Do I feel at peace with myself?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

The most usual thing is that we are not at peace and we search for it straight away.  And we search for it as we look for coffee in the supermarket, as a useful product for that moment when we feel uncomfortable.

We look for peace, because we do not feel it.  But we look for it in a superficial way, hurriedly in order to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings we store up and that we want to get rid of.  That is really what tends to be important to us: getting rid of the malaise and quickly.   I am not normally interested in understanding its cause, I just want to reach a goal: to be away from the problem.   And I assume that you have already seen that this has not produced any results so far.  Nothing and nobody can offer the peace you are searching for.

Let us consider a metaphor about how we seek to eliminate our malaise.  Let us assume that you have a pretty little house on the banks of a river and you observe that the water is starting to become dirty and evil smelling.  Firstly you think that it is just something temporary and that it will pass.  You may think that a neighbour is the culprit.  Then you make a kind of dyke so that at least the dirt goes away.  You complain to the Town Hall so that they will do something about it.  You put in some plants around your house that will clean the water.  You look for an expert in cleaning up water and they put a modern water purification system in the river for you a bit before your house.  While you are distracted with all this activity, you may perhaps not have asked yourself seriously why the water is in that state.

Maybe one day, tired of useless solutions, you investigate your own surroundings and you discover that you yourself have a well where you usually tip your waste and that the well, which until now, has coped with it, can no longer contain any more and it is causing your own waste to be discharged into the beautiful river.

Now you are at a crossroads.

Faced with the enormous work of cleaning and fixing it, you can resign yourself to the fact that the water will remain dirty and continue to lament, or you can try to read up on it and act to rebuild the well, which will give you back a clean river. 

Is that not the way we normally act?

Many of us do something similar.   We search avidly for external solutions: we read books, we consult experts, we travel to visit gurus and we even read these brief commentaries.  But that is not the solution.

Few of us really tackle our malaise; we tend to satisfy ourselves by distracting ourselves with actions that exclude us from the problem.  Sometimes we expect that things will change over time, without a great effort on our part.  However, if we do not pay attention to what happens inside us with the intention of observing the cause of what we are thinking, of our idiosyncrasies, of what we feel, of what we believe and of our actions, we will not be able to find anything relevant. 

I do not propose that we think.

That would be an error.

We have to be fully aware of all that happens inside us: happiness, envy, yearning, desires, impulses, barriers, resistances, beliefs, tensions, attachments, judgements and prejudices, impulsive reactions…

Observing and listening to all this without resistance and seeing how they form automatic, interlinked circuits is the only way to enable inner calm and what we perceive as peace.  This is the way in which we can start to get to know ourselves and to be affectionate towards all that we have inside us without seeking to avoid or ignore it.

In this way we cease to flee from our malaise by looking for hope.

Peace can arise within us when we are not afraid of what we will find and our intention is as precise as a compass that will continually guide us to observe our circumstances and what keeps us in our ignorance of ourselves.  I believe that this is the way to peace: in getting to know ourselves and in freeing ourselves from our circumstances.  There is no magic wand for this.  Fortunately this is available to anyone who has the sincere intention of being attentive and getting to know themselves.