So much about the spiritual journey is about finding things: words like “discovery,” “exploration” and “searching” seem to underscore the notion that the “path” (another one of those expedition words) is either a quest to uncover a hidden wisdom or a difficult odyssey to a recondite destination. Certainly most of the New Ageism that surrounds us in popular culture is about unlocking this or unearthing that.
I am reminded tonight, however, that my own journey should be about creation, and specifically about creating peace. In his column in this month’s Shambhala Sun, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche writes about our individual obligation to develop a meditative discipline in order to become a peacemaker.
As human beings, we are influenced by our environment. If we create an environment of aggression and disharmony, stress will become the norm. Conversely, if we create an environment of kindness, love, discipline, and generosity, we will all begin to feel a sense of peace.
One characteristic of this dark age is that we doubt our innate goodness. We look outside ourselves for fulfillment, and this creates individualism, in which we believe only in our own interests. We solidify our mind and consciousness—which are naturally fluid and harmonious—into material entities. We become hard individuals who communicate through anger and arrogance. We believe that what will satisfy us is material, and with this view we create a hard, angry, and materialistic world.
At present, the world seems to be running on self-centeredness, speed, and aggression. As this pattern exacerbates, the possibility of peace, both personally and socially, will diminish. Materialism will never make us happy because it is of a different nature than consciousness. Even though material things are important, they are not fundamentally at the core of human beings. The antidote for this materialistic outlook is peace, the opposite of stress.
Rinpoche goes on to say that mindfulness — “the ability to appreciate our own life, moment to moment, because we are able to access our own consciousness” — is the key to creating internal peace. It is a way to create a distinction between an overwhelmingly material world and the inner buffer that allows us to actually notice how we feel, as we feel it.
At first it’s just a matter of trying to be present, so we connect with our breath. The we have to remember to follow the breath, come back to the breath, and let the thoughts go. As our sense faculties — sight, sound, smell, taste, touch — begin to relax, we start noticing how we feel. Our consciousness has not become more subtle and soft. What we are feeling is the mindfulness of being alive.
Using mindfulness to cultivate internal peace reduces our own aggressiveness (and our less-than-ideal responses to what happens around us) and plugs us into the fundamental interconnectedness that underpins life as we know it.
It is the key to letting one’s inner light shine. And yet, next to actually finding the time to meditate, it’s the most difficult task I face in life. I don’t need to “find” the answer because it’s already there. I need to create the space within to bring that answer to the surface.