Photo: David Ellingsen
The author of The Power of Now reveals the things that keep us continually frazzled—and how to remove them from our lives.

Peace is one of the most important human experiences. If you don't have peace, then you're not able to appreciate whatever else you do have. In fact, you may not even be able to recognize the good in your life because you have not recognized the good in yourself—yet. Here are a few things that may be getting your way:

1. You Mistake Peace for Unconsciousness


Sometimes people feel peaceful when they become very tired. Others think that peace is what you feel after having a few drinks or taking drugs. (People use these substances, because they long for inner stillness and quiet.) Being half asleep or desensitized by drugs or a few glasses of wine can keep you from feeling your anxiety, fear, anger, resentment or worry. But this relief only lasts a short time. That turmoil is still there—because peace is not unconsciousness. Peace is not being asleep or being numb. It's the opposite. It's a state of heightened aliveness, when we become more conscious rather than less, and this requires an awareness of the kinds of thoughts that habitually go through your mind.

2. You Mistake Peace for Happiness


Many people think of happiness as a goal, something you're working toward that will eventually make you feel good or at peace with your life. To me, however, happiness is usually associated with a high that occurs when something nice happens. You feel happy when you get the job or find a $100 bill on the street. You feel happy leaving for vacation. But very often the vacation doesn't turn out the way it's supposed to, or it comes to an end, or while on that vacation you only think about the problems you're going to find when you come back home. In all of these cases, the happiness is temporary. After a while it subsides, and then, quite often, you'll even feel suddenly low. Because happiness isn't peace.

Happiness is actually quite superficial, whereas peace is deeper. Peace is immune to the polarities of life: the highs and lows, the hots and colds, the so-called goods and so-called bads. This is why peace is so crucial. Nobody goes through life without encountering all these experiences, inspiring or upsetting. When someone close to you dies or you have a health problem or you lose our possessions, you probably can't feel happy. Nobody could. But do you need to feel in absolute despair? Do you need to feel devastated? If you are at peace and connected with that deeper level in you, those kind of emotional extremes don't occur. You'll have a calm that is not affected by whatever happens in the world, because you have an acceptance and understanding of whatever happens in the world.

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