We have such little peace in our lives. Corporations claw at our attention. Pundits glower at us from networks far away and command us to fear the other. Friends leave. Customers snap. Bosses direct. Drivers cut off. Prices go up. Pay stays flat. We have such little peace in our lives.
Yet, when we stop for a moment, settle down, draw a slow breath, release it, and feel our fingers and our toes, our nose and our tongue… when we sit quietly, and we’re a little lucky, a stillness comes on, and through that stillness, a universal truth begins to be exposed.
Imagine you are high in an alpine valley. It’s a warm, summer night. The stars here, high up and far from the city, are emblazoned across the sky. The peaks cut dark, jagged shapes out of the stars. You are sitting at a lake, a lake that is perfectly still. No wind blows, no fish jump, no elk walk across its edges. All is silence, and the lake’s perfect surface reflects the diamond brilliance of the stars.
Now consider the water your mind. Seeking stillness and letting go of chaos allows you to reflect the beauty that is. On a night like this the sky and the surface of the water become indistinguishable. We should all hope for such an experience. But hoping alone won’t achieve it. We have to seek it. When we choose a mindset focused on gratitude, kindness, and empathy, we can find peace. However, we must own this search. Peace will not find us because it is our active, chaotic mind that stands in our way, and only we can quiet that. That isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Imagine the lake water disconnects from the mountain valley it rests in, and the inverted lens of water lifts high in the sky, the mountains dropping away. The water travels higher and higher until there is nothing surrounding it but stars. The water now reflects stars from all angles. But out among the stars, something is approaching. It’s another dark lens of water, another lake, another mind. Yet, this mind is tortured by raging waves. The lake comes straight at yours and the turbulent energy of the other lake crashes into yours. As you take on the energy of the storming lake, the perfect reflection of the stars scatters and is destroyed as your waters take on the storm of the other lake. This is how we are in the world. Someone yells at us, cuts us off, tells us we’re worthless, the news tells us another girl has been kidnapped, or another [insert your opposing political party here] has won an election and will destroy us all. There is a war somewhere were an old woman and children have died. People are starving. In all of this chaos crashing around us, our ability to reflect the starfield is lost. The waves crash so high, we sometimes cannot even see the stars themselves, only getting glimpses now and again.
Many people are so lost to this, they don’t even believe the stars exist. If you doubt there is beauty and peace in the world, please think back to a childhood memory, a safer and simpler time, or a night out with some of your closest friends, or a quiet morning with fog pouring over the house. You can find the truth in those places. Beauty does exist and is possible in larger amounts than we have now. If we can accept the truth that the stars do exists, now we have a very important second truth to accept. …and this is critically important… Our most powerful state is not raging, it is in stillness with benevolence coursing through us. This is when we are most powerfully able to exact change on a tortured world. I feel, somewhere deep down, you know this is true. If you disagree with me, consider this: Are you likely to change your mind if I scream at you? No, you will double down on what you believe. But what if I sit with you? What if I hear you and see you? What happens when you come to trust and like me? This is the place true influence exists, and here’s how it could change the world…
Imagine a lake that is a perfect lens again, but this is a mind practiced at stillness. Another approaches and touches its edge. This second lake’s water roils and rages, yet the waves do not affect the first. The first remains still, and as the raging second feeds energy into what seems to be an infinite depth, each wave that crashes… and here’s where the magic lies… takes a bit more energy from the storming lake. By connecting with practiced stillness of the first, the second lake settles and becomes a bit less tortured. After a time, it may just still enough to show a star or two… then two more… then a constellation appears, then… the whole night sky. Now two reflect the beauty of the stars. Imagine a second and a third encounter with this deep, still lake. Another and another.
But, how can we possibly find this stillness in such a fractured, storming world? We must become strong. We must take up the practice like an athlete takes up wind sprints. We must develop our minds to create stillness and peace so powerful, it cannot be unsettled. Then, as we encounter tortured lakes, our influence will begin to actively change the world one person at a time. Anger, snideness, name-calling… none of that is strength. That is lashing out at others in an attempt to unsettle their waters or in a defense against their storm. We scream at others, “Take on some of this pain I have!” But to be heroes, we most own our pain, and overcome it. True strength and the power to bring about change comes from mastering self. Then, when we go out into the world, we’ll leave a bit of our peace with everyone we interact with, every day.
What kind of world is possible when we find stillness and let the stars reflect in us?