Do I have inner peace? Sometimes.
When I was up on the mountain during my vision quest, I experienced inner peace when I let my mind relax and melt into the silence.
Silence is the experience of inner peace. My overactive mind dissolves any sense of inner peace. But when I can stop the incessant inner chatter that is usually negative and fear-based, the antithesis of inner peace, I relax with a breath and remind myself that most — and I mean 99 percent — of what my mind tells me isn't true.
Our minds are an excellent soap opera storyteller. The difference from the stories in our minds and the stories on TV is we know the ones on TV aren't real, but we believe the ones in our minds. When I really stop and listen to what I tell myself all day long, how harsh it is, even abusive — "You're so stupid, what an idiot, can't you ever get it right, you'll never be good enough" — I think, if this were a parent talking to a child I might feel compelled to protect her or even take her home with me.
We all have this inner critic to some degree, and this voice is hell bent to keep us from feeling any inner peace. Inner peace is threatening to this voice because how would we get anything done? I went to hear Adyashanti recently and he spoke about this very eloquently.
Our ego and super ego (the inner critic) believe our survival is dependent on getting things done, the right things — making money, keeping your house clean, paying your bills, taking care of your spouse and children, etc. And the inner critic's job is to keep giving us that kick in the butt for fear we will stop DOING.
But Adyashanti said when we feel inner peace, we naturally do what needs to be done. We don't stress about it because there is a flow that comes out of inner peace, a natural flow. We get hungry so we eat, we want money to buy our food so we go to work, and we are inspired to care for our loved ones so we do it. It's really living in the present and allowing the choices we make come from a deeper place, our authentic nature, our hearts, our divinity, rather than our minds. I love what Eckhart Tolle says about our minds: They are great tools but they are not who we are.
He also says when we are stressing, which is always from thinking about the future or the past, to ask ourselves, What is true right now? For instance, I worry about my writing. I have a very loud voice that says, "I can't write." It has stopped me from writing more times than I can remember, so instead of stopping, I ask myself, What is true right now?
What's true is that it doesn't matter whether I can write because I am writing and I am rather enjoying the process. Whether it will be published I don't know. I will deal with that when the time comes. But for now, I am feeling inner peace because I am in the moment and not listening to the stories I have told myself since I was a child about my writing abilities.
The truth is, I do have inner peace. It's always there, like an underground river flowing constantly, silently and unseen, nourishing the life above ground. When I allow myself to drop into the present moment and the silence that is always running deep, I have only to stop, breathe and feel the peace bubbling up and washing over me.
Ann Barton is an Ashland counselor, coach and teacher. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-951-9136, http://www.growthtogratitude.blogspot.com.