When the mind is troubled, how does one successfully shift to a place of peace? Perhaps the magical number 3 offers a hint.
On my walk this morning I was brooding over angry thoughts. I’d push them away, turn my attention to the world around me, and very quickly the thoughts would return. There was nothing that could be done in the moment to address the issue that was causing the anger, so it was a matter of dealing with the emotions and not the situation.
Since I was so uninspired I decided to make it a short walk and returned to my door. But, second-thoughts stalled me in the entryway. I was giving up too soon, I realized; a longer walk, not shorter one, was what I needed.
Not much changed in my mood, as I stared at my feet walking down the sidewalk, lost in my thoughts. But, as frequently happens, I lifted my head just in time; the sight I found before me was this wonderful peace sign embedded in someone’s lawn:
Struck by its beauty and the intention of those who created it, I was immediately uplifted. With my mood lightened, my head no long bowed in thought, and my pace quickened, I turned the corner. A few houses down that block I encountered – another peace sign…
So, now I’m laughing. I love how the universe works.
But, I say to myself, “the third time’s a charm – let’s see if I encounter a third peace sign” – rather playfully challenging the universe to bring me another one.
A bit further down the street I stopped to admire this bit of landscaping. As I gazed upon it I realized that, intentional or not, the plantings within the brick circle took the form of the peace sign. The picture doesn’t capture it, (and I didn’t want to step into their yard to get a better shot) but the tall plants to the left form the top spoke and the feathery plants to the right fanned out like the bottom spokes of the peace sign, encircled by the bricks:
Now, I’m no longer laughing, but feeling a reverent gratitude, and a deep sense of peace.
The three peace signs caused me to consider the three layers of the mind, the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious. Briefly defined, these are 1) one’s awareness at the present moment, 2) stored memories that are readily accessible, and 3) instinctual drives, buried memories, psychological conditioning, and emotional wounds that can drive our behaviors.
To intentionally quell a turbulent mind and attain a state of equanimity requires more than just working on the first level. If necessary, we can push away or replace thoughts to stay present with other matters, but we are essentially suppressing what’s churning underneath. And as long as it’s still churning, it can repeatedly bubble up into to our thoughts, no matter how many times we try to put them on the back burner.
Through one technique or another, one can bring peace to each of these levels, until it resonates at the core of one’s being.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti