Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Peace that Surpasses Understanding

"Deep Peace"
- Sunset at the Desert Retreat House -

I just had a rather disturbing but also informative conversation with a friend of mine who told me that he is “giving up” listening to, reading about or watching any more news reports. He said that he has enough problems in his own personal life without being constantly barraged by reports of hurricanes, ethnic cleansing, terrorist attacks, and political infighting. So, he is suspending all news consumption because he can no longer endure the anxiety that such stories elicit in him.

As I listened to my friend the other day I wondered how many other people might be feeling the same way, overburdened by the anxiety of everyday life nowadays.

My conversation with my friend also reminded me of an ancient “saying” from the 13th century English mystic, Julian of Norwich:

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 and I think it is often misinterpreted to mean that, no matter how tough life is, everything will eventually turn out ok, so “don’t worry and be happy.”  Actually the wisdom of this one little phrase speaks of something far more profound, it points to a deep peace that can “ground” all of us no matter what may come our way in life.

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. People are happy when they get a job or buy new clothes. People find peace when there is nothing to trouble them. But there will always be trouble in life no matter who we are, suffering is inherent in our human condition.

As I see it, the kind of peace and happiness available on a spiritual quest is much more of  what the ancient ancestors called a “deep peace”- a peace that flows underneath the surface of everyday living.

The Christian scriptures talk about a peace that passes all understanding. I think that’s what “deep peace” means, it’s a sense of underlying peace one experiences that goes beyond analysis or understanding. After all, on the surface it probably doesn’t “make sense” to feel peace in the midst of suffering, pain and chaos; and yet that sense of a deep peace that passes understanding lies at the heart of the spiritual journey.

In my own life I experience this deep peace whenever I am able to recognize that “I” am more than a separated individual ego inside a tiny human body. I experience that peace that passes understanding when I become aware of my connection to the cosmos. I experience a deep peace when I know that, even in the darkest times, an abiding Love and Universal Energy “sparks” within my being and in all other beings connecting us all in an amazingly beautiful, mysterious and mystical web of dynamic interrelationship.

And so, I experience a deep peace when I know that all shall be well because Love flows in and through it all - Love is stronger than hate and Love won’t let me go. 

Most “wisdom” traditions of the major world religions recommend the practice of equanimity as a primary virtue on the spiritual journey.

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.

When we are able to practice this “stability of mind” we can abide in deep peace. When we are present with an open heart to all those disturbing news reports, when we are present with an open heart rejoicing at the birth of a child, when we are present with an open heart at the loss a spouse or when we are diagnosed with cancer, when we buy a house or lose a job and we are “present with an open heart” to everything that comes our way we can find a deep peace, knowing that underneath it all, all is well, all is well, all manner of things shall be well.

I am reminded of a blessing that comes from the ancient Celtic Druids. I offer this blessing to any who may happen to read my post today:

Deep peace of the Running Wave to you.
Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you.
Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you.
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you.
Deep peace!

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