Thursday, January 28, 2010
Significant Word Exercise - Peace
It always begins with the lighting of a candle in a darkened room. This is followed by the burning of incense. I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Inhale, two, three, four… hold, two, three, four… exhale, two, three, four… hold, two, three, four. My body yields to a slow, calming rhythm. As I inhale through my nostrils, the scent of the incense infuses me with thoughts that mesh with the scent being burned: it might be ocean scent, or roses, or sandalwood, or any other from among the myriad of scents available.
My heart rate slows down and I feel a tingling sensation run up and down my spine. I focus my mind on each of my chakras, one at a time: the base of my spine, genitals, navel, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and finally the crown. As each chakra is opened to receive universal energy, I feel it expand and throb, then pulse in rhythm to my breath. With my eyes closed, my inner vision observes a whirling vortex of white light above my head. Then, a beam of white light descends from the vortex into my crown and all of the chakras emanate a glow. It is at this point I intone my mantra. Over and over, the word resonates from my throat as I allow it to ring out for as long as I exhale. I never break the rhythm of my breath.
Sometimes, it feels as though the blood ceases to circulate in my body. Sometimes it feels like a fire within me rages. There are times when I feel as if a flood of water is washing me from the inside out. Occasionally, I visualize the white light enter with my inhaled breath and a gray smoke expelled when I exhale. On those times, the gray usually becomes cleansed a little with each breath, so that at first, I see dark, murky and thick strands of smoke expelled when I exhale until, with enough time and focus spent on the breathing exercise, the smoky discharge gradually changes into a light, wispy and thin white mist.
That is the time when I try to empty my mind of all thoughts and hear the stillness of the night. I tune out words and just hear whatever natural sounds might be present. I don’t think about the sounds, I just drift on them - mindlessly, thoughtlessly, and serenely. It is in this state that I find inner peace.
Commonly Accepted Understanding of Peace
According to Wikipedia, “Peace is a quality describing a society or relationship that is operating harmoniously. This is commonly understood as the absence of hostility, or the existence of healthy or newly-healed interpersonal or international relationships, safety in matters of economic or social welfare, the acknowledgment of equality and fairness in political relationships and, in world matters, peacetime; a state of being absent any war or conflict” (Peace, Wikipedia, 26 January 2010). Very much the same definition can be obtained by looking in other encyclopedias and dictionaries, so this definition can suffice as a working description of the common, universally held conception of peace.
In the sense described above, peace is not viewed as an inner state of being for an individual. Rather, peace is seen as a state of affairs, equilibrium, between two or more parties: individuals, collectives, countries or cultures. The viewpoint expressed suggests that peace is defined by relationships, and especially by the absence of conflict in those relationships. When people get along, they are at peace with one another. When countries are not engaged in war, they are at peace. When ethnicities and classes treat one another fairly, with equality and evidencing social justice, they are perceived as being at peace with one another. Thus, harmony in relationship, between and among groups or multiple individuals, expresses the popular and broadly universal conception for the meaning of peace.
On the Beach
I walked along the seashore. The sound of the surf rolling in to the beach, waves occasionally crashing, reverberated in my ears. Gulls flew overhead, and their calls rang out between the rhythmic ebb and flow of waves which washed the sandy shoreline. The gray day hushed the breeze into stillness. Out on the water, a few gulls and a lone pelican bobbed on the rising and falling ocean. Three dolphins took turns diving and swimming through the waves, riding on the backs of the waves the way I once rode on breakers’ faces. Way off in the distance, I could see a fishing boat maneuvering to reap the harvest of the day’s catch.
The salty smell brought a smile to my face. My eyes laughed at the damp mist in the air. Driftwood and dead kelp was strewn about on the shore, left there by a higher tide. I dug up some sea shells as I strolled along the water’s edge. Some children played in the surf. A man ran with his dog on the shoreline. As I watched life around me, I found myself feeling withdraw, apart. An understanding came upon my mind that I did not need to be part of the activity. I sat on a large log and gazed about me through my sunglasses. All I wanted to be was one of those waves, and as I imagined myself to be one, I found peace of mind.
Celebration for the End of WWII
At the end of World War II, after the last atomic bomb had been dropped and the Japanese surrendered, celebration rang through the streets of New York. People hugged everyone nearby. Strangers kissed to the moment. A tickertape parade wound through the streets. Bells rang out. Champagne bottles were uncorked and people toasted to both victory and peace. People shouted their glee. Mothers expectantly awaited the return of their soldier sons. The end of hostility released revelry to the new found peace.
I look at what I have written and notice something odd. The commonly, or universal perception of peace as defined by Wikipedia is one which entails a relationship between two or more individuals, or cultures or countries or other social units. Yet, neither of the moments from my life which I presented as having been emblematic of moments in which I felt and experienced peace have anything to do with relationships.
It appears from my examples that peace, for me, is the absence of relationships, the absence of people, the absence of the complications and entanglements that come in relationships with others. It seems that my conception of personal peace is an emotionless state, both joyless and without sorrow. Rather, peace, in my life, is evidenced by an emotionless serenity in between joy and sorrow, where I am in harmony with myself and nature, but where other people are only and always on the periphery. Peace, then, for me, is contented serenity in solitude.