I’ve struggled somewhat with connecting to a particular practice that feels meaningful, rich, and valuable enough to really contain this experience of ‘being peace.’ In many respects there are practices that I do daily already which feel in alignment with this idea… I try to remind myself to connect with the strong sense of gratitude for my life in the moments before falling asleep and as soon as I wake up. I pause before every meal to recognize how much a gift good, healthful, abundant food is—lamentably, something so many of us go without. I try to be as conscious and informed as I can be with how, where, and what I spend my money on. All of this, and more, feels like ways in which I am aspiring to be peace in my life.
One thing in particular however, that I have been focusing on more especially since rereading “Being Peace,” has been the fourth precept of the Tiep Hien Order, that of non-avoidance of suffering. I know in many regards I live something of a privileged, well-to-do, secure life in comparison to more than half of the world population. I have enough to eat, water to drink, a warm place to sleep at night, access to high quality education, and I don’t fear for my life or wellbeing (or that of my family’s). I’ve been handed a very fortunate hand for this lifetime which has allowed me the space, time, and development to even consider bringing practices of peace into my life.
Factually, conceptually, I have a strong sense of the suffering that exists on the planet right now. But I’ve never seen a shanti town or a favela. I’ve never had to walk any further than the nearest kitchen faucet for my water. I’ve never been fiercely persecuted for my beliefs, the color of my skin, or my sexual orientation. I’ve not witnessed the horrors of war, genocide, or extreme poverty. I know they exist, but to me they exist largely as pictures seen in documentary films, facts filed away over years, and words absorbed from books. I know I have to actually see the suffering, witness it in the lives, experiences and faces of real human beings, allow myself to truly bear witness to it before it will fully sink in for me. My understanding is so incomplete, my experience so limited, I know I can’t hope to do any real work for change in my lifetime unless I introduce myself to the shadow side of this planet—unless I open myself to the suffering of my fellow humans, animals, and ecosystems.
It is a small, humble step toward my introduction to the global shadow-self, as I have begun to deeply consider this suffering throughout my day. As I wake up and as I fall asleep. When I give thanks for my food and when I wander the isles of a grocery store.
Perhaps most solidly I have added a piece to the prayer I use to close my meditation session… With one hand placed over my heart, and one hand touching the earth I create a conscious link between myself and the global spirit—the soul I believe we all share. To Her I bow internally, and open my heart wide to allow myself to feel the great suffering that exists in that space, if only for a few seconds. This is enough to remind me of my place on this earth and my responsibility to it and its inhabitants as one of its few privileged citizens. It reminds me how petty my own suffering often is. It reminds me to be grateful for my life and it reminds me of my connection to all life.
Perhaps in some way I am preparing my heart and my soul for the day that I meet the global shadow-self face-to-face…