It is generally understood that meditation is a way of attaining peace, and many believe this peace will only come after many years of intense, dedicated practice. As a meditation instructor, I find most people come to meditation believing this to be true. It is quite natural for those starting on this path to feel as though meditation will give them something that will somehow fix or cleanup the messiness of their lives, and through much effort they will no longer experience their pain, anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, or cravings. As naive as this sounds, many of us have this subtle hope that our meditation practice will lead to some ultimate comfort, security, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is as Suzuki Roshi used to say, “Not always so.”
“There is no way to peace” is the first line of a quote I once read by Thich Nhat Hahn, the second line reading, “Peace is the way.” I find this saying very profound, and only recently, have I started truly appreciating and understanding its message. The first line explains how we are not going to find a way to peace; the way to it is unattainable. Not because it doesn’t exist, but rather because it must be something we bring to each moment of our lives. Peace is gentleness, compassion, and wisdom in action, right smack in the middle of ordinary, everyday living. Peace literally is the way! Meditation is not a means to gain peace, but rather a way to practice bringing peace to whatever is occurring in that moment. I am not saying meditation does not bring about tranquility and inner calm, but naturally the feelings from deeper meditative states dissipate like an early morning fog on a sunny day. The warm fuzzy feelings come and go; nothing can ever be static in an ever-changing universe. If we believe peace is only a feeling we must attain and maintain, it will always be waxing and waning, but as we mature on our meditative path we find peace to be what we choose to bring to every moment – pleasant or unpleasant.
Understanding peace in this way allows our meditation practice to become the training ground where we are able to bring peace to ourselves, all of ourselves. By sitting with our monkey minds, difficult emotions, body pains, and storylines, without judgments or labels, we are actually bringing peace to our entire being. Naturally, this begins flowing into each moment of everyday life, such as doing the dishes, being stuck in a traffic jam, working, eating, going to the bathroom, etc. Instead of waiting for peace, our life becomes our expression of peace moment-by-moment. We eventually realize peace doesn’t necessarily mean feeling good, but rather is our approach to all the circumstances we experience in our lives. Maybe the Zen masters weren’t crazy when they claimed: practice IS enlightenment, or peace IS the way!
What are you waiting for? Be peace right now!