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What inner peace actually is

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If you’re someone who reads books or blogs about well-being or spirituality, one idea you’ll run into a lot is that there’s a background of peace or stillness behind everything, and attentive people can “tap into” it or “vibrate” with it or otherwise experience it.

This is enough to trip the BS-alarm of many people, because it suggests some kind of benevolence or personality behind the universe.

But in my experience there’s definitely something to this notion. I do find this “background peace” on a regular basis, and it doesn’t seem to matter much what’s going on in the foreground. When I’m upset or otherwise inattentive I won’t find it (or remember to look for it.) When I do locate it, it’s just as likely to be behind a busy street scene as a quiet park.

I think the “out-there” status of the peace-in-the-background idea is just another example of kookiness-by-association — many people who talk about it might also talk matter-of-factly about healing crystals and communion with trees, and so the skeptically-minded person sees it as more of the same. A lot of useful ideas probably get dismissed this way.

But there’s no reason to take it as a supernatural claim. It’s just a shift in our way of observing, similar to how we can shift between perceiving the plot of a novel and words printed on its pages.

I remember riding in a car somewhere with three friends, and two of them were in a heated argument. I could feel myself getting perturbed by the increasing anger and noise as they carried on. We’ve all had this kind of contagious chaos happen to us, by hearing a violent news story or the radio, or just being around vindictive people. Upset in the world around you tends to stir things up, correspondingly, inside you.

But then something shifted in my perception and I felt this link dissolve. I slipped back into tune with whatever peace or quiet was there before my friends started up, because it seemed to be still there behind the words and noise.

With this anecdote I’m not trying to describe some life-changing moment, just one example of hundreds or more, of touching this background peace. Sometimes it finds me by accident, but more often I find it because it occured to me at that moment to look for it. 

Why would there be peace in the background? Because for anything at all to happen (including anything un-peaceful), there has to be a space for it to happen in, and space is intrinsically devoid of conflict. For example, noise requires silence for it to arise out of and recede into. No matter how much noise happens in the foreground, it couldn’t be noise if there wasn’t silence there already, as its background canvas.

The space in which our lives happen is still present no matter what happens in it. There seems to be peace in this space, and it seems we can notice it sometimes when we look.

And I’m certainly not the first to talk about it. Zen is full of references to the sound of one hand clapping, the distant mountain stream, the silence out of which all sound arises — all stylized pointers to the empty, peaceful background to all experience. Eckhart Tolle (who may or may not trip your BS-alarm) devotes a chapter to it in A New Earth, although I didn’t know what he was talking about the first time I read it. Bible fans cite “The peace that passes all understanding” from Phillippians 4:7, (but naturally they attribute this quality to the power of God, which disqualifies it for consideration by the non-religious crowd.)

In particular, it’s a big theme in meditation circles, both the secular and religious kind, because in meditation it becomes obvious. They sometimes make it sound like something mystical, but regardless of your beliefs, you can’t meditate for long without noticing there is some kind of background, or space, in which all phenomena happen. You can notice it just like you can notice the things in it.

You’ve always been in space

We tend use the word space to refer to places where things aren’t — places where there’s room for another end table or another vehicle or another appointment — but this just attests to our complete preoccupation with the things and forms in our lives, and our near-complete oversight of the space in which they are all happening.

We imagine we have to leave the atmosphere to be properly “in space”, but space is down here too. It’s still present whether there’s something in it or not.

Think of it this way: when a planet flies through space on its way around the sun, the space doesn’t have to “get out of the way” by flowing around the planet, the way air must flow around a jetliner. The planet can just go right through space. Space and matter don’t conflict. They can be in the same place at the same time, and in fact you couldn’t have any planets or jetliners, or air — or for that matter, arguments in cars, or anything else in your life — without space for them to inhabit.

So that means everywhere there is any thing or things, there is space too. Space permeates absolutely everything, including your body, your walls, your city, and every scene you’ve ever found yourself in.

Noticing the presence of space in these scenes (and particularly in your body) is noticing an undercurrent of peace. This makes sense of you think about it. Space is intrinsically peaceful. It has no form, and so it doesn’t get in the way of anything or conflict with anything. It doesn’t crowd anything out or make anything impossible. It can never be harmed by what passes through it, and it never degrades or spoils or gets dirty. It’s dependable, nonjudgmental, and welcoming to everything, and even while there is noise or chaos happening in it, space itself is absolutely quiet.

It might seem like it doesn’t matter that space is always intrinsically peaceful, if its current contents are not. All I can say is that there is a stabilizing effect in noticing this eternal, welcoming quality in your experience. It puts the ever-changing content into perspective, helping you recognize that it’s all relative and fleeting, and also fascinating in that it is happening at all.

Noticing the spaciousness that’s present behind everything gives you an uncanny sense of personal spaciousness, like you suddenly have more options. And you do, because you’re not so easily bound to the play of things and stuff passing through your immediate neighborhood of space.

During the summer, loud motorcycles rip down the street just outside my window. When I’ve lost sight of the background, the silence that’s there behind the noise, these bikes really annoy me. When I’m paying attention to the silence behind the noise, the sonic space the noise appears in, it’s fine. Better than fine. It’s still not my favorite noise, but the way it comes and goes is kind of beautiful.

It’s a hard thing to convey, and it kind of makes you sound like a flake when you try. We’re so conditioned to see the world only in terms of its things and forms, that we’re liable to regard space as meaningless or inconsequential, or a matter of semantics. Some people won’t gain anything useful from this post and that’s inevitable. Some of you will.

It’s just a matter of noticing and appreciating, from time to time, the uninterrupted space that permeates you and everything else around you. I’m sitting at my desk, and I can sense the field of space that extends through my body and the room I’m sitting in, out into the street and its summer crowd, through the buildings behind them, and the park behind the buildings, and the downtown beyond. Walls don’t divide it or hinder it even a bit, and neither does the ground itself, or bad weather, or motorbikes, or shouting or violence, or the planets and stars, and it has always been this way whether I’ve been paying attention or not.


If you’re interested in living more in the present

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the habit of living mindfully and its incredible benefits. I’ve been getting a lot of emails and comments from you on the topic, and it’s been my personal focus for the last year.  (Some related articles: One | Two | Three | Four | Five )

Exploring mindfulness has truly transformed my life and I want to help other people do the same thing. Over the past few months I’ve put together a full-length guide on making mindfulness a lasting habit. I’ll have a lot more details later, but in the mean time you can learn more here.

Photo by Thomas Leuthard

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A gentle detractor June 2, 2014 at 12:51 am

Thank you for another beautiful article. Absolutely Essential Raptitude.

This is something you either see, or don’t. As you say. Not something that can be intellectually sussed out.

Those who, like you, have seen it and felt it, are truly blest.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:42 am

Thanks AGD

Hamlet June 2, 2014 at 12:52 am

Thanks for yet another terrific essay, one which could be considered a contribution to the literature on headlessness. I point back toward my face and all I see is space. No BS-alarm should trip over these words. It’s direct observation and objective: the very basis of empirical science itself, only this is the science of the first person (you and many other of your readers know what I mean).

Kiran June 2, 2014 at 6:19 am


David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:44 am

I’m glad you think so. It’s so tricky to talk about.

Mike June 2, 2014 at 1:06 am

Hi David

Here’s a question: is this space ‘something’ or is it ‘nothing’? Given that planets can pass through it and it isn’t bounded by walls or floors, then it seems to make sense that it is best described as nothing. If it’s literally no-thing, then my mind is blown because that suggests that entire existence utterly depends on non-existence. (E.g. planets need space to move through). However doesn’t this also imply a causal relationship between things and no-thing?

One blogger who explores this in a very thoughtful and eloquent way is Tam Hunt, who writes for the Santa Monica Independent.


Mike June 2, 2014 at 5:45 am

Sorry, I meant to say Tam Hunt writes for the Santa Barbara Independent.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:49 am

Our vocabulary is a limiting factor here. I think calling it either gives us problems, because they both frame it in terms of things. To call it something just isn’t true, and to call it nothing implies that it isn’t real or isn’t consequential. You could describe it as “the capacity for things and phenomena”, but that sounds really abstract. It’s not abstract at all.

Terri Lynn June 3, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Do nothing but leave nothing undone. ;)

Bill June 2, 2014 at 1:31 am

“Space the final frontier”
Actually it’s where everything happens.
How did we come to forget?

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:50 am
Tope Fabusola June 2, 2014 at 2:07 am

When I was opening this in my email inbox, I did not forsee I would be reading one of the best posts I have ever read.

Yeah, I know some people would say ‘duh…,’ but like you said, some won’t gain a thing while some will. I am one of those who gained immensely.

As I read, I could not help but hear, feel, and visualise this space you mentioned. My senses were fully alert throughout.

You know what is funny?

We do this subconsciously a lot – just slipping out of the chaos into the infinite calmness.

Yet, we do not pay notice.

We don’t care.

Just as if space is nothingness.

Thanks a lot for this post, David.

God bless you.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:57 am

I’m so glad this was meaningful to you. It’s bizarre that we can sense it, even though it doesn’t supply any data to our five senses. It makes sense that we can sense space, I just don’t really understand the mechanics of it.

Anne June 2, 2014 at 2:25 am

This is such a helpful article, putting into words something that I “know” but have never tried to express like this. I think that having the image of the space behind all the noise and action will help me to go there more easily. May even help with meditation, which so far eludes me! Thankyou.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 8:59 am

I find it’s helpful in meditation to get a sense of the space where the body is, and more specifically where the breath is. But you can also get a sense of a much larger space — the room or bigger. It’s a hard thing to describe which makes it a good thing to experiment with.

Reece Pater June 2, 2014 at 2:52 am

What a fantastic article on the ‘no-thing’ that we have all emerged from. Such a gorgeous awareness comes from here. Thank you for a great perspective. It took me such a long time after reading Eckhart Tolle’s work to feel what he is speaking about.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:03 am
Sandra Pawula June 2, 2014 at 3:55 am

Very well articulated, David. I so agree that this sense of openness, spaciousness, and some would call it emptiness pervades everything. I don’t automatically equate that to peace though. As anything can arise in the space from peace to movement of the mind. I think the key is tuning into the awareness you describe. Simply being aware of all that occurs with bare awareness and letting go of after thoughts. The mind does settle then and we will experience more peace and freedom. But, we shouldn’t get stuck in or cling to peace as it’s a temporary state of affairs. That could be an obstacle to realizing our true awareness.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:11 am

I see what you’re saying, and I’ll try to clarify. Anything can arise in the space, and those things may not be peaceful, but the space can’t be anything but peaceful, because it has no properties which can conflict with itself or anything else. There is always a lot happening in the foreground, and it’s not necessarily peaceful. I’m not suggesting that it makes sense to expect an experience of peace, only that there is a space within which all phenomena happen, that this space is itself devoid of conflict and does not have varying states, and that we can sometimes sense this space and its intrinsic peace, regardless of the phenomena it contains.

Kerri June 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

love this explanation David. Really gave me a deeper and clearer of that “space.” And just when I so so needed it. I like what you said about there being nothing there for any conflict. It so relates with this idea that I got last night, a greater understanding of anyway, unity as applied to myself (or anyone) and the raging internal battles and conflicts. I may finally be beginning to understand how this conflict causes suffering and also external conflict. I thought, if I was united, meaning the warring factions of my overused, abused, abusive mind were to integrate or harmonize instead of resisting the war would stop or at least settle down. I could feel like one whole person instead of like 3 and feeling like I will snap or self destruct or something. Perhaps that harmony of spirit, mind and body IS being in that “space” of infinite possibility and potential, peace of mind. Which I so deperately want but find myself for some F***ing reason still doing things that contradict that and then beating myself up for it KNOWING it does not support the goal of peace of mind. That is the state of mind, that harmony, clarity that allows for creativity, newness, expression of Self. I know and want this but I think I’m afraid of the unknown and change, even though I really need it; I’m fearful and confused, depressed anyway!! However it’s getting more and more difficult to CONSCIOUSLY do things not in support of my journey to true Self and I guess peace of mind! It is very intense at times. Part of me is so stubborn and resistant, lacking in faith and trust almost like an angry indignant foot stomping kicking and screaming really pissed off child. I feel that this has cycled through my life especially as an adult and I have come to a final standoff. Like am I in or out that is kind of what it feels like. Anyway sorry if I kinda went off topic there but I’m really grateful for your post today and wanted to tell how it related to me just when I needed this explanation you gave. You are right it’s very limiting to try to convey in language these kinds of things but I’m grateful to finally find some people who get it, or at least somewhat. Sometimes I need to remind myself that you cannot force understanding or answers, and that being frustrated, afraid, discouraged, depressed, self-deprecating and judging only keeps peace out of reach. Perfect example of how ruminating on what you don’t want just keeps you focused and stuck on precisely that. I’d like to believe I have this choice, and more importantly the courage to make it. Choose life. Thanks so much again David. Your courage and honesty are helping a lot of people who discover they are not alone, different and this in itself can alleviate the pain or suffering whatever, This is real life this stuff but not exactly what’s taught at school or by anyone else as a kid.

David Cain June 6, 2014 at 9:06 am

Thanks Kerri. I have the same problem — knowing what’s good for me yet often doing something else. I think you have hit on something important when you talk about the problem with ruminating on what you don’t want. I have a terrible habit of thinking of what I don’t want by default, and every time I get on a roll of thinking about what I want, things get good pretty fast.

Andy June 2, 2014 at 4:11 am

This sounds a lot like Alan Watts – which is a good thing.

Sebastian June 2, 2014 at 4:24 am

Yes! Yes! Another formidable read from you, David! Douglas Harding would hug you for this, as I also feel like doing, in this space here. :)

Rick Boys June 2, 2014 at 4:40 am

Good essay David. Lynne McTaggart writes of this in “The Bond”. She described how people in the East see a photograph (taking in all the details surrounding the person on the photo) versus how Westerners see it (focus is mainly on the person in the picture). The West has largely lost the ability to see the larger scene of life because of our emphasis on the importance of the individual. The East traditionally sees a more complete, more whole view (very generally speaking). We have to “re-learn” this way of seeing through mindfulness and meditation.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:13 am

That’s interesting. I know my photography took a huge step up when I began considering the entire frame of the photo (rather than just the subject.) “Negative space,” as they call it, is definitely something we can perceive even if we’re not conscious of what is making the difference.

But I’m not exactly talking about negative space, because that only refers to the part of the photo without much feature, which lends significance to the subject. I’m more talking about noticing the fact that there is a photo at all, that there is room for it to exist. Trying not to sound mystical is hard :)

Susurrus June 2, 2014 at 4:54 am

Thanks for the words and the space between.

Eddieographer June 2, 2014 at 5:25 am

Great post again.

I have heard this “space” concept many times, I never disagreed with it (called bs) BUT it never resonated with me because I have never been able to conceptualize it UNTIL this post.

Now its clear to me.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

That makes me happy. I had no idea whether this would make much sense to other people ;)

jilly June 2, 2014 at 5:44 am

Stroke of genius – a message of such clarity and simplicity that I’ll go back to it again and again.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

I hope you do come back to it. This is the kind of topic that looks different if you reread it after a while away from it.

Vishal June 2, 2014 at 6:59 am

Very beautifully written, David.
Being present to the moment and acceptance are two spiritual pillars for happiness and peace. It is one of my favorite topics as well.

Here is my take on it… http://gameligit.com/lasting-happiness-fresh-perspective/

Jana June 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

In art it is called ‘negative space’. Thank you for the positive take on the space that contains us.

David Cain June 2, 2014 at 9:20 am

I want to clarify something about the artistic term “negative space,” because it’s not really what I’m talking about here. Negative space refers to the area where the subject is not, so it necessarily excludes the space where the subject is visible. The space I’m referring to is not bounded by things. It exists both inside and outside of them.

Negative space is an important concept because it exposes us to the reality that things are not all we perceive, I just want to make it clear that space isn’t only what’s outside of things.

Terrance Moran June 2, 2014 at 9:43 am

Chalmer Brothers in his book “Pursuit of Happiness” touches on the concept of the observer. The concept is that there’s a space/ place from which we all access but forget about is that we are able to observe our words, actions, thoughts. And so this begs the question who is observing, from where does this happen? And the concept is that the observer in all of us is the quiet place, the peaceful place/ space from where we can divorce ourselves from the thoughts and noise that swirls around us. It is always present and accessible.

Jane June 2, 2014 at 9:57 am

The discussion about space reminded me of this poem by former US Poet Laureate, Mark Strand:


RobT June 2, 2014 at 10:23 am

Thank you. I love to “collect” poetry. Poetry is the space where words let go of being semantic. Space, as David describes, “sounds” like love.

David Cain June 3, 2014 at 9:13 am

Loved that. Thank you Jane.

mildred ayala June 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

Personally when any of my five senses are interrupted by someone else’s chaos, peace is not possible no matter how much I try to ignore. Reminding myself it won’t always be like this and Removing myself are the paths to peace.

Lee June 2, 2014 at 10:40 am

Thank you, David, this post brought me back to that … space.

Damia June 2, 2014 at 10:41 am

Good Morning David!!!!

Another post that spoke to me. I did a blog entitled The Space Between My Thoughts where I discuss my venture into meditation and I noticed (I have a horrible habit with being inconsistent) that I was able to bring that quietness into somewhat stressful situations at times. This is a reminder that I need to get back to it.

steve mays June 2, 2014 at 10:56 am

Every book I’ve read about Zen and Buddhism have touched on emptiness, the void. None did so well in explaining it as your post.

If it hasn’t happened yet, I predict it one day will. Strangers will show up on your doorstep, asking for “directions.” I’ll probably want a drink of water, too.

Nick Hilden June 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

Great read. Just for fun, here’s my old band Objects in Space: https://www.facebook.com/objectsinspaceband

This topic was a pretty central theme to our music, as the name suggests.

Randy Hendrix June 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Wow! Got to come out of my blog-commenting silence for this one…beyond brilliance, David!

“The space in which our lives happen is still present no matter what happens in it. There seems to be peace in this space, and it seems we can notice it sometimes when we look”. Does it get any more profound than that? I think not…might get it put on a coffee mug.

“It puts the ever-changing content into perspective, helping you recognize that it’s all relative and fleeting, and also fascinating in that it is happening at all”. I think my brain may burst right now.

Keeping these things in mind, should there be anything we can’t get past no matter how trying? (Although, I agree the loud motorcycles are a true test)

One of your best articles ever!

David Cain June 3, 2014 at 9:10 am

Thanks Randy. I’m glad it speaks to you. Put it on your mug so you don’t forget :)

JN2 June 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Hi Randy, I read your post just as the neighbour rode by on his 2-stroke (noisy!) motorcycle. Yes, “loving what is” can be a true test! However, as a teenager I also rode noisy 2-stroke motorcycles. Maybe it’s karma :)

Cascade June 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

You always articulate these generally unconventional perspectives with so much clarity, that they don’t feel so warped or eccentric when reading them, it just feels like you’ve rediscovered something you’ve always known and understood.

Ragnar June 3, 2014 at 8:55 am

In three words you just managed to evaporate all my worry. “Kookiness-by-association” is the funniest, most on-point thing I have read in days. I don’t mind motorcycles or bikers, but motorcycles that are(illegally) modified to make as much noise as possible are hard to tolerate even in the best of moods.

I find this background peace much more often when I’m travelling, or taking pictures. Like seeing the buildings stand still in the midst of a milling street.. things like that, observations like that are easier to make when you’re looking for good pictures.

David Cain June 3, 2014 at 9:09 am

Fighting “kookiness-by-association” is a major motive of mine with this blog. There are so many great ideas that are dismissed because they hang out with the wrong crowd (so to speak.)

It is conspicuously easier to do this when traveling. I guess it’s because the scenery is so different, we rely less on preconceptions and more on present-moment awareness to tell us what’s going on.

Free To Pursue June 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

The power of a message is measured by whether the reader feels it as much as hears it. This was a powerful message.

BRUNO CORIOLANO June 3, 2014 at 12:56 pm

What’s the meaning of RAPTITUDE?

Tobi June 4, 2014 at 6:56 am

It’s the works Raptor and Attitude. Meaning keep a cool attitude.

BRUNO CORIOLANO June 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Thank you.

David Cain June 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

Hahahaha! I’m not sure if you’re joking, but I feel I should clarify here because unfortunately it’s not as awesome as that. Raptitude is a made-up word derived from “rapt” or “rapture” and “aptitude”. It’s supposed to imply that happiness and equanimity are a set of skills, not a set of circumstances like we normally believe. But now I wish it had something to do with dinosaurs.

Gee June 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

A wonderful post David. I have been reading Raptitude for a long time. After a few years of “getting” the idea of being in the moment I have now come to a stage when I catch myself when I get sucked into the automatic reactions of whatever is happening around. I think just like a craft, this being aware of what I am doing in a particular moment, is also a skill that one can become better at. However, its the ‘bigger issues’ of life, something you want very much and are waiting to have, something you fear to lose, something that is going to take time to happen, such things where you need to put your head down and wait, it is these long term things in life that need to be tamed. I guess here too one needs to be in the present moment, and yet it is the hardest thing I have faced. Turning ones back on worry, on the background anxiety seems really difficult.

Thank you for this post. It made me re-think, brought me back to an even-keel.

Drossi June 3, 2014 at 10:05 pm

As day becomes night,
Our mind will play its tricks.
Generating noise, sound an fury.

Catch it or not…
The tree will make its sound.

Ton Bil June 4, 2014 at 8:50 am

Where I rent a house, motor cyclists from all over the country come to drive on nice and sunny days. Those happen to be the days I like to spend in my garden, or outside at least. You have the experience, David. What would you suggest, now that I’m looking for a house to buy? I consider buying one close to such motor roads (and better learn doing the “space-meditation” that you write about), and waiting till there is one for sale that is more or totally isolated from motor cycle noise. The latter category is much harder to come by and more expensive (much less supply: most houses are built near to roads, ofcourse, and I live in a mountaineous region, where most houses and roads are in the valleys), or might not have internet access which allows me to read your blog…

Joe Tunon June 4, 2014 at 9:42 am

It makes me smile to read how you manage to sum up so many of my experiences on this earth for 50 years.

My own BS-alarm goes off when I see someone assume OR write off the supernatural a priori. It is that inexplicable peace (even in the midst of suffering) that tells me there is something even in the nothingness, and it makes me shake my head when I see someone write off any explanation that implies the supernatural as a mere primitive projection, a big Fairy in the Sky, or the like. Believers and non-believers alike can be so close-minded to what they can experience for themselves if they would just get themselves out of the way.

My own existential anxiety came to a very welcomed end the day I shut myself up and allowed the truth to speak for itself, even if it meant losing my religion. What I didn’t expect was for that nothingness to be so “solid”, so peaceful. To say hello.

“My heart told me once before to find my dream and search no more” – Harry Connick, Jr.

David Cain June 6, 2014 at 9:00 am

> My own BS-alarm goes off when I see someone assume OR write off the supernatural a priori.

That’s a good point. Both are dismissive. And something we might regard as supernatural could just be an aspect of what will one day be understood as a natural phenomenon.

Jeff June 5, 2014 at 9:41 pm

This was absolutely great! I love your work! Thank you!

David Cain June 6, 2014 at 9:06 am

Thanks Jeff!

Kenneth June 6, 2014 at 7:52 am

David, you are hitting a brick wall in many of your posts. You misunderstand your place in the Universe. The very people you should be listening to, you dismiss. One day the light may go on – I’ll enjoy your accounting of it (because you are a great writer and thinker).

This is a very strange Universe. We should not be here at all, there should be only a black, dark void, no consciousness, and not even the space you so elegantly wrote about. The fact that we are here, and the Universe exists, is the key issue.

One consciousness dreamed the Universe. Many call it God, I (along with Abraham and Seth) call it All that Is. The thing is, we are all part of this one consciousness, we cannot be separated from this Source energy. There is only one of Us, as Neale Donald Walsch writes. In other words, we are all God in human form, enjoying the experience of a lifetime, adding immeasurably to All that Is.

Law of Attraction is the basis of our lives. We attract what we think about and dwell upon.

I’ve seen others poo poo these thoughts – Dr. Wayne Dyer comes to mind – but he “got it” as he matured.

David Cain June 6, 2014 at 9:12 am

I agree with some of what you say here, but I don’t share the religious conviction. There are a lot of ways to interpret our existence, and given how limited our perspective is, a conviction to one interpretation doesn’t seem very wise to me.

Ryan Biddulph June 7, 2014 at 2:40 am

Love it David. Every thing is no-thing ;) Space pervades all the Universe, and remember the illusory nature of things can bring us peace. Thanks!

Ukadike Kelechi June 8, 2014 at 7:56 am

Where are the people that didn’t take anything from this post? Everybody here seems to just say, “great post. I love it. Thanks”.Well, I think the post is just fair.The author claims to know what inner peace “actually” is, but he says little. I think there is so much to inner peace, but David’s idea that it is abstract is misleading. I also think that, with the way the author has explained inner peace, we get the idea that it is something that is not within our control all the time. I quite appreciate the effort of the author to explain the issue, but I also believe that a better job could have been done.

Mark Evans June 9, 2014 at 5:38 am

Hi David,
I’ve discovered that I can use a trigger word when things get chaotic or stressful that switches me over into the state of just being in the ‘space’ pretty quickly and easily. I’ve learned to just say to myself “disengage” and step out of the situation and into the cozy (and it is very cozy and comfortable) state of just observing and noticing how it feels in my skin at the time.
May be a useful tip.

George2 June 14, 2014 at 8:44 am

Great reading.

For a guided exploration of the space within and around you, the Open Focus technique of Les Fehmi is pretty useful also:

The Open-Focus Brain is the first book, but actually the subsequent book, Dissolving Pain has a better description and exercises.

They lead you through ‘finding the space between…’ different body parts, etc. Eventually though, what you find you are being led towards is the fact that you can actually ‘stretch your awareness’ out into the space around you, infinitely, including the space you occupy. Then, like the Zen saying, you become “the ocean” rather than “the glass of water”. A disturbance that dominates a glass of water is nothing to the scale of the ocean.

Douglas Harding (mentioned by others) kind of points to the same idea, although I find that the ‘looking inward’ of that doesn’t always flip around to the sense of ‘vast capacity’ that it is meant to lead towards.

When it works for me, I find it’s more like a “tuning in”: the background is always there, and the “content” is like waves on top. You can choose to ‘be the space’ or ‘be the content’, but it’s not something you do exactly, through action; it’s more like a flip of perspective. Like in those 3-d drawings.

George2 June 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

Another idea on this:

To help myself ‘stay grounded’ and away of my head area (where my thoughts seem to be located), I have stared deliberately including the sensation of my feet on the ground into my experience, and/or the sensation of my lower abdomen. That way I can never get completely swallowed up by my thinking, or indeed any passing thing that grabs my attention, be it internal or external.

Then, after reading this article, I understood that instead of gripping onto those sensations, I could ‘grip onto’ the experience of the space around me. With practice, this keeps you really in the present moment. The step from ‘getting a grip on yourself’ to ‘getting a grip on your life’.

Of course, one drifts occasionally…

Tennet June 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Great read, David. Very clear, very honest.

One thing struck me early on. When you said “many people who talk about it might also talk matter-of-factly about healing crystals and communion with trees, and so the skeptically-minded person sees it as more of the same.” it instantly reminded me of a meme I saw recently, in which Sam Harris, author of ‘The End of Faith’, a neuroscientist and one of the world’s foremost skeptical voices is quoted as saying:

“I have visited both extremes on the psychedelic continuum… These chemicals disclose layers of beauty that art is powerless to capture and for which the beauty of Nature herself is a mere simulacrum. It is one thing to be awestruck by the sight of a giant redwood and to be amazed at the details of its history and underlying biology. It is quite another to spend an apparent eternity in egoless communion with it.”

I know this is somewhat of a non sequitur but I just thought I’d share it, as I love that such a hippie-ish statement came out of one of the world’s most devoted atheists. Don’t be so quick to discount the crystals and the trees, brother. ;)

Ghendi June 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

Nice article! Really like how you describe finding peace by going beyond the the things us around into the space that’s everywhere.
There is space and there is time. And here we are going beyond them :)
If you mentioned Eckhart Tolle I will mention Rudolf Steiner since I found something similar regarding peace (although it’s much more than that) by going beyond the past and the future and even beyond now – going into the eternal. “Then”, in eternal, is where many things makes sense and where peace can be found.

Goran June 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Sounds like you’ve described space-time… I like to think of it as the canvas of reality.

Juanita Grande July 1, 2014 at 7:24 am

Delicious AND so very nutritious. (And my soul’s been very nibbley for a while now, too.)

Nothing to add to all the already wonderful comments except for again, a thank you, David, for putting this out there and so eloquently, too.


: J

Gary16 July 10, 2014 at 6:56 am

Thoughtful writing although as I lie here trying to imagine the peace of the space around me or some peace in the space I inhabit I feel like a shivering fireball, the pulsing pressure and radiant energy in my head and ears, I feel more akin to an exploding star than to anything calm or cool that encompasses or surrounds or allows or backgrounds. So I don’t feel the calm peace of space but can I detect a trace of it? Not tonight. My head is like a burning log in space, immolating in a funeral pyre, so dominant it takes all my attention and peace cannot be detected – or not tonight, tomorrow maybe. I like the article. I shall read more. I would probably not have noticed how on fire I am if I had not listened carefully.

Rebekah July 23, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I’m delighted to find your site. I saw your latest post on my FB feed and loved it, so I decided to read more. When I first read about finding background peace in Tolle’s book, I couldn’t grasp it. But then I got it, and realized I’d been practicing this ‘skill’, (if it can be called a skill) without realizing that’s what it was. I tried to explain it once in an article I wrote about ‘presence’ and referred to it as discovering the silence ‘underneath’ the sounds. I like how you connect it to space. The space we inhabit at any given moment has this peace. It’s remembering to tap into it! When I do, it changes how I think. Great article and I’ll be back to read more. Finding your site is like finding a beautiful jewel, thanks!

David Cain July 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thanks Rebekah. It is hard to explain, and this was my best stab at it. I’m glad it made sense to you.

Lisa July 28, 2014 at 5:56 am

I found your blog last night while I was reading on my iPad before bed. It’s the next morning and I can’t stop drinking all your articles in. :)

I’ve been listening to the Power of Now on CD for about 2 months now and a lot of what you write is helping me understand things on a more practical level, which I really, really appreciate. Thank you David!!

Kelly August 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm


Very well said, thank you.

It may be unsavoury for me to pipe in with my humble (and perhaps inaccurate) opinion here but I tried not to comment and it just made the back of my brain itchy.

I like very much what you have written and I have found it useful to apply this concept internally as well.

I believe that the space you refer to also extends inwardly and just as we as people move about in space so do our thoughts and our emotions. That there is a body in between is of no consequence because as you so beautifully concluded “space and matter don’t conflict.”

By ever so gently turning our attention to the space around our thoughts: “it puts the ever-changing content into perspective, helping you recognize that it’s all relative and fleeting, and also fascinating in that it is happening at all”. This seems to bring about enormous clarity and calm in the mind and the ability to exist psychologically in the universe sans the interruption of petty, nonsensical or in some cases, obsessive thought.

What we are speaking about is of course, no original or new concept but it IS relevant given its importance. The resilience of this concept (and its extension into so many religious, mystic and philosophical forms) could perhaps be a testament to the very truth of it. So many of us (through no fault of our own) move about in the world with a lack of awareness and minds that are infrequently calm and still, in their own being. If each of us can strip back our own conditioning and operate in relation to space, we may have a chance of peace in our hearts and minds. It is when we are attentive to the space, not the chatter in it, that we are truly living. When we take this out into the world, it will undoubtedly influence some of the people we come across.

Sebastian Aiden Daniels September 1, 2014 at 11:03 am

I agree that inner peace is something we all can feel and that it isn’t related to crystal healing or w.e other “weird” thing. I find it most when I look at the stars at night and just breathe and realize how miniscule of a piece of the universe I am and at the same time I still have a big ripple effect on life around me. Finding this peace frequently can positively affect your mood.

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