I've been thinking about what happiness might look like for me. I actually think that if I had to choose I would actually take peace over happiness. I don't think that I'd have to choose though. In fact, I'm thinking peace may actually be a core component of happiness along with joy and gratitude and I don't know a sense of celebration in regards to life maybe?
I've been thinking about peace since World Peace Day. I don't think you can actually be truly happy without also being at peace. I think feeling at peace allows you to put down the struggle that so many of us associate with life. You know, that sort of striving feeling that gets instilled in you early that you've got to be reaching for the next step/achievement? Because it's never going to be enough, unless we decide it is. We get to say when. I think it's being able to say that if life stayed like it is right now for the rest of my life, I'd be happy.
I feel a little twinge when I consider that. I guess there are areas in my life where I was hoping for more. But as I think about letting go of that and being ok with life now I actually feel a huge sense of relief. My body feels like it can finally relax Perhaps that's a step in the gratitude process that I never considered. People talk about writing a gratitude journal and saying thank you every day etc but perhaps another major part of being truly grateful is deciding to let go of what you think you need/want. To be able to say truly with hand on heart that I don't need anything more in my life to make me happy.
World Peace day has prompted me to read over Pema Chodron's book "Peace in Time of War". She, like any other Buddhist monk I suppose, teaches that all acts of war (large scale and small) start from within. I think people get frustrated with this whole "it's all within" mantra. After all, the war in Syria is definitely happening in Syria and "going within" sounds a lot like "do nothing and just think happy thoughts". I think what the teachings are trying to convey is that we only truly control our own minds. I have a friend who would debate with me that we do have influence over other people's thinking and that is true but at the end of the day someone chooses to listen to you or they don't. Brainwashing aside, our own minds and actions are what is truly in our hands.
War starts within. It really does. Someone does something to anger you there is a split moment before you got angry that you actually felt vulnerable. It probably felt something like fear, hurt or shock. Pema puts all of these vulnerable feelings under a classification of 'uneasiness'. It is unpleasant to say the least and we want to get away from feeling unpleasant feelings and so our automatic defence against these vulnerable feelings is to harden our hearts:
"First the heart closes, then the mind becomes hardened into a view, then you can justify your hatred of another human being because of what they represent and what they say and do. If you look back at history or you look at any place in the world where religious groups or ethnic groups or racial groups or political groups are killing each other, or families have been feuding for years and years, you can see—because you’re not particularly invested in that particular argument—that there will never be peace until somebody softens what is rigid in their heart. You have a chance to soften what is rigid in you heart and still hold the view that injustice is being done and work toward unwinding that injustice or that cruelty.
Chodron, Pema (2010-09-14). Practicing Peace in Times of War (Kindle Locations 122-127). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
Peaceful resistance is not about allowing people to walk all over you. It's about not allowing your heart to be hardened by the actions of another. Not allowing yourself to be triggered into reacting with aggression. When we lash back we enter war. So we practice peace by staying with that vulnerable emotion, sitting with it and bringing love and understanding to ourselves as that hot energy rises in ourselves that screams at us to DO SOMETHING! - because we're feeling attacked. We have a choice in those moments and it's going to be my everyday focus to practice patience in those hot, angry moments. Not with my attacker (who is most commonly wearing the disguise of a two year old angel) but with me. Patience to sit with my vulnerable feelings and choose not to harden. It's something I can do, really do, to bring peace to my life and the world.