Tuesday 18 December 2018

Peace is a present moment experience

This is a lot longer than my usual post but I wrote it on a recent silent Sunday morning, and wanted to share it with you.

Peace can only be found, experienced and known in the present moment. 
Certainly not in the future, or the past. All I need is here, within me and around me.
The second Mindfulness Training tells us, 

“I already have more than enough
conditions to be happy”

yet I look around and see the world is full of suffering. 
From my own experience and practice I know the suffering I experience is self-inflicted. I was going to say much of the suffering is self-inflicted, but that implies that some of it is external, when I know suffering comes from how I choose to think about what is happening to ‘me’. In reality, nothing is happening to me. I am an empty vessel waiting to be filled and I choose what to be filled with. I can choose anger and fear, or joy and peace. I can choose doubt or I can choose happiness and contentment. My external experiences come from my internal thinking. I can choose to be overwhelmed by what I see as suffering around me, or I can choose to be peaceful, right here, right now, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. 
I can choose. 

We tend to think everything has to be sorted before we can find peace, the suffering of the world needs to come to an end first, and then I can / we can be peaceful. Yet Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches we can find peace right in the midst of suffering. 
The greatest gift mindfulness has given me is to recognise that each moment is a choice point. Do I choose well-being or ill-being (suffering)? Do I choose to be peaceful right now, or do I cling to the notion that peace and happiness are only achievable in the future, once certain conditions are in place? As Thay says, 

we “… have a chance to become Homo conscius”*, awakened mindful beings.

 We can live as if this is true right now, rather than living as if it might be true one day, if we put in a lot of work! We can let go of the idea of doing more and cultivate a practice of being more. 
Do we believe we are enlightened right now? 
Do we believe we are peaceful right now? 
Or do we live our lives hoping that one day enlightenment, liberation and peace might be achieved if we put in enough work? 
This erroneous perception is all that gets in the way of being peaceful and free right now. 
Peace is not a ladder that we have to climb, step by step, only progressing forward once we have completed this step. Nor is it a test to be passed with boxes to be ticked. 

Peace is a present moment experience.

On a retreat recently I noticed I was leaning a lot, leaning on one arm of the chair sitting down, or leaning on one leg standing up. I realised I have a strong idea that I need something to lean on. 
I need a practice to lean on, or the wisdom of my teacher! And that idea was stopping me from being free and being peaceful right now. 
I no longer need anything to lean on; I can be my own support and my own guide. 
Reputedly, the last words of the Buddha were’ be your own light’. 
That’s what I choose, and keep on choosing in each moment. 
The moments when I forget are the moments when doubt or fear comes in. Yet if I am present I can recognise these seeds arising, say ‘hello’ to them and let them dissipate. I don’t have to believe them and I don’t have to let them guide my future actions. 

The second line of the bell gatha says, 
“may the hearers awaken from forgetfulness
and transcend all anxiety and sorrow”.
 Each time we hear a bell, it is an opportunity to be fully present, and awaken from forgetfulness. 
We who have heard the call of our teacher, and have answered that call, are beings in touch with the ultimate dimension, not overwhelmed by the historical dimension. 
Thay says, 
“walking in peace and freedom is a wonderful way to bring the ultimate dimension into the historical dimension”*.
 In the historical dimension the pairs of opposites, such as good and bad, right and wrong, rule us, yet they only exist in our perceptions. They do not exist in the ultimate dimension, or in present moment experience. In the peace of the present moment we can see the reality of the conscious world, rather than living in a dream of our own making. 
The only place to find peace is right here, in the present moment. 
Not only at this time of year, but every day and every moment, I wish you peace. 

Quotes from The Art of Living: 110

I add this poem written in 2014 as it reflects very closely what I have been exploring here.

A thousand mile journey
We have journeyed a thousand miles
to arrive at this place and
know it was always within.

We have journeyed a thousand miles
looking in the wrong direction.

Today, with no steps
we journeyed within and 
came home.

We have journeyed a thousand miles
asking the wrong questions.

We have journeyed a thousand miles
seeking the unseekable.

Today, with no steps
we journeyed within and 
found the seeker looking back at us.

We have stumbled a thousand miles
in darkness, looking for the light.

We have stumbled a thousand miles
in ignorance, trying to find a teacher.

Today, with no steps
we journeyed within and
found the teacher
found the light
resting in our own heartspace.

No more seeking.  

© 10 Nov 14