I longed for a lasting experience of Peace. I found it in nature: at the coast and on the lakes, in mountains and forests. I found Peace in slow movements of Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto and Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Mahler’s Adagietto, and more. Nature and music gave my physical body a great sense of release from my youthful anxieties (of which there were many). These passing experiences deepened my breathing, slowed my heart rate, and cooled the restlessness of my body and mind. I was left with a deep yearning—”if only I could stay here forever, or live inside this music on endless repeat, my life could truly be what I want it to be.”
As I grew older, the dichotomy between my anxious restlessness and my longing for Peace reached a breaking point, and I broke. A few days later I found Autobiography of a Yogi, and meditation began to put me back together.
But I was still deluded about Peace. I thought that if only I could slow down my days with yoga, meditation and a little bit of work, then I would find the Peace I was longing for.
Peace had other plans for me.
Instead of slowing down, my life started to speed up. More service, more teaching, more…life.
When my daughter was born, things got even busier, and we amazingly accomplished more with our lives. My wife and I look back on our first 13 years together and truly wonder, “what were we doing with our lives? What did we do with ALL THAT TIME?”
But within me, I began to find that which I was longing for. I began to experience a deep sense of stillness, calmness, and presence of a greater reality. I finally gave up on waiting for outer circumstances to find their way into rightness.
And I realized this:
Peace is work.
The Peace that I experience is not from ignoring what is going on in our lives, nor is it achieved by trying to change things outside of our sphere of influence. Peace demands time and effort to develop the calm inner center from which to face our challenges with greater strength and clarity.
Peace is courage.
Peace demands the courage to change ourselves. Every day I have to practice creating the open space within me, regardless of outer circumstances. I focus on my breath. I withdraw my attention from the many concerns that will still be there when I’m done.
Peace is shared.
Every day I strive to take a sense of Peace into every classroom, every lesson, every performance. It helps not only those I’m with but most of all, me.
I ask you to join me in modeling for children, students, and audiences that life can be lived differently in the midst of the same circumstances.
Here’s something to try:
Take a minute to quiet your mind and body. Direct your awareness within, and with your deepening breath, create an expansion of space for your heart. Take your awareness even more deeply into the center of that space. Feel your breath deepening, your thoughts slowing as you continue your focus. Feel your heart releasing away from the tensions that keep you bound.
Spend as much time resting in your center as you can handle. If you’re as restless as me, it won’t be long, but it’s not always about length, it’s about receptivity. The more you can open yourself to creating the space for Peace, the more quickly and powerfully it comes.
A word of warning:
Life will conspire against your growing sense of Peace by bringing on bigger challenges. Take them as a compliment. Face them with the same calmness, breath and courage that it takes to create Peace within.