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Inner Peace: Following the longing for peace

When we long for peace in the world we are usually thinking of the end of hostility, an environment in which none of us has to worry about guns or bombs or destructive encounters or tragic losses.

Probably since the beginning of civilization humans have spoken of their desire for peace, while simultaneously being driven by a desire to survive, acquire more power, or force an ideological change by conquering others. Therefore, there is no such thing as an enduring world peace. These battles over who gets to be in control is not only in societies, but is a continual difficulty in our personal lives.

In the midst of these world conflicts and disturbing human tendencies, can it be possible to maintain an internal peace? Is it the external conflicts, the demands and behavior of others that cause our lack of peace? Or could there be another possibility, an internal factor, a place inside where we can choose to be upset, or optionally turn off the world and discover the elusive “peace that passeth understanding”?

Krishnamurti, an Indian sage who was described by many as a “World Teacher,” wrote in letters toward the end of his life of an internal ecstasy that never left him. “I am full of something tremendous. I cannot tell you in words what is like a bubbling joy, a living silence, an intense awareness like a living flame.” He had reached this place following years of a dramatic internal struggle that slowly transformed his way of being in the world. His spiritual unfolding would be called a spiritual crisis today, or perhaps a mental breakdown, but ultimately he moved into a settled inner peace, teaching about awareness, conscious living, mastery of thought and responsibility for the planet.

Many who long for peace in the world wonder if the real issue isn’t that we first need to find peace within ourselves. Surely if we are content in our own lives, free from destructive impulses, we could better move the world toward peace.

Some spiritual teachers even tell us that our basic nature is peace, that when we move deeply into silence in meditation we can discover a peaceful open presence that is content, because it is our natural state before or beyond thought. It is this beingness, called in Taoist teachings our ”original consciousness,” that is happy just being life itself.

It appears that when we break through the beliefs and the conditioning that we carry like so many overcoats from our past, we have access to this natural bubbling joy described by Krishnamurti. It is what Buddhists call the end of suffering.

The great poet Rumi describes this knowing in terms of ecstatic love for all creation.

Taoists have compared it to going with the flow of a river or called it the Great Stillness. Some call it illumination, and others say it is freedom or liberation.

A modern non-dual teacher, Adyashanti, says simply that the awakened state has “no argument with reality.”

I’ve spent the last 30 years studying moments of awakening both in sacred teachings and in thousands of ordinary Westerners. Awakening is a moment that feels as if consciousness has broken the boundaries prescribed by thought and emotion, and felt itself to be free of all contraction, concern and identification — simply this open and radiant beingness that mystics have tried to describe.

These glimpses of knowing oneself as peace and stillness, or love and openness, are discovered in moments of deep meditation or devotion, and also arise spontaneously for many reasons, even following intense grief or despair. They are shocking to those who have had a strict intellectual framework for understanding the world around them. They may disturb an ego that wants to stay in charge, because we cannot control when or how they rise or fall. These moments begin dismantling the resistance, suffering and beliefs that keep us from deep peace. They help us uncover a natural internal sense of peace that is possible no matter the challenges faced in life.

— Bonnie Greenwell Ph.D., a transpersonal psychologist and non-dual teacher in the lineage of Adyashanti, will speak about her new book When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening at Bloomsbury Books May 31 at 7 p.m.

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