. If you fall down, just get back up again.
“Peace is every step.” –Thich Nhat Hanh