You don’t like the discomfort. You don't like the trouble. You don’t like the emotional pain. You don’t like the fear of inadequacy. You don’t like the inner turbulence of doubt. But take my advice, don’t seek peace. It’s a trap you will never get out of. Unless, of course…
If you open any self-help book, whether scientific or spiritual, the net effect promised is peace with yourself. Whatever roundabout way is given to overcome the suggested glitch at hand, the proposition is the same. But peace won't give you peace. Peace is a sucker's bet. Peace will only give you more of the same.
Your troubles, doubts, fears and inadequacies will vaporize in the euphoric heat of radical presence.
We are all in the business of presence. Presence is our quality of existence. That is the totality of our experience of self in any given moment. When you buy a new car, you promise yourself a different presence.
When you try to make friends with these new and cool people, you are promising yourself a different presence from it. When someone buys a service or product from you, it is simply because they expect a better quality of existence.
You make your state of presence dependent on external factors. And you promise yourself this very state of presence once you acquire these factors.
But the hit doesn’t last. You will need another one and another, and another one. Like a dog chasing its own tail one way around, and then chasing it the other way around once it gets a mouthful, curiously expecting another result from the same mirrored action.
The state of presence that is most sought is adequacy. When people seek personal peace, they expect adequacy. But peace from what? Adequacy for what? If you want to find peace, you must first be in trouble. If you want to become adequate, you must first have a need you interpret as better than you.
Paradoxically, the more you try to develop adequacy, the more you consolidate your inadequacy. And the more you seek peace, the more you consolidate its presupposed trouble.
Now, the dynamics of consciousness are different from the dynamics of physical reality. Imagine it like a rubber band attached to a mirror. The more you pull the rubber band toward your idea of adequacy the more your mirror image will pull it toward inadequacy. So while you might increase your experience of adequacy, you are also increasing the underlying inadequacy.
A common tactic is the attempt to make the rubber band snap, but that hasn’t worked often. Brute force yields crude scores. If you keep traveling between the polarities of a continuum, you are strengthening the continuum. This is the trap.
It might be simple, but it is not easy. The solution lies in the denial of the base impulse. Because at the bottom of the whole mess is the false premise of inadequacy. The energy of this misinterpretation becomes the substance of all attempts to fix it.
The only way to fix the box is by stepping out of it.
The desire for personal peace is nothing but the avoidance of its opposite, be it war, be it trouble, be it discomfort. Peace is not an end in itself, adequacy isn’t either. They are means to another end and mere compensatory aspiration that pale in the light of passion.
The question, as so often, lies beyond the continuum and outside of the box. Once you have all the peace and all the adequacy in the world, what will you do with your boredom?
You can realize that your quality of existence is all your doing, and that you generate it in response to your interpretation of your external circumstances. Once you find that peace, you will still be left with yourself. Once you find that peace, you will still fall for the rubber band trap.
You might have climbed an imaginary mountain, but you poured real sweat.
Leave the rubber band game behind. Don’t break the mirror, don’t try to snap the rubber band. It’s a trap. You can leave it hanging because you can begin to notice that you don’t need to be adequate to be adequate. You don’t have to be at peace to be at peace. You can skip that part and just go in for the kill.
Try it just for a week. Deny all impulses to fix yourself. Let the very need of being adequate pass you by like a bird in the sky. Presume personal adequacy instead of inadequacy, whatever the object, and notice what happens.
Dismiss the childish idea of peace and ask yourself not where is peace, but where is euphoria. And seek that, radically, as you elevate yourself and those around you.
Photograph by Linden Glendhill