Sometimes, reading a book can be a profound meditation in itself — an experience where warmth and solitude merge together to soothe your whole being.
Such is The Deepest Peace: Contemplations from a Season of Stillness by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Both an offering and meditation, her prose is rich with insights into transformation and mysteries of life and death.
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes:
There were many earth-shattering moments that shook my core and opened me to the importance of life. Within each quaking there was the inherent silence and stillness of being. In the worst of times, there was a Zen that was not religious or philosophical, but an unshakable presence, in which my eyes and heart were open in the middle of the uncontrollable events of life. Suddenly, life was like water-colors, spreading and dripping off the paper’s edge. There was nothing to do but silently watch the colorful droplets of life fall. In the falling was peace — the letting go that comes without effort.
The city let go of me and I moved to the desert of New Mexico. I packed my things and left many friends and family back in California. It was an escape of sorts — not the kind void of responsibility, but an escape from the danger of concrete on the body, from being haunted by random violence, from the quick race to death I had joined. The desert of New Mexico, twenty minutes outside of Santa Fe, brought me a wide-open sky to contemplate, alone in a season of stillness.
I had made efforts at making peace. But “making peace” requires an idea and then action upon that idea. It’s not the same peace I speak of here. The peace being expressed in these writings doesn’t come from the mind, the lips, or from gentle actions. It doesn’t come from legislation made by governments or peacemaking movements. It’s a peace that appears without effort. Like the desert filling up my eyes. It appears like snow, wind, or rain. Peace arrives on its own if I don’t resist it.
During years of chanting and meditation, the habit of fighting against what was in front of me rose and dissolved like waves in an ocean. There were times when I asked questions, critiqued, and took action. And there were times when confusion took over, the mind doubled down on itself. The only thing to do during those times was to breathe and be still. The body knows when to do this. Stillness is inherent. After suffering and resistance, the only thing left is contemplation of life and after contemplation, stillness, and after stillness, peace.
Noting that harmony within and harmony without are interconnected, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes:
Be still. These words are full. The digestion slow. Try a sentence or two every minute, pause, and resume. There is no need to rush to the end. The experience of reading meditatively will create the silence needed to hear. Your own experience of the deepest peace will arise and be shared, through your life, with your friends, family, community, and the world — one drop of color at a time.
You will find yourself returning to The Deepest Peace again and again.