War, Peace, and the Power of Being

Always and ever, it seems, it comes down to this. In every age and in every tradition, history and the world’s spiritual teachings tell us that it all finally comes down this–to the necessity of simply placing ourselves, again and again, firmly and calmly, in the center of our own authentic spiritual integrity, no matter what is

While the outer world swirls with chaos and danger, with war and recrimination and false judgment, and while our own minds may reel and suffer with despair, anger, futility, or exhaustion, the spiritual practices we have long pursued can allow us to enter an interior “safe place,” a calm place that sustains and enlivens
and empowers us.

War or no war, justice or injustice–still each of us needs to be our truest selves, experiencing and radiating the power and beauty of authentic spiritual being.  And so we must return to the “still center in the turning wheel.” We must find again our own internal core of well-being, our own deepest mainspring of meaning and beauty, our own authentic source of concentrated serenity.

There we can experience a consciousness that goes beyond this or any other moment in history, a place of transcendent wisdom and compassion. There, despite everything happening in the outside world, we can find great peace, a settled inward repose.

We are not betraying the seriousness of the war or any happenings in the outer world by choosing to enter into such a state of serenity. It is not escapism. On the contrary, it is a necessary requirement for being able to deal appropriately with the turbulent outer world.

It is, in fact, the underpinnings of sanity, a sanity so currently challenged by the ravages of cultural and environmental circumstances. It seems to me that without this possibility of centering in serenity, we would all simply go mad, give up, fall ill. The horrors of the “reality” around us, or the slice of reality that seems so
brutal or depraved or cynical, would swallow us up or confound us utterly.

I am not saying that centering ourselves in serenity means that we cease to be engaged in the demands of the outer world or that being peaceful makes us pacifists; it might, in fact, mean that we suddenly find that we have to act, that we have to take an outward stand that we would not have wanted to take if we had
not centered ourselves in this authentic serene space of personal spiritual integrity.

No. The peace that such centering engenders is, as the old phrase puts it, a peace that passes understanding. It is, to be sure, an inward peace, dearly won, beyond conflict, beyond justice or injustice, a restful peace, but one that nevertheless empowers us to action.

In short, in this time of trial in the world, of war and suffering and uncertain moral values, I urge you, as I urge myself, to avoid the pitfalls of panic, prejudice, cynicism, hopelessness, rage, indifference, or any sense of moral superiority. However concerned we may be, however active, challenged , disillusioned, or empassioned we may be, it is still necessary to maintain an inward balance and peace if we are to survive whole.

Furthermore, we must, as individuals, have real peace inside our own selves before we can hope to export it to world leaders or to the outer world. We must not allow ourselves to be consumed by the very energy that we oppose. We must find the wisdom and the power to do what we must, in right order, without adding to the sum of negative, destructive, vengeful, hateful energy that is already out there, already too much.

Therefore, I urge you, as I urge myself, out of necessity, to keep coming back again and again to focus strongly on an awareness of the deeper strands of harmony and meaning, of love and beauty, that always are available to us, invisible and unheard at times, but there.

We must use the power, the extraordinary power, that comes from holding our focus on that authentic interior place of peace, that expanded consciousness within us that moves beyond the limited and shaky judgments and perceptions of time and space and into greater meaning. We can rest there, even in the midst of war or any other tribulation.

There are many ways to do this, many practices in many traditions, that lead us back to that place of centeredness. There are quite simple ways, moment by moment, to return to that source of meaning.

We can, for example, allow ourselves to take any moment, or many moments, when we are troubled or challenged, to notice instead, right then, something lovely, some child’s smile or a vibrant spring flower dancing in the wind.
Something lovely is always there, amazingly, and this moment can relieve many moments of stress or distress. As I said before, it is not a betrayal of the seriousness of the world’s drama to make time for light-heartedness or rest; it is a necessary and healing antidote.

We all know that this is true. Which of us has not at times been able, in the midst of anguish, to notice some simple bit of extraordinary beauty that lifts us, even if momentarily, out of our turmoil and gives us a moment of blessing? Which of us has not had times when an inexplicable kindness or compassion or gift of
tenderness has shown us that, even in the worst possible moments, life is rich and good?

We must not forget this. We must not give in to debilitating inertia or outraged enactments or the draining of our souls as we cry out “Why?” or “What can I possibly do about it all?”

It is so easy to despair or to “act out” that it is ever necessary, again and again, to shift our focus from the seemingly foul and ugly and poisonous onto something whole and holy, something simple and organic, something beautiful and meaningful.

Such generic goodness (goodness that is not the dogmatic “right” which opposes itself to some “wrong,” but simply goodness) is always there, just waiting for us to notice, ready to enliven and empower us in a good way.

I write this largely to remind myself. Lately at times I have found myself simply withdrawing, blocking out what I don’t like, even staring into seemingly empty space before me. Or, in my self-absorbed gloom or my righteous indignation or riotous judgment, I routinely become, for a time, depressed, irritable, or even

Again and again, therefore, I must remind myself to practice what I know, to refuse to add one iota to the cynicism and despair and destruction around me, but rather to find a way to celebrate the ever present goodness of life.

Again and again, out of my own sense of turmoil, I must turn to the teachings, to the stable elements of my practices.

There I find the means to go on even when I do not understand. There I find the way to serenity. There I find the calm with which to deal with any perceived disappointments or failures–my own, or any other person’s failures. There I find courage, even the courage to ask forgiveness of those I have affected with my own despair or outrage. There I move beyond judgments of others to embrace inwardly the whole of creation, just as it is, while, at the same time, I find the power to act with commitment to make the changes in my own life and in the world that I feel need to be made.

And there, ultimately, I find a joy that is the greatest gift of all, a deep and blissful sort of “fitting-in” with things, just as they are, war or peace. And there I regain hope, delight, well-being, all those attributes that allow me to act to change the things that I feel must change.

As I remind myself, I seek to remind you. I send you my prayers for peace in your heart, serenity in your soul, wisdom and power in your right actions. I also send out my prayers for an end to war, fear, terror, hunger, injustice, and despair everywhere.

Always and ever, it comes down to this.

And, of course, to this too–I love you, my friends.

Glenda Taylor
Earthsprings, 2007

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