The way to peace

Removing the roadblocks to a peaceful life

The author, a seminary graduate with a brief stint as a pastor, is a retired housing contractor. He lives in Chico.

When people talk of peace, it is assumed they are referring to the cessation of war. As ideal as that sounds, it is not going to happen. Humankind has been at war throughout history; it is unrealistic to think it will end.

The peace to which I am referring is a state of mind. As possible as that kind of peace is, we can, without being aware of it, erect subtle roadblocks to that peace.

One roadblock is comparing ourselves to others. Cyrano de Bergerac talks about two snakes, pride and doubt. Comparing ourselves to those in worse condition than we are opens us up to be bitten by the pride snake. Comparing ourselves to those doing far better than we are opens us up to be bitten by the doubt snake. Either way, we are robbed of the peace of being content with who we are.

Another roadblock is the fear of failure. Morihei Ueshiba, who developed the martial art of aikido, said, “Failure is the key to success. Each mistake teaches us something.” Lao Tzu said, “Failure is an opportunity.” We need not fear failure; it can be our best teacher.

Peace can find the beauty in the ordinary circumstances of life. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Being at peace is like water that nourishes all things without trying to. Some may not understand and criticize us; that is not our concern. Caring about people’s approval gives them power over us. Our best friends will accept us for what we are. It would be boring if we were all alike. If too many people think alike, too few people are thinking.

In his new translation of the Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell puts the words of Lao Tzu in plain English. He describes the peaceful life with beautiful simplicity:

In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In thinking, keep to the simple.

In conflict, be fair and generous.

In governing, don’t try to control.

In work, do what you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present.

Peace begins with you. Maintain that peace, and all aspects of your world will change for the better.