Lovely, lasting peace of mind. Sweet delight of human kind
The title of this article is taken from the words of Thomas Parnell (1679 ~ 1718). His description of peace of mind as ‘the sweet delight of human kind” must be true, for why else would we be on an endless quest to experience it? Despite our search, however, we seem to come up empty handed. Why is it that the serenity, peace of mind. tranquility, repose, contentment, calmness, stillness, well-being, happiness, and bliss that we search for seem to evade us?
Actually, peace of mind is our natural inheritance. Experiencing it is not a matter of DISCOVERING it, but UNCOVERING it. You see, it lies buried within us, beneath the barriers we have erected. Once we remove the obstructions of our own making, all that remains is peace of mind. What are the impediments to happiness that we have created? Well, they include greed, fear, anger, stress, frustration, worry, regret, and mistrust. After uncovering the calm that lies at the core of our being, we will be undisturbed by the turbulence and violence that surrounds us, for we will always be able to remain in the eye (calm) of any hurricane.
How shall we begin to remove our self-constructed roadblocks to happiness? Start by eliminating anger. Why is everyone so angry? Didn’t Christ tell us to forgive our enemies? How much more so should we forgive our spouse, parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, employers, and neighbors? But how can we forgive those who have been so hurtful to us? We can do so by becoming aware of three things.
First, have you forgotten that those you hold a grudge against are dying? Have you been taken in by appearances and convinced yourself that everything is permanent? Look again. Everyone you meet is in their deathbed. They are here for only the briefest moment. Knowing this, how can you be angry at them? Have you no compassion? You don’t have to be a saint to be compassionate. All you have to do is be aware. Compassion flows from awareness. Once you are aware of the facts, you cannot help but be compassionate.
Second, be aware of why those who hurt you do so. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They are cruel to you because they are in pain. They are filled with self-doubt, insecurities, and suspicions. They are misguided, misled, and misinformed. They are fearful and lost, confused and frustrated. They hunger for recognition and approval. Granted, they may be going about it the wrong way. But their only sin is ignorance. Knowing this, how can you be angry at them?
You can only be angry at them if you are guilty of the same sin, which is ignorance or lack of awareness. This is the third point to be aware of. That is, you ARE as guilty as they are. As a fellow human being, you share the same weaknesses. In fact, your anger ‘at them’ is really the anger you feel toward yourself. You are angry at yourself because of your own cruelty. When you stop being angry at yourself, you’ll stop being angry at others.
And whatever cruelty you engage in, it is not because you are ‘bad,’ but because you are unaware. So, open your eyes and let the light of wisdom fill your heart. Forgive yourself and others, and experience the peace that follows.
Once we become aware of the pain of others, we naturally progress to the stage where we wish to end their suffering. We express this desire by doing acts of kindness. Instead of hostility, we offer encouragement, wish others well, and grow magnanimous enough to delight in their successes. At this stage, we not only help others, but help ourselves by removing impediments to our own happiness, for we cannot be kind to others without dissolving our own greed, envy, jealously, and selfishness.
Another barrier we create that blocks the peace of mind we seek is the demand we make that the world cater to our every wish. It is a delusion to believe we are the center of the universe and its only purpose is to give us pleasure. The childish demand that everything proceed exactly as we wish inevitably leads to frustration, anguish, and disappointment. Merely to exist for the sake of pleasure is equivalent to never leaving the womb. It’s time to stop sucking our thumb and start assuming responsibility, for we have an important role to play. It is to make the world a better place. And the world, in turn, grants us experiences so that we may become better people, stronger people, more loving people. When we are aware of this mutually beneficial relationship of eternal growth for the better, how can we not experience serenity?
A friend complained that she is no longer happy at work because everyone is so negative. She has a cause to be concerned because negativity is yet another barrier to peace of mind. But what she does not understand is that ‘they’ are not negative. The world is not negative. Any negativity, if it exists at all, exists in one’s own mind. It is one’s own creation. It is a judgment we choose to make. My friend’s coworkers are merely people, but she has decided to insert an adjective and describe them as ‘negative’ people. If she insists on using an adjective, she would be wiser to describe them as ‘misunderstood’ people, for she misunderstands the cause of their occasional ruthlessness. Why does my friend insist on revealing how much pain she experiences while forgetting about the pain of others? Can you see how the cause of all our suffering is lack of awareness?
Buddha reveals a major barrier to peace of mind when he tells us to eliminate desire. And here’s how the same idea is expressed in the Bhagavad-Gita, which was written a century before the birth of Buddha, “He knows peace who has forgotten desire.” Those who fail to receive the object of their desire often experience anger, resentment, or frustration. Or if they do get it, they may then experience the fear of possibly losing it. Or they may quickly tire of it and want another object, for how can we satisfy our hunger when we have an insatiable appetite? When we endlessly chase after things, we become beggars. But when we appreciate the little we have, we become rich. In the “Gulistan,” written in 1258, Sa’di (short for Shaykh Muslih al-Din Sa’di Shirazi) shares the same idea when he writes, “If thou covetest riches, ask not but for contentment, which is an immense treasure.” True tranquility of spirit comes from the awareness that the source of contentment lies not in what we have, but in what we are.
Lovely, lasting peace of mind. Isn’t it the sweet delight of human kind? So, let’s unearth it by excavating the barriers that have kept it buried so long!