A friend in San Francisco asked me if I was itching to go into outer space. No, I had to say; I’m more interested in inner space.
These are not the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. These are the voyages of the Spaceship Inner Prize. All aboard. I’m going inwards.
I spent some time last night before falling asleep in a place of peace with myself. I learned so much. I took time to watch life from this vantage point.
In one area, it turns out that I’ve had things completely backwards since forever.
I used to think that drama was the normal state and peace was abnormal. All you could hope for was to manage drama well, but not to have it stop.
Now I see that peace is the normal state and drama is abnormal. I leave the state of peace to join the drama. No one forces me to do it. I forfeit peace myself.
Sometimes it’s a competing desire. Sometimes it’s a particularly negative thought. Whatever it is, peace disappears and I’m back again chasing the impossible dream.
As I lay there in peace, it was clear that this was more “me” than the drama was. This was a potent and creative space; drama allows no potency or creativity. Everything falls apart with drama. Nothing succeeds. No one has the energy to really be serious about anything. Life is mundane and mediocre.
But a change of perspective revealed that we had misled ourselves. We were so mired in our own likes and dislikes that we paid no attention to the peace that we are at essence.
What did “peace” feel like? Both bliss and peace lead to a cessation of drama and discord but bliss sweeps them aside, whereas peace is so neutral, there’s no fertile soil for drama or discord to grow in.
How did the connecting with the peace that I am come about?
It came about because, earlier in that sultry evening, I’d been sitting on a bench in a popular section of town, people-watching. I may as well have been asking people to form up in two lines: one for “yes” and the other for “no.” I like this person. I don’t like that one. This one over here. That one over there. On and on I went, completely unconscious of what I was doing.
What insanity was this?
I said to myself that there must be a place beyond like and dislike – or craving and aversion, as the Buddha would say.
I saw that my creating something called “likeable” people automatically created a second class of “unlikeable” people.
It was a racket but it was also so basic to my daily ritual that I’d practically have to watch myself on film or TV to see it.
If you listen to a conversation between two teenagers, it’s almost exclusively like/dislike. “Oh, I love jasmine. But I hate patchouli. It’s too sweet.” “Oh, I crave lobster but not if it’s overdone. Oh, I hate that.”
I saw that like and dislike create the complexity in life. Crave and avoid – grasp and resist – and we leave the simple life behind.
It’s amazing how we’re climbing the same ladder of consciousness that Buddha did. We learn one thing after another, only to find that the great master taught the same lesson 2500 years ago. Everything old is made new again.
Soon we go from desiring to possessing and defending and perpetrating and forgetting. All along the way, the level of our awareness recedes.
Moreover, somehow we think that, if we know all of a person’s likes and dislikes, we know the person. Again we have it all backwards. Our desires are associated with the mind, the body and its senses – what Goenka called the “mind-body complex.” These are cast aside at death. Granted that our desires persist a few bodies beyond the physical, at last we leave them behind.
What a quandary. How to live a normal, average life and not desire? I asked myself.
That was the backdrop and finding myself in a moment of peace later was the answer, the response, the realization. I’d say there was a delay of perhaps two hours between the question and the answer. That’s positively speedy for me and may reflect the times.
The neutrality that peace is, the equanimity that results from it, allows life to flow over us like water over a rock.
So long as I stay away from strong preferences, drop my likes and dislikes, I’ll preserve my ability to contact the peace that I am.