There are many groups that promote peace by helping to resolve conflict without violence and while these are noble and valiant efforts towards ending overt violence, however they do not speak to the intrinsic nature of peace.
If we begin to approach the subject of peace from a Buddhist perspective – or logically as if we were speaking about peace as an inherent characteristic within then peace takes on a richer meaning. If we assume that peace, justice, love, compassion, happiness and enlightenment are inside each of us from birth and that ego usurps and obscures these inner aspects through attachment then we can begin to immerse ourselves in experiences of peace. We need ego to manage the world. The ego’s way of living negates the inner world and makes us live to pursue happiness rather than to know we are already happy. We continually make the assumption that some “thing” in the future will make us happy and so we pursue this. We may feel happy for a time but this happiness fades and the pursuit for happiness begins again. Perhaps this is both a way to grow within a finite ego-based reality and it is also a way to become addicted to some “thing” person or event in the future. Peace becomes a fleeting emotional experience based on the promise of future events.
What would peace feel like? While this experience is most likely different from person to person it also may change from one experience to another. Since we’ve established that peace is our birthright and comes from within when we let go of attachments of ego, then peace is a process or an unveiling of what is already there within us. It cannot be coaxed, cajoled or poked into revealing itself.
It seems clear that when we feel connected to ourselves and our immediate environment as well as the connection to nature then feelings of peace begin to emerge. Peace is not merely a feeling of calmness. Included in the calmness is a sense of well-being. Being is and does not do. The feeling of peace while inside it seems normal – due to the subtleness of the experience. Springing from being peace is a deep compassionate heart connection to all beings biological and non-biological.
My first experience with Vipassana Meditation was on a 10-day silent retreat in May 1981. After several days Bhante – the Dharmawara Mathahera then in his early 90s told us to go off by ourselves that afternoon to meditate alone. I went into the woods with a small blanket behind the mansion. The mansion was part of Claymont Court and was built by George Washington’s nephew – Bushrod Washington in West Virginia in 1820 from land owned by George.
I spread my blanket down, sat cross-legged and closed my eyes and began to breathe, paying attention to my in-breath through my nose into my body and out through my mouth. Flies landed on my bare arms and tickled me, mosquitoes landed too – and they didn’t bite. I giggled a few times. Soon I became aware of three presences near me. I opened my eyes a slit to see. Three small animals – a rabbit, a skunk and a squirrel sat in a semi-circle in front of me. I thought there was nothing unusual about this and I closed my eyes and continued to meditate. When I finished the animals were gone, I stood feeling peace and a heart connection to all nature.
In later years I used my house cleaning business as both a way to make money and further my spiritual practice and placing love and light in the homes I cleaned. I used questions as a center of gravity. One of the questions I used was:
“What is peace?”
I placed this question in my second chakra. Naturally my mind manufactured many ideas about peace but it was the deeper knowing – a body knowing that came to know peace on a deeper level in a place of knowing where there are no words.
I invite you to contribute to this discussion about your own experiences of peace.