Sunday, August 15, 2010

A New Happiness

There is peace and tranquility in nature. Rural areas are mercifully lacking the distractions found in the city. In urban settings, we sometimes need to retire to our bedroom or study to find the same peaceful solitude. Peace and quiet is the perfect setting for learning to meditate. Our everyday mind is adept at grabbing hold of every little distraction and when we find a quiet place, it's easier to get centered and settle down.

The peace and tranquility we seek doesn't wait for us in the country side, however, nor is it a feature of the back room. We bring the balance with us when we close the door and light a candle. We take the tranquility to the outback. In the wild expanse of the outdoors, there is a constant struggle for life to continue. Most wild things are focused on survival just long enough to pass their genes on to the next generation. We're all aware of that. We've seen it enough on National Geographic and Animal Planet. The serenity we see when we look out over a deep mountain lake embowered in spruce and fir is simply another illusion. It's a pleasant illusion that probably has some healthful benefit for us but an illusion all the same.

If we must rely on the outside world to be quiet and peaceful for us to find peace of mind, then we're going to live with a lot of frustration and anxiety. Our lives will not be balanced and our plans will be derailed. The truth is that, at any moment, in the country or the city, at work or at home, disturbances appear, often without warning.

If we want to approach life with stability of mind and the flexibility to deal with whatever may come our way, then we must stop looking for these qualities in the outside world. My first Zen instructor used to tell me to abandon myself to living life on life's terms. He told me this over and over but I was slow in coming to realize that he meant I should practice meditation in the eternal moment--all the time.

When I remember his teaching, I find that I can negotiate any path. Instead of relying on something out there to go my way, rather than hoping for a break, I look to the calmness and stability that I've cultivated within. One of the promises of meditation is that we come to know a new peace and a new happiness; we come to intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. This promise has come true in my life and it has come true in the lives of millions of others. It will come true for you if you practice.


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