Posted by: chrismaser | October 18, 2009

FINDING PEACE IN MY GARDEN

Peace already exists in the world as a condition of its being. I cannot, therefore, create peace. I can only discover it, remember it, and hold fast to it, which is perhaps my greatest spiritual task.

It is easy to get caught up in the seductive, social trance of collective beliefs and thereby remain a counterfeit person in a conforming world. Trapped in these collective beliefs, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer frenzy of motion and constant noise in our increasingly hectic and loud society, where haste and worry are the perpetual entrées on the daily menu. Yet few people realize that a hectic lifestyle equals a hectic mind, which inevitably results in “time sickness.”

Worry, hectic’s close companion, is a weakening of the self as it gives way to fear of the in-between times when the enemy has no face, when the mind enters its great hall of past emotional entanglements or potential disasters and everywhere skulk dark possibilities that taint and dim our view of the Eternal Present. Worry, the marauding “Darth Vader” of the mind, chokes creativity, stifles and drains energy, exaggerates potential problems that seldom manifest, and steals confidence by overshadowing positive thought and action to dwell chronically on fear.

Worry comes to us from the Old English wyrgan, which means “to strangle,” through Middle English worien, which means “to seize by the throat, harass.” Worry is a strangling or seizing of the mind by dis-eased thoughts. When, instead of worrying, you focus your mind continually on the present moment, the tormenting internal conflicts of the past are loosened and eventually evaporate. Thus, does the anxiety and fear derive from projecting into the future also expire. In other words, a person is delivered from the debilitating burden of the time-created illusion by entering the Eternal Present.

Contemplating the Eternal Present reminds me of a passage I read somewhere, which said in effect that I can’t do anything about the past, but I can ruin a perfectly good present by worrying about the future because it is my reaction in the present that creates my future. As my past thoughts and deeds have brought me to my present set of circumstances, so my present thoughts and deeds are the seeds I sow that will shape my tomorrow when it becomes my today. If, therefore, I focus first and foremost on joy, love, trust, and respect, I have those kinds of thoughts, make those kinds of decisions, and sow those kinds of seeds—and vice versa if I sow negative thought pollution, such as dissatisfaction, hate, distrust, and arrogance. All life begins with thought, and all thoughts produce effects consistent with themselves.

As I partake in society today, I wonder what thoughts people have, because I see the lines of worry and hurry etched into the faces of young and old, of men and women, regardless of nationality, race, or creed. The deep grooves of worry and soul-weariness are sculpted in their faces, bodies, and demeanor.

bfliy

I have often been asked where peace is to be found. Peace already exists in the primordial germ of Nature. Peace underlies all manifestation. There is nothing we can do to create peace, but there is much we can do to avail ourselves of it.

Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu says it simply, “when everyone goes along with the Tao [the natural flow of things], the world is at peace and everyone is happy.” That which we focus our attention on—peace—is real, and those things from which we withdraw our attention, worry and hurry, cease to exist.

Unfortunately, we usually hide, even destroy, our own chances of discovering peace because many of us live perpetually out of sync with the Tao. This brings to mind an observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson that, “what lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Peace resides within us and so must come from within us.

Even as we individually hide from or destroy our chances of finding peace in our personal lives, we keep looking to this government or that to make peace among their own people, or to broker peace with their neighbors, or at least to keep the peace they promised. But governments cannot make peace in the first place; they can only control violence to some extent.

Be that as it may, peace exists in my garden; it is already there—inherent and available in the present moment. “No peace lies in the future,” wrote medieval monk Fra Giovanni, “which is not hidden in this present instant.”

Although peace was there when my garden was nothing but a patch of weeds, I could not find it because I did not know where and how to look for it. I had heard the world’s cry of “seek but do not find.” Even though I did not know what peace in a society was, I found it in the high mountains of my youth as described by John Muir: “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into flowers; the winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, and cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Now as I work in my garden, I am increasingly aware of the peace with which life flows in the Tao through death into life again in an unending cycle of creative novelty. When I am peaceful in one sphere of life, tending my garden, for instance, I am able to kindle peace everywhere I reach. It is the law of life. I now see peace as the unconditional acceptance of what is and the willingness to embrace it unconditionally for the intrinsic value of the personal lesson it has to teach.

I have learned that peace is an inner state, which can only be reflected outwardly, that true peace in the world is the collective inner peace of individuals—not the so-called “political peace” of nations. Because peace is secreted within each of us, the degree to which each person responds to their own inner peace enhances the peacefulness of the world. Our common, global bond is that, regardless of creed, color, sex, religion, social status, or national heritage, we all face the same inner search for peace, the same inner obstacles to finding it, and recognizing it when found.

People in Western industrialized society, however, seemingly find it necessary to look outside of themselves for the causes and solutions to most of their problems. “We rage against ‘forces’ over which we have no control,” says Joseph Chilton Pearce, former humanities professor and author. “But control would require effort, and our efforts go to self-comfort, personal benefit, and living the good life.” It often makes people angry to hear the truth, to know that, at least in part, emotional and psychological healing is up to them in their search for peace.

flowWhen people come to grips with the fact that they always have a choice of thought and behavior, that any serious reformation of character has to begin with transforming the thought process itself, two things will happen. First, they will begin asking themselves:  What am I doing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to cause my inner turmoil? Second, they will discover hope and begin to seek the self-knowledge and determination that will enable them to heal toward inner peace.

I note here with interest that the word “Islam” means peace, that “jihad” or holy war originally referred to our own personal, inner struggles to become masters of our passions and ourselves so that we eventually would become established in a deep, abiding peace. But, without doing the inner work necessary to find our own peace, world peace is certainly not possible because peace is based on our being defenseless, which demands great inner strength and courage. It is not danger that comes when defenses are laid down, but rather safety, peace, joy, and spiritual freedom. Defenselessness takes enormous discipline, the discipline of individuals who are staunchly committed to finding and retaining inner peace.

For peace to be experienced in the world we must each learn that: (1) the only true peace is within us as part of Nature’s endowment, (2) our task is to find peace and hold fast to it, and (3) peace in the world is the outer manifestation of the inner peace of individuals and is possible only through the collective thoughts and actions of an ever-increasing number of peaceful people because the infectious nature of peace, is peace.

Is peace in the world possible? Emphatically yes! The great irony, however, is that neither governments nor nations can make peace, although they spend much time talking about it as if they are seriously committed to inner changes peace requires. However, peace is a state of consciousness—not of politics. General Omar Bradley, in his now-famous words, put it thusly: “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. . . . The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we do about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

butThus, by the thoughts we each sow daily through our actions, we collectively reflect to a greater or lesser degree either the light of inclusive peace into the world or the darkness of fear, separateness, and violence. And the degree to which we individually find peace is the collective degree to which peace in the world is possible. In this connection, the UNESCO constitution explicitly urges us to consider the following: “Since war is born in the minds of men [and occasionally women], it is in the minds of men [and women] that we have to erect the ramparts of peace.”

Beyond our individual peace, as we grow toward self-realized wholeness, we must embrace one of the ultimate tests of human beings, that of justly sharing the labors and fruits of society because the things we do always become part of the things we are. To share the best society has to offer, we must offer the best we have to society by learning to work together as equals, as one another’s keepers and learning partners.

“. . . I think each of us is put here to dilute the misery in the world,” said Dr. Karl Menninger. “You may not be able to make a big contribution, but you can make a little one, and you’ve got to try.” Centuries earlier, St. Francis de Sales said, “great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us.” Even if your contribution is a “little one,” in the long run the smallest ingredient can be the most powerful, and the slightest act may be the most potent.

If you wonder about the impact of your service, remember that the saints of old did not set out to become saints; they simply set out to serve with love. Only through our own little acts of joyful service in the present, Eternal Moment can we achieve a collective vision for the future that is inclusive, responsible, and yet simultaneously allows and protects the sacred space and autonomy of each individual.

As we serve others, we build peace and contentment in our hearts. As we build peace within our hearts, we build peace in the world. By building peace in our hearts—where the only true peace can reside—we create a healed society and a healed Earth. As peace grows, it becomes evermore a hologram, which Gandhi knew when he said, “peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.” But first we must find the courage to struggle within ourselves, because courage is the price of peace, which, after all, is only a choice, a choice based on love.

I remember some years ago when I found a butterfly in my garden. It was a tiger swallowtail freshly out of its chrysalis, with wings still wrinkled and wet. I put it on the sun-drenched limb of a tree. As its wings gently unfolded, I marveled at its fragility and small size compared with the grandeur of its color, form, and function. With wings dried, it floated lightly on the warm, summer air, until it finally landed on a thistle blossom, where it began to drink nectar.

sunfl

It helped me to understand that a weed, such as a thistle, which appears drab with little outward beauty, becomes more beautiful when visited by a butterfly. And I realized that there are times in most people’s lives when they feel like a prickly, unapproachable thistle growing unwanted in a wasteland. These are the times when the gentle touch of love, like the brush of a butterfly’s wing, makes beautiful the thistle no matter where it grows, for love is a gift we bestow on one another. Love is the sweet-scented elixir that transforms life, removing all that is ugly and unwanted. Love is the foundation of peace.

Peace in the world starts with each and every one of us. As I find my own inner peace, I manifest peaceful relations in the world outside of myself in like measure. Thus, the peace in my garden is a measure of my harmony, which comes from within but may be felt from without by friends and strangers who enter my garden. The same is true for you and your garden.

From our own inner peace, we become emissaries of peace among the people with whom we daily interact, from a small group of family members and friends, to casual acquaintances, to our various communities. As communities become more peaceful, cities and states become more peaceful. As cities and states become more peaceful, nations become more peaceful. As nations become more peaceful, the world becomes more peaceful. And it all begins with our own search for inner peace, one person at a time.

As we each struggle along our sometimes dimly lit path toward inner peace, we are a procession of candles in the night. A candle is but a tiny flame piercing the darkness. Though it is delicate, faltering at times perhaps, it has strength beyond our understanding, because the light of a candle is not diminish by lighting another candle. Its light only grows stronger, brighter, and clearer. And we must dare to share our light, for peace in the world can be lighted only by candles of the human spirit—one, by one, by one—beginning with me and with you.

Thus, can we each sow the seeds of kindness and peace in the world, one individual at a time, one thought at a time, one decision at a time, one action at a time, one day at a time. The choice belongs to us in the present. The consequences of our decisions, however, belong to the children of all generations. It is wise, therefore, to be ever mindful that the kind of world they will inherit and inhabit may well depend on the thoughts we entertain and the actions we commit while working in the privacy of our gardens.


 

Related Posts:

• The World Is In My Garden–My Garden As Metaphor

• The Gate Of Ecological Consciousness

• I Participate With The Whole World While Working In My Garden

• The Gate Of Social Consciousness

• The Environment Is Our Social Mirror

• The Gate Of Personal Consciousness

• To Be In Control, I Must Give Up Trying To Control

• The Gate Of Spiritual Consciousness

• Trees: The Quintessential Plant

• Principle 3: The only true investment is energy from sunlight.

• Trip To Slovakia
 


Text © by Chris Maser, 2009; Illustrations © by Leslie Edgington, 2009. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.



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