I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
*Psalm 131.2, ESV
Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: you won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.
*Ajahn Chah (b. 1918), Buddhist, Thailand
I drive up to the entrance to my new home, sitting at the bottom of the hill on these lovely wetlands in South Georgia. This new home is an old tobacco barn made into an apartment about 25 years past, abandoned: I recall the name I gave this rustic hermitage: Hermitage of Peace. Today, my fourth day in the long-dreamed for hermitage, I do not feel much of this Peace. Lonely, lost, disquiet are words that speak of feelings this day.
Reflection arises on this seeming contradiction: unpeace, Peace. But all is okay, and the recollection is assuring that Hermitage of Peace does not signify absence of feelings of unpeace. This Hermitage is a sign of Peace, as the prayers and silence here are meant to be a sign, even a sacrament, of Peace.
Here, I live with my doggie. Praying. Meditating. Working. Admiring the show of frogs and wild ducks on the pond as Sun sets. Enjoying walks morning and evening across the quiet, hilly land. This place, once called the Barn by those living in this rural landscape of my childhood and youth, we are seeking to make a sanctuary and witness of Peace in a world much in need of inner and outer Peace.
This is the life of persons of Peace, whatever way we choose to live in this world, wherever we choose to live in this world. Awakening means to know unpeace is not an absence of Peace. Rather, Peace embraces the humanness and honesty of feelings of unpeace. In the absence is the presence, and in the presence is the absence. Peace cannot be found in the opposites of peace and unpeace. Peace transcends, yet incorporates, feelings of peace and unpeace. This is why one can look, as in meditation or otherwise, peacefully at disquiet and calmly rest awareness on it. If you run from unpeace, you will run into unpeace; if you run toward peace, you will run into unpeace. If you embrace calmly peace and unpeace, Peace will arise for you. So, prayer, meditation, spiritual practices, or life is not about running from unpeace or trying to get peace, but receiving the gift of Peace already present.
Feelings come and go. In one moment one may feel only peacefulness, the next only disquiet, the next a mingling of both. This Peace, however, embodied in the Hermitage of Peace, and I pray in my life, is before feelings, is Grace Itself, Ground of feelings and their transcendence in Love. Life is not a negation, but a fruition.
This, to many would be a subtle matter, if not accustomed to this approach to the way of Grace as paradoxical and inclusive of pleasant and unpleasant. So, to clarify a matter. I am not recommending to indulge feelings of disquiet, even as I am not recommending to indulge feelings of peace. Certainly, feelings of peace are a more healthy pattern than unpeace. And, we cannot escape the duality. This musing suggests a need to drop indulging altogether, so one is not in an emotionally dependent relationship with any feeling. But, yes, we can enjoy the arising and pleasure of peaceful feelings. And, yes, we are not under any mandate to enjoy disguiet. Yet, we long for what is prior, a Feeling that is not emotional, that is more like a stable presence, and one we can call Peace, if we wish.
*Dec 2013; rev. and expanded Aug 2018.
* * *
Peace is not an experience; peace is before all experience. Experience will always change, that is why we call it experience. Peace remains, for is.
* * * CLOSING BLESSING * * *
Grace and Peace to All
The Sacred in Me bows to the Sacred in You
*Move your cursor over photos for photographer and title.
*Lotus of the Heart is a Work of Brian K. Wilcox. Brian is an interspiriutal Contemplative Chaplain, Writer, and Poet, living in Florida, USA.