Saturday, April 2, 2011

Inner Peace: The Rules of the Road

Inner peace is an individual accomplishment constructed from individual perceptions and the fabric of the ineffable substance the entwines us with the universe. Having read many metaphysical treatises and theological/spiritual teachings, many common threads exist in describing its attainment. Being a simple blog, I do not have the space nor do most readers have the time for us to sift through a philosophical essay the length of Kant's "Treatise on Pure Reason", Descartes's "First Meditations", and Miyamato Musashi's "Go Rin No Sho" even in a "Readers' Digest" form.

I'd like to share a mantra or prayer that many have either read or recited. It is rather famous and is used to close many 12-step support group meetings.

"God Grant Me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
        The Courage to change the things I can
               And the Wisdom to know the difference"

This is known as the "Serenity Prayer". It is a prayer asking for guidance towards the path of inner peace. It is not asking for the peace to be granted automatically. In its words are the inherent contract that the supplicant has to do the work.

Inner Peace and Enlightenment are journeys, not destinations. The paths to them are, according to Buddhist teachings, as narrow and difficult to walk as a sword's edge.

To attain Inner Peace requires one to follow a set of spiritual rules that seem common in almost every credible teaching on the subject. First, you must recognize that it is a journey, not a destination. Like every journey, you have choices along the way. Some of these lead you the direction you want. Some lead you there the long way. Some are shorter. Some appear to be shortcuts. Inevitably, these "shortcuts" will get you lost or in the wrong direction. The problem lies in that we won't know if we made the correct choice until we are already along the path we chose. We really have no map to navigate by. However, there are some signposts along the way, if you pay attention.

Regardless, the true path can always be recognized. It is the one with obstacles along the way. It is the one that sometimes leaves us hoping we don't fall to one side or the other along a narrow bridge. To navigate the path of Inner Peace, you have to have balance in all things. You have to be grounded. If you are a "drama queen/king" your path will be filled with what you ask for, conflict. You will find yourself off-balance much of the time. Your perspective will be a skewed one. Of course, you will be so used to this slanted perspective that you will believe it to be normal and you will try to skew the rest of the world to be in line with your view. It is much easier to straighten yourself up than the move the whole world, but that will not dissuade your attempts. Eventually, you will find yourself on a twisted path that is canted to your view. That path does not lead to Inner Peace.

The same concept of balance goes with all things from what you put into your body (food, drugs, etc) to how you interact with your surroundings. If you do not first have balance, you will fall. If you don't fall, you will be like a man in the forest who has one leg longer than that other. You will seek a straight path, but find yourself always drifting off in another direction or walking in circles.

Along the same lines of the "drama queen" example, if you try to move everybody else to conflict, you cannot have peace in yourself. The world will always have conflict. there will always be pitfalls and obstacles. Why create more? From a military perspective, all obstacles we emplace for our protection always also work against us. A minefield designed to harm and slow the enemy also slows us or takes away one of our paths. the same goes with  intentionally disturbing others' path toward Inner Peace. The better way is to also help others clear their paths. If their path is clearer, so is ours. This is called Compassion.

Along your path, there will be spots where you will question your ability to navigate. You will also question any aid offered. Life does not throw you things you cannot handle. It doesn't. Sure, there are obstacles you cannot overcome. But there is usually a path around them, if you are on the right path. For those few that there is no path around, there is somebody willing and able to help you. It may be a fellow traveller. It may also be your deity. However, it is up to you and your perception to make it past those obstacles. To do so, you have to have faith. You must have faith in you deity, in your fellow traveller, and (most importantly) in yourself.

As for those obstacles that come up, you cannot always anticipate them. but if you are ready for an obstacle at all times, they will not catch you unaware. But never, ever expect an easy path. If you anticipate and easy path, inevitably the greatest obstacles will meet you instead.

Many of you have already read one of my essays discussing "Now". The bottom line on "Now" is that you have to be present in order to be on your Path. "Now" is always the time. Yesterday is too late. You can look back to see what went right and what went wrong. However, you cannot change it. Don't try. Don't dwell on "what if I had..." or "if only I had...". Take the lesson and move on. Don't stop and ponder the future. The future is too ambiguous. It is contastantly changing and only takes form when it is no longer the future, but now. Here is always the place. If you constantly think about anywhere other than where you are now, you will not be walking your path.

Along with choices and being in the here and now, you have to act. What good is deciding on a path or solution if you stand still? Now, sometimes, choosing to stop and enjoy an moment is an action. But if you have Inner Peace, you can enjoy every moment. That is actually how you know you are on your path. But you will never be on path if you don't ACT! Newton's laws of inertia apply not only to the physical realm, but to the metaphysical, spiritual and ethical realms as well. To sit by and watch others do wrong is just as bad as doing wrong yourself, if not worse. If you do not put yourself into motion, you will stagnate. If you do not choose to change your path to a better one, you will stay lost.

Telling the future is easy. I do it for a living. Yes, I already stated that you shouldn't dwell on what is not yet come to be. But you can influence what that future will become when it becomes now by what you do NOW. I mentioned that there are signposts. They happen intermittantly along the way. You can learn to expect them and watch out for them. They may be difficult to see, but they are usually there. You see, everything happens in cycles. The seasons change. Good things happen and bad things happen. Children are born. People die. There will be times of joy and times of sadness. But you can find beauty, peace, and happiness in each. Every season has its beauty. Winter has the fresh fallen snow. Autumn has the colored leaves. Spring has new growth and birth. Summer has its frolicking and blooming. (In Arizona, Summer also has its invigorating storms with grand light shows and rock music called Monsoon Season). the same goes with all seasons in life. Recognize the cycles and prepare accordingly. If you are ready, you will not be caught unaware and you will not be miserable.

Take the tale of the two businessmen. One always wears a sharp suit, carries a small atache case, and wonders about all happy go lucky. He believes that whatever the day brings, that others will provide him with his supplies. The other moves at a setermined pace. He carries a larger briefcase. He carries spare pens, notepads, etc. He also carries an umbrella. One day, they are waiting for the bus. The buses go on strike. No bus will be coming. A storm hits. The man with the larger briefcase pulls out his umbrella. He has spare cash on hand and hails a cab. He makes it to work on time. the other man, who is competing for the same contract, shows up late. He is soaked and uncomfortable. When the perspective client asks for additional information, the one with the attache case seeks a pen and paper so he can write it down. The briefcase man pulls out a notecard and a pen, and writes down the information. The smile on briefcase man's face is always slight, but always there. Even "bad days" are not that bad. Attache case man has his ups and downs. Which is probably happier?

No matter what, you have to be true to yourself at all times. If you delude yourself to believe that you are on path when you are way off, you will remain lost. Honesty is always best. You should seek to be honest to yourself and to others at all times. Being honest to yourself is always of utmost importance. If it is raining and you tell yourself that it is a nice sunny day, it won't keep you from getting soaked. If you tell yourself that it is indeed raining, you can sing and dance in the rain! But the one thing that nobody else can take from you in life is your integrity. It is the one thing we have that only we can throw away.

Things in life are going to happen. That is why it is life. That is why Iner Peace is a path, not a destination. They will happen whether you get involved or not. You need to resign yourself to the fact that things happen. You have to capitulate. If you accept the inevitable, and prepare for it, life gets easier. You will be at peace. Now, there are things worth fighting for. But life is not to be fought against. You have to embrace it, surrender to it. Whatever happens, accept it. Rejoice in the here and now. Being happy doesn't mean being blissfully unaware of what is happening. It is finding beauty in sadness. It is embracing grief and realizing how wonderful it is to care and be cared about enough for loss to hurt. It really is that simple.

All of these inner perceptions are the bricks of life. They are the rocks that make the path called inner peace. But they are held together by a mortar. Something cements these rocks, holding them together, making the path stable enough to tread upon. This connecting substance is our unity with the universe. We are not alone. Our interactions with other living things is what binds these rocks together. Have you ever noticed that if you are in a room and suddenly somebody starts laughing that everybody wants to hear the joke? Why? We are all connected. We all want that laughter. When you are sitting alone and see a loving couple exchange affections you either will look and think "how nice, how cute" or you will be annoyed. Why? Because we all seek that connection with another. We are all individual cogs in one giant machine. We are all individual grains of sand that make up one paradise beach. Our Inner Peace does depend upon how we perceive others. Others' Inner Peace depends upon how we interact with them. Would you choose to be around, the gloomy nay-saying pessimist that expresses disdain for everything? That guy who is always complaining? Or would you rather be with the funny person with the good jokes? The person with the smile on his face? The guy who solves problems and helps everybody out? The guy who knows how to get the job done, done right, then go and have fun? I choose guy number two. The trick is this, make yourself guy number two and you will always have him/her around. Before you know it, those you are closest to will start to be guy number two as well.

Yes, it really is all that simple.

And yes, I am a warrior. I go to war. I fight the battles that must be fought. Many of them are battles that most people would not fight. My world is a world of chaos and conflict. Yet, at the moment, mine is a path of inner peace. At least I have faith that it is.