When it is stormy, we see the trees bend in the wind, and the surface of the water on the pond has restless waves. We are advised not to seek shelter in the storm under a tree, and we cannot see ourselves reflected in the water. We cannot quiet the storm, so we must weather it well. We prepare for those times, for storms are a part of nature; also in spiritual terms, we say in our lives some rain must fall from time to time. Those are often times when we are ill, or are helping someone else who is, or when we have lost a loved one, our home, or our job and are faced with change over which seemingly we have no control.
Just as in the storm, we cannot always see clearly or take refuge, and are tossed about as an unanchored ship at sea. We have within us a kind of spiritual anchor, an innate inner peace or presence of mind that is always accessible to us if we learn to cultivate it, as we do a sense of humor. Our presence of mind can withstand any adversity if we understand our place in the scheme of things. We can contribute to the chaos around us, or we can be an island of peace within it, somewhat like being in the eye of the storm. We can attain this inner tranquility through practice of presence.
Practicing presence is like being in the center of the wheel of one’s life. We often see the world as revolving around us; as the wheel depends on the hub, we too must attend to our center of being. The further we travel from the center, or hub, the greater the motion of the wheel or commotion of our lives. Staying centered is not always an easy practice, for everywhere there are lures that promote this and that to give us a feeling or an illusion of well being, creating a feeling of tranquility which wears off when the substance does.
Feeling truly good is feeling happy, totally present in the moment, not wishing to be here or there or wanting this or that, thinking that what exists outside of us will make us happy. Not getting caught up in the striving of life is like not getting caught up in the strife of the storm. Being cheerful even in adversity and positive even in the face of loss, or impending loss, is a gift we also give to others as well as ourselves. By not contributing to the chaos we can contribute to the peace. This is living creatively.
Our presence in the lives of others gives us a chance to reinforce the presence of love that we can all experience together, which brings happiness and peace. Our loving presence is a healing salve to the wound of a sick person or a bewildered spirit. In the presence of the love in our heart and mind, which is our essential nature, we are strengthened, and we help strengthen others to withstand the worst of suffering, affliction and dislocation. Taking heart in the realization that we can and do make a difference in the lives of others, we can do this as well for ourselves from within, where happiness resides.
Our peace is that same peace that returns to the meadow after the storm, when we can once again lounge in the shade of the tree, and see ourselves reflected in the stillness of the pond. All things return to their source in time, and in time we can all learn to return to the peace within that calls to us at all times.
Barbara Basia Koenig is an Encinitas artist and personal counselor. Email columnists[at]northcoastcurrent.com.