Saturday, 21 September 2013

Peace of Mind

By: James Kyle

Joan lived in New York.

She held down a job in finance that required intelligence, and was rewarded by a substantial income which enabled her to rent an apartment overlooking Central Park. She should have been happy.

She was attractive and still fairly young and she had the freedom to choose from many devoted men friends. She should have been very happy.

She knew that she lived in the greatest city in the world. She should have been exceedingly happy.

She decided to find out why she was not.

She asked an old family friend for advice. The advice she received was not exactly what she had anticipated. Happiness is secondary was his reply. A more effective goal in life is peace of mind which, once attained, invites happiness into one’s life. Joan considered this and accepting the good advice asked how she could obtain such peace of mind. The old man smiled and suggested that this was always available if one knew where to look, but each person must follow their own path to find it.

A few days later Joan turned up for her appointment with the psychoanalyst another friend had recommended. In business she had learned the effective skill of asking directly for what she wanted. So as soon as she walked in the door she asked her question: “How do I find peace of mind?” The psychoanalyst had heard many requests for help in his time, but he could not help but be impressed by the directness of this question. He reassured her that, of course, this was the major goal of all psychological counseling, and that he would be glad to be of service in helping her achieve this. He explained that the process would entail looking at her life history, starting in the womb, up through the various developmental stages, looking for instances of unfinished business that have produced present day personality maladjustments, focusing in particular on id and superego imbalances, while taking care of projection mechanisms on the way. Joan did not fully understand all of this, but one question naturally did come to mind. “And how long will all this take?”

Joan had decided that she did not want to wait four to five years. She also had reservations about giving up $100,000 in the process. She did decide however that she could afford the time to fly out to California and check out the “New Age’ counselor of her best friend from college, who now lived in LA. The same question was put to the counselor. He explained that over the next six months they could use past life regression to work through Joan’s previous earth manifestations, looking for unmindful actions that had induced karmic burden, and work out how to release this karma over the next few lives. “Any memories of being burned at the stake by the way?”

On the hastily rearranged return flight, in one of life’s synchronicities, Joan found herself sitting next to a priest who was flying back to Rome via New York. She seized the opportunity to get a religious perspective on her current dilemma. The priest claimed, naturally enough, that peace of mind was to be found through the belief in the saving grace of the resurrection of the Lord. Inspired by this example of self sacrifice we must all follow our consciences in leading a good life, and confess any sins that we do make along the way. To be forgiven for one’s sins did seem attractive. However focusing on remembering one’s mistakes each week in order to be cleansed of them did seem a bit counter-productive. To her mind some of the concepts had merit but the implementation would have to undergo a good deal of fine tuning before she would be convinced to apply for membership. And giving up birth control was definitely not an attractive incentive.

Having started on posing this question in a religious framework she decided to follow through on this approach. She had air miles in plenty from her many business trips. So she booked a flight to India and arranged an audience with a famous Indian mystic. She asked her question. The guru, in soothing words, invited her to give up all her worldly possessions and live as a hermit in order to achieve inner holiness.

Joan flew out of Dehli airport, tearing up the fund transfer form that she had declined to sign, preferring to find other means to achieve enlightenment than giving her fortune to the guru’s ashram. Over the next few weeks she flew back and forward across many European and Asian countries trying to find an answer to her question. Many religious representatives gave insightful replies but none came up with the answer that offered Joan the breakthrough she required. Wearily she decided to turn back home. But first she would try one last time. So she arranged for her flight to go back via Japan.

The Zen master sat in quiet meditation as she was shown into his presence. Joan asked for an answer one more time, “How do I find peace of mind?” Silence greeted her question. After a short pause Joan asked again. Once more the Zen priest made no reply. “Do you realize the effort I have put in to have that question answered? The fact that I have traveled back and forward all over the world looking for guidance? I think at least I deserve a response.” The silence continued. Joan could feel her anger build up. “Are you going to answer or not?” Silence. How dare this so called holy man just ignore her? She wanted to blame this old man for the feelings of helplessness that started to well up inside her as she realized that her desire to find an answer was about to be frustrated one final time. The Zen priest continued to sit peacefully, in silence. She continued to get more angry inside. The Zen priest continued to sit peacefully, in silence. She wanted so much to express her rage and frustration, pour it out on this old man, but it was hard to do so when he offered no opposition. Just silence.

And right then, in that moment, she understood.

Image courtesy of Pixomar /

No comments :

Post a Comment