Throughout our days, we love to “do things.” We may not appreciate specific activities, such as washing dishes or going to work at 6 AM, but we are certainly enthralled by the process of being busy with “things.” And very often, we do these “things” out of sheer force of habit, or worse, out of fear. We might stay up all night to finish a presentation, for example, because we’re horrified at the prospect of being fired or failing a course. Deep beneath each of these actions, however, there is an expectation that the thing will make us content. If we work hard enough and make enough money, we can retire stress-free. If we drink enough beer, we’ll be rocketed into ecstasy. But deeper than even these expectations, tremendously deep beneath the surface, we are doing these things to be more peaceful.
This might seem paradoxical when it comes to things like skydiving or seeing an action film. Why would we ever expect, or want, to derive peace from these things? The short answer is that we don’t. Excitement is how our human brains understand the abstract idea of “peace.” In my eyes, peace corresponds to a state of absolute acceptance of the world, a place of radical love, ease, and simplicity. It might even be compared to the Christian notion of God. Even when we’re engaged in high-stimulation activities, we are doing them with the expectation that we will experience a dopamine hit that resembles the deep, abiding state of peacefulness. We are, in essence, overshooting our target unconsciously.
If we want to be more peaceful, we must make it our priority. We cannot consider peace to be the result of doing something, or the reward at the end of a long, blundering tunnel. Peace is the goal in and of itself. We can choose to be right in an argument with our spouse, or we can choose peace by listening to them and working with the reality of the moment. We can choose to buy new shoes and get a temporary self-esteem boost, or we can choose peace by opting out of the cycle of desiring-getting-desiring.
One of the most regrettable human conclusions is that peace is somehow beyond us, and must be attained through physical actions. Peace is the ocean, and we are the fish. It is so pervasive that we overlook it on a daily, and momentary, basis. If we want to be more peaceful, we must do nothing beyond slowing down and listening.
Peace is here, peace is now.
If you want to go a bit deeper into this topic, feel free to check out my video on the topic (posted below), or read this post on how the brain conditions us to look away from peace. Have a peaceful day.