There’s a lot of talk about peace in our culture. You know, “Peace be with you” and “Let there be peace on earth” and “I just want some peace and quiet” and so on. Peace seems to be the coveted prize of a life of striving: go out in the world, find your success, and then one day you will be able to lounge in a comfy chair at the beach sipping cream soda and enjoying the sun. Whatever that association is for you, I think we have this idea that peace is this arrival point where we finally feel content, with a clear mind free from concern (Interesting how that state is also closely associated with death… as in “Rest in peace”).
My journey towards personal discovery and happiness has taught me a few things about peace. For one thing, it seems that the feeling of peace comes and goes. I might be at peace for a minute, for an hour, for a day, or for longer. And then usually something “happens” and suddenly my brain is sending me signals that something is wrong, and whoops… there goes my peace. And then I will make some adjustments and try something new, and soon enough, more peace. And then something will happen to disrupt my peace of mind again (Gosh darnit!), and the process will continue unfolding. I’ve heard the comparison of life being like an airplane pilot having to make course corrections as the plane flies to its destination. There you are, in the cockpit, occasionally coasting, and occasionally avoiding or dealing with inclement weather, but never able to permanently go on auto-pilot.
It seems to be an unpractical myth to think that peace will be a sense of stasis, a sense of complete unending equilibrium. I suppose if you are Buddha or enlightened, perhaps it might occur that way. Yet I think for most of us humans, it’s a give and take, a tension and release. From what I’ve heard about it and observed for myself, I actually think that our brain is not really designed to keep us in a state of peace… at least, not for long. There seems to be something wired into us that won’t let us “rest on our laurels.” Instead, there’s usually some kind of dance, as we navigate through life’s waters. Peace is the reward, one reward at least, for a successful navigation. You complete this challenge or that challenge, and you feel peace and satisfaction at its successful resolution. This often does happen and can certainly last for time, maybe a few minutes, hours, or even days. But a permanent, unending state of peace?
Sounds untenable to me. And possibly boring? It seems to me that we came to this Earth to experience it all, to experience this joyride in all its dimensions… the peace included… as well as the crazy topsy turvy moments. I think a lot of the lack of peace also stems from not liking uncertainty. No wonder peace can feel so short-lived: life is full of uncertainty. Some people welcome this, some people are chronically afraid. I bet the former group experiences more peace, but not because “all is quiet on the western front,” but because they accept the inevitable bumps in the road.
Peace feels a lot more like acceptance to me. Buddhists talk about releasing attachment, which reduces suffering. Landmark Education, which puts on the Landmark Forum, speaks of peace being the idea that “there is nothing wrong.” As such, it is an idea that has to be continually put back into place, as our tendency is to think that there is something wrong. Maybe peace is about allowing the developments of life with acceptance and without judgment.
In other words, maybe it’s not about your circumstances being perfect, but about you keeping an open mindset no matter what is going on. As they say, “Peace comes from within.” Maybe it is purely an internal concept, one available whenever we are not fighting with reality. Maybe a good translation for “Peace be with you” might be: “Hey, Dude, I’ve noticed that you have been fighting and resisting and hemming and hawing about your life. I don’t think that is serving you. I think that sometimes shit just happens. And I think you will be happier if you just accept it, go with the flow of it, and rejoice! For surely something good is coming your way very soon I think.”
By the way, peace be with you 😉