“Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.”
My book group this week on The Power of Now read Chapter 9 entitled 'Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness there is Peace'. I don’t believe in coincidences and this could not be more timely. Many of us seem to have lost so many things in the outer world that make us happy, but we are, at the same time, feeling oddly peaceful and it is confusing.
The confusion arises because we are having an experience of something we did not know was possible - peace in a pandemic. This seeming incongruity is highlighting the distinction between happiness and inner peace. We are skeptical because we do not have a template for this. Without giving it much real thought we have always equated peace and happiness, but they are not the same. One is inner and one is outer. The inner is always with us and will never fail us, the outer always changes and is fleeting and unreliable.
True peace does not require our circumstances to be perfect on the outside, in fact peace requires nothing on our part but to know it is there. If our minds are trained on happiness and its pursuits, we are outwardly focussed. This makes us unconscious to the peace within.
Quarantine has been a metaphor for me since it began. The virus has been guiding me inside where it is safe. It encourages me to go within and not to emerge until I am fully healed, until I am connected to who I am and to the peace that resides within me. The virus then ebbs and I come out to test the waters, but I get swept up in external world. I lose myself. The virus resurges, I wasn’t ready. Not to worry, I am directed back inside until I can embody that peace and bring it with me into the world outside. Practice makes perfect.
It is reminiscent of my cancer experiences. The first time I experienced cancer the standard of healing was to get back to life as usual. Get back to normal - listen to those words - they should have been a red flag - BACK to normal. I did what they said, I dove into my chores, tasks, and parenting like a trooper but emotionally or psychologically something remained off. Something within was off. The second time I experienced cancer, I got the memo. Life is not about staying the same, things happen so we can be changed, changed from the inside out, changed for the better. The change that came was transformative and it continues with me today. The blogs I post are a result of this change. And I thank you all for being with me on this ride.
COVID, if we view and do it right, can be the best thing that never happened to us. Most of us will not actually fall ill. We get another chance, as I did. This is for all of us, in whatever way we are personally being woken up. Let’s not squander it, waiting for it to end so we can get back to life as usual. Let's embrace the moment and see COVID as the catalyst for change that it is, as an upgrade for humanity individually and as a whole. Let’s mine it for all it is showing us so we can maximize our transformation. If we resist the change that is afoot for us, as I was well-intendedly advised to do after cancer #1, we will suffer. We will live in fear, waiting for the next shoe to drop and blaming others for our life situation.
So how does peace factor into all this change? After my first cancer I felt as if it had robbed me of my peace, much as COVID is doing to the globe, making us wary of our neighbors, the outdoors, socializing. For me Pandora's box was opened. I went from carefree to riddled with fear going through the motions of my life. The future looked bleak. I was tortured by thoughts of abandoning my three kids while they were so young. My second episode set me free and I have spent my post cancer years training to connect to the peace within irrespective of circumstances. It is palpable, when connected to it. And like receptors on the brain can only bind to one thing at a time - you cannot connect to drama and conflict while you are connected to your peace. You can see it but not be lured in by it.
I am so grateful for what life has shown me and I strive to share it every chance I get. But many do not know my story of how I got to where I am spiritually. They observe me from the outside. So when I say to people that I am at peace during these tumultuous times it is misunderstood. Others attribute my peace to my good fortune, to external factors that perhaps they do not have access to. The perception is that I have the luxury to be peaceful, while others do not. This perception must change. I am not flaunting my peace, I am offering it as a possibility even in the most dire circumstances and this is something I learned through dire circumstances. Peace is not a luxury to be attained, it is a divine right. Peace is not reserved for a select few but something we all have access to. Peace does not require happiness nor is it a by-product of it. It is not contingent on anything external and it never has been.
So how do we find peace in chaos? One of the biggest changes we can make during this time is to separate happiness and unhappiness from peace. Know that nothing needs to change for us to be peaceful - a ton needs to change for us to be happy and it likely isn’t going to be any time soon.
Instead of trying to change the external world, forgive it for being as it is. Forgive COVID, forgive cancer, forgive all the mistakes we are making on a daily basis.
Allow everything to be as it is. Don’t resist what you are experiencing whether it is sadness, fear, anger, unhappiness, depression or even illness. Let others have their experiences as well. Most of us cannot be happy at this time, which is ok, peace does not require it. Peace comes from being with what is without emotionally fighting against it. Once we allow everything to be as it is, even unhappiness, we open an access point to the peace that rests just underneath.
In closing I will offer a public service announcement which I would like to shout from the rooftops:
Humanity is hitting the proverbial rock bottom. Much that we have relied upon is dropping away including institutions, employment, security. In the natural order of birth and death life is making room for something new, for which we have no template and WHICH HAS NOT YET EXISTED! We are creating the future but we cannot bring our baggage of the past with us.
Whether we like it or not we find ourselves individually and collectively at a universal pivot point. We are all simultaneously one step away from despair and one step away from enlightenment and we are being called to make a sovereign choice. Let’s choose enlightenment.
We can do it. You can do it. On the daily, train yourself to choose peace over happiness, change over resistance, allowing over anger, trust in yourself over trust in another, have faith in possibility over faith in probability. As you move through the phases of life such as they are, always do so with an eye on your peace. If you lose your way, let suffering be your guide. Learn to recognize its many forms like resentment, blame, conflict and mental or physical anguish. Instead of reacting externally as you always had, see it as a gentle reminder to go back inside get your footing and don’t step outside without your peace.
Love and peace to all.
This was sent to me on my birthday. https://youtu.be/SQ7V7lONndY. Share it with abandon.