Maintaining inner peace through right speech and action

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

The Dalai Lama
Photo by Sunilkumar Krishnamoorthy on Pexels.com

When I read this quote by the Dalai Lama, I thought about the times that I’ve lost my patience and said or done something that I immediately regretted. The embarrassment and guilt from those types of situations can sit with me for days while I rehash them in my mind and wonder about possible outcomes.

Obviously, there’s another problem there of living in the past instead of living in the present, which isn’t healthy on its own, but all actions have consequences. I think this is something the Buddha was aware of and is an important part of the idea of karma. The things we say and do that we might wish we could take back not only create guilt and bad feelings between us and other people, but, according to Buddhist teachings, they also add negative karma which can come back to visit us in this life or the next.

So, sure, live in the present, but it’s also important to help that along by not doing things that anchor us in the past. In other words, spending more time listening and thinking before speaking or doing so that we don’t get stuck in a cycle of worry and anxiety. I’m not saying that to preach to anyone. It’s more of a personal reflection and a reminder to myself to be vigilant as a means of improving my mental clarity, focus, and quality of sleep.

I’ve come to believe that simplicity is best, and the simplifying process doesn’t have to be restricted to discarding or giving away unused goods, it can also be a simplification of mental burdens by removing unnecessary worries and stresses by doing and saying the right things at all times. It’s like that old adage about not lying, so you don’t have to maintain the mental burden of remembering which lies you’ve told to which people.

As for what the right thing to do and say is, well, that’s more subjective and depends on context.

A book about a guy catching a fish

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

I never thought I’d be this interested in a book that is all about a guy on his boat catching a fish. Of course, there are themes about the importance of community, tradition, dedication, and the reality that hard work sometimes ends in failure, but it’s really just a book about some guy getting into his boat and trying to reel in a fish for almost 100 pages.

And it was amazing.

I’ve read almost 800 books, not counting comics and manga and portions of books that I read for college, and after a while it seems like almost all books are basically the same story, just in different settings and with differently named characters, so it’s nice to read something a bit different for a change. I’m finding that I want to read classic literature more now when I want a novel because the books that have lasted tend to be books that focus on human nature and the human condition and I appreciate that the books are offering something deeper and more meaningful to me than just entertainment.

“You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?”

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Man’s life is as a point… ever flowing

The time of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful; to be brief, as a stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul.

Marcus Aurelius

This is an interesting quote. I haven’t finished reading The Meditations or much about Aurelius’s life, so I don’t think I understand it fully, but it seems as though he’s saying that who we are physically and mentally changes from moment to moment and that we are all moving inexorably towards death.

I think it’s important to remember that people change over time and that the total time we have is fleeting. I’m not the same person I was 25 years ago and I won’t be the person I am today in 25 years, or even tomorrow. I do wonder if we should be struggling to make sure that every little thing we do is incredibly meaningful, though. I don’t know if that would make life more meaningful or just stressful. Sometimes it’s good to relax and enjoy frivolous things.

This art called life…

True understanding is to see the events of life in this way: ‘You are here for my benefit, though rumor paints you otherwise.’ And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this: You are the very thing I was looking for. Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art– and this art called ‘life’ is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher

This is a really cool and healthy way of looking at life. As much as possible, I’d like to cultivate this attitude in myself.

Trying to Approach the Day with the Right Mindset

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.

Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, ~170 – 180 CE

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Stoicism and came across this quote by Marcus Aurelius. It’s a very grounding message.

We should understand people’s bad behavior to be a normal, inherent part of life and living in a society. Rather than be affected, we should make sure that we continue to do the right thing and press on, understanding that people who behave badly are coming from a place of ignorance. And rather than retaliating or getting into a confrontation, we should continue to do our best because it is in the best interest of all involved, including ourselves.

Or at least, that’s what I understood from the quote. I’m not there yet, but it seems like a nice goal to work towards. Basically, not letting other people’s BS affect me and continuing to strive for excellence.