Friday, October 2, 2009

Seeking Peace of Mind

My stepfather was an interesting and active man.  He introduced my mother and us to Unitarians, he tried to read and improve himself and his life but he wrestled with difficulties and doubts.  As a young man with professional baseball aspirations, he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and that deeply affected his life and world view, naturally.

I remember seeing him read interesting titles and one of them was Peace of Mind by Joshua Liebman.  I remembered the title because I was intrigued by it.  What was peace of mind?  How could you not have a peaceful mind if you wanted one?  I was too young (under 10 years old), too unskilled and too egotistical to get close enough to him to learn about the book or his thoughts on the subject.

Now, I would say that having peace of mind is roughly equivalent to having a good time with this life of ours.  With peace of mind, if I win the lottery, I can accept the good fortune with grace and pleasure and look to ways to use the money well.  If I lose my fortune and my health like Job in the Old Testament, I can accept my fall and whatever follows with grace and interest in using what I still have and wringing what I can from life for myself and those I care about.

Roughly speaking, especially for Westerners and Americans, finding and re-finding peace of mind is what Buddhism and its practices are about.  In looking for a single author, it is difficult for me to find another as useful and clear as Jack Kornfield.  But nowadays, Lynn and I are finding another teacher who has been very helpful and that is Phillip Moffitt and his book Dancing with Life. A rough sketch of the life of the Buddha is available in many places but one good place is Herman Hesse’s book Siddhartha.  Basically, as a young married man of wealth and promise, Siddhartha, not unlike Phillip Moffitt, turned his back on wealth and set a course for discovering how to have peace of mind in all circumstances of life.  He succeeded probably as much or more than any other human being is known to have ever done.

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