Image: Picnic Lunch for 800, Plum Village Meditation Retreat, France
I am not the world’s greatest sitting meditator. Despite attending 2 to 3 meditation retreats a year for the past 4 years, and many of the weekly meditation sessions per month at our local meditation group, I’ve always found it almost impossible to sit down and meditate every day at home.
When I am on a retreat, and in the weekly group meetings, sitting with other people makes it much easier, and I have occasionally touched moments of a peace that can best be described as delicious. It’s the delicious, quiet warmth of stopping and finding I actually possess some inner peace.
When I’m on my own, the greatest meditation practices have always involved being outside – walking in nature, listening to the wind in the trees, feeling the sun, or the cold, on my face – when I’m brought back to my senses, and they bring me out of my busy mind and into the fresh, beautiful reality that surrounds us.
But it is from the weekly meditation session with others, and from the retreats with real zen/meditation teachers, that I’ve really been shown this extraordinary truth – that beneath all my running, and exhausting thinking and deciding and planning, there is a profoundly quiet place deep inside me. A stillness that’s made of the same stuff as the feeling of sun or cold on my face, or the sound of the wind in the trees (which is, I suppose, why I Iike them so much).
My sister told me on the phone yesterday that her husband’s cousin was becoming a nun. “She even had to give her watch back to her parents. I envy her really,” she said, “living a quiet life without all the stuff we have to worry about.” I’ve often thought that way about the monks I’ve met, and wondered how to take the best of their quiet, peaceful lives and apply it to our busy lives in the outside world.
And the best answer I can come up with is to find that quiet place inside us and, while it’s a big job to live there all the time, to connect with it as often as we can, to keep it with us through everyday life.
So the first thing is to keep in touch with it, which is where the occasonal retreat and weekly meditation group meetings help me a lot. And walks in nature. But the truth is that I can’t even get near it when I’ve got 5 projects on the go, and endless everyday decisions to make, and a chitter chatter mind that has hardly paused for breath since the day it had its first thought.
Once again then, it’s time to prune back the projects, and simplify simplify simplify. To reduce the noise and the clutter and the rush, so that I can get closer to the peace that makes life so much easier, so much more enjoyable.
That quiet place deep inside me knows that there’s no need to run, that it’s OK to step out of the mad materialistic rush of our wonderful western world. That what I felt on a train back from Cordoba still holds true: That the purpose of life isn’t to amass huge wealth or fame, or to do more than everyone else is doing to make me feel like a worthwhile human being, but just to practice time-honoured, simple ways to live happily in the present, and enjoy it. Then help others enjoy it all too.
Things that have helped me:
– Good books and audio on this list
– Meditation retreats and local meditation groups (sanghas) in the easy-going, common-sense tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh – His ideas and tradition have worked wonders for me, but there are many other equally worthy paths to follow.
4 thoughts on “That Quiet Place Inside Us All”
A great blog Ben. For me it is the hardest thing to just sit down and meditate as thoughts come flooding in but when I’m working in the garden or walking in the countryside, it is then I feel a great inner peace which has taken me most of my lifetime to achieve. In this busy world we all need to find time to enjoy the simple things of life.
Thanks Lynn. Life is too busy, and for me too I think that walking in the countryside is my greatest source of peace.
Hi Ben, I’ve just found Being Happiness through NIS and really like your articles. This one in particular resonated with me; I particularly liked your term ‘chitter chatter mind’ as my brain never switches off even when I’m asleep. I often wake up with amazing ideas and have to write them down so have a notepad next to my bed. I too have an internet business and never switch off and I also suffer from anxiety from time to time and spend too much time in front of the computer which is not good.
I’ve thought about meditation in the past, even bought some CDs and listened to podcasts, however, I always feel I haven’t got the time to sit and meditate and even when I go for a walk with my husband, I use it as an opportunity to have a business meeting! Anyway, your articles will inspire me to make some changes which I know will be good for my health and mental wellbeing. So, keep up the good work!
Thanks Jan for your comment and good luck with the changes. They take time, that’s for sure, so patience with oneself is definitely required! I remember the business meeting walks with Marina too – I think she banned them at some point!
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