The search for inner peace can be daunting. It often seems that long-buried scars from the past seep out from the subconscious, or present dilemmas emerge, when one thinks they have found inner peace. In these all too familiar circumstances, our sense of faith can be severely tested.

What do we make of the fact, then, that one’s quest to find inner peace can be thwarted again and again? Embrace it. Come to know that there will be several moments throughout your life when suffering will appear to challenge your soul’s resolve. The quicker you accept it, the better prepared you will be to embrace it as your guide.

How exactly does suffering set us on the path to finding inner peace?  Or, as the wise Ram Dass puts it: “Why is suffering so often the sandpaper for our awakenings?” 

Aside from building personal gratitude and resolve, being with it (suffering) plants one more firmly in the moment. You can’t run from what is right in front of you!

One’s direct experience of suffering is something of a training ground for learning to be present.  Through living in the now, we see that each moment is brimming with endless potential. For the moment (or ‘now’) is only the ‘past’ constantly becoming the ‘future.’

Through our suffering, we learn that to get caught up in the false reality of either is to miss the ever-flowing and evolving possibilities of right now. This feeling of getting caught up and not being here is one of the great barriers to finding inner peace.

Thankfully, we don’t have to always suffer to become present. Spending time in the wonder of nature is one way to cultivate the same awareness that suffering provides. The natural world is so intricately woven in mystery that one can’t help but encounter the humbling feeling of oneness in the mountains, trees, rivers and rocks.

The quiet setting that the natural world affords us also makes for a distraction-free environment. When we are out in the green oasis, we can’t help but put away our cell phones and live in the present moment.

Animals are our greatest teachers

From my own time spent wandering in the woods, I have come to learn that animals are our greatest teachers in regard to living mindfully. I have had several deer encounters that always leave me scratching my head.

How are these beautiful beings able to prance so elegantly and effortlessly through the woods? There is something deeper at play than the simple fact that they have four legs. The running deer is fully present in the moment. So much so that it transcends the act of running and becomes the running. In becoming the running, the deer enters that space of perfect harmony that Lao Tzu would describe as ‘The Tao’.

Like deer, my own dog Abbie teaches me how to live in the NOW. On our nature walks together, I am always amazed by how thoroughly present she is in the woods. In the past, I have heard comments from people who say she is an ADD dog in the wild.

From the perspective of an outside observer, her behaviour may reflect that. In only a matter of seconds, I have seen her rapidly shift from sniffing plants to chasing sticks and running up mountainsides. However, as my own intuitive senses have sharpened, I have come to regard her behaviour as more than a mere case of Attention Deficit Disorder! Her spirit is so enthralled by nature that she must engage each of her physical senses simultaneously.

In other words, Abbie is present. So present that those same people who comment she is an ADD dog sometimes follow that up with a great compliment: “She is a free and wild spirit.”

In today’s stifling world of formal and rigid interactions, how many of us can truly say that we live with the same spirit of freedom as a dog in nature? We could learn a great deal from our furry brethren. In so doing, we just might find our inner peace.

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