Zen and Peace (The Road To Lasting Harmony)
Presently, many of us live in uncertainty. Due to the world situation and the many changes in society, there is a sense that at any time, our lives may be disrupted. Rather than allow this to cause anxiety, it can be viewed as a wonderful teacher coming to wake us up. This insecurity causes us seek another way of finding peace, one that is not based upon external conditions but that comes from within. No matter what is going on in our lives, it is possible to live from another vantage point, to connect with a basic experience of peace and well-being that constitutes the ground of our lives, but is often just out of awareness.
Usually we think of peace as the absence of conflict, change and turmoil, a state which seems impossible to attain in this ever changing world. But the truth of the matter is that turmoil and conflict are not our enemies. It is through difficulty itself that we find the road to lasting harmony. This is the essence of Zen teaching and Zen practice.
The road to lasting harmony is not a passive state. It is a life long practice which must be actively maintained. In scripture it states, "Seek peace and pursue it." This requires dedication, persistence and understanding of what peace truly is. It also requires and mindful attention. These days the stakes are too high not to do this.
The question then becomes how to attain this equilibrium? How do we find that which does not change in a world of constant changes? To begin we must face the fact that life is fleeting and precarious. Change is inevitable. Just as surfers learn to surf the waves, we must become at home with the waves of change. This is accomplished by lessening our clinging and attachment. As we learn to experience and appreciate each moment fully for what it is, we are then able to let it go and be available for the next moment that comes.
The Practice of Peace
There are many areas in which peace needs to be accomplished - within ourselves, between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and the divine.. When any part is out of balance, a lasting peace cannot be maintained.
A state of peace does not grow out of a false sense of safety, but out of understanding how to interact with the forces we are subjected to. Rather than reacting automatically, we must learn how to best respond. Automatic, habitual reactions lead us and others into blind alleys. Responding, on the other hand, includes response-ability, the power to see things as they are, stay balanced and make an appropriate response. This is the action of seeking peace.
Many may not be aware of the enormous power their choices and actions have upon their lives and the lives of others. It has been said that even a small amount of real love has the power to dissolve mountains of hate. The wonder is why we are so stingy with our good will, why we hold onto thoughts of hatred and revenge. Seeing this is the first step. Letting go comes next.
Rather than pretending to be loving and peaceful, we must learn how to actively work with all that opposes peace. We must learn how to work with our fear and anger when it arises. Even in the midst of anger we can be peaceful, if we learn how to handle it properly. In this way we pursue and practice peace.
Anger Is An Affliction
In this culture the expression of anger is often encouraged. It is thought to be good to assert ourselves in opposition to others, stand up for our rights, not to permit ourselves to become victims of abuse. From this point of view, the expression of anger is seen to be strength. Once we express this anger we feel we are no longer victims. What we do not recognize is that we may still be victims of the anger which rages within.
We justify our anger by deciding that some people are "bad" and worthy of being punished. Others are worthy of punishing them. We do not see that human life is fluid, bad turns to good and the other way around. We can be saints one moment, devils the next. Who we are is a process which contains many permutations. When we choose not to judge and hate others, when we recognize their anger (and our own) for what it is - a sudden storm and affliction, we do not give it power and it soon evaporates. When we do not return hate for hate, the beginning of peace becomes possible.
When hatred, fear and anger arises it is necessary to become centered and experience them as they are. When we are able to stay steady and balanced during the experience of anger, not go into an automatic reaction and attack in return, the anger dissolves and is inevitably replaced by compassion and insight. We are able to see our part in contributing to the upset and become able to defuse it easily. We grow to see the difference between our true nature and our dualistic, self centered mind.
The Dualistic Self Centered Mind
In its essence the self-centered mind is violent, competitive, full of condemnation and wants good for oneself and not another. It sees enemies wherever it looks, loves to block out reality and superimpose fantasies upon all that occurs. When its personal needs and desires are not met, rage arises, destroying its peace and the peace of others. By learning to recognize the self centered mind for what it is, not support or fuel it in anyway, we become senior to it, stronger than it, and have access to our real nature, the clarity, compassion and wisdom within, which always knows how to resolve conflict and bring lasting peace.
The Power To Bring Harmony
Our state of being has the power to harmonize and change many things. This state of being must be cultivated daily. This state is a mind that responds and does not react. It is a mind that recognizes the truth about anger, and how it can be dissolved easily when it is not seen as something positive. This is what it means to seek peace, and to have the ability to forgive. These are active states which require not only mindfulness and discipline, but true awareness of all that we are capable of. As we cultivate this state of being we become responsive, not reactive. We don't live our lives based upon a knee jerk reaction to all that is going on. Terror cannot overwhelm us then. In fact we can undo the terror, not only for ourselves but for all we come into contact with.
This way of being and practice is beautifully expressed in a zen poem.
"Drinking a cup of green tea, I stopped the war." -Paul Reps.
Discover the 2000 year old Zen secrets to being calm, balanced and positive, no matter what is going on in your life in Dr. Shoshanna's e-book, Living By Zen, (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life), http://www.livingbyzen.com/ Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, speaker, workshop leader and the author many books including The Anger Diet (30 Days To Stress Free Living), (pub. Sept. 2005) Andrews McMeel, http://www.theangerdiet.com, and many other books. You can contact her at http://www.brendashoshanna.com/, or Topspeaker@Yahoo.com.
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