Peace Which Passeth All Understanding

Just like a sunbeam can’t separate itself from the sun, and a wave can’t separate itself from the ocean, we can’t separate ourselves from one another. We are all part of a vast sea of love, one indivisible divine mind. ~Marianne Williamson

A couple days ago I had a profound experience I’d like to share. It was a simple moment, really, but the feeling I felt was profound. I sat out on my front porch early in the morning prepared to meditate and read, but it was so lovely out that I just wanted to take in all the beauty. The sky was awash in rich blue storm clouds, with several rays of morning sunlight filtering down through them and settling on the distant valley below. The hazy Wasatch mountain range to the east provided a majestic backdrop. The world was so quiet and still, except for the sounds of a few birds, and the air was cool with a gentle breeze, carrying the scent of coming rain.

A feeling of deep peace settled over me like a heavy blanket, squeezing warm tears from my eyes. It was that kind of profound peace that is always accompanied by joy and love. Peace, joy, and love, in their genuine, transcendental forms, are always experienced simultaneously. They are more than emotions because the awareness of them encompasses our whole being, not just our bodies. I knew that the peace, joy and love I experienced in that moment was the real thing because I could feel that my mind, body and spirit were absolutely aligned. I have no words to describe what that feels like. Words are a product of the mind, and what I felt with my spirit went beyond the mind and beyond words of any description. The phrase “peace which passeth all understanding” seems accurate. I was swallowed up in an immense oneness–that I was one with God, with all of nature, with all of humanity. My ego boundaries seemed to have collapsed, and all that remained was the glorious joy of being alive in that moment. Suddenly there were no problems on any level, and it even felt as if the dimension of time was completely irrelevant.

I knew I was having a significant experience, and wanted to treasure it up, knowing that it couldn’t last. Oh, how I wished it could have! I thought of my family asleep inside the quiet house, and how much I loved them. I wanted to carry that love back into the house and give it to them always. But I felt grief and loss as I realized that the present feeling would be only transitory. In fact, it was lost already, as soon as I began to contemplate the future. I knew that soon I’d be back in my ego-dominated mind-habits.

And yes, that’s what happened. Later in the day I became negative and argumentative with my husband, which was extremely frustrating, even though I became aware of it much more quickly than I normally would have. I thought, “What was my profound experience this morning for, if I can’t keep that peace and love with me throughout the day? Just one day?”

But my less-than-perfect behavior doesn’t negate the significance of my experience. The truth is, what I had felt changed me inside. Yes, bad habits are going to creep back in, because the existing neural pathways in our brains can be compellingly strong. Despite that, I can choose to do what is needed to get back to that peace and love that I know are always there, and hold onto it a little longer the next time. All it takes to get there is a quiet moment and a quiet mind. And all it takes to keep it is awareness: remaining in tune with spirit enough to recognize when the departure into the ego-dominated mind is beginning, and maintaining the desire to put the things of the ego and the mind aside to get back to awareness of spirit.

I know I won’t be able to always, or even often, have these profound experiences. I don’t want them often, lest they cease to be profound. But I wish to incorporate this kind of peace, joy, and love into my life so completely that it becomes who I am, rather than just a fleeting experience.

I have been fascinated by reading others’ experiences that seem to mirror my own. Near-death experiences often have similar characteristics of feeling complete awareness and oneness with God, nature, and humanity, with a complete absence of any judgment whatsoever. But this isn’t limited to people who have died and come back to life. Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, describes his own amazing experience, the feeling of which remained with him for years. And the following TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who had a stroke and lost the function of the left side of her brain, is extremely interesting. Take the mere 18 minutes to watch it and you won’t regret it:

What seems to be in common, in these and many other accounts, is the truth that peace, joy, and love are found in oneness. And in fact, we really *are* one with the universe; it’s just our mind that creates the illusion of separateness, which is necessary for the functioning of our mortal form. In the words of Yasutani Roshi, “The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are there.” Whenever we separate ourselves from any one or any thing, we often get a divisive attitude of “Me versus them,” which leads to competition, isolation, stress, frustration, or emptiness. The good news is that we can get beyond these ego boundaries by setting them down from time to time and seeking the quiet expanse that lies beyond the constant chattering of the conscious mind. In future posts I plan to continue exploring this fascinating concept and help you make it a practical part of your life.

Within us is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the universal beauty, the eternal One. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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