Finding Peace & Simplicity in an Ever Changing World

A thousand, uninvited winds bring a thousand changes. ” This is good.” we happily tell ourselves, announcing delight at our welcomed new arrival. But then suddenly, without apparent warning, a cold, biting front unsettles us as change sweeps in again. ” Ah, this is bad.” we declare, feeling somehow robbed of our previous state of ‘ good fortune ‘. So on these very winds of change our anxieties and fears are born, that drive us on into activity, into ‘ busyness ‘ . ” I must do this. I must do that. ” we assert to ourselves, perhaps feeling over – stretched and slightly panicky about possible negative outcomes.
Over – reacting to the vicissitudes that inevitably work through our lives becomes embedded in our thinking and we find it difficult to respond in any other way. Our perception contracts, only allowing us to see from one restricted viewpoint and so we become trapped in an endless cycle of samsaric existence.
The Buddha had the clarity and insight to see the ever – changing nature of these ‘ winds of the world ‘  – Lokadhammas, that blow in and out of existence, and warned us against over – reacting to them. For each gust of wind can often bring together a strange stirring of joy and suffering, pleasure and pain, gain and loss. Many disguised and hidden from our view, from our full awareness.

Dealing with personal difficulties and crises is a challenge that we all have face in life and one not easily met if we react in customary, knee – jerk fashion with rigid views and responses like: ” Why me? ” ” It’s not fair. ” or ” Not now.” . In times of adversity we cannot remain on the surface of thought, we need to go deeper and recognize the limits that this type of rigidity can impose upon us. The world has not come into existence solely to satisfy our many specific wants and desires, and it will never conform to any fixed notion of permanent stability for us. So the quicker we recognize this reality the more we can start to learn the lesson and move on, working with change the best way we can in order to ensure the best results that we can. After all, it’s not the nature of specific change, per se, that determines the outcome for us, but our very own responses to it.
A lesson that I am still trying to learn…….

So many times we can judge a situation prematurely or superficially to conclude that it is a ‘ bad break ‘. But if we reflect more fully on the situation and explore it more deeply we may very well discover within it seeds of learning – seeds of further, richer understanding. In the hurricanes that blow ferociously and recklessly through our lives, trying to rip them apart, we can find a place of stillness and peace that can teach us acceptance, humility and the need to heal

“…..You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayers as been valid…”

T S Eliot

To seek a grounding in peace, that keeps us calm in moments of personal crisis, to cultivate a settled mind that can help shield us from the full force of suffering and conflict, requires deep – seated adjustment on our behalf. But it is something that we need to pursue and develop as we tread deeper into the spiritual life. Looking for peace, however, in the world around us, is a futile exercise because it can never be found there; wherever we may search. Peace in reality is an inner quality – peace is WITHIN US. No one can give us this gift nor take it away from us because peace is a product of our own minds, our own ‘ non judging ‘ minds that have abandoned the heavy weight of expectation, opinion and criticism. But this inner peace is never easy to establish or maintain, it has to be worked at constantly as part of an on – going exercise of self – regulation. Arguably it is one the greatest struggles in the spiritual life because just one fleeting thought of sufficient agitation can undermine all its foundations.

” No paradise of the East
No paradise of the West
Seek along the way you have come
They are all within you. “

The Zenrin

In the process of building up a strong sense of composure, in order to work with life effectively, we inevitably have to nurture and refine our discriminatory powers for discerning what is actually important for us. Unfortunately so much of our economically driven society has now become something of a sideshow that has no real, deep significance for us, spiritually speaking. So finding a personal balance within its culture becomes an even more difficult and more urgent task. But this balance, this equilibrium, has to be sought, it has to be worked at, otherwise we run the risk of being carried away on the ever-rising tide of mass consumerism that threatens to engulf us all.
Each of us carry within us an obligation to embrace simplicity as a way of self regulation. That is accepting less – less of everything. For in the ‘ simplicity mode ‘ of living we are encouraged to let go of all that binds us, all that complicates our lives so that we can rediscover a calmer, healthier state of being, not just solely for our minds and spirit, but also for our bodies too.
At its very core simplicity recognizes the imperative of developing a ‘ not wanting ‘ mind so that we can start to see through the illusion of craving and desire, to see the harm that these restless energies can cause, both in ourselves and in society as a whole. Active participation in a consumer led culture will never bring any real, enduring pleasure or lasting, spiritually – valued satisfaction; and it almost certainly will never contribute to any potential for self – deepening.
The call to reductionism will though, if energetically engaged with, enable us to deal much more skilfully and effectively with our constantly demanding world in an enlivened, refreshed way to see with clear vision all that is precious in our individual and collective lives.
A life of simplicity gives us more time to notice the things that are really important. It makes us more sensitive, makes us more aware, makes us more mindful of the world around us and our sacred connectedness to it. And if we commit ourselves fully to it, in every possible way we can, we will undoubtedly be brought to a threshold of a real peace, a deep abiding serenity that we may have never experienced before.

” Here none think of wealth and fame
All talk of right and wrong is quelled
In autumn I rake the leaf – banked stream
In spring I attend the nightingale.”

Daigu

CONCLUSION
In seeking out simplicity and peace, as part of a self – deepening process, we are awakened to the idea that this must be our practice. This is what we need to give priority to, in a world that creates storm clouds of uncertainty that blow through everyone’s lives causing distress and anxiety. But this practice isn’t always easy…..sometimes we may hit up against a form of determinism, almost neuro – chemically driven, that kicks in and says ” I can’t cope ! ” ” This is just too much for me to bear.” ” I’ve had enough, I can’t go on.” Yet this may be the very point, if we persevere, that things can get turned around for the better. Nothing last forever, even bad times, so we must be patient and look at our problem in a calmed and collected way asking ourselves: ” What have we got here? ” ” Is this really that important? ” Will this be an issue at a later date? ” Will I let it defeat me? ” ” Isn’t there a way I could move forward with this, to improve the situation? ”
By reframing the problem, with a series of probing questions, we can start to shift any psychological blockage that we may have developed that keeps us away from a solution, and every problem that enters our lives does have a corresponding solution somewhere, just waiting to be discovered.
This is the challenge then, a challenges that never really stops, a challenge that takes us through life on an adventure that contributes to our growth and expansion.
The only remaining question left is: ” Are we ready for this adventure? ”

” An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered

G K Chesterton

May your life adventure bring you much peace and simplicity…..