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Learning to Be in Peace
“No one saves us but ourselves … we ourselves must walk the path.”
“We can never make peace in the outer world, until we make peace with ourselves.”
Phillip Gulley, Quaker pastor and Indiana author, asked recently in a Facebook post, “What one thing is essential for human happiness?” Struggling with unhappiness recently, I pondered his question as I sat on a park bench on a beautiful spring day, feeling intensely sad.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without,” said the Buddha. I’ve also heard it said, “My happiness is an inside job.” In Buddhism, we’re taught to be in the moment. Whether that moment is sad or happy, it is transient and will pass, like the clouds overhead.
As I look up at the cloud wisps, I think about Buddhism and about the problem I am currently facing in my life. I feel like a failure because I’m not at peace, and my unhappiness is lasting much more than a moment. It’s been lingering for days like a bad rainstorm that just won’t let up. And that, of course, is because I’m focusing on what someone else did that I found hurtful. When my heart is wounded, my spirit doesn’t know what happiness even looks like anymore.
I return to pondering Phillip Gulley’s question. I take a few deep breaths while glancing up at the sky. Then I close my eyes and feel a gentle breeze against my arms.
When I open my eyes, I see a young couple not too far off frolicking together in the way that only 20-something couples in springtime tend to do. She is wearing a flowing lime green skirt with a white summer top and has the thin build and graceful mannerisms of a dancer. He is more reserved and walks at a steady pace, until she suddenly turns and sweeps her arms around him. Young love. It’s a courtship dance that is both timeless and universal.
Earlier today, I did something I truly enjoy. In addition to spending time at the park in the sun, I wrote. For me, writing is spirit repair work.
Now, I try a Buddhist thing: I notice what I am doing in this moment. Sitting on a wooden bench, observing spring blossoms—along with the occasional honeybee or wasp—I feel the breeze and watch the young couple drift off. Assessing my current emotions, I realize that I feel neither happy nor sad. I feel something else: content. That state of mind may not sound as glamorous and exciting as “joy” or “bliss.” But don’t underestimate content. Content to just be here, right now, despite outside circumstances: It feels good.
Before leaving the park, I decide to walk—slowly and mindfully—to a nearby fountain. While at the fountain, I say a silent prayer, releasing my problems to a higher source and asking Spirit to guide me.
To answer Phillip Gulley’s question, maybe the essential cause of happiness is not seeking happiness and not running from sadness. But rather, just emptying out enough to be present to what is.
How do we do that?
For me, taking some time for self-care, quietly breathing, and doing something that nourishes the soul allows space for inner calm to surface. Gratitude also helps. Whatever negative thing may be gnawing at your serenity, find one thing in your life for which you can say “thank you.” My gratitude today is for my circle of friends. When times get tough and the night seems long, they are like Carrie Newcomer’s Three Women song, “Here’s to the women who bind the wounds tight … And here’s to the strength in women, holding hands.”
Peace in your heart this day,
Diana J. Ensign
I have often said that “contentment” is undervalued…follow your heart to this quiet sense of peace…blessings! Charlie
Love you. and it is so interesting when we realize that we are content. It is as if the world is fine, and we are fine, and there you are.
I decided a long time ago that the Stoics were right that the most important thing in life was acheiving tranquility. But I have since also felt that some personal union with God is also needed. People need to feel that they matter in life, and mere tranquility is not enough for them to feel that way. Though the existentialist’s Logotherapy may be enough for some, it did not suffice for me
Charlie: I agree. Following the heart is the path! (thank you for the reminder!)
Stephanie: Yep, “No matter where you go, there you are!”
Andy: I’m guessing we all have to find our own paths to peace, but yes, for me, a connection to Spirit is necessary.
I didn’t write about it, but I think ‘service’ is also part of the bigger picture…wanting to give back and to be of service. A different sort of “happiness” than the type that focuses only on the self. And yes, living a meaningful life … however that gets defined by the heart!
Beautiful, Diana. Hope you are feeling happy.
Thank you Marolyn. I am happy, today. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I suppose one of the lessons I am learning, whether happy or sad, “This too shall pass.” And then remembering to reflect on what I am grateful for, in either state of emotion. Gratitude for my daughters today…and when the oldest graduates from high school next week, that pendulum between happy and sad will likely be swinging back & forth wildly (along with the flow of happy/sad mom tears)!
~enjoy the sun!