As soon as we deeply realize the preciousness of being alive and the incredible value of whatever things, people and beings happen to surround us in the present moment, we begin to find great wonder and measureless joy in the mere fact of being alive.
Joy and peace can only be found now because there is no other time. We can’t travel back to the past to find joy and peace there, nor can we fast-forward into the future. Reality is always now. And so are joy and peace. How do we access them?
One way is to deeply appreciate the simple fact and feeling of being, of presence, of aliveness, here and now and to put the mind’s full attention onto whatever is here. This means looking deeply and being deeply present with the life of this moment and whatever we find in our surroundings and experience it fully.
This deep presence is a form of intimacy with what is; total presence is total intimacy, of the kind that happens when lovers are fully present with one another with their guards totally dropped. What happens when we drop our guard with the present moment? What does this moment look like without our stories of past and future?
When we are fully here, the mind goes crystal clear and the turbulence of emotions settles down. Then there is an intensely clear, present focus on whatever is here: the people on the bus, the windows, the buildings passing by, the drops of water on the glass… And in this focus, there is wonder, there is peace, and there is joy. Consciousness becomes whatever appears and the seeming duality of subject and object collapses. In the space of that collapse, a peace beyond ‘this’ and ‘that’ reveals itself here and now.
Of course, we can acknowledge that the world is in a time of crisis and there is much injustice in the world and do what we can to help. I do not advocate dropping out of engagement with human suffering; when we are fully present, we can be responsive without inner resistance.
Everything that has happened has emerged out of interdependently arising chains of prior causes and consequences. Because things were as they were, they now are as they are. Therefore, if we face reality as it is (and not as we would like it to be) with this understanding, we can find peace with it and with ourselves (the apparently two are one anyway). First, we accept what is. Then we do what we can. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.
The bliss of simply being and the peace of acceptance… these are two keys that open the doors of the treasury of joy and peace. You do not have to buy anything or get anything you do not already have to benefit from these. There is no need to add anything to what is here now. Simply attend deeply to what is closest and most intimate to you… your own living presence here and now.
Beyond this, there is a deeper process that takes place. It is not a process of indifference to the sufferings of the world, but of facing them square on with care, respect, and mindful awareness. We cultivate the habits of being kind, of being compassionate, of seeking wise solutions, of aiming for the best outcomes in every undertaking, and of inner calming.
We begin to see how our suffering arises out of attempts to cling, push away, or delude ourselves. We turn our attention to these tendencies and gradually weaken the causes of suffering. As the causes weaken, so do the consequences and we find ourselves more lastingly happy. The palace of joy and peace we have built receives a stronger foundation when the crumbling structures of clinging, aversion, and self-delusion are stripped away.
The universe of form is a deeply interconnected whole on all levels from the macroscopic to the microscopic; it expresses a seamless unity appearing in the mode of diversity. Yes, as a species, we must face the environmental, cultural, economic, judicial and other crises that are facts of our contemporary world. However, we need not add inner conflict to the outer conflict; we can find peace in the presence and vibrant aliveness that is here in this moment and extend what we find to each other in our daily lives. Every small action of support adds to the support of the whole; none is too small to count. Engaged action is a third key that supports inner peace and joyfulness in the present moment.
In short, we can be at peace with what is even as we do what we can to help the Earth and each other. Peaceful, engaged action packs more transformative power than enraged, distracted action. Presence in action carries more energy than absentmindedness. Through acceptance of what is, mindfulness of the joyfulness of presence, and engaged action, we can contribute to the peace of the world by first finding solace in the peace of a peaceful mind from which it stems.