Only a few short days ago, I arrived home from a lovely vacation. I was at an SCA event called Pennsic. It is hard to explain if you’ve never been there, but for two weeks, 10,000+ people dressed in medieval/renaissance clothing descend upon a camp ground in western Pennsylvania, and proceed to shop, dance, fight, and generally have a fantastically geeky time. I was not there the whole time, but for eight blissful days I disappeared into a world in which warriors who were mortal enemies by day shared ale by night, music and song filled the air (at least around my camp!), and life proceeded without recourse to electronics more advanced than the occasional glance at a watch.
I have to say, I do not know anything that so effectively takes me out of my life. For eight days, I did not think about any of the myriad things that had been worrying me before I left. Now don’t get me wrong — I love my life! — but it is incredibly rejuvenating to step outside of it for a little while.
This got me thinking about peace and rest. Prior to my trip, I had been telling myself that I could relax just as soon as I finished launching my new program for seasonal sadness, or got my study clean, or caught up on abandoned craft projects. It sounded convincing at the time, but with hindsight it is clear that I was lying to myself. Not intentionally, of course, but lying just the same. Because that list of tasks that needed to be completed before I could rest? That’s never going to be done. Never.
But that doesn’t mean that I can never rest! Far from it. It just means that I needed to learn to allow myself to access peace in the midst of the never ending to-do list we call life. It feels counterintuitive to some of us, but it can be done. That is what techniques like meditation or doing nothing teach us – that we can quiet our minds and have a taste of peace, no matter where we are (physically or metaphorically).
After I got home from my trip, it took me all of 24 hours to slip back into anxiety and stress. Why? Because I had forgotten that peace was something that I could create for myself. It took me a few days to regain that balance I had found at Pennsic, but I did eventually do it. I took a few deep breathes, sat down and did nothing, and recognized the peace inherent in the world around me – the peace of a sleeping cat, of a ripening pear on a tree, or in a nice cup of tea. In the end, that is the sort of peace that matters.
For all that peace is something that we all strive towards, we do not see that it can be all around us. We think that it will be found somewhere outside of our normal lives. We think that peace lives on a tropical island sipping a mai tai, or in a ski lodge by an open fire. We think we see peace dancing on an open prairie horizon or camped by a lake in summer. And those times and places are very peaceful, yes. But peace has to be found in our ordinary, every day lives before we can effectively find it elsewhere. Peace does not live in a hidden, far away valley, but all around us, if only we care to look.