Discovering Inner Peace

The experience of inner peace is a lot like taking a soothing bubble bath. The only way to do it is to strip off the clothing and the preoccupations of your day, and fall in.

Peace is not something you can decide and force to happen, and there are no reliable strategies to make it appear on demand. It is discovered, rather than created, and occasionally appears in shocking moments when we are in the depths of suffering.

Many years ago I suffered what felt like a great loss in leaving a community to which I was very attached. This letting go reignited suffering I experienced as a child when my mother died, and my family fell apart. While driving to pick my daughter up from school I was overwhelmed by sorrow to the point of physical pain. Suddenly I felt a flash of relief, and all the emotion dissolved. I felt vast and open, beyond my personal self, drenched in peace. I knew undeniably that everything was really okay.

Sometimes there are blessed moments when we fall out of what Eckhart Tolle has called our "pain body" and into Truth, which is open, free, relaxed and peaceful. It is the core of the being-ness we are before all the add-ons of conditioning, and the thoughts, attachments, demands and desires that clutter the vast spaciousness of consciousness. Most people abandon themselves to these energies of separation and aggravation repeatedly, despite their deep desire for peacefulness and truth. The mind has persuaded itself that only through getting what we want, whether it be a personal acquisition, or the end of world hunger, can we afford to relax, to be at peace. What the mind doesn't get is that it cannot work itself into peace. It has to strip itself to get there. It has to give up the belief that it should always have its way, and release the argument with reality.

Now most of us believe if we stop fighting for what we want, nothing good will happen in the world. We will be non-productive. The first time I experienced absolute unconditional happiness without a reason, that was my reaction. I was afraid I would never do anything with my life if I could be happy washing dishes.

But when we recycle ourselves endlessly into pain and suffering, or feeling disappointment because someone or something is not the way we prefer, we are meeting life from the weakest part of ourselves, the conditioned, fearful and demanding little self. We are missing our natural strength, the wisdom and compassion that arises naturally from stillness and peace. We cannot pass it along because it is blocked by anger, fear or sorrow. All of us transmit continually to one another, and while we are lost in our personal history and expectations we transmit our limitations, our moods, our lack of hope and vision. We cannot draw from our innate wholeness.

To be truly peaceful is to be free of ourselves, free of the belief systems that are the lens through which we judge ourselves and others. It is to let people be as they are, and the world be as it is, and give up the demands long enough to sense the awake presence and stillness of consciousness when it is free of mind. Once tasted, this peaceful being-ness can enter our lives more and more when it is invited, and we can meet the world from a place of wholeness and calm. When our actions move spontaneously from this natural center they produce positive results, and when we are free of a demand for a particular result, the universe opens into new directions.

In Buddhism, moving out of our minds and into stillness has been called "taking a backward step." Step out of your position, your demands, and be that quiet awareness which is simply noticing them. Let your self fall naked into the bath of inner peace.

Bonnie Greenwell Ph.D. is a non-dual wisdom teacher in the lineage of Adyashanti, and a transpersonal psychotherapist specializing in psychospiritual issues at the Ashland Transpersonal Counseling Center.

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