This is a quote that my friend Sharon has often repeated to me, in letters and in emails and on post-its that I’ve taped up on my wall. I think it’s something of a motto for her.
While I’ve always felt it had a nice ring, it didn’t truly sink in until a few days ago, when I stumbled upon a lovely young woman named Esperanza on the ship and decided to give her practice of chanting meditation a try (it’s a practice she’s done for two years, and she invited me and a few other people to join her on one fine A day morning).
Esperanza (or Espi, as I like to call her) speaks quite eloquently about the practice and what it’s all about. Unfortunately, I have no idea at this moment in time what it’s called, though I know it originated in Japan. From what I understand, it’s a somewhat new strand of Buddhism, and unique (and slightly frowned upon by some Buddhist higher-ups) because it does not require a priest or facilitator of any kind. In fact, it rejects the idea that people need anything or anyone outside of themselves in order to succeed in the practice, and in life. This is where the quote comes in – “peace comes from within”
In the few days that I’ve practiced with her, Espi has talked a lot about how each and every person has the power to find his or her own peace – and, even better, happiness – without help from anyone else.
This search for inner peace, like anything else worth doing in this crazy world of ours, is a big responsibility. See, as humans, Espi explains, we tend to place blame for our unhappiness or dissatisfaction on other people or situations. We think that our emotions are beyond our own control – they’re controlled by fate, by whatever the universe decides to throw at us. This is not the case: No matter how many times you’ve been screwed over, felt undermined or disappointed, it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not. There’s really no way to argue with that. And that’s certainly not to say that emotions shouldn’t be embraced. However, letting your darkness control you is absolutely a choice. And that’s so freeing to discover, despite the work that a pursuit of happiness entails.
That’s where the “do not seek without” comes in, too. All too often, I find myself looking to external forces in my life to make me happy. Most notably, I often look to relationships to make me feel happy, or worthy, or confident. And then my world comes crashing down when whoever I let create those feelings for me ends up disappointing me. Which has happened a lot, and to a certain extent defined my college years. No bueno. Of course, this happens to most people; it’s a learning process. However, Esperanza has inspired me to take my own happiness seriously, and to take full responsibility for it. And, for the first time in my life, I think I’m ready. I’m ready not to “seek without” and to find my own power. And I’m excited to do it all on my own.