I wish I didn’t have to go to my Uncle’s funeral today. I wish he hadn’t died. I wish he could have stayed healthy and lived forever.
Nevertheless, I’m going to my Uncle’s funeral today. Bummer.
In my professional life, in my personal affairs and in my spiritual walk (three areas of my life that are in fact not separate.) I teach— and engage— a simple cognitive process I call the “peace practice.” I’ve learned that practicing peace of mind is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and everybody around us. And I’ve learned that to have peace of mind we need to be at peace with thoughts and stories we’re entertaining in consciousness. There’s no other way. So if I’m not a peace with a thought or story I’m telling myself, or someone else is telling me, I’ve learned that I have two options:
a. drop the thought or story with which I am not at peace and find or create a thought or story with which I am more at peace; or
b. choose to be at peace with the thought or story with which a moment before I was not at peace.
When I teach this, clients often ask how it’s possible to be a peace when their outer circumstances are so stressful—relationships are strained, or health is impaired, or finances are in shreds. Or maybe one’s uncle has recently passed, and one must attend the funeral—later today.
One thought at a time, I tell them. One story at a time. For example, “I wish I didn’t have to go to my Uncle’s funeral today.” Am I at peace with this thought, this story? No, not right off. So okay, I have two options, per above. Can I drop the thought, and find one with which I am more at peace? Maybe, for a minute or less. But the funeral is in a couple of hours, and I have to go. So what about option b— can I be at peace with the thought which a moment before I was not at peace?
“I wish I didn’t have to go to my Uncle’s funeral today.” Can I be at peace with this thought? And more precisely, can I be at peace with this feeling?
Yes, it’s the most peaceful thing I can do. This is what mourning feels like. Wishing it hadn’t happened. Wishing we didn’t have to deal with it. Wanting things to be different than they are. This is a natural, spontaneous, widely experienced human feeling. I don’t have to deny it. I don’t have to fight it. I don’t have to try to make it into something else.
“I wish I didn’t have to go to my Uncle’s funeral today. Nevertheless, I’m going to my Uncle’s funeral today.”
Can I be at peace with this story? It is, after all, a choice.
So yes, I can be at peace with my reluctance, I can be at peace with my feelings, I can be at peace with my sense of loss, and sense of wanting to run away. These are what rise up in me. I can consciously decide not to fight these feelings, these stories. Simply be with them. Nor need I exaggerate them. I will simply let them be what they are, rising and falling as they do. This is mourning. This is life. This is today.
This is beautiful, this ache, this wanting to run away, this wanting it to be otherwise, that is present in me now.
I’ve learned that Peace has many, many faces, with many wrinkles.