The Peace of Mind, Revisited (#992)

About six weeks ago, I was lying on a beach in Florida and a somewhat esoteric question occurred to me:

“If peace of mind is a worthy goal, are we better off cultivating the feeling of peace or a deeper understanding of mind in order to get there?”

Now, I know that this is a false dichotomy – sort of like trying to make yourself choose between having a face or a stomach- but I was sufficiently intrigued to spend some quality beach time letting the question bounce around inside my head.

The first thing I realized is that I’ve been asking myself variations on this question for over 30 years, ever since the first time I felt the breeze as I was closing my refrigerator door and dropped into a deep feeling of peace that I have never forgotten. After my attempts at recreating the feeling by opening and closing refrigerators everywhere I went failed miserably (I really do wish I was joking), I set off on a psycho-spiritual quest to both understand where that feeling of peace came from and how I could experience it more of the time.

That search led me to study Zen and other Eastern religions, then spiritual healing and metaphysics, then NLP and positive psychology. Much to my surprise, the “seeking” part of my search came to an end when I stumbled across the 3 principles behind the inside-out understanding in late 2007 when I had an insight into the innate well-being at the heart of every human being. On each step of my journey, I found myself torn between cultivating the feeling directly and gaining a deeper understanding of how life worked in hopes that my understanding would sustain me when that magical feeling of peace next abandoned me.

This apparent dilemma seemed to be alive and well in the work of Syd Banks, the enlightened Scottish welder who laid out the framework of there being only three fundamental principles behind the curtain of everything. He talked about living in a beautiful feeling as both the means and end to a richer life. On one early cassette tape I listened to, he said “If you’re driving in your car listening to this and you find yourself in a beautiful feeling, pop the tape out, throw it out the window, and stay with the feeling. The feeling has information in it – it will teach you everything you need to know about life.”

Yet in many of his later writings and recordings he talks about the importance of understanding the nature of Mind, the nature of Consciousness, and the nature of Thought as a pathway to the divine – an altogether more intellectual sounding pursuit and one that appealed to my scientific “if I can’t explain it, it doesn’t exist” mind.

So which path to follow? If even the gurus and guides on the path couldn’t decide, how could I?

Before I drove myself completely nuts, I went for a walk along the beach, turning my attention to the waves and letting my thoughts drift wherever they happened to go. And then as so often happens, something completely new and fresh came to mind…

If there is a universal Mind behind the spinning of the planets, the order in which wild animals drink at the watering hole, and the beating of the hearts of all who live, then it’s probably not on me to figure out what I’m going to have for dinner tomorrow, let alone how to solve the mysteries of the universe. If I need to know, I’ll know; if I don’t need to know, I won’t.

Since that time I’ve been extraordinarily peaceful, even in the midst of a whole lot of not so easy stuff happening in my day to day life. The feeling of peace feels more stable than it has in the past – less “easy come, easy go” and more of a touchstone and constant companion.

While reflecting on that fact with a couple of colleagues over this past week, I’ve seen that the difference is one of attribution. In the past, I’ve chalked my periods of peace up to grace – moments of bliss that seem like gifts from the divine when I’m in a more spiritual frame of mind and happy accidents when I’m not. While I’m naturally grateful for every moment I get to spend in these feelings, it doesn’t feel like they’re anything to do with me – I’m either feeling them or I’m not.

Today, it seems to me that these feelings of peace are the natural effect of seeing that the deeper mind is always on, 24/7, and that it not only “has my back”, it’s a part of who I am. And when I’m feeling scared and insecure, it’s just because I’ve lost sight of that and gone back to thinking that I’m supposed to be able to handle this whole “life” thing on my own.

In this sense, the peace of Mind doesn’t come and go of its own accord – it’s 100% responsive to our recognition of the natural order of things. As we see that the only thing we’re ever up against is the insecure feeling our own transient thoughts, dressed up in the clothing of fear and an uncertain world, we also get to see what we are made of – the energy and intelligence of life itself.

With all my love,
Michael

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