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A banner made for the Peace Fence in 2007 that is now on a tile in front of the Ashland library.

Inner Peace: Turning loose the leash that keeps us from peace

This statement is an excellent pointer: “Be still and know there is peace.”

But helpful hints are always easier to verbalize than to actually put into practice. Words and thinking tend to muddy the crystal-clear water (Presence) because it is easy to get lost or over-identified with concepts and analysis. I would love to say that I have totally woke up and am in conscious awareness most of the time. But the truth is that being conscious is or has been a slow process where, over the last several years, I have experienced incredibly brief moments of stillness (no thinking).

Here at Brookings last week, I begin seeing with amazing clarity some intricate details of nature. Sparrows were hopping back and forth pecking here and there. Two blackbirds jerking their heads back and forth as they strutted through some tall grass in their high-stepping manner.

The ocean was like a huge calm lake with the steady thumping of the lapping waves. Then a sudden brief eerie silence as the waves died out. A huge pelican with a huge wing span soared gracefully across the sky into the bay.

I felt a connectedness with a couple walking their two dogs. They were obeying an ancient bond with nature and animals like we humans as foragers 10,000 years ago did looking for food. Of course, the dogs, obeying their need to play and wander, kept lurching at their leases as they zig-zagged, exploring the multitude of new scents. The couple kept jerking the leases, restricting this innate need of the dogs to roam and play.

If you think about it, all of us, including our pets, have this still calm presence or peace that is always within us. Our conditioned minds with our habitual thinking keeps restricting and actually hiding this innate presence. We are like the couple that keeps jerking their dogs back to what they have been taught is the proper behavior for their dogs on the beach.

It is our choice to decide to become very attentive to what we are seeing, hearing, touching and tasting and allow this stillness (no thought) to guide our daily actions and words. It has been my experience that you have to give yourself a gentle nudge or reminder to really look and observe nature and other people.

Whether you are at home, work, taking a walk, recreating, or having a chat with someone; these all are opportunities to become in a relaxed watchfulness or attentiveness in catching your false self (ego) judging, comparing, or analyzing. In this very millisecond or brief moment you find yourself in this calm peacefulness stillness. Surprisingly, if you continue to practice this, your life will become guided by this presence. Yes, you will find yourself not just happier, but your relationships will become much better and you will discover a new vibrancy that will pervade your daily life. Plus, this consciousness will overpower the contentiousness and conflict and greed that is so very prevalent in today’s world.

Jim Hawes, a retired Medford school teacher, has published “Ageless Child” (Balboa Press, available at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble), and is working on his new book, “Ageless Living.”

The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace, including intuition, inner guidance, mind training, courage, fearlessness, forgiveness of self or others, honesty, gentleness, humor, open mindedness, friendship, tolerance, trust, faith, kindness, gratitude, overcoming and/or accepting life’s challenges of addictions, loss, grief, pain, awareness of presence and more. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan, innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.

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