DO YOU THINK IT IS possible to live your
life as if deep tranquility were your first priority? Immediately
you may think it's not practical. You would become a wimp. You
would be ineffective. You wouldn't get anything done. But that's
not so. That is a kind of thinking you have been given. You didn't
carefully think that one through and come to that conclusion
on your own. And you haven't tried it first and discovered it
didn't work. So for the moment, let's suspend our preconceived
notions and explore this.
First, an analogy. When you are settling
down for a plane flight, the attendant gives instructions on
what to do in case of an emergency. One of the things they'll
tell you is if you have an infant, you need to use the oxygen
mask first. Then give your baby a breath on it. Why? Because
that is the only way it will work. If you give one to your baby
first, you might pass out, and if you are passed out, you could
both die. You must stay alive and awake so you can keep
your baby alive. It's just pure logic.
In the same way, it is pure logic that
if you want to be happy and if you want the people around you
to be happy, tranquility in your own bodymind must come first.
Your own inner peace must come first because every interaction
you have is strongly influenced by your inner state and your
inner state radiates out to others and influences their
inner states. No matter how well you control your facial muscles
and body language and tone of voice, you cannot prevent your
inner state from radiating out from you and affecting others.
But what about being ineffective in this
dog-eat-dog world? What will happen if you have tranquility as
your first priority? You will still get things done. But you
will do your work with the purpose of maintaining and deepening
the tranquility. So the main purpose of doing laundry, for example,
is not to get the clothes clean or get it over quickly. The main
intention while doing anything is to maintain or deepen
the state of tranquility. It is done in whatever way will lead
I've tried this. It makes me move slower.
I don't get quite as much done per hour. Aha! But wait. I also
don't waste a lot of time on useless activities. And my actions
are more thought-out because I'm not rushing from one thing to
another without taking the time to think. So my actions are fewer
but they're higher quality, and I'm happier. And the people around
me are happier. It works. And it works better than the other
Just give it a try. In practical terms,
this will mean that if you're tranquil at the moment, all you
need to do is decide what to do next and do it with the purpose
of deepening your inner peace. But if you're not tranquil at
the moment, your only purpose is to become so. Meditation is a good first choice. If you
can't meditate at the moment, take a deep breath, relax any tense
muscles you have, and think about your situation in a way that
Maintain the clarity (with continual reinforcement)
that living in tranquility is your top priority and focus. Even
above success or helping others. Then go about your business
working toward success and helping others in the spirit of maintaining
your tranquility while doing so.
The Buddha said something well worth thinking
about. He was a teacher, giving public discourses in many different
places, and people would often ask him about whether or not God
exists or whether the universe had a beginning or has always
existed. Buddha didn't answer these questions. He said that speculating
about these questions doesn't help you attain inner peace.
That's an interesting point of view, don't
you think? I mean, if anyone asked me my opinion about anything,
I would be glad to give it. But maybe that attitude isn't very
helpful if what I want to attain is a deep calm.
When I get into a discussion over these
essentially unanswerable questions, I get worked up. Inevitably.
Opinions get thrown about with some degree of certainty and disagreements
are bound to pop up. You can argue and debate endlessly on these
questions and never really get anywhere. Meanwhile, you've agitated
yourself. You have not only not moved toward peace and
freedom, you have moved away.
But it is not just these questions that
are worth looking at. Look at the point of view Buddha is in.
He is interested in doing only what leads to tranquility. Imagine
what your life would be like if that was your criteria.
What if when you were trying to decide on something you did whatever
leads to serenity?
What if the underlying purpose in everything
you did was to develop or maintain or deepen a state of tranquility?
What if you went through your normal day, doing your normal work,
but with the small added intention that tranquility comes first?
I think you can see it might be worth a try.
Put tranquility first.