Butterfly Landings

Each one has to find peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

–Mahatma Gandhi

This morning, just before the sun came up, I took my dog Lacey for a long walk on the beach. The wind was whipping as a cold front approached, and swirls of sand blew high into the air from time to time.

About 15-20 minutes into the walk, I realized that I had been blissfully lost in a world of complete peace. My typically-noisy mind had apparently gone radio-silent, and there was just one beautiful, seamless flow of life. There was no me at the center of it all. There was no separatation between me and the sounds of the crashing waves or the sea gulls' squawks; no me that was separate from the sea spray or the cumulus clouds rolling in from the west. For those blissful 15 to 20 minutes, there was one impeccable flow of energy—arising, morphing, and dancingand I was simply part of that effortless flow.

I often describe these unexpected moments of absolute peace as "butterfly landings." They tend to come in the most ordinary moments, when you least expect them; when you're not striving to have them. They come when you're immersed in lifewhen you're "in the zone" playing your favorite sport or your favorite piano concerto, or when you're lost in a good book or an engaging conversation. I call these moments of deep peace "butterfly landings" because they happen by gracenot by striving to have them--and because they tend to be brief, lasting for seconds, hours, or, in rare occasions, days.

The "butterfly landing" moments are often felt as a physiological shift in the body; a sense of deep relaxation; a knowing that all is well. In those moments, apparent problems fall away, and lifeeven for a single breathfeels simple, kind, and inherently safe. Your mind's concepts of judgment and separation temporarily dissolve, and you are one with the flow of life. You are the flow of life.

Naturally, your human mind wants to harness these moments of absolute peace. After all, human minds have been conditioned to believe that sustainable peace must be held captive and protected at all cost. There will be no shortage of suggestions from the little story-maker in your head, encouraging you to keep that precious butterfly of peace pinned to your shoulder forever.

But, that's not the design. Butterfly landings are not meant to be permanent.

With a single, unexpected tug from Lacey's leash, 20 minutes into my walk, my metaphorical butterfly was gone. In an instant, my mind was fully back online. The tranquility of being in the flow of life disappeared and the illusion of stark separation returned.

The mental chatter that had been delightfully silent rushed back in to remind me of the errands that needed to be run, the breakfast that needed to be cooked, the emails waiting for replies, and the worries that needed to be carefully monitored.

My mind instinctively began to do what all minds tend to do: search for that amazing feeling of peace in hopes that it might come back. Here's how it played out in my spinning, seeking, striving mind:

How did I get that deep peace at the beginning of my walk? Oh! It was the sunrise! Quick, stare at the sunrise and be awe-struck by its beauty.

Damn. Nothing. No deep sense of peace there. No awe either. Just an orange ball in a pink sky.

What about the cup of coffee waiting back at the beach house? I love my morning cup of coffee! It's so delicious and wonderful and...

Shit. Not there either. Where in the hell is that peace?

Oh, I know! Quick, be grateful for my three healthy daughters and loving husband. That'll do it! Yes, gratitude is the ticket! I love my daughters so much; they are so kind and thoughtful and...wait! Did Megan ever return my text? I haven't heard from her in more than a day. Is she even OK. Oh, God, what if Megan's not OK? 

I'm giggling as I type this because this is just what minds tend to do. This universal, normal mind-behavior is so beautifully HUMAN!

Your efficient, protective little mind has been conditioned to think of peace as a commodity worthy of chasing and stockpiling. It insists that if you simply choose positive thoughts, happy stories, and good feelings, then you can summon butterfly landings at will. Better yet, you can pin-down their proverbial wings forever.

But peacetrue, sustainable, imperturbable peaceis not found in chasing and striving. It's not found in figuring-out or pinning-down. In fact, the mind's striving, figuring-out, and pinning-down are the VERY THINGS covering up the peace that is already present.

Peacethe deep peace that surpasses the understanding of the human intellectis the backdrop onto which our thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and experiences occur. It is the space in which all fleeting, ephemeral human experience is held. True peace is not the absence of a chatty, spinning mind or the presence of a butterfly landing. It's the deep knowing that all experiencethe experience your mind loves (hello, butterfly landings!) AND the experience your mind hates (hello, confusion, overwhelm, and shame!) are equally in service of you. All human experienceincluding your sped-up, overactive mind that is programmed to search for peace "out there"is part of the perfect design to help wake you up to your truest self.

I like to think of those little butterfly landings as brief glimpses into the truth of life. For those few moments while your little narrator is offline, you are no longer the main character of your mind-created movie. Instead, there is simply a beautiful unfolding of lights, shadows, and colors, all dancing brilliantly on a disappearing screen.

It's in these moments that Life, in its infinite kindness and intelligence, pulls the curtains back to give you a momentary peek behind the scenesbeyond what your limited mind has the capacity to comprehend. And the view is breathtaking. There are no words or concepts to capture the magnificence of the truth beyond the veil of your mind's conditioned ideas and concepts.

When the butterfly leaves you and the curtains close again, your mind may insist that the breathtaking magnificence has gone. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

What if Life, in its infinite kindness and intelligence, temporarily closes the curtains to give you an opportunity to see more deeply and assuredly that all human experience is arising, moment by moment, in service of you? Perfectly in service of your waking-up to your true nature. What if you could trust that, beyond your mind's ability to comprehend, this very moment, exactly as it is arising, is deeply OK?



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