What is “Peace”?


Dr. Wayne W. Dyer via Hay House Daily Affirmations
Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.

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What is peace?

Is it the absence of conflict?

Is it a tension-free state of imperturbable external comfort and ease?

Or is it a state of nearly unflappable inner comfort?

Is it the ability to stay comfortable and centered and balanced in any situation, especially tense situations?

Is it the ability to deal with any difficulty with equanimity, inner evenness of mood and emotion, and not be run off the road by fear or derailed by stress?

What is peace?

Whitman wrote:

“There are those who teach only
the sweet lessons of peace and safety;
But I teach lessons of war and death to those I love,
That they readily meet invasions, when they come.”

 

And Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (via Hay House Daily Affirmations) wrote:

“Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I remind myself of this affirmation many times on a given day, particularly with my children and other more distant relatives. I also practice this in grocery stores, when greeting flight attendants, when visiting the post office, and while driving my automobile. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.”

Not only does Dr. Dyer’s take on “peace” puzzle me, so does what motivated it.

Think about it.

What would motivate Dr. Dyer to need this sort of affirmation—what’s he really telling us?

Dr. Dyer projects, sells, and markets this aura of new agey grandfatherly bliss and radiant peace to a generally fairly affluent crowd. He peddles his wares in Hawaii, London, Vancouver, San Jose, on 10-day Mediterranean Cruises with rooms running from $2,650 to in excess of $10,000.

So I’m trying to understand what would motivate this jet-set guru to be in need of this sort of affirmation out of all possible affirmations.

I could understand a “Lord do not let this go to my head” affirmation, or a “do not let me lose touch with the little people around me” affirmation, or even a good ol’ fashioned “life is suffering affirmation” or “there but for the grace of God go I” affirmation.

But this “attract peace only into my life” affirmation is puzzling. It seems a little, well, indulgent to me, even decadent—

Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I remind myself of this affirmation many times on a given day, particularly with my children and other more distant relatives. I also practice this in grocery stores, when greeting flight attendants, when visiting the post office, and while driving my automobile. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.”

Not I want to sow peace into my life and the lives of those I interact with, but I attract only peace.  The “Law of Attraction” running amuck, making the ego even more self-absorbed.  What’s in it for me? et cetera. . . .

I just don’t see this as something the Dalai Lama would come up with, or the Buddha, or Pema Chodron, or Thomas Merton. I can see these spiritual biggies coming up with something along the lines of “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” or “Make me an instrument of inner peace.”

But not this.

So is Dr. Dyer secretly on the brink of war with all mankind—or at the very least with his children, distant relatives, flight attendants, and those unfortunates who dare to be in the grocery store or post office when he’s there? Is he about to go postal? Is Dr. Dyer telling us that beneath his carefully manicured exterior there secretly lurks the cold dead heart of a misanthrope? . . .

What’s really going on in Dr. Dyer’s mind that he needs this sort of affirmation to get himself through the day?

I know that when I go to a grocery store or visit the post office, I generally have it together well enough that I am either in a decent (happy) mood or at the very least a neutral mood. I may be in a bit of a hurry and I may not want a to chitchat and mingle much with my fellow humans, but I am not in danger of going off on them—I am not going into a grocery store or post office with a chip on my shoulder, looking to pick a fight or vent my foul mood, waiting (hoping) for someone to tick me off or annoy me so I can let ‘em have it.

So I’m wondering if there is not some sort of rage that lies beneath the surface of Dyer’s carefully constructed smile and that has brought his life to this—to having to remind himself—MANY TIMES, no less, on any given day—to attract only peace into his life—and especially in regards to his children and flight attendants! (Yes, I know what you mean, flight attendants piss me off too! lol)  Is he hot tempered? Cannot he not handle not getting his way or not being the center of attention or having to wait in line like the rest of us common folk? Baaaaaah. Does he secretly just want to punch chirpy flight attendants when he sees them happy and smiling at him? Can he not stand their manufactured cheerfulness because it reminds him unconsciously of his own façade?

I know if I were to pray for peace, I would be praying for inner peace and for more inner capacity to better deal with the very few and far between difficult people in my life.

Or I would be praying for peace for myself as well as those I interact with.

So I have to wonder if perhaps Dr. Dyer might not be tapping into something else?

So many people seem to crave a very facile and escapist version of peace. They crave the simple absence of conflict and stress. They’re not interested in developing the ability to deal with stress and difficulty with grace and without being thrown off balance or knocked out of their center; they’re just seeking the absence of anything external that will stress them too greatly and send them over the edge or into a mommy or daddy meltdown.

And so perhaps Dr. Dyer is capitalizing on this. Perhaps this is a case of A-B-C, baby—Always Be Closing, always be making a sale and pushing product. Get busy selling or get busy dying. If his latest book is selling 2 mill he’s just trying to move 3.

Meaning that maybe Dr. Dyer actually doesn’t say his “peace” affirmation many times daily. Maybe he says it rarely. But—but—he knows that other people need it, that they need to be told 50 or more times a day to take a chill pill, relax, not sweat the small stuff, not seethe under their breath at people in front of them in line or not angrily storm out of a movie theater because someone 20 rows away was chewing popcorn with his mouth open!

And so perhaps Dr. Dyer is a genius. He knows that the vast majority of human beings hate being advised what to do (you know—human ego and all, no one likes anyone who remotely seems to have it all together or to be overbearing, et cetera), but if he (Dr. Dyer) pretends to be subject to the same lack of perspective and occasional idiocy and tantrum as his minions, and that this “peace” affirmation works “every time” for him, then by extension his readers and followers will be more likely to also want to do the same thing as he—this clearly great man—is doing and will want to see if it works its magic for them as well.

He is trying to lead by example—share what works for him—what works for him “many times” a day. The problem is he probably doesn’t even need this stuff. He knows that his readers and followers do. but he has to work around their egos, and so he has chosen to do so by this little “here’s what works every time for me” ruse.

But the bigger problem is that what he seems to be offering is little more than a superficial Band-Aid.

I’m assuming what he’s trying to counter is the tendency for others to explode into rage, be rude, discourteous, vent on others, be impolite, if not downright hostile, mean, et cetera. And so what Dr. Dyer would like to help create is a more kind and gentle world where people interact nicely with each other and play well together. And that is admirable. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Dalai Lama is trying to do the same.

But Dr. Dyer didn’t pray that he be more lovingly-kind to others, or more forbearing, or more compassionate and understanding. He affirmed that he wanted was peace. As in the world revolves around him. If daddy’s not happy, then nobody’s happy. Spread the misery and pain around. Dr. Dyer didn’t pray or affirm that he be peaceful necessarily to others, just that he attract only peace—that wherever he goes, that peaceable interactions only ensue for him. No conflict, no disagreement, no hostility, nobody pissing him off or pushing his buttons, just peace only. That is what Dr. Dyer wants for himself and expects out of us—or at least out of those who dare cross his path everyday or visit the post office on the same day that he does: that others be as peaceful to him as he leads on that he is in general.

But what is peace? What does Dr. Dyer mean by “peace”?

If I were to write an affirmation for all mankind and Facebook that sucker, I don’t know if I would be able to shorthand it down to “peace.” I would certainly want some measure of peace—some measure of inner composure and self-control. Maybe a lot of that. And I wouldn’t want it just for myself, I would wish it for everyone (even though I can only control me).

But I don’t know if I would want a lot of tension-freelessness. I don’t know if I would want a lot of strife-freeness, a lot of comfort and ease.

I think—know—I would want more than that—more that that sort of facile peace.

Yet is this not the very type of peace that most people want and that most people seem to mean when they invoke the word “peace”—the absence of conflict? Smooth sailing?

To my mind, to equate peace with this sort of lack of conflict and with the presence of less external stressors is to wish for death. Not death of the ego, but actual physical death. It’s to wish to live as though one is dead. Life is dynamic, life is tension, life is friction, life is full of challenges and difficulties and immensities. (“Life isn’t pleasure, it’s constant struggle driven on by relentless tension.” – Richard Rose). Life is about learning how to swim and survive amidst churning roiling waters—even amidst the occasional class 5 and 6 rapids. That’s the type of peace I would pray for or affirm—and what I would wish for everyone—the type of peace and confidence and composure and grace and courage and equanimity that comes from having learned how to swim well in choppy swollen seas with 30 to 40-foot waves occasionally crashing all around and over us.

Because true peace will never come from sitting on the beach in life, avoiding the water, avoiding challenges and difficulties.

Such a peace will always be a fragile and tenuous peace. We will always be secretly fearing the next wave, the next hit, the next difficulty. And that fear will wear on us, make us small, make us weak—

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

– Rilke, “The Man Watching”

Yet what so many people seem to want is to immure themselves in a safe small secure life of little victories and little comforts and pleasures. So many people say “peace” and what they are really saying is “avoidance” and “comfort”—they’re pleading for an easier less stressful life.

And they do seek this easier life without ever really considering whether what they need most is not less stress but better ways of dealing with stress and better ways of managing themselves and their emotions and fears and anxieties.

To me, this is what “peace” is shorthand for—the desire to rise to the occasion and become a better and more skillful mariner, it’s not a prayer for smoother and easier seas.

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for lighter loads, but for a stronger back. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” – Phillips Brooks

Don’t wish things were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom. For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to be better.” – Jim Rohn

Real peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to deal with conflict maturely and squarely and without being knocked out of our center. This is the essence of differentiation.

If we attract only peace (as in the absence of conflict) daily into our lives, soon we will atrophy and soften into a puddle. We don’t gain physical strength or future strengths by attracting only peace or ease or comfort into our lives but by taking on difficulties and by finding a proper balance between pushing and exerting ourselves and resting and recovering.

Attracting peace, in the sense of comfort and ease, sometimes, and as part of a balanced spiritual diet makes sense. But attracting peace nonstop 24/7 in the way that Dr. Dyer seems to be using the word, amounts to spiritual escapism. It’s the psychological and spiritual equivalent of wanting to munch on Twinkies 24/7.

And that does not a skillful sailor or spiritual warrior make.

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