Earth Day arrived in an earth-shattering week in the United States – an historic verdict, more horrific killings of Black people. Today I listened to Ruth King and Zenju Earthlyn Manuel talk about accessing peace. In her new book, The Deepest Peace: Contemplations from a Season of Stillness, Zenju turns her heart towards the earth:
“Many times I have testified of my suffering and written at length on race, gender, sexual orientation, and homelessness. Before I die, I must speak of peace. Life has not been all torment in this dark and mysterious body. And yet torment and peace are not separate. They come together in a world that pulls you toward violence and bends you down to pray for peace. Peace is there all along. In awakening to peace, the teachings of the earth have been beneficial for me…
[I walk in nature.] I see half-eaten birds and the dried bones of an animal unknown to me. It’s clear, in this peaceful desert, that peace is not the opposite of violence. Peace is in violence. It can only be seen by the open eyes of awareness…The experience of peace I’m discovering in the desert had always been with me in the city. I hadn’t let it in. 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.”
To learn more about Zenju, go to: zenju.org/about