This blog is by one of our meditation community, Bev Cameron, who is a retired Uniting Church Minister. Bev shared this with our group yesterday. The group's response was so positive that I thought it deserved t be shared more widely. Thank you Bev! Karen
Karen’s invitation to share how we find peace was most welcome. Our world issues are stressful enough, but when the challenges of personal issues are added to them, I find it is very easy to become stressed. Clearly, ways to find peace become critically important.
For most of my adult life, I have been very busy, swept up by our culture which applauds busyness and by the satisfactions of personal
achievements that accrue from being busy. Being continually active is also a way of escaping boredom, loneliness, anxiety and a sense of meaninglessness rather than coming to terms with those difficult inner states. That meant for most of my adult life, I had a lot of stimulation, excitement and stress but not a lot of inner peace and eventually that caught up with me through major physical illness which forced me to do some rethinking.
Stress and how to deal with it is discussed often in the media, particularly now while the whole world is dealing with the Corona virus, falling incomes and unemployment. We know some stress is desirable to motivate and rouse us to action and even to risk taking. But we need its counterpoint, peace, derived from a clear sense of what really matters including taking regular breaks for rest to keep our inner worlds in balance, or to strengthen us to take risky action when that is called for.
I have always been interested in my inner world. My studies in psychology, theology, counselling, pastoral care and meditation are evidence of that. The way I see things suggests there are two levels of inner peace. Both are necessary and desirable.
The first level, the more attainable, comes when we engage in those activities which take our minds away from our worries and ongoing responsibilities and allow our thoughts to engage fully with the activity. I’m sure you all have such activities that you love to get into and I’m equally sure that though you might feel tired after, say, a cross country run or a vigorous game of tennis or hours spent working on your family tree or getting caught up in a good book, you have found a degree of inner peace. My ways of finding that kind of peace include gardening while listening to my favourite radio programs, walking in one of the many natural reserves where we live, spending time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, engaging in quiet conversation with friends and watching favourite TV programs with Bruce.
But this first level of finding peace only goes part of the way to experiencing deep peace. We need something more than that to cope well with everything that life throws at us. That brings me to …
The second level of inner peace which is considerably more difficult to find, but essential to our wellbeing. Speaking personally, it is not a state I can make happen, though finding inner peace is becoming easier as I get older. The reason it is more difficult is that the state of deep peace requires an ongoing awareness of the present moment, that is, keeping your mind totally focussed on the now moment. And, as all of us who do our best to meditate know how hard it can be to stop our minds flitting from one idea to the next, from one emotion to the next, most often, even in meditation, the sense of transcendence, of feeling that I am briefly and joyfully at peace does not happen. To achieve this kind of deep peace is the aim of meditation practices and no doubt you know that. As we are all by now fully cognisant of the ‘how’ of meditation, I won’t go into that here, but I will share a little of the help I have gained from a popular speaker on spiritual matters, Eckhart
Tolle’s talks are readily available on Youtube. Years ago, a friend suggested I watch him and at first, when I tried it, I found his views unhelpful. But in subsequent periods of significant stress, I tried watching and listening again and discovered he has not only experienced the kind of stress that took him to the edge of suicide, but is also well versed in all the great faiths, in psychology and philosophy and finds parallels among these different sources of meaning which make even my trained understanding of our Bible come to life in a new way.
He has written a best-seller, ‘The Power of Now,’ which sums up his basic idea and which is at one with our ideas of meditation. His name comes up now and then in talks by both Fr Richard Rohr and Fr Laurence Freeman. He reminds us that we can only ever live in the ‘now’ moment. Yesterday has gone; it is history; there is nothing we can do to change it. Tomorrow never comes except in our minds. We are always and can only ever be in the present moment.
And, if we are fully aware of the present moment, we can appreciate everything that moment has to offer, most of which in the past we have simply ignored. Our minds are free to be enriched by the present moment as we let go of sadness or regrets about the past and anxieties about the future, anxieties which may never be realised.
Tolle has much more than this to say, of course, but that’s enough about him from me today. I can only add that when ever my life circumstances become threatening to my inner peace, I do my best to take some time out to recall his references to the Gospels which tell us that Jesus also took time out to talk to God, and then, if it’s possible, I try to let all concerns go for that period and to talk to God, giving thanks for everything.
In this faith in the Now moment of God, though I still must wrestle with doubts and failures from time to time, lies the source of my inner peace.
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.