I have a deep knowing—without a shadow of a doubt, that every single individual on the planet is working towards reclaiming and residing in, what is innate and naturally present—inner peace. Within this inherent peace resides compassion for ourselves and others. It is where one’s capacity to fully embrace joy and love is ignited.
At the same time, each of us struggles to remain in the reality we are immersed in, where our feet are planted, and our fears of safety, security and stability are well entrenched. Rarely do we find ourselves knowing inner peace. In this is an insanity that each and everyone of us contend with—that, what we are trained to think, do and be isn’t bringing about inner peace. It’s a hell of a conundrum for each and every one of us.
At some point in our lives, no matter who we are or where we live, we will lose what is dear to us. Whether through natural disasters, wars, poverty, sickness, or emotional or spiritual breakdowns, each one of us will have moments when we realize that we are more than our stuff, our money, our personal comforts, or our personal power. Horrific and horrible as this can be, within these times, is also the realization that engages a connection with our inner guru, inner wisdom and perhaps to our higher power. In these moments we tap into a strength of conviction, deep within our souls, which draws to us, or draws us towards, an inexplicable knowing that we will be okay—no matter what! This is where the insanity evaporates and inner peace takes hold.
There’s Beauty in the Breakdown
It wasn’t until I had, what people may call a breakdown, that I began to make the time to sit with books and a journal and start questioning my reality—seriously question my reality. To describe this breakdown would take a book! Suffice it to say that, the compass I was using to live my life was faulty. Just realizing that I was attempting to navigate my life using a faulty compass dropped me to my knees. To discover the inner compass and then train myself to navigate using this compass, was hugely disorienting, hugely troubling, and hugely developed my capacity to live in faith.
How Do You Learn to Trust and Navigate With an Unfamiliar Compass?
Before this I wouldn’t make the time to quiet myself and open myself to stillness and what might show up in that stillness. I was too busy doing what I do. I didn’t think it was necessary for me to meditate or pray. I figured I was mindful enough throughout my day that to make the time, well, let’s face it—I didn’t want to, because I was afraid of what I would find out. EEK!!!
Having been a therapist, a spiritual guide, a transformational coach, written books, and done podcasts, I thought I pretty much had all of the answers to support and empower other people and myself through pretty much any circumstance life threw at me. I guess that was the whole point of the breakdown. When you think you have all of the answers…
Through that time, I experienced a loss of security, stability, safety and control within my world. At the same time, I was actually discovering, opening to a realization of a paradigm, that was and is forever more, shifting.
In the book Oneness, transcribed by Rasha, I read something that was terrifying and at the same time excruciatingly liberating: “You have come to this experience you know as your life in order to be able to reject, completely, the consensus view of reality imprinted upon you since birth….” (P. 21). What the HELL do you do with THAT!!!!!
On the one hand, this sentence drove me deeper into my fears and disorientation. On the other hand, there was something intriguing, something compelling and comforting within these words which allowed me to begin to ask the question: What if my compass is faulty? What if there is another compass for me to use? Where do I find it? How will I know it? And, how will I know how to use it?
It Sounds Like a Come to Jesus Moment!
Usually, when an individual is in the midst of losing everything precious to them, when everything is falling apart and it appears that there is no way out and there is no one to protect or guide them, that’s often when most people reach outside the box for help, guidance and some wisdom that says, “It’s all good!” It’s in these times when people experience the depths of aloneness, in these dark moments of life that they consider getting spiritual. They start seeking something to hang on to when they’ve come to the end of their rope. In this moment, it appears as though they’ve got everything to lose and nothing to lose!
When You’ve Got Nothing to Lose
As “spiritual” as I was, I desperately clung to limiting beliefs, perspectives and judgments that weren’t helping me. Yes, I believed in a higher power, and had cultivated a pretty dang good relationship with that higher power—from my perspective. However, I still had more faith in the stuff of life—that consensus view of reality that I thought would make me fulfilled—money, a house, a good relationship with my partner, and, did I mention money?
When things fell apart, in the midst of my breakdown, I needed something to ground me so that I could function throughout my day, otherwise I would slide ever deeper into the state of angst—feeling alone and terrified of the worst of the worst of the worst. So I asked, “What have I got to lose?”
My practice started out very simple. Everyday, I began with a cup of coffee and some books, which I found comforting and which provided a level of wisdom that I could hold on to—enough to get me through the next few hours.
I made time to read, write and digest what was coming to me through the readings and through my own discerning process. This was the beginning of a contemplative practice. Sounds transcending, doesn’t it? Sometimes it was, and sometimes it was grueling to stay present to the wisdom that was showing up in the moment.
It’s grueling work to be present to what is, regardless of what I want it to be. That’s why most people wish, hope and pray for transformation. Like so many, I began to see how I ongoingly attempted to escape from the fact that I needed to change my compass. I saw how I avoided and ignored some of the primary and fundamental spiritual principles of what I knew to be true—the principles of my inner wisdom, which are not any different from every religion and spiritual tradition.
No matter who or what the source of those spiritual principles, and no matter that I wrote about these principles in my books, I still lived in fear. I didn’t know how to put my faith in anything other than the tried and true of consensus reality—the reality you and I think is the only reality.
Three Steps Forward…
I’d find respite and peace for moments at a time. Then, I’d fall back into old patterns. But, as much as I tried, as much as I reconfigured myself to be what I was supposed to be to fit into the social norms of my culture, it never worked. I never experienced peace. I never experienced a restful presence within myself, where I knew myself to be okay! Living that way, in truth, sucked!!! So, the question visited me, over and over and over again: what do I have to lose?
I Couldn’t Not Do It!
More and more, I began listening—really listening to that inner guru, which aligned me to readings and wisdoms that I needed to be present to. This aligned me to my inner compass. As scary as it was, I couldn’t not do it. I had to grit my teeth, own my fears of vulnerability and train myself to let go of what I was afraid to lose. This included all of the strategies I had taught myself, the ones I believed kept me invulnerable to loss of control. This was the next new beginning— I was learning through direct experience to become competent at being a human being.
The Short Story
No one wants to read that this process began over 10 years ago. I certainly didn’t want that to be true. I wanted to get back to my life as I knew it—growing my bank account, building my house—all of the important things of life.
However, throughout these years, this practice has grown me and my capacity to discover peace within. Quite often, my thinking mind resists, digs its heels in—constantly offering a barrage of limiting, constraining, and quite often venomous retorts, to where my heart is leading me. I’ve trained myself to notice—mindfully choosing to notice those thoughts that aren’t allowing me peace. This is where contemplation, meditation and prayer become very useful tools and practices.
Please Help Me Escape from My Fear and Suffering!
When life gets scary, nearly everyone of us will turn to a substance or activities to escape the incessant noise and angst of our thinking mind, which is saying, “There is no escape—I’m going to die!” Drugs, alcohol, work, spending money, sex, obsessive thoughts, worry, any source of escape only works for so long, until the wake up call comes to each and everyone of us. Sometimes it’s called “a wake up call”. Sometimes it’s called “hitting bottom”. Sometimes it’s called “a crisis of meaning”. Whatever it’s called, it is unwanted. But resistance and avoidance, as will be experienced, is futile.
The Courage to Change the Things We Can
Everyone of us has a need to try to control life—the process and the outcome—what we believe it should be. And, as I, myself, experience over and over and over again my need to try and control I realize it doesn’t work. It doesn’t allow me to get closer to that serenity and inner peace I so desperately long for.
Through the practice of contemplation, whether while sitting and reading, walking in the woods, or just sitting in my backyard, I’ve grown a capacity to know the difference between what I can change and what I need to accept—perhaps realizing that I may be powerless in some or many areas of my life. I can change the things I can. I can’t change the things I can’t. Inner peace for me comes with the willingness to discern and question the truth of when I can and when I can’t.
Over and over again, I return to my books of wisdom and support, and to the practice of truly listening to my inner guru, my higher power, my own compass, and for all of the guidance that is available to me when I’m not trying to control everything.
Prayer, meditation and contemplation are integral parts of my life these days and so is a greater level of inner peace. It’s funny how that works. I guess all of those spiritual teachers actually know what they are talking about…well, maybe!
I would love to hear your comments, questions and feedback.