Sep2017: Personal Peace is a Practice

by Brad on September 1, 2017

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” – Anaïs Nin

I love living on Cape Cod. I’m drawn by the milder winters, milder summers, a National Seashore, quaint villages, tiny harbors, an ever-changing landscape, a less-hurried stance on life. Living here year-round creates a challenge, however. Especially in the summer, many other people love being here, too. In addition, “summer” seems to have expanded over the years, back into April now in the spring and well into October in the fall. I recall the quote: “This place would be more popular if it weren’t for all the people.” (Yogi Berra, perhaps, but I’m not sure.)

Although I breathe a sigh of relief when the crowds wane, I want to enjoy “my” summer, too – a sunset drink outdoors at the Pilot House on Cape Cod Canal or the Chart Room on Cataumet harbor; breakfast outside at Pie-in-the-Sky in Woods Hole or The Center Store in Chatham; a walk in the Cedar Swamp in Wellfleet; a picnic dinner at the beach.

The past many years, I’ve noticed how a practice of “choosing happiness” has made a difference for me, so I decided to see how it could play out with my experience of summer on Cape Cod. Here’s how I’ve found personal peace in the midst of noise and busyness … perhaps a way to put ideas from last month’s article into practice. Yes, there’s simple stuff – doing things from 5 – 7 a.m., not buying groceries on Friday or Saturday, going to the beach from 7 – 10 a.m., where I often have the place to myself. But what truly makes a difference is my thinking. First, I choose to laugh more. Perhaps I’m easily amused, but I get a kick out of the number of tourists who complain about crowded streets, long lines, and how bakery counters look like we’d just experienced a cicada infestation. It now all seems rather comical.

Second, I’ve chosen to set the intention to be happy. It’s amazing what can happen from deciding what I really want! I often reflect on lessons from Phil Cousineau in “The Art of Pilgrimage.” Although he intended the book for a “proper pilgrimage,” I’ve found his ideas amazingly helpful in every aspect of my life … a vacation, a difficult conversation, a project, even life itself (the ultimate pilgrimage). He defines pilgrimage as a journey with challenge and purpose, created by finding the sacred along the way. He expands sacred to mean “the ground that stirs our hearts and restores our sense of wonder.” With this idea in mind, I sat outside the other evening by the Cape Cod canal with a glass of wine. Sure, there were others doing the same. But my own experience was one of appreciation – for this life I’ve been given, for the opportunity to create personal peace in the midst of noise, for already living in a place where thousands spend big money to visit, and for the simple beauty of summer. For those two hours, I absorbed wonder; this was the only world I knew. It all came from the single intention, “find the sacred, be open to wonder.” And what I’ve noticed when I [remember to] set this intention is that my perspective on life expands, the sky seems somehow bluer, the breeze wraps me in peace, and I commune silently with those I might otherwise have allowed to piss me off. So I laugh a lot … at this, too. I may not be able to influence the number of cars on the Sagamore Bridge, but can certainly choose how I see and think about their occupants. Perhaps obvious, but it takes far less energy to enjoy my day and my summer than it does to be upset. And the reward? This summer has been the most enjoyable one ever for me.

Exercise: As always, creating quiet time for personal inquiry is the beginning. (Turns out from feedback I get that this is where the practice stops for many, instead of where it starts.) Think deeply about what you truly want in life. You’ll notice this is a very different activity than the more common one of thinking about what you don’t want. Name actions you can take, things 100% in your control, to bring about what you want. Take action; then notice what happens. Note: “they” will still be doing what “they” may do; your own experience transcends all this.

Life lessons from nature: The saguaro cactus of the desert southwest may get only a few inches of rain each year. The Douglas fir of the Northwest’s temperate rain forests may get 10 feet. Curiously, neither one is pissed off. They adapt.

Book of the month: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by the Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu. A beautiful conversation between two remarkable men, known for their love, joy and compassion, despite lives of extreme hardship. Filled with wisdom, emotion and practices to create a life of joy that is independent of circumstances. And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.

Download September 2017 pdf


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Fraser September 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I’m reading the Book of Joy, and it does point to the practice of finding joy within – often by being focused on how you can serve others. In the silent retreat I just attended, mindfulness guru to pro athletes George Mumford shared a compassion practice. I’ll paraphrase it: Just like me, they want to be happy. Just like me, they want to alleviate their suffering. Just like me, they have known sadness, loneliness and despair (and the frustration of waiting in long lines in the summer…). Just like me, they are trying to get their needs met. This is a practice that has helped me, even before I heard it in this form from George. It’s done wonders to alleviate any road rage or crowd aggravation. Now that it’s September, we’ll enjoy our beautiful Cape with fewer and fewer tourists – and greater and greater joy and enjoyment, whether they are here or not.


Nicki September 1, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Beautiful Brad! On so many levels. I was fortunate enough to be a Cape resident for about 27 years. I loved driving to a bridge on Labor Day to wave at the folks that had to leave the beauty, peace and comfort of our beautiful Cape Cod. I did it to thank them, to wish them well and to commiserate. (I still remember crying half the way to Mendon as a child after vacationing at my relative’s home in Meganset each summer.) I felt so fortunate to be a full time resident and to have the luxury of not leaving! Enjoy 🙂 <3


Deborah Dami September 2, 2017 at 5:53 am

I have always travelled through life with the thought that it is easier to be nice to those visiting. Sometimes they inadvertently remind us of what we have and choose not to see. But more than that, I love to travel and go knowing that I am the visitor traveling through and hope that I will be treated in the same manner that I treated them, with joy, kindness, and respect.


Arianna Alexsandra Collins September 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm

I am remembering the song “I love to laugh” from Mary Poppins. Great medicine to keep your heart light even when faced with obstacles.


Robin September 23, 2017 at 4:31 pm

So full of joy to know you have found & embraced your “happy”- I believe it is known as joy….joy is experienced internally, whereas happy is experienced more externally. Love to see you flowing with joyousness!
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy!! Psalm 126:5


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