A reader got me to pondering this when she said: “What I was referring to is the horrible place people find themselves in if they haven’t worked on themselves and found that inner peace to rely on when utter chaos, as it surely will, comes into their life.” I’m betting that quite a few of us pretty much know what’s being said here. And if ‘we’, personally, have never found ourselves in that horrible place then, surely, we’ve seen plenty of others. I’m not even talking about death yet, but about feeling that total loss of control because of circumstances in our lives. You know that feeling: the instant your stomach drops, like the second after you choose to let go down that great big water-slide ; and the more enduring, having to live or work amid chaos with no exit plan in sight; how about when your elderly parent(s), or even you, are suddenly no longer able to self-care; and on and on. OK, so we all know what the horrible place feels like. We also know what it looks like because we’ve either seen it in the mirror or in the eyes of another. I think we can all agree that the world can really shake us up.
Now What Does The Inner Peace Look and Feel Like?
Still pondering, Gandhi came to mind, along with this quote:
“In a gentle way you can shake the world.”
I think Inner Peace looks like Gandhi, as an example because he shook the world with peaceful resistance. One of the wonders of this world is that there are so many people! who are gently shaking it into a better place. Lots of them are doing it in quite public ways – social entrepreneurs for example. Then there the ‘more of us’ with whom we interact daily. What do they look like to you? Can you pick them out of a crowd? I don’t know if I can. I don’t think I’ve ever tried. But I do often recognize it when I’m actually in the presence of someone with Inner Peace. I may not notice it right away but, after leaving their presence I feel calmer, my heart rate probably even goes down. Have you ever hugged a mountain? or even a BIG boulder? Solid. They are not getting shaken up any time soon, although they could, I guess. I get so tickled when I think about hiking up to an ancient Greek fortress with our 4 yr old grand daughter. If you’ve never been to Greece let me just say: they have a lot of Rock and more mountains than I expected. Anyway, she leans her whole body against this shear-sided mountain that lines the path and says “Grandma, feel how STRONG the mountain is!” And the mountain has no ill intentions and there is no chaos about it. This is what inner peace in other person feels like to me.
Does This Kind of Peace Extend to Dying and Death?
We’ll continue with Gandhi. It remains debated in some academic circles what Gandhi’s last words of this life were. Some say they were “Rama. Rahim” – God. There is much discussion about what his last were and what they may mean. And it is reported, that “nine months prior to his death…[Gandhi] suggested unequivocally that his last words, if he were assassinated, would be “Rama, Rahim”
“Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully.”
And now I ask: “Was his death a peaceful one? a mindful one? some combination? or other? I certainly hope he died cheerfully. Gandhi’s mission was non-violent resistance to implement change. It was not especially peaceful. Did he experience a peaceful death? He was assassinated – you call it. I like to think he died in peace because he lived with gentleness and peace in the midst of chaos, and he wasn’t shaken (visibly anyway) when the guns were pointed at him or the tanks were rumbling his way. We have many great examples, Gandhi is not the only one but he’s a good one. I think his death was both peaceful and mindful because this is what he was in life. Maybe he was hoping for a long life, diminishing bit by bit. But he held no expectation of that. He had already nearly starved himself to death, eye to eye. His mindfulness is evident in his selflessness; his efforts on behalf of others and his awareness of what was going on inside of him and outside of him. And it was his commitment to non-violence that was the gentleness that shook the world. Where there is no violence there is peace.
But Not All Peaceful Deaths Are Mindful Ones
There’s the peace of final resignation as ‘the light of the eternal’ is shining in our eyes. The peace of finally having the great burden of living removed from our shoulders. The sedated peace. There is no knowing someone else’s subjective experiences, or the innermost part of their heart, or soul. But because we kind of know what inner peace looks like in folks like Gandhi (I admit that he’s a pretty high standard!) we can see if there’s something like that in the way people live their lives, including ourselves. Are we non-violent? Am I non-violent? It’s been awhile since I threw dishes at anyone but there’s more than just physical violence, as we all know. There are all kinds of nasty things we do to each other. What me? Ever mis-used your power / authority? Think you’re better than someone else? Generous or selfish? None of these things are black and white, but Mindfulness is being Aware of what is going on on the inside and the outside AND practicing responding to what is going on with benevolent intentions and actions to all. No more excuses. No more ‘poor me’. No more baggage of ‘chips on the shoulders’ that others wish they could knock off.
If We Can Do This
then we are cruising for not only an Inner Peace-Filled death but, also a Mindful one. Even in the midst of raging chaos around us, over which we have no control, we can choose our behavior. Remember: all is impermanent – even our feelings. “There is no way to Peace. Peace is The way.” (Gandhi)