One of my friends and I joke about how each time another ‘opportunity for growth and development’ presents itself, we whisper ‘thank you’. Both of us have practiced this way long enough to know how beneficial challenges can be for us, so we make the most of them. I have known him since my early 20’s, and so I can readily see the effects of this exercise. He is distinguishable from the person I used to know, just as much as I have very little in common with the young woman he once knew. This is the way our lives are intended to evolve.

Some people don’t like the idea that we are here to develop and evolve. It cannot be proven, yet it is my belief. When I was attending a Buddhist temple, one of my friends there recounted a conversation he had with someone else who asked him, “What if you’re wrong?” He replied, “Isn’t it a beautiful way to live?”

I much prefer it to how I was thinking when I fit into our broader cultural cognitive mold. Those years, following the narrative of our overarching societal patterns, were painful and full of unresolved anger. Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” If our problem was created in our mind, literally with our thinking, we cannot apply the same reasoning and expect conditions to improve. Misery created misery; it must be deconstructed with something else.

During the time period I was a beginning meditator and first studying Buddhism, I was going through a period of overwhelming loss. It was a ripe opportunity for learning and application of those principles. At the same time, I was spending a significant amount of time with a group of very gracious women in their 90’s. They were poised and serene. I thought surely, they were like monks, seeming to walk over rice paper and not creating a wrinkle. I set them in my mind as a template of what I would like to be. I am still working toward that goal, and it should keep me engaged for many years.

If a person wants to achieve a peaceful mind, aside from meditation, I highly recommend studying Buddhist philosophy because it flips the script. Problems become opportunities. People and situations are what they are. Generosity in assessment of others is expected. Nothing is permanent. Attachment and grasping, possessiveness and greed, insisting things be a certain way, causes suffering. Let it go. Compassion and constantly cherishing all living beings is the highest ideal one can master. Gentle speech and behavior become the norm, and harming another in any way should be avoided. Learning how to focus on the breath helps regulate emotional states. Meditation changes your mind and opens the heart, and dedicated practitioners become more peaceful, loving, compassionate, generous, and poised. I believe it is true, and it works. It takes practice to change your mind. There is no magic wand.

Yet, no one can compel another to adopt practices which do not resonate deep within, or strive to attain them. Either this ideology stirs longing when it is heard or repulsion. The decision belongs to each of us to choose the way of the world or the way of peace.

For more information on my wellness and transformational change programs, visit my site at www.theomshanty.com. More classes will be coming soon. I hope to get to know you, and interface through my blog. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. (Peace in body, mind, and spirit.)