How to achieve peace
We recently received a request for help from a man who was frustrating himself because he wasn’t able to maintain a peaceful state of mind.
He was sick of the roller coaster he found himself riding on a daily basis. At times he would find himself feeling centered and calm and feel good about how he related with his partner, children, friends and co-workers.
Sometimes this kind of centeredness would last most of a day. He’d experience freedom from stress and would relate to others with a sense of ease, but next thing he knew he was reacting to people and feeling trapped on the down side of the ups and downs of his life.
He said he worked hard at having a peaceful state of mind. Why couldn’t he just free himself UP and stay UP?
I wrote back and said that I could relate to wanting to reach some pinnacle of peace and stay there—wanting to fly to a higher altitude and forever cruise. Don’t we all wish for that?
You have to keep flapping!
My experience, however, is that I have to so some flapping on a daily basis to keep myself aloft. In terms of enlightenment, the Buddha did not actually say we could reach a state of enlightenment. He said he’d found a path for enlightening ourselves. We can’t expect to stay in the air with out continuing to exercise our wings.
There are downs in life but if we are practiced enough in bringing ourselves back to center, we’ll not get lost in the down times, but rather we will see them as temporary. The key is to find a practice that we love enough to do every day, a practice that helps us come back to center so that we can re-experience peace of mind.
For many years I went to week long meditation retreats. I always came home with a steadfast commitment to practice every day . . . until I didn’t. Then I would go to another meditation retreat, get revved up again, come back home . . . and slowly, over time, lose my daily practice. I have patients who say they have done the same thing with yoga. This seems to be a common pattern.
We can soar!
I started to look for a practice that made staying UP easier every day and discovered that there is a way to be more conscious all day long, to maintain a more consistent peaceful state of mind.
We now offer a practice in our retreats called Sensory Awareness, originally created by Charlotte Selver. Charlotte taught this until her death at 102. It is a mindfulness practice that helps us be aware and present in everything we do—so that we maintain a more peaceful state of mind. Then we can flap less and soar more.
In Sensory Awareness I discover that I can use ordinary everyday activity to keep myself consistently conscious, awake, aware, and soaring. Ordinary activities from the moment I get out of bed, to brushing my teeth, to feeding the cat, to putting on the kettle for tea. I can use all of these as part of my practice.
These activities are all part of my daily meditation. I also practice sitting meditation daily, but the Sensory Awareness practice integrates this state of awareness into my whole day so I can constantly be returning myself to center, to the freedom and self-awareness of being alive in this moment and feeling peaceful.
Everything we do can be a meditation
One retreat participant wrote to me after learning this Sensory Awareness meditation and said that she can now do dishes without having to get stoned! Try slowing down to notice every movement you make. See how interesting ordinary life can become.
The more time I spend in bringing myself back to center this way, the more residual I have to carry me gently and peacefully through the times when I forget to be so conscious. We hope you will join us for one of our Live Conscious retreats to learn more about flapping less and soaring more.