Oprah asked Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, in an interview, “Are you enlightened? And if so, does that mean you’re happy all of the time?”
His response was, “Well, no . . . I’d prefer to call it peaceful aliveness.”
I knew what he meant — not that I’M enlightened — but because I could recall when I felt my best and that wasn’t necessarily in my most elated, euphoric moments.
Mainly because those kind of happy moments are fleeting and transitory—they pass by quickly and we return to our daily lives.
I felt my ABSOLUTE best when I was my steadiest, clearest, and most relaxed.
My Buddhist teacher taught me that, while meditating, there were two “knobs” (like on an inner-stereo) for us to fine tune: excitation and torpor.
Excitation is when we’re aroused and revved up; our nervous system is overstimulated. Our opportunity is to turn the knob down a touch to find even ground.
Torpor is when we’re slacking, lethargic, sluggish, or lazy. Here, we have an opportunity to dial the knob back up to focus — like splashing your face with cold water.
The point is to find a calm, abiding equanimity.
Or, in laymen’s terms, balance.
HERE’S A LITTLE BUDDHIST TEACHING (JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT):
In a meditation practice called Shamatha, there are nine stages called the jhanas.
(Forget the Pali/Sanskrit words if you want. It’s not important, but their essence is interesting.)
For our purposes here, I’m only going to address the first four stages of the jhanas in a simplified version:
Once you become really focused and absorbed on the object of your meditation (like your breath, a visualization, a mantra, a spot under your nose, or whatever it may be) . . .
You encounter the 1st stage when the palms of your hands or parts of your body start TINGLING.
In the 2nd stage, you fill your heart with love for yourself and all beings and that, combined with the electricity you feel in your body, you experience a kind of ECSTASY.
In the 3rd stage, you drop the “body feeling” and stay in your heart center, finding a lovely space of CONTENTMENT when you don’t need anything or to be anywhere except for right there.
In the 4th stage, you let go of contentment and what happens next feels like falling into a deep snow bank, or dropping down to the bottom of a well.
This stage is EQUANIMITY — it’s that place of peaceful-aliveness that Eckhart Tolle was talking about.
Guess which stage the Buddha was in when he reached enlightenment?
Yep! The 4th.
NOT in the buzz, NOT in ecstasy, NOT in pure contentment, but in a beautiful place of serenity, like “nothingness”.
Nothingness doesn’t mean you feel nothing. You feel vibrant. But your mind isn’t involved.
The heightened feelings or the stuck, heavy states have vanished and you’re level.
It sort of seems like a big bummer, yes?
If you’re like me, I thought my whole goal in life was to be happy. Only to then grow up and find out, our true happiness lies in simple peace.
Can you remember times when you felt this way?
A summer day taking a walk around a lake?
A cup of tea and a good book wrapped in a blanket by fire on a winter evening?
A day at work when everything just seemed to flow without drama, stress, or anxiety?
What does peaceful-aliveness mean for you? How might you cultivate it? And how might this change a need to strive for happiness?
Isn’t it refreshing? In actuality, we don’t have to DO anything or GET anything to live our best life.
Wishing you a week of peace!