Many people around the world today are looking for inner peace. They are searching in many places, in many techniques, in many books and in many workshops for an answer. I understand this very well because inner peace was the reason why I went to the Zen Buddhist monastery when I was 17. I realized that no one around me could really say with 100% truthfulness, “I am totally in my center and I have a sense of inner peace”. This made me ask, “What is inner peace? Where do you find it?”
I think that anyone who asks that question begins to search and the first place I looked for it was in other people. I met and found a few wise people who claimed that they were enlightened and felt that inner peace, so from that space I asked the question to them, “What is inner peace? Where do you find it?” They invariably answered that inner peace is not an experience outside of yourself nor is it an experience inside of yourself. It is an experience that goes beyond that question because it is not an experience that you can find – it is an experience that you have to live in this moment.
That was such a difficult concept for me because I was always asking myself, “Where is that moment? Where do I go to get that moment?” Some people look for it on the internet, they look for it in books or they look for it in other people until they realize it”s not there. Perhaps it is somewhere much closer than this.
I came to understand that inner peace is simply acknowledging who you are, or acknowledging the reality of who you are. I don’t mean the idea of who you are, such as, “I’m this stressed person or I’m this jealous person or I’m this person who feels a lack of abundance or disappointment”. I mean the real person that you are.
I believe that this real person is much easier to find when you are totally relaxed and totally centered. This is why I find that meditation has brought me to a space where I can say to my children, to myself and to people around me, “I know what inner peace is.”
I have to explain the word meditation because I do not use it in the sense that it is an Eastern technique where you have to sit cross-legged and chant “Aum” or do anything very specific. Meditation for me is simply coming back to myself. Realizing this brought me closer to the answer of inner peace, but of course, I practised meditation for many, many years.
Many people think that inner peace is about going away to Tibet and meditating in a monastery far away from the everyday reality, but I actually think that inner peace cannot be found in those places anymore. It has become more difficult and I might be stepping on some people’s toes here, going against what is normal to say, but I think that those countries have lost a lot of their wisdom. I have never been to Tibet or Mongolia but I have been to India and I definitely know that many people in India, like in the West, are looking for inner peace. They are facing the same challenges that modern society brings up such as, how can we bring inner peace into our life when we have two children who go to school, what can we do when our parents say we need to do what they say and how can we live joyfully when we have the mortgage to pay?
I’ve worked with some very well known business people who have to be practical and have to run big organisations and they have told me that by finding inner peace, they are able to utilise the energy that they have in a more constructive and healthy way. Instead of expending this energy on worrying about the mortgage or worrying if their business is going to succeed during the recession, they have the sense of confidence and security that comes from the knowingness that it is possible to do anything, no matter what the outside world says or however the news portrays the world to be. They even become more successful than ever in these circumstances.
This doesn’t only happen with famous people but also with mothers who ask me, “What do I do when I have three children? I have all these demands, how do I manage?” You manage by managing yourself first. When you do this in a more healthy way, the outside world falls into place more easily. I know that this sounds very simplistic but that is my experience. The world does fall into place. Of course, this requires that you take real action for it to happen, but most people try to find a comfortable space such as when the children go to sleep or when you retire from your work at 65 and you say, “Then I will have time to do all those other things that I really want to do for myself that I think are very important”. It doesn’t work that way. You have to take that step right now.
When you have a baby crying in your arms for example, the first thing that happens is that your body tenses up. I’m saying this because I’ve just recently had a new baby in my life. When your body tenses up, you think, “What can I do for the baby?” This is just the old program of society saying that we have to do things in a certain way.
It would be very interesting to simply drop everything in that moment and really be present to what is going on inside of yourself. I think that whoever you are dealing with on the outside in that moment, whether it is the baby, the child who is 5 or the teenager who is 15, begins to address you in a different way and this cannot really be explained in words.
There is no simple way of explaining this, but I think that deep inside, you know when you’re letting go of this kind of old program that tells you that you need to do something. You take a deep breath, your body relaxes, your muscles relax and your deep breath connects to something else.
In a practical sense, I connect to, “The baby is hungry”, so I immediately address the need that is being asked to be addressed in that moment instead of stressing, dropping the bottle and then getting upset and feeling guilty because everything is going wrong. “The baby is crying and my wife or husband feels bad because I haven’t done this properly! There is chaos around me!”. Being present in that moment doesn’t stop chaos, but it certainly changes your whole perception of things and how you do them.
People forget the most important thing in those moments. We get so caught up that we don’t realise we are so lucky to be alive!
To really be spiritual, to really open up to consciousness is to fully appreciate this moment. It is not to attach yourself to the mind or to the next moment that may or may not happen. If you have a child, be present to that child because that moment will never come back. If you have a partner be present to this partner. Why waste time thinking, “Is he right for me? Is he wrong for me? Is he doing the right thing”?
Consciousness means being present to everything in life as it unfolds. As that happens, life moves us in the best direction.
What does this mean? Are you aware of your breath in this present moment? Are you aware of the beauty that surrounds us, of the life force? Are you aware that you are divine in your essence? If you are aware of all these things, then you are ecstatic, full of joy.
Are you ecstatic? What does it mean to be ecstatic? Is it the same as some books say and you go to cloud B or planet X or is it a much closer to the heart experience? How do we put consciousness and living in the present moment into practice?
You have to be honest with yourself. I call this exploring consciousness. Sit down and really give yourself time to see what it is that you are, what you are doing in life and how you are doing it. Once you create this intention of consciousness exploration, every act that takes you away from being conscious, from being spiritual or from being a beacon of light, moves out of your life completely, quite naturally
This is where it becomes difficult because it means changing habits that don’t serve a purpose. If you are an angry person inside or angry on the surface, being spiritual means changing that and this is difficult as you let go into the unknown. How do you change it? Become aware. Become real.
Appreciate the moments while you can, because life is very short. We are often jumping ahead of ourselves thinking that things go on forever, but I recently had someone that I love get cancer and this really puts everything into perspective. I’m sure that I’m not the only one to whom this experience has happened and happily, everything changed. The cancer was treated very quickly and the person is completely healed and cured from the cancer. But it does put everything into perspective. Appreciate the moment in full gratitude.
If you have young children, appreciate the moments that you have with them. If you think things are difficult, appreciate that things are easier than they are for many other people. Really appreciate what you have rather than looking for things outside of yourself where you think, “I wish things were different”.
This is how I would summarise gratefulness. When you are aware, when you let go and expand into love, you are able to appreciate things in a very profound way. Each moment, each person and each situation around you becomes so valuable and so precious that there is no time to fall into the trap of negative thinking and old patterns. There is no time anymore for the negative feelings that the mind and the emotions like to get caught up in. There is no time to waste. Be aware, let go and expand into profound love and gratefulness now.