Inner peace

Owley Beacon

When I stand back from my writing, I know this angst is driven by trying to find inner peace. (How paradoxical.)

In one sense, it seems so obvious: all I have to do is accept the present moment — the light and the dark — and that’s life done.

If only it was that easy.

Don’t ask me why, but all my life I’ve felt the need to prove something — and I don’t just mean to others. No, I mean to prove to myself that life is worth living.

On many occasions, I’ve been caught on the horns of a dilemma, not knowing which way to turn; in the end, the decisions I’ve made have been less to do with discovering me but trying to get something … or go somewhere less painful than the current place. (Oh god, I’ve wasted so much time…)

But at some point something changed.

It wasn’t that I felt I was going in the wrong direction — I was in my career but that’s another story — but rather I knew that what was missing wasn’t going to be found by continuing to chase another bright light. Instead, I felt this overwhelming sense to connect with something deeper. And when I say deeper, I mean something that transcended the inner monologue — yes, I’m talking the G-word (I’m definitely not against using the word but I feel more much more at home talking about our ‘being’). Even though, as a child, I went to Sunday School and the odd church service, I was never exposed to anything more superficial than the bland reading of yet another passage from the King James Bible. I didn’t get ‘it’ and, as a result, I turned my back on religion.

Even allowing for my coolness towards religion, I’ve always known there’s something deeper going on than my egoic tendencies would have me believe. In fact, following the death of my uncle, and for the first time in my life, I had this overwhelming sense that his spirit was looking over me. At first, I was reluctant to acknowledge the sense I felt when hearing a piece of music he’d introduced me to or thinking of the happy times we’d enjoyed together, but I knew something profound was afoot. (I know these few words may not mean much to you, but all I can say is that for the first time in my life I felt a connection with something divine or certainly beyond the spectrum of my objective understanding of the world.)

Why am I telling you this? I don’t need to.

I suppose it’s because I’m trying to explain how my journey of self-inquiry was given identity beyond reading another book or hearing something that suddenly awoke within me. Yes I know it might sound a little Woo-Woo but so what. The fact that I still feel my uncle’s presence doesn’t embarrass me in the slightest. In fact, I feel deeply touched to have known him (and his daughter Sophie) — God bless you both.

From there, combined with my small subarachnoid hemorrhage (six days in intensive care sure wakes you up!), attending a few Zen classes, mentoring with the wonderful Kashyapi and reading and listening to teachers such as Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and Parker J Palmer, I’ve at last begun to live. In fact it’s more than that. For the first time in my life, I’ve developed an inner peace where I no longer have the desire to prove anything to myself or others.

Where next?

I’m not sure.

Part of me would like to unplug completely from the materialistic world I find myself ensconced in, and live closer to nature. I know I could do it, but I’m not sure I’m willing to put my family through the upheaval and daily challenges. To be honest, I think we’re all too far down the consumerist rabbit hole to go the distance necessary but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to live a more honest, frugal life.

Another part of me would like to give up working for someone else, and go back to the freelance model that I found so spiritually nourishing. But from past experience, and taking account of my location, I don’t think there’s enough work . Actually, I don’t think that’s the issue. The truth is that I don’t want to have to go back to talking about marketing etc. but would prefer to write about my own set of life-affirming questions — e.g. Who am I?, What am I? What’s the purpose of purpose? and so on.

I suppose in the end the realist takes over, and what I’ll end up doing is writing, speaking and coaching outside of my normal full-time hours — it’s not easy I can tell you. But that doesn’t mean my journey (within) is complete. No way. In fact, before I can go deeper there’s still so much of me that has to die. Of course, this isn’t something I can engineer but I know through a process of journaling, self-inquiry, prayer and silence that perhaps I’ll be able to find a place in my heart for something bigger than all those faux dreams.

It’s not a case of saying I’m excited or anything so sickly sweet but instead much like my journey out of law some five years ago, I’ve got no choice if I want to live at peace in the world.