We avoid peace, even those of us who believe in peace, because avoiding peace is an unconscious habit of perception which itself keeps us unconscious.
For peace to become a real possibility, it has to become an ongoing choice, at that same level where the avoiding habit resides.
That’s pretty far down in our nature, to the thinking, judging, strategizing part of ourselves. But to the feeling, reflective part of ourselves it’s quite immediately where we are, anytime. The split is quite telling really, because where we install our justifications for unkindness, manipulation and inequity is in our heads. Where we have the choice to see beyond that is far deeper.
If there is anything you have to call upon that can aid in neutralizing animosity, self-righteousness, sense of threat and hurt, and the worn grooves of compulsive mind, that is an enormous blessing. Call upon it, often and as often as needed. I believe the practice or connection with that is a key personal life skill.
In addition, recognize the kind of states that deny peace, when they arise, because they are a sign that the peace practice could be well employed right here and now.
emotional negativity – hands down, no questions, there’s a profound error of perception going on where there is emotional negativity. We perversely identify with negative emotional states, but they actually hurt everyone, including ourselves. They’re not needed.
self-righteousness and self-justification – there’s a block, and protection of the real issue going on, and a hunkering down to further suffering. It cuts us off from our own source and wholeness.
compelling sense of threat or hurt – some threat and hurt is real and needs to be addressed (well, all hurt is real in its own terms), but the compulsion about something that is not there and then is not a balancing or helpful quality. It doesn’t heal or protect, and it doesn’t engender those things.
mental strategies that require the suffering of others to be overlooked, denied or belittled, for the preservation of this or that interest. Amazing how many of my generation fell for this and thought we were being “progressive”. All that gung ho “my/our suffering is more significant than your suffering”. Yep, it’s garbage.
These things all take up an immense amount of mental-emotional space (indeed, they can get to resemble the skills of a high wire act), space that could instead be filled with creativity, compassion, real responses, and an original, authentic way of life.
You can probably think of more and better examples, where we lose our way, and can learn to recognize in the moment that we can just drop that thing, and return to a clearer, more helpful and perceptive state, more akin to our deeper nature, right there.
For me the peace practice involves the element of water, and that seems to be my way, because I see our inherent feeling nature as good, essentially peaceful, awake, alive, flowing and healing. For other people it may be a different practice.
We have so much conditioning and habit that tells us we must separate (or band together against), fight, deny others, and close down perception in favour of perceived gain or self-preservation. We all have hurts, and none of us want to be hurt again. Where we have low self esteem, we especially need to feel vindicated, even at the expense of truth. But there is no peace, no real justice, freedom or even security in that. We lose ourselves, and as Paulo Coelho says: “don’t allow your wounds to turn you into a person you are not”.
I never realized this properly when I was young, but we are in many ways born lost. I don’t mean we are condemned, I mean we are vulnerable to ignorance, though innocence protects us at first. But if we don’t develop the right mental habits, with the understanding and insight to underpin them, we will become manifestly lost in the storms of life experience.
We have the means to live with integrity. Peace does not mean to not question, being indiscriminate, never pushing for anything, or being a push over ourselves. But it does mean discarding the knives we keep in our heads, dropping the loaded judgments, shedding righteousness, and recognizing that hate comes in small, incrementally poisonous doses that no one is immune to, and each dose with a justifying micro-idea-system coating it.
Sometimes the coating is biographical, sometimes religious or a family story, sometimes ideological or something else, but it’s basically an untrue story that isn’t our real story.
Recognizing the coating is I think probably important, because then we can stop taking the pills, and start really living, right now.
Start small – that’s where we are.