Creating an oasis of inner peace can be hard work. Actively interacting with a chaotic outer world often threatens to undo all that has been accomplished. Consequently, we may begin to minimize engagement with our environment. As a conscious, unafraid preference, this is unremarkable.
However, if it arises from a fear-based avoidance, sense of inability, and or unwillingness to face difficult situations or conversations, this option will provide us little relief or growth – because our perceived provocations are but our own projections.
Whether we retreat to the Himalayas or remain here as men and women of the world, we will very likely encounter exactly the same demons. After all, they live within us. (If you wonder about this, I suggest reading Tenzin Palmo’s experience as described in the book, “Cave In The Snow” by Vicki Mackenzie.)
Running away from the game of life is not the same as rising above all games. Resisting something only perpetuates it. So a defensive retreat can leave us stuck with the very challenge we are unwilling to meet.
I recently saw a touching movie based on a true story. ‘We are Marshall’ is about the rebuilding of Marshall University’s college football team following a plane crash that killed all 75 passengers (including the school’s 37-member team, coaches, and other community members). The new coach, Jack Lengyel, obviously had an extremely difficult task on hand. At one point this is what he says:
“You see, Red, it doesn’t matter if we win or if we lose. It’s not even about how we play the game. What matters is that we play the game. That we take the field, that we suit up on Saturdays, and we keep this program alive.”
It took close to 20 years before Marshall had a winning record. But that was only possible because of the grit and dedication of those who ensured that despite all reservations, football continued to be played in that emotionally devastated university and town.
I found those lines memorable and thought-provoking.
It was a reminder that while we may not have it all figured out, that while there are still layers to be unpeeled and wounds to be healed, there are also unimagined possibilities and new vistas, yet unknown, that can only be discovered by living through the tough matches.
These are interesting times of rapid change and we can either succumb to the overwhelm or use these challenges to accelerate our own transformation. Though we may occasionally lose our peace of mind, forget our learnings, fall back into mind-body or ‘favourite-story‘ identification (any of all that and more may happen) – playing the game may be exactly what is required of us right now.
Stretching our comfort zone has benefits for us as individuals and also provides us an opportunity to contribute to the collective: for by returning to the playing field with awareness, we also bring back and inform our environment with whatever little lightness, peace and love we have reclaimed thus far.
But for this, we need to find that elusive balance between contemplative retreat, and a mindful stepping out. Instead of trying to escape from the old paradigm, or conforming ourselves to it, we then proactively bring in a whole new set of playing rules: Guidelines that lead towards greater love, peace, harmony, wellbeing and co-existence.
So these days I remind myself that while taking time-outs, and refresher practises in remembering who we truly are continues to be appropriate and usually necessary – while here, how about simply showing up whole-heartedly and playing a better game?