The ideas of peace and happiness are important for a fruitful life. They are both closely related to mental health and often discussed together, yet these are two different ideas. One of the key goals of Shaolin Chan is to help people achieve peace and happiness. So let’s take a look at finding peace first - what does it mean and how can ancient wisdom and its lessons help us to achieve it?
What are Peace and Tranquility?
When people think about ‘peace’, they will usually think about the idea of not being disturbed for a prolonged length of time. For example, in times of war people would not feel at peace. When invaders and tyrants are resolved, people can eventually return to a life of peacefulness. But it may take years because people need to feel secure and to also resolve traumatic memories.
Tranquility is the immediate or short-term state of non-disturbance that results in a positive euphoric feeling or emotion. Tranquility is not the same as peacefulness which is a long term mental state that is not associated with an emotion. Thus you can seek tranquility but not find peace, and you can lose tranquility and still be at peace!
The period of time to reach a state of peacefulness can be a few hours or it can be many years. It differs from person to person because the events in one’s life are different, the physiological and emotional attributes are different, and each person’s perceptions of the world are different, even if people agree on most viewpoints.
Why is Achieving Peace Important?
When you reach a state of peacefulness, you no longer worry about any major threats that would disturb you, and you become less reactive to negative experiences. It is liken to developing a shield or buffer against negative energy. Therefore, if and when you can achieve a peaceful state, you need to vigilantly protect it.
When your sense of peacefulness is strong, even disturbances to your tranquility will not affect your peaceful state. It is a time where you can reflect upon yourself to learn more about yourself, and your goals and desires. The more you work on yourself, the stronger your shield will become.
Let’s explore disturbances to better understand how they can prevent us from achieving peace and tranquility.
Sources of Disturbances
Disturbances can come from external factors or from yourself (internal factors). By understanding the many potential sources of disturbances, we are more likely to be able to become aware of them as they arise and deal with them quickly. Cutting off disturbances will promote tranquility and peacefulness.
Here are some examples of external disturbances that can be forced upon you:
You are given a work or school assignment with an unfair deadline, resulting in feelings of anxiety.
Someone has stolen something from you, resulting in feelings of anger.
Someone criticized you for being lesser in some way, resulting in feelings of inadequacy.
You contracted a flu or cold, resulting in feelings of weakness and sickness.
Someone close to you has gotten sick, resulting in feelings of worry.
Someone unexpectedly responds or communicates to you in a negative way without explanation, resulting in feelings of confusion and stress.
Here are some examples of internal disturbances that can originate from yourself:
You want to eat something but there is insufficient food, resulting in feelings of hunger.
You want a romantic partner but unable to find someone, resulting in feelings of loneliness.
You want to take back something you said or did, resulting in feelings of regret.
You see or hear something that reminds you of a past grievous mistake, resulting in feelings of regret.
Someone close to you passes away, resulting in feelings of loss.
Your job doesn’t pay enough for you to afford more expensive things, resulting in feelings of inadequacy.
You want what others have that you cannot, resulting in feelings of jealousy.
You want to do something exciting but currently have no means, resulting in boredom.
You suffer a hip, back, or knee injury and unable to do the physical things you want to do, resulting in frustration.
Why Disturbances Affect Your State of Peacefulness
When a disturbance arises and is not resolved, your level of stress and anxiety will build. The longer and more severe the disturbance, the greater impact on your peaceful state.
Life is indeed complicated and there may be much uncertainty from one day to the next. As more and more unresolved disturbances appear in your life, your level of stress and anxiety will eventually grow to the level that breaks your state of peacefulness.
How Do I Deal with Disturbances to My Peace?
When you can identify the source of disturbance and clearly characterize it, you’ve already taken the most important steps in dealing with it, so congratulations!
But that important step is often not obvious. Chances are you have many sources of disturbances, so it becomes a confusing mess, or you are currently experiencing disturbances which make it difficult for you to spend energy to deal with them.
When disturbances arise and are not quickly resolved, your tranquility is broken. When disturbances sustain itself or the emotional trauma of a disturbance is high, your shield is broken and peace is threatened.
Therefore, the first step to dealing with disturbances, according to the ancient wisdom of Chan, is to meditate.
Meditation is a type of skill to help clear your mind of thoughts and settle your emotions. The more you practice, the better you get at it, and the more effective it becomes.
In time, you will be able to improve your meditation skills and nullify any negative emotions arising from disturbances. This is called ‘calming the heart through meditation’. It is a way to quickly bring yourself to a state of tranquility, but it takes daily practice to become good at it.
The second step to dealing with disturbances is to identify and become aware of them.
When your heart is calm, it is the best time to identify, characterize, and resolve disturbances in your life. Your sources of disturbances are often hidden, lurking around in the back of your mind to break down your peaceful state. So be vigilant in finding them. Sort through your feelings and think about what memories affect you negatively.
You'll know you still have disturbances to deal with when you lose your temper easily, feel undue stress or anxiety, or unable to sleep well.
The third step to dealing with disturbances is characterize them.
The unique and complex nature of each disturbance will require you to make the effort to think things through to try to understand each disturbance. The important thing is to not rush through all of your disturbances. Perhaps tackle one disturbance a day or even a week.
Take the time to contemplate why you do not accept that disturbance in your life today. Ask yourself questions such as, is the disturbance still valid? Do you want that disturbance to bother you? How can you accept it and move on? If not, why not?
The final step to dealing with disturbances is take action.
When you feel confident that you are able to characterize and understand a disturbance, it is time to take appropriate action.
Due to the uniqueness of each disturbance and each individual's situation, it is impossible to give a direct answer on what action to take. In other words, you'll need to decide what is the most appropriate action given your specific situation. Since already done the ground work, you will have a solid foundation for taking action.
In time, Master Dao will continue to talk and write about specific disturbances such as how to deal with stress, anxiety, and discipline (you can already find guidance articles on dealing with these common disturbances in our Shaolin Chan-Dao Knowledge Base).
Through repeated daily meditation and practice of identifying and resolving your disturbances, you will be well on your way to finding finding peace.
Shàolín Chándào perspective:
Peacefulness conquers suffering. It is a mental state that cannot be owned in a material sense. The technique to achieve peacefulness is simple but it must be earned and maintained through hard work. Daily meditation is a must to achieve and maintain a peaceful state, and to prevent reactive thoughts, actions, and emotions from becoming major source of disturbances.