The Unlikely Path to Inner Peace

I just finished reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a story of a man who sets out on a journey, both metaphorical and literal, in search of inner peace and acceptance. A friend, after hearing about “the boxed set series” project I’m working on, recommended the novel as a complementary “research tool.”

It was a good suggestion.

Harold is in his mid-sixties when he receives a letter from a former colleague – a terminally ill woman with whom we understand from the beginning he has unfinished business. On his way to the post office, to drop off a return letter to the woman, he instead decides to deliver the message himself, by journeying on foot across England.

In addition to the truisms delivered throughout the book – wisdom worthy of highlighters and stars in the margins – I walked away with a sense of hope … and of more time. After all, if I am facing and acknowledging my past now at 39, I’m a few steps ahead of Harold, aren’t I? Doesn’t this mean I might actually find my inner peace SOON?

I smile even as I write the words. I know how silly this mindset is – how contrary it is to the intention of finding inner peace.

“Finding it” requires work.  “Soon” implies a deadline. Neither of which allows for the relief that I associate with inner peace. Did I learn nothing from Harold Fry? My imaginary book club asks me right now.

What I did learn from Harold is that we always think we are wiser than we are; that “now” we finally get “it.” And this is where we trip up.

At least, this is where I trip up.

So often, I cringe at or even attack my younger self, as if I am oh-so-much-wiser now than I was then. (I’m not.)

As if I am not making the exact same mistakes now that I did then — just with different supporting characters, and saggier boobs. (I am.)

What if the way to inner peace actually is acknowledging we will never truly be wise? Just more aware. Just more willing to learn from our past and from our present. Just more compassionate of ourselves and others when we trip up (again and again and again).

And what if the work to do was actually not such hard work? What if the assignment was to simply be more open to not knowing.

Not knowing the way to inner peace; and saying, “cool.”

Allowing for the possibility of finding it in unexpected places, faces, and moments.

***

I imagine a fat, happy Buddha smiling at me and nodding.

“Yes, my young padawan, that is Buddhism 101.”

What can I say? I’m a slow learner.

Very, very unwise, indeed.

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6 thoughts on “The Unlikely Path to Inner Peace

  1. And, to paraphrase Kabat-Zinn’s: Waking up from “dreams” and being in touch with them goes hand in hand with what we might call “wisdom”, a seeing more deeply into cause and effect and the interconnectedness of things, so that we are no longer caught in a dream-dictated reality of our own creation. Very nice post, Jen.

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  2. I also really loved the book. I think I could relate to Harold Fry because he was someone about my age who was finally confronting his past and finding the courage to take actions to change his future. Maybe we don’t need to actively search for inner peace–maybe it finds you when you can accept who you are, are aware of the blessings in your life, find fulfillment in your choices and feel content being encircled by the love of family, friends and community. Thanks, Jen, for giving me time to reflect…

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    • Thanks Judy. I trust your wisdom. I am definitely trying to live more with uncertainty. And to be more accepting of who I am not, rather than grimace at who I used to be or strive to be someone different. It’s not easy, but it’s intentional. 🙂

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  3. At 51 I think I am wiser than I was at 20 or 30 precisely because I have fewer certainties – I am convinced of much less – and there is freedom in that, if not always inner peace. There is definitely more happiness and less of that “Russian style” anguish that trailed me for many years. Lovely post.

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