Peace is a concept recognized around the world. Everyone tries to attain it, countries desire it, humans aspire for it, and probably every living creature prays for it. So, why can it seem so hard to achieve at times? Peace is often defined as freedom of disturbance, or a period of harmony. But, who gets to decide when you are in your period of peace and why do people feel they have a say on how you attain it and how you live in peace?
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY, which is home to the largest indoor Buddha in the Western Hemisphere. Standing 37 feet tall, the incredible Buddha statue gives off an overwhelming feeling of peace that can bring you to tears. This had me thinking about the Buddha’s life. Growing up as a Prince and having everything he could ever dream of, he was unaware of the struggles of the other people living outside the palace gates. Once he saw that not everyone experienced life with the luxury he did, he embarked on his journey to enlightenment. He experienced many practices where people had said that he could attain inner peace and enlightenment. Following the path that was true for him, it was under the Bodhi Tree where he finally experienced his awakening. He then went on to teach. Buddha experienced challenges and even had to change his course along the way, much like all of us have had to do at one point or several in our lives. It is when we find our own inner peace that we can view ourselves, others, and our surroundings differently that helps us reach our version of an awakening much like Buddha had.
Personally, I believe that we go through many awakenings and moments of enlightenment during our life time. These moments can come at any different phase of our life and can be related to health, love, career, family and so forth. When we become awakened to part of our inner purpose, we often find ourselves in a transitional period to make sure that all other areas of our life match our newly awakened selves. As part of this transition, we will seek out more peace in our lives and will do whatever we can to create a peaceful environment around us. A major part of this transition deals with reviewing relationships specifically with friends and family. It is very common that while on your spiritual path, you experience a really good relationship cleanse. You will find that friends you use to be really close with and spend time with are suddenly no longer compatible with your beliefs, or you can no longer relate to them.
Sometimes many people who are close to us, or have known us all of our lives will have a hard time accepting this new peaceful you. Remember that change is scary for most people so when you change, people around you experience change. Most of the time, our loved ones are used to us being a certain way and doing things they think we love to do. However, when those habits suddenly change they can question why and unintentionally make you doubt your choices. A few years ago, I decided to stop drinking any kind of alcohol. I had maybe less than 10 drinks a year so it wasn’t really a hard thing for me to do. But, other people, mostly friends, took my decision personally. Suddenly, people assumed I wasn’t fun to go out with in social settings anymore or they looked at me differently because of my choice. The thing was though that is was my choice, and it was something that brought peace to my life with or without the approval of others, because the only approval I needed was my own. It can be hard to hear criticism or comments but as long as you know what brings peace into your life, no one can take that away from you unless you let them.
Give this transition some time while everyone adjusts, including yourself. The relationships that you are supposed to continue and develop will deepen and your loved ones will cherish you more than they did, and vice a versa. If someone doesn’t support this part of you, simply give thanks to the universe for the opportunity to learn from them and then release yourself and that person from the relationship. This can be very difficult to do with friends and family. But, it will allow both of you to continue to learn, grown, and follow your individual paths. This is one of the best gifts you can give to someone you care about.
From a different perspective, once you experience enlightenment it can be challenging to see others not living a lifestyle of personal peace. It is important to remember that peace is attained differently for different people and we all experience it at different times in our life. Something you may have done in your life that brought you more peace will not be what a friend or loved one needs to do in their life. Just the way that we expect someone not to judge us for our choices, we cannot judge someone for something they decide to continue to do in their own lives. It is not your burden to carry. We may want to see the ones we care about living the very best lives they can and have them experience the joy that peace has brought us, but in this moment in time they are where they are supposed to be and living the best life they can for today. Once you can shift your perspective of peace, you may just find that you experience more freedom from disturbances and more periods of harmony than you originally thought.
Once that peace is attained, it is staying in that peace, and living in peace that then becomes a new journey we all must embark upon. “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Buddha
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