Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Peace that Passes All Understanding

"Deep Peace"
- At the Desert Retreat House-

It’s been pretty busy around here the past few days as my wife and I prepare our home for a week- long visit of family and friends that begins today. I always enjoy a house full of guests but I also realize that my anxiety and stress level is also heightened with all that is involved in being a gracious and welcoming host.

It’s no wonder to me that when I woke up this morning before I could even think about my long list of what I need to get done today as they all arrive, an ancient “saying” from the 13th century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, suddenly flashed into my mind:

And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.

I have heard this phrase quoted many times before but this morning it spoke a powerful and comforting wisdom to me – not because it was a promise that everything will always be wonderful, so “don’t worry and be happy;” rather, it reminded me of the deep peace that “grounds” our common humanity.

Many times people engage in various sorts of soul-searching journeys and spiritual quests in order to find some degree of peace and happiness in life; but in our culture the word “happiness” often refers to a surface and fleeting feeling of wellbeing and peace is translated as the absence of trouble.

I think the kind of peace and happiness available on a spiritual quest is much more what the ancient ancestors called a “deep peace”- a peace that flows underneath the surface of everything that goes on in our everyday living.

In the Christian tradition, deep peace is defined as a peace that passes all understanding. I’ve always liked that definition because you can’t think your way into deep peace, you can’t reason your way into it. Deep peace goes beyond human understanding.

In my own life I experience this sense of deep peace whenever I encounter the enduing truth that “I” am more than a separated individual ego inside a tiny human body. I experience deep peace when I somehow experience that “I” am a relationship with the cosmos. I experience a peace that goes beyond understanding when “God,” A Holy Presence, the Universal Energy of Love “sparks” within my being and makes me feel connected with everything and everyone else.

And so, I can wake up in the morning, even in the midst of all my own anxieties, and I know that all shall be well because Love flows in and through it all and Love won’t let me go.

I find it very interesting that in most “wisdom” traditions of the major world religions, the practice of equanimity is embraced as a primary virtue on the spiritual journey. As I see it, “Equanimity” is another word for the kind of “deep peace” I am talking about.

I find this definition to be especially helpful:

Equanimity is the stability of mind that allows us to be present with an open heart
to everything that comes our way,
no matter how wonderful or how difficult

On a spiritual journey we aren’t transported out of this world into some other “higher world” or more lofty place; instead the spiritual path leads us directly into the heart of this world where we find ourselves each day. It places us in the midst of everyday reality with all its joys and all its sorrows, all its suffering and all its pleasure, all its assurances and all its doubts, and there, in the midst of everything,  we can call out from our place of “deep peace” and say: all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.

One of my favorite Buddhists essays puts it this way:

Stability of mind (deep peace) is the ground for wisdom and freedom
and the protector of compassion and love.

Deep peace be with you all this day!

1 comment:

  1. It was only very recently that I had a profound moment when I felt a deep sense of peace. When my body and mind were at rest in the midst of a turbulent time. And in that moment I realised that that is all I wish for. Peace. Not happiness at all. Happiness may be a by product of peace, but peace is the main deal. And it has launched me anew into exploring new dimensions of a spiritual path. Thanks for sharing this Paul xx