Without relationship with others, it is almost impossible to achieve a healthy relationship with self or lasting inner peace. Relationships are the sounding boards to check our level of self-acceptance.
We count healthy, intimate relationships as one of the main factors in our sense of wellbeing in life. But at the bottom of any kind of inner conflict is our relationship with others, the people around us or the world at large. Can you think of any situation or event in life that involved conflict, discomfort, pain or hurt that does not involve any other person around you? So does it mean our relationship with others, is the cause of our pain or lack of peace in life? In fact, without relationships and the inherent conflict, it is not possible to achieve inner peace. By triggering what needs to be resolved, relationships act as the most crucial catalyst through which we can achieve lasting peace and fulfilment.
Any emotional hurt we have faced in life, is originally caused due to our failed efforts to connect with others. That does not make relationships bad or wrong, as this happens in childhood while we were still making sense of the world around us. As children, we do not know how to communicate our needs, how to express our thoughts or how to process painful emotions. In the process of learning these things, some of the painful memories gets stored in our subconscious. These are the thoughts, patterns and perceptions that define our relationship with others in our adulthood.
In adult life, we start a relationship with ‘How can I live without this person!’, but end up wondering, ‘How can I live with this person, it is so painful!’ The people in our lives that we are most intimate with, are the ones that trigger us most. As those are the only ones that can show us what we are not willing to see within us. Often the person that seems to trigger in us the deepest emotional pain is not the real cause of that pain, they just managed to pull the past pain that is already within us to the surface so that it can heal now. Relationships are mirrors that show us the emotional pain and hurt from childhood that we are unwilling to face within ourselves.
We may think since healthy relationships do not have conflict, all we need to do is avoid all conflict in relationships. We may isolate ourselves from people around us, saying I am highly sensitive, or highly spiritual, or highly self-dependant or highly tolerant. But all that does is stuff up all the unresolved emotional content deeper into subconscious so that it creates an unending loop of unhappy relationships filled with more conflict. The only solution to resolve inner and outer conflict is to boldly face the pain with openness and vulnerability.
Many self-help gurus often say, healthy relationship with self is crucial for a healthy relationship with others. But without relationship with others, the elements of healing, integration or completion that are crucial for a healthy relationship with yourself are not possible to achieve. Hence, conflict in our relationships is not to be avoided. Our relationships serve the purpose of showing us what needs to be resolved within us so that we get to a place of deep inner peace.
There are several methods commonly taught as part of spirituality that act as coping mechanisms for the pains and suffering in life. Some of them include being in the moment, equanimity, detachment, positive thinking, etc. However, all of them are often end up as just escape mechanisms for people who are struggling with pain and suffering in life. More importantly, none of them even allude to how to fully involve in life and resolve the pain. Peace cannot be achieved unless we have courage to face our pain.
Take for example, being in the moment. Do we actually have to make an effort to stay in the present when we are going through something close to our hearts? Say, something you enjoy doing, as eating your favourite ice cream, playing in the first showers? We only think of being in the moment when there is a painful and nagging situation, when we are at our wit’s end to figure out how to manage it. Being in the moment is not avoiding but fully engaging with what is happening. But most of the time we use being in the moment to actually escape from our own painful thoughts that won’t go away.
Take another spiritual practice of equanimity. Equanimity is commonly understood as staying neutral to all the situations in life. But in fact, equanimity is not neutrality. It is not avoiding painful or pleasurable emotions or being passive but being fully involved and allowing everything without resistance. Equanimity is being alive to both pain and pleasure as a rich experience without any preference towards one or other. True equanimity involves and includes everything. Not as it is commonly interpreted, as excluding or avoiding everything.
Peace is the most potent power in the entire Universe. We mistakenly equate power with having power over someone else or some situation external to us. But true power lies in being at absolute inner peace in face of any kind of external influence.
Imagine someone who is in that state of unshakeable peace. No one can be more powerful than that one at complete peace, when no external persons or situations can shake that peace. Who can have ascendency over them? Now imagine someone who is at peace in some situations but gets agitated in other situations by some one else’s influence. Who is more powerful? The one who can maintain his peace or the one who loses peace with external stimulus?
We may think such peace is not possible. But it is not just possible, it is surprisingly easy to be in a peaceful mode. It is we who give away others the power to influence our inner peace. All we need to do is to realise and commit to make our own peace to be more of a priority than anything else, even being right or having our own way. It does not make us powerless but more powerful.
When peace is so alluring, how to get to inner peace?
Do we run away from conflict or fight with conflict to get to peace?
Only thing that needs to be done is to clear the lens of perception so that you can clearly see beyond the conflict and access the calm that is already there. Not ignore the conflict or what is painful but see with a clear perception the truth beyond what is perceived. Many use meditation, yoga, mindfulness or other practices to get to inner peace. These activities help you to clear your lens of perception, which is clouded by the colouring from all your past experiences.
All clearing is meant to be just clearing of your perception, not you. You do not need any cleansing, fixing or healing because you are not tainted or bad or need purification. Nor is there any need for letting go of negativity or pain or positive thinking. When your perception is clear, you can see your own light and the peace within. You can see that you were always perfect as you are, so was your life. The soot is on the mirror, not on the object.
There is nothing to add to you, no learning, no correction, no healing, no fixing. When the lens of perception is clear, you perceive the underlying peace that is already there. And by perceiving it, you can start reflecting all that magnificent peace into the world. Just like a crystal clear mirror reflects the true image in front of it in all of its glory.
What is peace?
Peace is not getting rid of anger, sadness or other undesirable emotions. Being at peace means being calm and intensely alive through all the ups and downs that life presents to us everyday.
Peace is not to be achieved by any external methods or means. You just need to uncover the peace that is already within you. People use ocean and waves metaphor for the pure consciousness and individual souls. The same metaphor can be used to understand inner peace. Imagine your life as a turbulent ocean, with waves and waves of experiences of joy, happiness, sadness, despair, disappointment and so on. However turbulent it may all appear to you, there is tranquil ocean underneath the waves. Just as we shift the awareness from waves to ocean to experience the tranquility, we shift our awareness within. Ocean is calm and tranquil but not placid apathy, it is intensely alive at the same time.
Your inner self is always tranquil and peaceful. When you take a step back, breathe and observe all that is appearing on the surface, you become the ocean instead of the waves. All you need to do is carefully observe the thoughts, feelings, emotions, events and all that is appearing in your life. You then become the calm witness, which is your true nature. From ‘doer’, you instantly shift to ‘witness’. You can do this only when you can accept all emotions, including joy and misery as equal parts of unending saga of life. More importantly, when you let go of resistance to feel painful emotions and allow all the experiences to just flow through you and out of you.