In my yoga classes and with therapy clients and meditation students, I often lead a mindfulness exercise where we notice discomfort or tension in the body and then also notice where there is ease, relaxation or comfort. It usually comes as a surprise that both tension and ease can exist in the body at the same time – what you experience is determined by where you place your focus. This works the same with emotions – we can have multiple seemingly opposite and often conflicting emotions happening at the same time. What you experience is determined by where you choose to focus.
This all might come as news to some of us. Yes, we have multiple emotions and sensory experiences happening at once, but we usually only focus on one – and usually it’s the more challenging or unpleasant one. The idea that I could change my experience based on what I focus on actually irritated me when I first heard it because it seemed to be saying that I should ignore the feelings I was having. Actually, rather than ignoring what you’re feeling, the ability to notice what else you’re feeling can open up a wider range of experiences and possibilities. The more we notice, the more the experience expands. For example, noticing that there is also comfort or ease in the body often has the effect of alleviating some of the tension!
I led this exercise for a group yesterday, and then this morning in my meditation I had a thought: Maybe what we need to do is not keep working for Peace on Earth as some future ideal that seems only vaguely possible. Maybe what we actually need to do is to open to the Peace that is actually already on Earth. Noticing the softness of your breath, the gentleness of the wind, the smile and coos of a baby, the stillness or soft movement of the lake, the softness of a loved-one’s embrace, the gentle falling of the snow or grass swaying in the breeze, the moments of quiet. Accessing the feeling of peace in your body – the felt experience of peace – you can perhaps also begin to experience this even in the midst of chaos. You can begin to notice the peace of the Earth underneath us and the peace in the air all around us – even when there is also anxiety and hurry and fear. The more we can notice the Peace that is already here, the more it can expand.
This holiday season, may you experience the Peace that is already here on Earth.