How to Have a Peaceful Life

Walk the middle path.


We all want a peaceful life

Most people want a peaceful life. But it’s a rare person who finds it.


Why?


Because our minds won’t let us.


We think the quickest and surest way to feel peaceful is to have opinions about things.


Opinions make us feel safe. So, like conscientious boy scouts, we fill our minds with countless opinions in order to be always prepared for whatever arises. We believe that if we know what to think ahead of time about everything, we’ll never be caught out.


With all our opinions firmly in place we expect life to follow a firm, peaceful path.


But opinions don’t bring peace.


Why?


Because opinions are exclusive, not inclusive. They place us in the world of opposites. They put us on the sidelines of life.


Our minds have strong opinions about almost everything:


For or against Black or white Us or them Right or wrong Pro or con


We either love something or hate it. We’re deeply religious or scathingly unbelieving. Broad-minded or fanatical. Blasé or antsy. Self-indulgent or ascetic.


In our pursuit for peace we go to the extremes of chasing the delights of luxury resorts or hiding in monasteries. But peace can’t be found in blueberry-drenched cheesecake, nor in a tin mug of thin gruel.


Peace isn't hiding.

Peace is so elusive we believe it must be hiding. But it’s not. We’re just looking for it in the wrong places. 


Peace doesn’t dwell in the world of opposites or extremes. Peace is right out in the open.

Peace dwells in the middle path.

Jack Kornfield, a teacher of Buddhist mindfulness practice, once wrote:

In the middle we discover that the world is workable.


Mindfulness Dwells in the Middle


Think about what happens when you walk into a room of strangers, attend a heated meeting or watch the evening news. Your mind automatically sorts out the experience based on your opinions. And if you’re honest, you’ll admit that most of those opinions aren’t workable. They leave you stuck in the world of opposites mentioned earlier:


For or against Black or white Us or them Right or wrong Pro or con


But when you’re in the middle path, the room of strangers becomes a room of human beings; you perceive that all the opinions expressed at the meeting touch part of the truth, and you find ways to work with each of them; you understand world news is a result of behaviour emerging from extreme mindsets, and you’re alert enough not to become caught up in them too.


Walking the middle path sounds tame. But it’s not. It’s as challenging as walking a tightrope. There’s no room for pre-processed opinions. You need to be as focussed as Charles Blondin was on Thursday 30th June 1859, when he walked across Niagara Gorge on a tightrope.


The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about the anguish we all feel from time to time when peace seems so elusive:

When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut, Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?

In everyday language he’s saying:

When is peace going to stop playing hard to get, and come and give me some much-needed support?

The simple answer to that is: when you walk the middle path.


With love, Marlane

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