January 16, 2018 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2
This talk happened at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the talk, we suggest you listen to this guided loving-peace meditation, which preceded the talk.
Peace: The Love That Allows
“Ugh! Another 1,000 foot elevation to climb! No way!” At the start of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I commonly heard complaints like this from fellow hikers.
Only our deluded egos would think it makes sense to complain about having to hike uphill when you are hiking along a mountain range. The ego has a self-centered view of the world. The ego looks at the world relative to its self-serving wants, preferences, and judgments, and is concerned only for it own benefit. If the ego doesn’t like climbing uphill, it will complain about it. The ego mistakenly believes that through complaining reality will magically accommodate its desires. But it won’t.
Our true self looks at the world from a universal perspective, in alignment with the truth, and works for the benefit of all life. Our true self knows complaining harms us emotionally and psychologically while benefiting no one. Our true self accepts the truth of the reality of the present moment; we see this truth as a solid foundation which we may build our life upon.
This calm, nonreactive aspect of our true selves, that holds a global perspective, is the quality of “inner peace,” or simply “peace” for short. Peace is the love that allows. Peace is loving because it is connected and intimate with the present moment, and all beings and life forms present. Peace is allowing because it does not judge, blame, or condemn what is arising, nor does it cling to or grasp it in a fruitless attempt to keep it from changing. Peace simply sees with balance and interest what is arising as the truth of the present moment. When we commit to living in alignment with the truth, we become less reactive to however the world shows up.
Peace never defines the present moment as a “problem.” That’s how the ego sees things. Peace sees everything as a situation, that can be responded to peacefully, calmly, and skillfully. Peace knows that reactivity is never the most skillful way to respond to a problem. Peace knows that sometimes the most skillful response is no response at all.
There are many aspects of peace: calmness, patience, holding a universal perspective, being one with everything, inclusivity, nonreactivity, renunciation, persistence, and more. In this talk, we start to unpack this powerful form of love called peace.
The Buddha’s Analogy
The Buddha points to many aspects of peace using the analogy of a mother with a teenager. She love and adores her son, and cares deeply for his well-being. She has spent years with him as a baby, toddler, and a growing child. During this time, she did her best to teach him how to live skillfully by her own example, and through her gentle guidance.
Now he is a young adult. It is time to give him more freedom. She knows he has to start making his own decisions if he is going to learn, grow, and mature. She knows she could make better decisions than he will, but she loves him enough to let him make mistakes. If his freedom causes him to veer into dangerous territory, she may step in with kindness and advice. But out of love for him, she tries to only offer him advice when he specifically asks for it.
Over his teenage years, he makes mistakes and suffers the consequences, while the mother watches with love, understanding, and calmness knowing that this is what’s best for him. She sees how he is learning, growing, and maturing into an adult through this process, and she glows with love and joy at all of his many successes.
This analogy emphasizes two essential aspects of peace: Peace is loving, open-hearted, and connected. Peace is also wise, holding a big-picture view that allows us to remain calm, collected, and skillful during the inevitable difficulties life throws us and our loved ones. This analogy helps to show the power, wisdom, and strength, of peace: the love that allows.
This introduction hopefully gives you a flavor of this quality of peace. Let’s turn now to examine how peace feels in the body, how it is experienced in the mind, and how it is expressed through our behavior. We start with how it feels in the body.
How Peace Feels in the Body
On an emotional level, peace feels tranquil, serene, clam, and effortless. Just like with kindness, when peace arises, there is no felt emotional disturbance within the body or mind. Peace feels very light, buoyant, and easeful, even in the face of difficult situations.
Peace also has the ability to create a wonderful paradox. When peace observes an emotional or mental delusion in the body or mind, it sees them clearly as egoic and delusional, and thus has zero reactivity towards them. As a result, the delusions are held in a vast spaciousness where they, although present, do not bother you in the slightest. In this way, peace deactivates the delusions so that their impact, although possibly still felt, have no impact. Be on the lookout for this enlightening experience.
When peace is present, you may also feel the various pleasant, subtle sensations in the body such as tingling, vibrations, heat, a sense of flow, or a feeling of tiny bubbles. They are not always present, but when they are it’s a wonderful sign that your awareness is really connecting with the life of the body.
How Peace is Experienced in the Mind
Peace in the mind is experienced as a vast spaciousness or emptiness. The area in and around your brain may also experience the subtle, pleasant sensations described above.
Mentally, peace is synonymous with patience. Patience is the ability to accept delay, discomfort, and distress with calmness and composure. Peace is also synonymous with equanimity. Peace is even-minded. Peace is having a balanced, stable mind with whatever arises.
This balanced, stable, patient mind arises from having a cosmic and inclusive perspective. Let’s investigate each one of these qualities a bit more now.
Peace feels content and spacious due to its wise, universal perspective. When you gaze up into the heavens on a dark, clear night and see the stars twinkling several trillions of miles away, try to take in the vastness of the space which holds those stars. Then reflect on the fact that some of those stars are 12 to 14 billion years old, and try to take in the vastness of time. When you connect to the vastness of space and time, it provides much needed perspective and spaciousness. Being late for work, spilling a cup of coffee, spraining an ankle, catching the flu, or all other life events that our egos fixate and obsess about are relatively insignificant in comparison. Connecting with the incomprehensible vastness of life is one way to establish the universal perspective of life.
Tobias Miller often invoked a universal view to put situations into perspective. Miller helped 19th century U.S. abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison print his paper The Liberator. When mistakes were made in the printing, he’d respond, “Never mind! ‘Twill be all the same a thousand years hence.” These words kept Garrison and himself in good cheer and reminded them that nothing is worth getting upset over.
This universal view is maintained and enhanced through its boundless inclusivity. We now turn to explore this inclusive aspect.
Peace is Inclusive and Egalitarian
Peace is also completely inclusive. As American Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, wrote, “Training in equanimity is opening the door to all, welcoming all beings, inviting life to come visit.” No one, and no thing, is left out. Peace knows that we are all one, we are not separate, but mutually interdependent. Nothing is excluded from peace’s deep respect and consideration.
Peace realizes that our individual good is best served by working for the good of the whole. This is what we call a life-centered perspective. The natural result of a life-centered perspective is an all-encompassing egalitarianism that seeks the good for all people, beings, and life forms. Peace has the ability to embrace the needs of all beings and all life equally.
Given this vast, universal perspective, and oneness with all life, you may wonder, how does this influence our behavior? Let’s consider this next.
Peace Manifests as Renunciation
Peace shows up in our behavior as non-reactivity. Kamala Masters, one of the founders and principle teachers of the Vipassana Metta Foundation on Maui describes non-reactivity as the ability to rest the mind before it falls into extremes of either reactivity or apathy. Reactivity happens when the mind believes the falsehoods of either greed or aversion. Apathy arises when we lose our open-hearted connection to what’s happening. Peace is the ability to rest, and pause, so that if delusion arises in the mind, we see it without acting it out, nor judging, blaming, or repressing it.
Peace also shows up in our behavior as renunciation. Renunciation lets go of expectations, preferences, and judgments and simply rests peacefully in the moment. With peace, there is no need for anything to be a certain way in order for you to be happy and content.
When your priority is the well-being of the whole universe, your own wants seem relatively trivial. Pema Chödrön says about the life-centered, universal view, “It’s the vast mind that doesn’t narrow reality into for-or-against, liking-or-disliking.” When you sincerely prioritize the needs of all (which also includes your own needs), over the needs of the egoic “self,” you transcend your ego’s preferences, judgments, and other delusions.
The Buddha illustrated how this transcendent non-reactivity and renunciation arise through an analogy of adding poison to different bodies of water. The poison represents our own wants. The bodies of water represent different ways of looking at the world. If you are coming from an egoic, or self-centered, view, you are like a small cup of water. Add a little poison to it, and that water is contaminated, and of benefit to no one. If you are coming from a universal, or life-centered, view, you are like an ocean. Add the same amount of poison to it, and the ocean can hold it safely without causing harm to itself or the life that depends upon it. In other words, in moments when we shift into this life-centered perspective, we rise above our self-centered interests to a place where these egoic concerns can no longer harm us.
This might sound unbelievable. If so, don’t believe me. Mindfully experiment with in your own life and find out if it is true for you! Focus on doing what is best for all life. Commit to having all of your actions of thought, word, and deed be skillful, while letting go of any attachment to the results. Does this help create inner peace for you? Work with this for several months. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Additionally, pay attention to those times when you feel peaceful despite difficulties, and despite having things not go your way. You may start to notice that peace arise in these challenging situations when you are working in alignment with what is best for all life, rather than from a narrow self-centered perspective. Be mindful and see if that’s the case.
To recap our definition for peace so far: Peace in the body feels calm and relaxed, free of all emotional disturbances. Peace in the heart feels open, connected, and intimate with the present moment and all life. Peace in the mind feels balanced, stable, spacious, and interested in the present moment. Peace sees the world through a universal and inclusive view, which allows us to respond to all situations with great equanimity, renunciation, and skillfulness.
Now that we know what peace is, let’s investigate what peace is not.
Peace is Not Apathy
The near enemy of peace is apathy. Apathy is being indifferent, aloof, disconnected, and unhealthfully detached from life. The ego will mistake the delusion of apathy as peace, because when you are apathetic, you can feel pretty calm and tranquil about all of the suffering and misery of others. But the reason for this sense of “peace” and “ease” is that your ego simply does not care.
Apathy is a fear-based form of aversion. Apathy is cold, not kind. Apathy does not embody the loving-peace of a mother with a teenage son. Apathy closes your heart to the needs of others, fearfully and incorrectly believing that it cannot skillfully hold the pain of others.
Compassion is the Antidote to Apathy
The antidote to apathy is compassion. Compassion is the love that is intimate with suffering, be it our own, or other people’s.
True compassion is felt as a mixture of both unpleasant and pleasant sensations in the body. There are unpleasant sensations caused by an open, tender heart embracing the suffering of others. Yet these unpleasant sensations are gently held within a spacious, peaceful, stillness that is calm and serene. On the whole, compassion is a beautiful, profound sensation that provides a lot of energy and determination to alleviate suffering.
We will talk more about Compassion in an upcoming talk. For now, just realize that it is the antidote to the delusion of apathy. Having covered the near enemy of apathy, let’s consider the far enemies: greed and aversion.
The Far Enemies of Peace Are Greed and Aversion
Peace is the antidote to the delusions of greed and aversion. Peace is the balanced, stable mind that allows us to calmly and patiently sit unmoved in the middle of whatever hurricane may be happening in our lives.
Buddhists talk of the eight worldly winds. These are four pairs of opposites: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute. From the egoic perspective, four winds are pleasant and desirable, and four winds are painful and undesirable. The conditioning of the mind causes us to become greedy for the pleasurable winds and aversive to the unpleasant ones.
From a universal view, these pairs of opposites are all known to be temporary, unstable, and as insignificant as the wind. What good does it do us to grasp at the wind? No matter how much we grasp it, we will still be left empty-handed. This is what led the author of Ecclesiastes to write, “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.”
The universal view sees the futility of striving after these things, and focuses on what is important: living in harmony with the universal laws of truth, love, and service. This means welcoming the truth of the present moment as if you had chosen it. This means meeting every experience with an open, loving heart. This means inclining all of our thoughts, words, and deeds be skillful so that all life may thrive. This means using our time and talents to serve others.
The more we live in harmony with these universal laws, the more loving, peaceful, compassionate, and joyful we become, regardless of whatever winds may be blowing through our lives.
An Example of How Peace is the Antidote to Greed and Aversion
Lust is one form of Greed. When the state of lust arises, the mindful, universal view of peace allows you to observe and investigate lust in a calm, objective, scientific manner like this:
What am I thinking? Oh, I’m thinking, “He’s attractive and it would be fun to make out with him.” I’m also thinking that this will make me happy. What am I feeling? Hmm…There is a pleasant warmth and tingling in certain parts of the body. There is also this tightness in the mind that is very unpleasant. All of these feelings have a compulsive, addictive, restless quality to them. They seem to be commanding me to pursue this guy until he is “mine.”
Lust seems to think that the only way to be free of the discomfort of lust is to “possess” him. Let’s see if that is true. Let me fully feel and watch the lust to see how long it takes to go away… Oh, it is already receding… Oh, and there it goes. It is already gone. That’s one of the lies of lust: that the only way to get rid of it is to get what you want. Just like everything else, lust changes and goes away on its own.
Lust also seems to think a person’s attractiveness represents their worth, quality, and value. That is another lie of lust: that one’s value and worth can be accurately determined by their outer appearance as relates to our cultures standards of beauty. Such thinking contains the delusions of [LINK] judgment and [LINK] comparison mind. In truth, all people are valuable, worthy, and important, regardless of what they look like.
What about this idea that making out with him will make me truly happy? When I reflect on that, I remember times when I made out with attractive men on a first date. It was fun at the time, but left me feeling hollow and empty because there was no deeper connection between us. That is another lie of lust: that romantic or sexual gratification will bring true happiness. In reality, the happiness it offers is fleeting and unstable, unless it is an expression of a deeper love and commitment.
Moreover, lust can cause much harm to myself or others if I aggressively pursue a person and treat them as a sexual object rather than as full human being; or if I allow lust to cause me to beak my commitments when I am in a relationship; or if I allow lust to justify unhealthy sexual practices; or if lust leads to porn use or porn addiction that only feeds, nurtures, and grows the greed of lust within me, while squandering my limited and precious time on this planet.
Given my previous investigations, only spiritual happiness from within can provide the true and lasting happiness I seek. Having mindfully seen the lies, the unpleasantness, and the unskillfulness of lust, I let it go. Lust is an unskillful motivation for sexual activity.
That said, let me clarify: abstinence is not a requirement to make spiritual gains. As with all of our actions, we must relate to our sexuality skillfully, so that sexual acts arise from loving intentions, cause no harm, and benefit all involved. How this looks may vary from person to person, given their commitments, and life situation.
This example shows the power of peace to rationally investigate our inner life in an objective, engaged manner. Peace brings a lot of interest, kindness, and spaciousness to what is happening inside of us, which deactivates the reactivity caused by greed and aversion.
Peace does not take greed, aversion, or any other delusional states personally. They are what they are. They arise due to causes and conditions beyond our control. From Peace’s universal perspective, emotional and mental states, and their associated thoughts, are simply objects to be observed and learned from so that we can be more skillful, peaceful, and joyful.
If, from this example, you think peace and mindfulness sound very similar, or even identical, you would be correct. We previously talked about how strongly focused mindfulness is the same as love, which means it is also the same as kindness, peace, compassion, and joy.
As you cultivate and grow your peace through cultivating meditation and mindfulness, greedy and aversive states of mind will become less intense and less frequent. Gains will typically be slow and steady at first, with a lot of backsliding. If you stay on the path, as time goes on, you will have insights that will cause chunks of your egoic delusion to transform into love, giving you more stable and permanent gains.
Keep doing your meditations. Keep tying to be mindful at all times. You will see the benefits of your work.
Bring Peace to All Aspects of Life
All mindfulness meditations help you develop this clam, spacious, wise quality of peace. Of course, on an absolute level, peace is your fundamental nature, so really, meditation is simply helping you unearth it and connect with who you are in your essence. Still, the nonreactive nature of peace is vitally important on the path to spiritual awakening. Let me show you how vital it is by explaining all aspects of life that you want to relate to with peace:
• All internal phenomenon: thoughts, feelings, sensations, conditioned habit-patterns, and ironically, even your own reactivity. To learn from these things, to see how it all works, to see the insubstantial nature of all of it, you need to get intimate and investigate it with a calm, balanced, objective mind. Through this, you will see how it all works, and be able to let go of and transcend your conditioning.
• All thoughts of the past. The past is over and done with. Let it go, and certainly don’t be reactive to any of your thoughts about the past. When thoughts of the past start to upset you, remind yourself, “That chapter is closed,” and return your focus to the peace of the present moment.
• All thoughts of the “future.” The future is always just another thought. Thoughts about the future are paper tigers – imaginary and harmless. There is no need to be reactive to it. When thoughts of the future make you feel uneasy, remind yourself, that a paper tiger cannot harm you, and return your focus to the peace of the present moment.
• The egos of others. When others are lost in deeply egoic, unskillful states, they can pull those around them into an egoic state. Knowing this, when you see someone in a deeply egoic state, let that remind you to wake up! Any egoic reactivity on your part worsens or escalates the situation. Do open-eyed breath meditation to become mindful, nonreactive, and peaceful. Then you can respond with compassion in a skillful manner. When someone’s ego acts out, remember the slogan, “People who hurt others are hurting,” to help you respond with peace and compassion.
• All adults, children, and other beings. It is the ego in you that tries to control and “fix” others, and it will do so under the mistaken guise of “helping” them. Such behavior is the delusion of greed, and must be refrained from. Gandhi said, “My life is my message,” because he knew the best way to teach others is by example. When needed, offer children advice in a clam, kind manner, while letting go of the results. For adults, only offer advice when they ask for it, and give it to them in a calm, kind manner, while letting go of the results. For wildlife, bring in peace with the situation, or seek skillful solutions that benefit everyone involved. For animal companions, give them proper training, or seek the advice of an animal behaviorist to aid your ability to live together in harmony. When you want to “fix” someone, remember these words of wisdom from teacher Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusettes: “I wish you happiness, but cannot make your choices for you.”
• The present moment. Accept the present moment and respond accordingly. As Kamala Masters says, “May I accept and open to how it is right now, because this is how it is right now.”
• All change. Change is merely the eight worldly winds whipping about. No need to grasp them. When change arises that upsets you, contemplate this blessing from teacher and co-founder of the Gaia House in England, Christina Feldman: “May I embrace change with stillness and calm. May I deeply accept this moment as it is.”
The importance of cultivating the non-reactivity and universal view of peace cannot be overemphasized. Keep cultivating it through daily meditation and mindfulness.
Next we will discuss what supports the arising of peace.
What Supports the Arising of Peace?
There are many things that support the arising of peace, but I am going to highlight one of them: embracing a strong committing to having all actions arise from skillful intentions.
A Strong Determination to Be Skillful
The more skillful your intentions and the resulting thoughts, words, and deed are, the more peaceful you will be. So make a strong commitment to having all of your intentions be skillful.
Skillful intentions arise from pure love: be that love kindness, peace, compassion, or joy. Skillful intentions create skillful actions: thoughts, words, and deeds that benefit all of life. When we commit to being skillful, we pay attention to how our actions impact all life forms directly or indirectly affected by our actions.
Our sincere desire to be skillful inspires our curiosity and investigation into how our choices impact the wider community of life. As we learn, we modify our behavior so that our behavior supports the ability for all life to thrive. The more we do this, the more we live in alignment with the universal laws of truth, love, and service, and the more inner peace we experience.
Being skillful also means that we live to give. We use the gifts of knowledge and skill that life has blessed us with to give back to all of life. What is your calling, your passion, your way to contribute? What makes you happy and helps others? How do you want to serve others? Do those things. Each one of us is here for a unique purpose, and we will not be peaceful unless we are living in alignment with our calling and purpose.
Other Ways to Cultivate Peace
Other things that help to maintain our sense of inner peace include many of the views we have already talked in this talk or previous talks, so they are merely referenced:
• Live according to the truth of reality as it is. This includes:
• Recognizing that the now is all there is to reduce the fear, anxiety, stress, guilt, overwhelm, and other disturbing emotions that arise from the delusions of futuring and past-ing.
• Recognizing the changing, unstable, and unreliable nature of all forms, including relationships and achievements, so you stop putting your faith in them as the means for finding happiness in your life. They will disappoint you every time.
• See the world from a selfless, all-encompassing, expansive universal perspective. Another way to say this is, be mindful, and take nothing personally.
• Inhabit your body. Be aware of bodily sensations at all times. This will enable you to feel your inner peace, as well as alert you to when delusion is active in the mind, so you can mindfully investigate it.
By committing to have all of your actions flow from loving motivations, you align yourself with the universal laws of love and service. Moment-to-moment mindfulness of your intentions will be necessary to be successful at having all of your intentions flow from love.
By living mindfully in the now, and seeing the changing, unreliable, and impersonal nature of everything you live under the law of truth. Moment-to-moment mindfulness and investigation of the mind, heart area, and body will be necessary to be successful at training your mind to only think truthful, helpful, and loving thoughts.
As your intentions, thoughts, and actions become more and more skillful, you will become more and more peaceful.
It Is As It Is
A helpful slogan to aid us in being calm and peaceful in all situations is: “It is as it is.” This slogan can remind us how there is no need to add anything to the situation. We don’t need to add judgment, ideas, concepts, or stories to what is unfolding. We can simply remain connected and intimate to all of the internal and external phenomena that are arising in this very moment. We devote our energy and awareness into simply knowing on a felt and experiential level, what is it like right now?
The better we are at doing this, the quieter our mind becomes. The energy that normally goes into thought, is diverted into awareness of our sense-perceptions. When there are fewer thoughts, there are fewer changes that our ego is adding judgment, ideas, concepts, and stories to the simple reality of the moment, making it more likely to experience more moments completely free of delusion. That moment will simply be. “It is as it is.”
Of course, such strong mindfulness is rare, but you always get a second chance. If there are thoughts arising, and you are mindful that there are thoughts arising, and you don’t mistake any of them to be the truth, you will still be peaceful.
In a very real way, strong and continuous mindfulness will allow you to experience continual inner peace. If, at any point, you are not feeling peace and tranquility, use that lack of peace to remind yourself to be mindful. When you regain mindfulness, compassionately, calmly, and kindly observe what delusional thought or story is present that is causing the disturbance.
This is one reason why mindfulness meditation is so important to your spiritual progress. It is teaching you a new, more wonderful, more loving and truthful way to be in the world.
Summary and Conclusion
That has been a lot of information, so let me summarize what we have covered.
Peace is the love that allows. Peace is a state that allows you to confront challenge and difficulty with a calm, balanced mind, and an open heart. Peace is a very pleasant, soothing, relaxed state that is free of emotional disturbances. Peace is epitomized by the attitude of a loving mother with a teenage son. Out of a deep love for her son, she gives him the freedom he needs to make mistakes, grow, learn, and mature.
Peace looks at the world from a universal perspective, and recognizes our basic unity. When you are in the state of peace you see yourself as one cell in the body of life, and you work for the good of all life; you see how your individual happiness is tied to the happiness of the whole of life. With this view, you stay tranquil, nonreactive, and skillful during difficulty. This view allows you to transcend the petty inconveniences and challenges caused by the eight worldly winds that never stop blowing throughout our lives.
Our ego confuses the state of peace with apathy. The difference between peace and apathy is that peace is fully connected and intimate with life, whereas apathy is not. Peace has an open heart whereas apathy has a closed heart. A loving mother may give a teenage son the freedom to make mistakes, but she does this out of concern for his well-being, not out of apathy. The antidote for apathy is compassion, which we will cover in a future talk.
Peace is the antidote to the delusions of greed and aversion. The more you tune into and connect with your wellspring of inner peace, the more you weaken the delusions of greed and aversion. That is why you want to relate to all inner and outer phenomena with this calm, tranquil, non-reactive state of peace. The more you apply it, the stronger it will become.
Other helpful aids to strengthening the state of peace include: purifying your intentions, and committing to live mindfully in alignment with truth, love, and service.
Having strong, continuous mindfulness is the same as tuning into peace, so keep up with your meditation practice and remember to be mindful as often as possible during the rest of your waking life.
Then when you are on a hike along a wooded path and suddenly notice that it winds up a steep mountain, you will not uselessly complain. You will know “it is as it is,” and continue hiking silently and skillfully with peace, ease, and tranquility.