tranquility first



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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 to peace.

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 way.

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 produces tranquility.

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.

more articles on meditation

articles on buddhism for the 21st century

Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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