Wit & Wisdom: Finding our ‘inner sanctuary’

You might have heard of Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor of psychology.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 8:26 am

I listened to a YouTube podcast by him the other day entitled, ‘The Greatest Advice You Will Ever Receive’ and it was excellent, thought provoking. For example, he quotes Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, who said: ‘One man who stops lying can bring down a tyranny’. So I sent the link to a number of my political friends.

Whether or not Peterson’s short presentation is great advice is a subjective view, but in my view worth listening to.

However, the line in the talk that grabbed my attention is where he tells of a young lady who visited a psychiatrist and said: ‘I’m having a really rough time, my life’s not going well’. And then she added: ‘I hope there is something wrong with me.’

Adam Harbinson.

That took the psychiatrist by surprise and he asked her: ‘What on earth do you mean by that?’ and she explained that either there is something wrong with the world - and she’s in it and that’s how it is, and there’s nothing can she do about that, or ‘...perhaps I’m fortunate and the problem lies within me, and if so, maybe there’s something I can do about that. Maybe I could learn and set it right.’

When the order of our lives is shaken, we’re hurt or troubled, misunderstood, isn’t there a tendency to look outside of ourselves for the cause? We’re miserable because a friend has treated us badly, or we’re not appreciated at work, or our family takes us for granted, but the problem with this approach is that if we go down the road of blaming others, we end up seeking to resolve our difficulties by changing others, but we can’t change people. Instead they will become deceitful, pretending to comply for peace sake, or they will be compliant out of fear, and nobody’s happy.

One of the many Buddhist teachings that resonates with the teachings of Christ is the belief that peace and contentment are our natural state, and so to achieve happiness, we need to find what Thomas Kelly calls ‘the amazing inner sanctuary of the soul’. It’s what Jesus had in mind when he said, ‘My peace I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled’.

So in practical terms, when someone hurts us, rather than lash out at them, we pause, and reach down into ourselves to that inner peace, and from a place of rest, we can learn from our hurts and disappointments.