Peace Like a River

big benRight now is all we have. That’s it, the sum of our existence.

Yes, we do plan for an expected future–probabilities certainly suggest that time will continue its trek. And we can’t ignore that the past once was. That is where learning occurred, how we each accrued personal encyclopedias of how to be or do in the world. But experiencing peaceful presence in day to day life, and achieving genuine connectedness with fellow human beings–that only happens in the now.

Now is as an ongoing flow, begging us to dip in our feet and appreciate its gentle currents. This is easier said than done in today’s world. Inner peace at times seems so evasive, so often dammed away somewhere upriver, leaving us to stew in our own juices. Judging, blaming, criticizing, uncertainties, fears, self-doubt–all prevent us from achieving the glow and peace of inner presence.

We do not purposely strive to be dysfunctional. If we did, our species would not have saber-toothed tigersurvived. On the contrary, roadblocks to peace are typically protective, standing guard for imminent threat or other forms of crisis. There is value in being constantly on the alert if the hostile tribe next door could attack anytime, or a saber-toothed tiger could be lurking around any corner. But most of us do not live in such a world. The adversities of modern society do not often require constant awareness of them in order to survive. But our neurochemistry does not know that.

Is it a lost cause, then? Are we slaves to the neurochemical dictates of trauma and survival?

Of course not. Humankind has developed many successful strategies for finding peace, most coming into being in times when there was more day to day threat to survival. All major religions teach some form of prayer, meditation or ritual that serves to join with the peace of the inner and the common spirit.

Peace is there for the taking. We find it by stilling the flow of analysis and appreciating the moment, connecting instead with our inner spirit. Inner stillness also allows usglassy_river_in_nature-852x480 to be more real and approachable with others.

The mind-body connection is both bottom up and top down. In other words, just as bodily experiences can set off excessive stewing, our brains can calm the bodily reacting. During tumultuous times we can do so by directing our thoughts toward the stillness, that glossy plane that so faithfully coats peace like a river, and appreciating the gentle flow that stirs beneath it.

For a description of different styles of meditation, see “The Five Types of Meditation Practice,” at self-guided.com, adapted from the book “Luminous Mind” by Joel & Michelle Levey.

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