You want to live with a sense of spaciousness and openness to the people and events in your life because ultimately you know that in that openness and allowing you’ll find the peace you are looking for. Notice that I haven’t said anything about external circumstances. I’ve only spoken about what’s in you already. Peace is another form of happiness. It is a mistake to think that we will be at peace when circumstances outside of us change. And this statement is a variation on what I say every Sunday, “Nothing outside of me needs to change so that I can be happy.” I learned that phrase from Rev. Marilyn, my teacher. Who used those very same words to open her Sunday Celebration in 1991. I remember to this day how profoundly shaken I was when I finally heard the Truth of those words. That simple phrase has been my Dharma, my Truth, my personal emptiness place ever since. The Chinese master, Chuang Tzu describes the practice of emptiness like this.
If a man is crossing the river and an empty skiff collides with his, he will push it away without shouting or being angry. But if there is a man in the boat, he will call out to him telling him to steer clear and he will continue shouting and become angry all because there is someone in the other boat. Yet if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting and would not become angry. Empty your own boat! And as you cross the river of the world, no one will oppose you and no one will seek to harm you.”
We will, each of us encounter circumstances and people, events, feelings and thoughts that have the potential to steal away our peace. I told you that “Nothing outside of me …” is my personal Dharma but that doesn’t mean that I have always lived with peace and equanimity, far from it! There have been many times when my boat has been very far from empty. But that’s why it’s called dharma. While Dharma may be the Peace I seek, it is also the Way to it and this very moment of the Way itself. Since I can only live in this moment, if I can choose peace now, I have the peace I seek. As I’m writing these words to you a hundred, perhaps a thousand thoughts have come to disturb my peace; I have a boatload of feelings that threaten to swamp me at any moment, family, Christmas, money, dead parents, past loves, absent family members, my personal failures, the state of the planet, and on and on it goes. I am bringing mindfulness to this moment, observing my thoughts and feelings and for the sake of this blog I am doing an inventory of what is going on. My boat is on a collision course with all the other boats on the river. At any moment in this mindfulness practice, I can stop and to all of those on the river with me, my boat will appear to be rowed by an invisible oarsman, one of the invisible minority of those who choose peace; who go through their lives emptying themselves; practicing openness to what is; experiencing the spaciousness of an empty boat.
We may be invisible and in that is our greatest value and greatest contribution. We give the other nothing to be a source of anger, nothing to disturb his peace. When I choose peace I choose it not only for myself but for the other as well.