It can look as if peace is not always possible, as if it is something that comes and goes from us, flickering in and out of our life. It can look like it is intangible, fragile and elusive. The same could be said of love, wellbeing, trust and joy . . . Any of those deeper qualities that our soul craves.
Yet, every spiritual tradition around the world affirms that the opposite of this is in fact true. They do not speak of love, peace or joy as elusive; they speak of them as profoundly enduring and accessible, as spiritual truths, as reality. So how do we get to live in the experience of this? How do we make the leap from something that feels elusive to something that is enduring? From something that flickers in and out of our life to something that holds still and that will hold us?
Is this really possible for us as human beings? Aren’t we just - well - too human for that?
This is about a bigger way of seeing
I don’t know about you, but there is something about the times we are in . . . I am no longer prepared to waste time on hints of peace. And I hear many others saying the same. We want the real deal - the Peace our spiritual teachers speak of, and that our own heart-soul-inner-being knows.
What I have come to see is this: when I am away from my peace - feeling fear, agitation, distress or even despair - then I am actually caught in a smaller seeing of life. The part that feels a lack of peace is the part that is expecting and needing life to be a certain way. When this isn’t what’s manifesting, and something else entirely is showing up, I can get very fearful and reactive about what that is.
However, Peace isn’t found in what isn’t or in how I think things should be. It’s found in What Is.
Anything else is just us arguing with reality.
Peace isn’t found in a version or vision of life that is based on lack.
This ‘partial’ seeing is incomplete: we are only seeing a part of the Whole. It’s both too narrow and too prescriptive. Peace is found by turning into and embracing the fullness of What Is and never by focussing on what is not.
Putting it into practice
A couple of weeks ago, I had a painful lesson around this. It was my birthday and some of the people closest to me pretty much ignored it. No card, no gift. A cursory Happy Birthday, and no attempt to make the day special or celebrate ‘me’.
The pain I felt was astonishing. I felt cut to the quick. However, even at the time, I could see that what I felt was out of proportion to the circumstances. That being said, as the day went on, the painful feelings nevertheless kept coming in waves. I found myself feeling hurt, humiliation and insecurity. I began questioning if I was loved. And it seemed as if the more I tried not to cry - or rage - the more intense the feelings became.
However, whilst this was happening at one level, whilst I kept circling back over and over it, incredulous at the lack of kindness and cherishing, getting more and more hurt and indignant, something else was happening beneath and beyond this. There was a much calmer and more inclusive voice within me that wouldn’t let me get away with indulging this. I began to recollect that I had been in this situation - or very similar versions of it - many times before. And, in the past, there had been times when I was completely at peace with it, and other times when I was not. I begin to see, at a deeper level, that it wasn’t the situation itself that was causing the pain. The pain was actually happening inside me: it came from how I was seeing it and what I was making of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong - I am not dismissing the fact that for me, at this time, the actions or - lack of - from my loved ones felt somewhat heartless, and it didn’t feel healthy to pretend otherwise.
But I was curious about the evolutionary aspect of this, the spiritual aspect of it: when something keeps showing up for us in our life, it only does so because we still have something deep and true to receive from this type of scenario. It comes back because we still haven’t found the treasure in it; we haven’t recovered the gift at the heart of it; we haven’t yet welcomed and allowed in the true offering. We are still caught in small seeing: what isn’t rather than What Is; what’s lacking rather than what is given. We haven’t yet found the Wholeness inherent in this situation.
So I knew that I had choice and opportunity here, that there was a different path to follow. I could feel it.
Is versus is not
Now fortunately, I kept instinctively listening for that kinder voice deep within me. It felt so much calmer than the one raging and making a tremendous noise in my head, the one that was alienating me from my loved ones and painting them as villains. As I kept returning to this kinder voice, I felt it pointing me in the direction of something sweeter. It said this:
“Look for how love seeks to show itself to you today. Do not focus on where it is not; look for where it is.”
These words opened up a new world inside of me. They offered me something real and deep and practical. They felt so quiet and nourishing. They felt so good. They were pointing me in the direction of what is here now that I do not even yet know is here, in what is showing up that I have not even conceived of or seen. They were offering me a different place to focus my attention, and a much much bigger horizon.
In the days since then, I have had something of an epiphany. I can now see that I was blaming specific individuals for not giving me a specific expression of love at a particular time in a particular way. It is like I have been saying to the Universe: ‘On this day, on my birthday, Love has to look like this.’ Love has to meet these conditions.
What if Life is offering me breadth, depth, and richness way beyond my prescriptive expectation of what Love is? Am I missing a bigger love because I am looking for a small one?
We all do this all the time. We decide what is loving, what is peaceful, what is health, what is a good relationship or a good job, what is success, what is happiness. We decide through what we are told to believe these are, and what we have imbibed, and what we have come to think we are worthy of. But we invariably look for, or accept, a very small version of what is on offer to us - of what this Spiritual Universe can provide us with. Really - it’s tiny what we ask for! And when we only look for that particular, narrow expression of these things, we get disappointed and confused, over and over again, because a Spiritual Universe doesn’t conform to this small version of Love or Peace or Joy. It doesn’t do small.
Now, when I think back to that day, I see the love. I am in awe of the utterly unexpected encounter we had with a dear aunt whilst my husband and I were out on a walk - an aunt I have not been able to see for a year because of lockdown. I am stunned by the fox that flitted through the trees in front of us at one point, the first early glimpses of bluebells weeks before we will see them in the mountain valley where we live, a blackcap singing its heart out in a birch sapling beside the path - the first one we have seen this year, and the fairy steps we end up discovering in a limestone escarpment on our way back. I am touched by the gentle moments of connection between my husband and myself, and the sprinkling of beautiful cards and messages from friends. I look back and see how, even in the midst of those waves of pain, I was being gently tended and loved, held by a wisdom within me and beyond me.
This whispering wisdom, these words, feel like a white flower of consciousness shining in my darkest dark. When I turn towards the understanding that is being offered - that Love is deeper, richer and more than I have been seeing, expecting or allowing in - I recognise that I have come out of this experience with a treasure: Peace that endures.
It simply doesn’t make sense to stay in the smaller seeing anymore. It's so cold and painful there. It just hurts so much to see the world in that way. There's a much more loving and peaceful place to be. Somewhere warmer for the spirit to settle.
What if we are living in an entirely loving universe, and what if we do not need to dictate the terms of this love?
What if we can let Love come in and let Love be? As my soul has grown quiet and calm again, and my heart has eased, I am reminded of a poem I wrote many years ago called ‘Peace’. It seems that I am now understanding its message at a deeper level. You could substitute the word ‘peace’ for love, joy, hope, trust . . . I leave you with this poem and I hope that you have received something from this sharing.
Peace is the gentlest state:
the velvet softness of a new leaf;
the downy lightness of an airborne seed;
the light incessant force of water over rocks;
warmth of the sun suffusing skin.
Tranquil and inviolate as Nature,
strong enough to bear my weight.