Practice of the Week
Don't Get Stuck on Peace
Don't Get Stuck on Peace
adapted from Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion
See Everything as a Dream" (2016 Apr 27) and "Examine the Nature of Awareness" (2016 Jul 28) -- facilitate the development of inner peace. If you took those practices to heart and plunged into them, then it is now time for this: Don't get stuck on peace.
When you practice "See Everything as a Dream," "Examine the Nature of Awareness," and some of the other practices, life gets rather dreamy and abstract, as you will have noticed if you have actually been working with those practices. These practices are pleasant and reveal to you some important truths, but every truth, no matter how important, can also become something you get stuck on. Life is perpetually dynamic, and every truth eventually encounters the limits of its usefulness. That's the problem with dogma.
It's important to grasp that our senses create for us mere useful illusions of the world (our visual field, for instance, has blind spots we don't notice), and that our brains generate a subjective sense of a self which is also an illusion, but these truths can make you feel a bit removed from your life.
You begin to focus on the uncanny feeling of time passing, and time begins to seem strange and profound. It begins to dawn on you that your usual sense of self is some kind of mental habit that might not have any actual basis. You notice how clunky and crude many of your self-thoughts actually are. You might find this a little bit disturbing.
Or, on the other hand, you might be thinking, "This is great! Everything is empty! Everything really is a dream! There isn't any person in there really. There is just awareness itself, so I'm free of all my self-worries, and I can enjoy life a lot more."
If that's what you thought, then great! That really is an important and liberating truth. At the same time, it quickly becomes the next trap to escape. Don't get stuck on peace. When you start thinking like that, you are caught all over again. You are mistaken. You have merely exchanged one set concepts for another. This train of thought will not be sustainable. It will cause you trouble.
Seeing clearly that what is naively taken for reality is an illusory dream -- and that there is no self at the center of that illusion -- is a crucial step. But it is not the last step.
The point of "don't get stuck on peace" is: don't get excited about the empty, dream-like nature of everything, because you've now conceptualized it and made it into something, an idea, and soon that idea is going to trip you up. Forget about how great it is to be nobody, because that's just another excuse. It's too easy to make these slogans into belief systems. The important thing is to hold them lightly. Don't think you have understood them. They are just devices. Take them with a grain of salt. They may not really be true at all.
In your journal for this week include an entry in which you reflect on "don't get stuck on peace." In what ways have you gotten stuck on peace? What's helpful for getting unstuck? What important truths have you found you want to continue to be aware of, but at the same time also need to "outgrow"?
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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"