Years ago, I was enjoying the book Passionate Presence by Catherine Ingram when to my surprise, I burst into floods of tears when I read the following passage:
One of the great gifts of my life comes from witnessing what happens in silent retreats. Participants, many of them strangers to each other, come together and, with the exception of two hour-long group sessions per day, are silent for a week. They are given no spiritual practice or instructions but are encouraged instead to rest as much as needed and to notice throughout the day the clear awareness to which no thought ever sticks.
Day by day, joyousness and surprising bursts of energy infect the participants as they feel the naturalness of being awake and sharing companionship without the stories and ego presentations that usually make up society. People will frequently describe feelings that are familiar from childhood such as waking up in the day and feeling excited for no particular reason. We refer to this as causeless joy or the pure joy of existence. It is sometimes experienced as a current that flows inside, like champagne bubbles of well-being.
The feeling of well-being emerges from our natural condition of innocence. In awakened awareness, the clear perception through which we regard the world is renewed each moment. We are no longer mentally dragging around the hardened crust of history about ourselves or having to wear the weighty armoring of self-importance.
Curious about what had impacted me so deeply, I realized that it wasn’t any of the lovely sounding spiritual stuff, but rather the simple encouragement to “rest as much as needed”. At that point in my life, I was very much of the mindset that “life belongs to the living” and that as one of our local gyms advertised, “you can rest when you’re dead”.
But the very idea that it might be OK to rest “as much as needed” changed my life. Without realizing it, I’d fallen into the trap that more was the same as better and that as Tony Robbins mentor Jim Rohn used to say, I shouldn’t wish life was easier but rather that I was tougher.
Here’s how I wrote about this insight a few years later in The Space Within:
When my thinking settled, I realized the phrase “rest in peace” reflects a rather beautiful sentiment, and that but for its funereal implications, it’s something I would wish for any human being. It also occurred to me that only in an outside-in world, where it appears that our feelings come at the mercy of our circumstances, would it occur to us that we might have to wait until we’re dead to “rest in peace”.
What if we can rest in peace while being fully alive?
The nature of the human experience is that we live in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world. And peace is our natural state – the space we are born into and return to whenever our thinking slows down. So our ability to rest in peace is not a function of how busy our lives are or how challenging our circumstances – it’s simply a matter of how often we are willing to take a pause in the midst of a busy mind and return to the beauty of this present moment.
Better still, peace isn’t just a beautiful feeling – it’s the space in which miracles happen. It’s a gateway to our inner wisdom and the mysteries of the universe. When we rest in peace, our body’s recharge, our thoughts refresh, and our personal mind synchronizes with something larger and more universal.
Perhaps that’s why “rest in peace” is such a common phrase when someone dies – we intuitively recognize that the separate self has returned to the universal whole from which it came.
Of course, I don’t know what really happens when we die, though I’ve read some fascinating accounts from people who’ve done it and lived to tell the tale. But I do know that it’s not only possible to rest in peace while being fully alive, it’s one of the most rewarding and ultimately practical ways to live.
What I’ve seen since that time is simply this:
When we rest in our health, we become healthier. When we rest in quiet, we become quieter. When we rest in beauty, we become more beautiful. And when we rest in peace, we become more peaceful.
With all my love,