A Place for Cafe Refugees and Others Like Them

I’d like to start something new, this week, wherein one of us – every Monday – comes up with a quote for the week and adds a bit of our own insight to it.  Of course, it’s already Tuesday here on the East Coast, but that’s beside the point.

The quote I’d like to share this week is from Gandhi:

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

Now, I have a really hard time with this one, for some reason.  Which is why I chose it.  I don’t think I have a problem finding peace from within sometimes, but letting it be unaffected by outside circumstance is where I have issues.

Then again, I’m not sure that I don’t have a problem finding peace from within, now that I think about it.  Like – and don’t laugh – I sometimes feel moments of peace sitting here in my apartment on a quiet weekend, just looking at my cats sleep.  I look around at the walls that surround me, the roof over my head, my books in the bookshelves, and my cats sleeping on the floor and I feel as blessed as an agnostic can feel blessed.  I feel safe, I feel comfortable, I feel that in these moments there is a stillness and a sense of safety that nothing can breach.

But then, I realize that I am finding a sense of peace from walls.  Creature comforts.  The bills that I’m able to pay even though I’m still not fully employed, I get a sense of peace when I pay them and mark them paid and file them away in my file of paid bills….but that peace is simply peace of mind, knowing a bill collector won’t call me.  That peace is shattered when I think of all those people who can’t pay their bills this month.  Or last month.  Or next month.  And that peace is shattered when I think that I may be the one who can’t pay the bills two months from now.  Goodbye bookshelves, walls, cats.

And then I get panicky, and I turn to a friend and say I’m a little worried, even though I know that friend can’t help.  Or I write a new blog post in order to feel that I’m doing something to help the situation somehow.  Or I write to my Rep, or my Senator, or my mother, or….anyone who will listen.

And I forget the peaceful feeling that I originally felt, having watched my cats sleep while dust motes float above them in the rays of sunlight coming through the windows.  I forget how lovely it is to watch their bellies rise and fall as they breathe in, contentedly sleeping in the home I have been able to provide them after taking them from the shelter where they thought they’d spend the rest of their lives in cages.  I forget that no matter what happens to me financially, I have moved across the country twice with barely anything in my wallet but hope, and I have survived.

Outside influences worry me to the point where I forget how to find my inner peace.  My inner peace, however, when I finally regain it, reminds me that outside influences are not necessary to my inner peace.

I hope that makes sense.  It makes sense to my cats, at any rate.  And I’d like to hear, from you all, how this quote affects you.  How you gain your inner peace, and how you keep outside influences from affecting it.  Please share.  I hope to learn from you.

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Comments on: "Quote of the Week – A New Series" (25)

  1. Ghandi spent a great deal of time meditating and exploring his own inner thoughts and was careful not to leave any stone unturned. The internal truth of oneself, when you know it, accept it and are sure of your motivation, relieves you of requiring approval of your peers. We are all capable of reaching moral judgements but not until we make the effort to find peace with ourselves.

    The honesty this requires cannot be had outside of oneself. This may be, in part a selfishness, but is more an acknowledgement that we cannot know another man’s soul.

    In theory, we should not need someone else to confirm for us right from wrong and all the shades in between. If we do, it may mean our motivations are suspect.

  2. TCM was showing Fail Safe the other day, which is based on a book about nuclear deterrence gone awry – sort of a serious companion to Dr Strangelove. I read the book a long time ago, and the authors gave a lot of backstory to their major characters. One of them was an airman taking a class from a Buddhist, who taught that what we thought of as life was unreal. The character asked if the Buddhist believed that thousands of Japanese had been killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Buddhist said, No. The airman dropped the class.

    Gandhi’s quote does not say that the outside world in unreal, but seems to want us to proceed, to find peace, as if outside circumstance can’t affect us. That’s a tall order in our interconnected Western world. If you interpret it as developing some core personality that can deal with both success and adversity, as in Kipling’s If, it makes sense to me.

    • Good point, about it being hard to make outside circumstances not affect us here in the Western world. Seems most of us are bogged down by information overload even when we don’t actively seek out information. For instance, on those days when I just can’t handle reading or hearing the news, I keep the TV off, and I go online just to catch up on my emails — only to have news headlines at my home page distract me. And then I finally get to my inbox and I have 20 emails from various organizations like OFA and MoveOn and the ACLU and….the list goes on. Of course, I could simply turn the computer off, but….hey, we’re talking ME here, lol…I practically live online.

  3. I was trying to think of another way to help you with this Lis. Then it occurred to me that we are the final arbiter of our own soul.

    • Well said. I like that. My fear is that far too many people do not take the time to dissect the information they take in. They just readily accept it and adopt it as their own, making it part of their belief system. I know I’ve been guilty of it. But in this particular instance, using Republicans who watch Fox News as an example, I wish that they could be more discerning.

  4. ~flowerchild~ said:

    Since it is International Day of Peace, my avatar serves twice today. 🙂 I shall be back after pondering the Quote of the Week.

  5. I once heard a quote from the Dali Lama that seems to fit this, so I just googled it and found the whole passage. Here it is;

    We can never obtain peace in the world if we neglect the inner world and don’t make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop out of inner peace. Without inner peace it is impossible to achieve world peace, external peace. Weapons themselves do not act. They have not come out of the blue. Man has made them. But even given those weapons, those terrible weapons, they cannot act by themselves. As long as they are left alone in storage they cannot do any harm. A human being must use them. Someone must push the button. Satan, the evil powers, cannot push that button. Human beings must do it.

    I agree that no matter how much one may profess a desire for peace, that peace cannot be fully realized until one is at peace with themselves. And to be at peace with oneself is to find harmony and calm *despite* the discord of the outside world.

    I wonder if it is even possible to remain *unaffected* by outside circumstances. But I think if one searches their own soul and refuses to act on these outside circumstances that do not wish for peace, then they are achieving an inner peace in spite of those circumstances. If enough people achieve inner peace there will be no one to make use of the terrible weapons of war that the Dali Lama spoke of in this quote.

  6. When I am feeling close to God (those times when I find myself communing with Him many times a day) I have that sense of peace you are describing…the one where all hell can be breaking loose, but you still feel calm, serene.

    It has been awhile since I have felt it. Since I began feeling disgust with my fellow Christians politically, I have found myself drifting away from God, as well. I know He (and that sense of peace) are there waiting for me. I don’t know what I’m waiting for.

  7. The “unaffected by outside circumstances” part is especially challenging to embrace in the context of Gandhi’s practice of non-violent resistance. To not lash out when provoked is a form of combat when the enemy rules through provocation. To struggle in this manner takes practice and discipline, those elements are necessary in any martial art. The boot camp in Gandhi’s sense of struggle happens in each person.

    It happens that I am trying to learn a martial art that involves a lot of meditation. The meditation is the most gentle and unsympathetically demanding of drill sergeants. The practice changes the way things happen. But what I am learning is not “non-violent resistance.”

    I didn’t bring up my personal experience as the basis of a judgment about Gandhi; it was an attempt to measure how far away he is from me. His road is very steep and frightens me.

    • To not strike out when provoked is a very difficult thing for me. One that I plan to work on. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, moat.

      • You realize Lis you ‘strike out’, as in baseball, when you react to the provocation. People who do that have a batting average in life close to zero. And if they’re batting as a proxy for a nation the results can be very bad. Feel familiar?

        • Alas, yes. All too familiar. Time for me to start up the meditation exercises I was trying earlier this summer. Time for me to hone those skills and keep calm, especially with November approaching all too fast.

          Why is it, TPC, that time moves faster as we get older? I think there is a missing formula somewhere, in regards to Age + Time = The Speed of Life.

          • I can remember my dad telling me years and years ago that the days pick up speed the older you get, and I so understand! It used to be the days that slipped by, now it’s the months, and sometimes even the years!

            Time to get out that bucket list! I really am feeling a sense of my own mortality, and the “if not now, when?” thing. Thus my trip to NYC and seeing youse guys!

  8. Hmmm… Great quote:)

    In my experience the place in me where peace resides is always undisturbed. However it gives great deference for my personality/ego to wander to and fro and find its way, express it’s ups and downs etc. They coexist these two… they dance, it is a love affair. How reassuring to always know that no matter what is going on in the world there is a still presence that my personality/ego can rest in or release into that is always complete and at peace.

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