I love when I get a chance to leave the house early for work because I get to experience the twilight, that time of morning before dawn when the sky is dark, but tinged with awakening. Purple, orange, and mauve watercolor is blasted against a deep blue canvas, and as the minutes pass, chiaroscuro dots the horizon. During my drive this morning, as the sky lifted me into its bosom, I experienced a peculiar peace. It was a peace that I once knew.
When my siblings and I were younger and my mom had to leave early for work, she would drop us off at grandma’s house before daybreak. We would fall into grandma’s den or living room couch, and by the time we awoke, the sun would just begin to push through the clouds. Grandma has had cream colored curtains for as long as I can remember, and I can recall a particular morning when I awoke and stood in the middle of her living room. I was very young, 8 or 9, and I was staring at grandma’s white curtains. There was a soft, diffused radiance streaming in from the morning while glowing beams of light pierced through the gaps in the drapes. Sunbeams fell to the floor like little snowflakes and disappeared into the carpet.
I don’t know how long I stood there observing this scene but what I will always remember is the feeling of complete and utter peace that I felt. The sense of joy and safety I felt in that space, and at other times, was a transcendence that unfortunately diminished over the years, and an experience that I have longed to relive.
It seems that most of what we humans do on this planet is a groping, sometimes awkwardly, for transcendence. The experience is different for everyone, but the feeling is always the same. We work hard, make money, look for mates, join clubs, exercise, go to church, celebrate birthdays, create art, all in an attempt to gain a semblance of that peace that we once were, even if we do not consciously remember it. Some of the baser aspects of our condition – deception, manipulation, aggression, violence – are clumsy attempts to gather at this same place. They represent forgetfulness.
We don’t search for a peace that we have never felt; we wouldn’t know to desire it. We yearn for peace because we’ve known it. And we know deep down that it is the only thing that is real and valuable. Every now and again, we get a snapshot of joy that reminds us of what is possible. It may be a smell or a song or a conversation that takes us to a place of timelessness; a moment when we are buzzing with grace. Today, it was the beauty of the morning.
Jesus is quoted in the Gospels as telling his listeners to be as little children. This was not a reference to mental and emotional immaturity, but rather to children’s well-developed sense of presence. And it is so well-developed because it is inherent. It is natural. It is how we are born.
Children come here with the natural inclination to live in the Now. Whether eating a slice of watermelon, licking an ice cream cone, rolling around a matchbox car, playing with a stick, or watching the sun through grandma’s curtains, the peace that we remember was often felt as children because we were closer to no-mind and no-time. Without all the thoughts and judgments and descriptions, and without the sense of strict linear movement, we lived Now. In the background of stillness and silence – the place where peace and love lives – sprang a vibrant creativity.
So we now understand that what we seek is so significant not because it is a discovery of something new and foreign, but rather a recovery of Who We Are. We now understand that what we seek is not to be found in things, but in the mystery. It is in the eternal space between the high and the low. It is behind the good and the bad. It is in the quiet stillness, and the very present. And it is Now. If I can slightly alter Jesus’ command to the wailing storm, I would say
“Peace? Be still. BE still.”