“What is most important is to find peace in oneself and to share it with others.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In my next life I’ll be a nun. Or a supremely gifted gospel singer. Or both. In this incarnation my unreliable pitch and whispery Catholic girl voice prevent me from the latter occupation. And my socialite, consumerist, desirous tendencies keep me out of the cloth. But, I love monasteries and they pull me like deep water pulls a diver. There’s something about the fathomless silence, the disarming kindness of the sisters and brothers, the reverence, the fact that peace is not just an inkling or wish, but a daily practice.
Tomorrow I’m leaving for Deer Park Monastery. Today I worked 13 hours in the acupuncture clinic where I am an office manager. On days like today it’s easy to get churned into a froth by the busyness, to become a mind spinning into blur. To be caught up in MUST DO THIS! HURRY! NOT ENOUGH TIME! It all feels urgent. Today I splintered repeatedly, chasing tasks while distracted by other tasks, like an ADD kid in a toy store. This morning, knowing it would probably be that kind of day, I left myself a little note on the herb shelf: “Breathe, my dear.” I saw it twice during the day and smiled. It reminded me that I have an island of peace within myself. Even when the island is obscured by storms, shipwrecks, fallen palm trees and refugees, still, underneath the chaos, it is there, unaffected, quiet, simply present. Likewise, the peace within me is always available.
Going to Deer Park gives me a chance to clear the skies and calm the waters around my island.
Yet whenever Thich Nhat Hanh and the monks and nuns host a retreat, their literature reminds people: “Please do not wait until the retreat to begin your practice of mindfulness.” There’s no time but now, no place but inside oneself to practice being at peace. I am looking forward to being at Deer Park, but Deer Park will come and go. It doesn’t matter where I am. Anywhere, any time is ripe for being awake, for dropping the preconceptions and fears that keep me boarded up, keep life from rubbing my skin. Anywhere, any time is right for taking a deep breath.
Take a deep breath with me. I’ll be breathing with you, nourishing the island of peace, so I can share it with you when I return. And maybe we’ll sing a little gospel song…