Clearly, the world could use a bit more peace these days. How about you, personally? What are you doing to produce peace, yourself? Are you approaching your life in a state of peace, or are you agitating for peace?
The various Occupy movements remind me of my days in the '60s and '70s when I "fought" for peace. I was completely oblivious to the fact that as much as I wanted everyone else to be peaceful, I was at least as removed from the experience of peace as those I was agitating against.
It all came crashing home one day when I was hit by a tear gas canister and picked it up to throw it back. No one told me these things would be HOT. I suppose it was the shock of the searing heat, but I found myself temporarily outside my body, looking back at this angry, bearded young man screaming, "Why don't you (expletives) love us?" And, bam, I was back in my body, reeling with waves of awareness that my message was peace, love and caring while my strategy was to yell, scream and throw things.
Could you use a little more peace in your life?
Ever since those turbulent days, I have been learning the simple yet powerful reality that peace IS present, but I may not be present with the peace. If this sounds like double talk to you, then please allow me to offer you this remarkable gift of awareness that has been presented to me in numerous ways over these many years.
If you have ever found yourself "present with your own peace," you may have been simply sitting quietly by yourself, playing with your kids or even working happily away at your job when you noticed that you were "just fine." I suspect that if you were to be mindful and ask yourself what you needed to do in order to experience that peace, the answer would be "not so much." When you are experiencing peace, you're just present -- not focused on the past, judging what should have been different back then, and not focused on the future, fearful or demanding about what might be downstream. You're just present, right along with your inner place of peace that is always there, waiting for you to return.
If you are tracking with me, then an interesting question becomes "What happens when you leave your experience of peace?" Is it a function of something changing externally, or is it more a function of where you place your focus? The key is to notice where you go when you leave. As my teacher, John-Roger, noted one day: "If you're not at peace, guess who moved?" Peace didn't leave -- you left the peace.
Is your Self-Talk in the way?
In this Self-Talk to Soul-Talk series, which began earlier in October, we have been looking at the difference between the noisier, critical inner voice of your Self-Talk, and the softer, more patient one of your Soul-Talk. If ever there were an appropriate application of the difference between Self-Talk and Soul-Talk, it might be found in this question of how you produce your own experience of peace.
My most recent personal example of the difference came last week during a remarkable meditation retreat I attended called simply enough, Living in Grace. It might as well have been called Living in Peace. Over and over again during this simple yet profound week, I found myself recognizing a simple reality -- that peace is present inside of me whenever I choose to turn inward and notice. I also noticed how easily I can pull myself out of that profound peace simply by where I turn my focus.
Over the past year, massive personal changes have been happening in my life. Personal and family relationships shifted in unexpected ways, my client work all but disappeared for a time, and I found myself unclear about what directions my life was taking. Yet, I also noticed that some part of me was OK with all the changes taking place, a part that was at peace regardless of the apparent disturbances.
I must admit that it is hard to imagine being at peace with the level of disruption I was experiencing, and yet that was my experience -- at least part of the time. It was also easy to fall into a state of "How could this be happening to me?" thinking, something my Self-Talk was pretty good at doing having had decades of experience. Of course, the more I focused on "how unfair," the more removed I was from my peace. As is usually the case, my Soul-Talk had the answer.
Do you need a turning point? What would your soul do?
The Grace retreat helped me underscore a basic universal truth we have been examining these many months: The experience of life is less about what happens to you and more about how you respond. It is your soul that responds with grace and peace, but it is sometimes hard to hear its quiet voice in the midst of the noisy Self-Talk.
In one particular retreat process working with the experience of lack, it became blindingly obvious that what makes most any experience negative is a function of what I tell myself about the experience, more than the actual "facts." I can easily experience lack when I focus on what is not present. I recall many years ago that even when I was living in my car, I found myself doing "just fine" as long as I wasn't too focused on the past (why did my dad have to die so young and the family go bankrupt again) or overly concerned about the future (what if I lose my car?) Indeed, I was even at peace much of the time despite the circumstances. Sure, it was easy to compare myself to others and wallow in what I didn't have; however, whenever I was just present, I was "just fine."
The absence of peace can be experienced in any number of ways ranging from stress, anxiety and disturbance to upset, anger and hostility. Sure, there are all kinds of disruptive events in life, and yet some manage to walk through the disturbances relatively unperturbed, while others are much more agitated.
How would you like to walk through the next series of waves life has in store for you? What pulls you out of your peace? Is it something external that happens to you, or is it more a question of what you tell yourself about it? How do you restore yourself to your peace when you lose your way?
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.