It’s the human condition: we seek peace and happiness, and want to lessen or eliminate suffering. It is unfortunate for we of the homogeneous homosapiens that suffering brings about learning, and learning, progress. It is part of the cycle of life. Peace, however, is established and can remain in times of suffering.
I can suffer and maintain peace.
Actually, it’s become a way of life for me, given that several life changing events have all happened in the last eleven months. So how do you have peace amidst a realistically dire medical diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, or the changed of life that comes from major financial set backs? What if your inner conflict is “just” the life choices you have made strangling the life out of you? It’s possible, and I see that pretty often in counseling, and even more often in the letters of people to this site.
How can you be in emotional pain and find peace?
How can you be lonely and find peace?
How can you be suffering in your body and have peace?
How can you be brokenhearted, longing for the love of your life and be in peace?
Each question has the same answer. You decide. I have read many books and studied for hundreds of hours for that rather flippant sounding statement, but in the end the answer to life, the universe and everything is just that: free will. Let me explain a little more fully.
1. Unbreak your heart. Emotional pain is the toughest kind of pain because it steals your breath, blinds your sight and aches deeply in your chest. Unbreak your heart by choosing to bring it back to you. I realize that is tough to do, but it is with the same permission that you gave yourself to fall in love. Imagine the heart that you possess as a physical thing, like a hour glass that has sand in both sides. You feel as though you are in the hour glass, and that the constant stream of pain will bury you. Using this analogy, you also have the ability to imagine that you’ve come to stand on the outside of the glass through a door in the side, one that only you have a key to. You’re watching the pain pour like sand from one side to the other. No matter how you turn the glass, the sand moves. Turning the glass is a metaphor for rehashing your loss in your mind, be it romantic, job, friend, or financial. The “what if” scenario only prolongs the agony. It is realistic then to allow the sand to settle, allow it to become still and to dissipate with time. If you’re wiling, you can open the door and begin to give the sand back to the universe, one memory at a time. I practice visualization. I’ve been on the receiving end of that relationship with the one person that seems to enjoy taking a baseball bat to my proverbial heart.
I chose, after the most intense pain I’ve ever known, to practice an old visualization technique.
I come to a still quiet place, listening to theta based music like you find at Inner Peace Music. I will place the link at the end of this writing. After a few minutes of focusing on an image of solitude and peace (for me, it’s my view from my window) I imagine a moment of total happiness in that relationship. No matter if it was a moment, or a smile, something intense or even one of those few jagged awful moments that we had, I gather the memory close to me and imagine that it’s held in my hands. I encase it in a crystalline ball in my mind and then set in into the open air, allowing it to float into the universe, back to God and away from me. In this way, I am giving all of my memories away and erasing that moment from my heart. I’ve found with six months of practice it’s difficult to bring that person to mind, and that there is nothing left to hold on to. All of the intense emotion has been redirected to healthy places, and I set firm boundaries for myself and what my mind is allowed to do. As time goes on, I find that there are fewer memories, and that the deep tie we once had has been severed on my end by reality.
I used my free will to stop the suffering, through finding peace and holding on to it.
2. Live in hope and expectation. Loneliness is a tough thing to live through. I’ve been deeply lonely in the last year, largely because my focus was amiss. Loneliness can be held tightly in a crowd, by some of the most outgoing people that you know. You can be lonely in a family. This type of aliment can only be cured through a chosen peace. Meditate, pray, affirm your space in life, know that you are unique and able. It takes action on your part of your soul to cure true loneliness. First, find your space of peace in music and nature if at all possible. You need to discover what recharges your batteries and do that thing with adequate time to be able to give back into yourself, then society. It’s important that you love what you do (or at least find meaning in it) and that it supports your peace. If you work in a place of deception or strife, it’s hard to maintain internal peace.
“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you’ll have more success than you could possibly have imagined.” Roger Caras
3. Simplify. A life of chaos is not life lent to peace. A life of chaos after some time will encourage mental and spiritual illness in the human soul. Peace come to those who seek it diligently. Simplify your mind with acceptance and forgiveness. Forgive all that is haunting you and allow it back to the Divine. All world religions have this common theme that I learned from Christ: Jesus said “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, but as I give.” He readily acknowledged that hard times were part of the human condition. There is no point in praying for a life without strife – but how you react to it, that is your choice. The peace is there. It is an unopened gift. Pray not for things or situations, but with the context of being open to learning what your pain can teach you. Think of getting upset as a great drain on your energy. How you choose to react is your outcome. Breathe in and out. Cut out unnecessary distractions. Where I once had my cell phone glued to my hand, I find that I hardly know where it is any more. I allow peace into each cell of my person and treasure it there; it’s hard to get me to let it go. I invest in my peace. I find satisfaction in gardening and being with my husband and daughter doing what may not seem exciting to most: family nights, long talks and walks, going for ice cream, being together every minute possible. I diminished what was “bugging me.” I cut a lot out of my schedule, cut back on overcommitment and took some time off. We established a budget on Mint.com and stick to it, so the worry over money is just gone. We’re both equally accountable.
We have cut out unnecessary things, like the 350 channels we weren’t watching, and lowered our phone plans to save over $150 a month on the two things. That decision came along with the one that let me stay home with my daughter and be a full time Mom, a sometimes patient and a recuperating pastor on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Simplify your life. Get down to the basics and just swim in the shallow side for a while. Let your mind and heart rest.
4. Practice Peace. Paul once said that “abased or abound,” he had found the secret of peace.. I know what it is. Paul looked around at his single room in the jail of the Roman empire and smiled in the sunshine. He never saw the walls of his prison or the lack of freedom. What he saw was possibility in fulfilling his calling in life. To him, it didn’t look like much. He walked from place to place counseling churches and spreading the gospel message of some unknown guy, who executed as a criminal in Jerusalem…who wasn’t known for his classic Jewish sentiments. Paul was even worse. For this, he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned and overall, smacked around. How can a guy like this have peace? He was content with knowing that he was special and unique among people, called for a life less ordinary. He had the assurance of loving himself, esteeming himself, while still recognizing that he was prone to failure. I no longer need to prove myself to anyone, belong to no one. I am happy where I am in life, even though it’s not my final destination. I practice peace in gratitude for those amazing moments that I am honored to live. This afternoon, we worked on the back flower beds in our acre backyard, spreading more compost mulch and setting lights, capping the morning off with a roaring fire in the BBQ pit. Yes, it’s 85 outside, and it was the perfect moment to roast hot dogs on sticks and laugh about the number of branches our trees throw on the ground. The fire burned down and I put the chips and condiments away, but the glow of the moment lingers. When my mind threatens my peace, I will close my eyes and remember that moment of laughter with my daughter and husband, when the world was perfect, breathe in and out, and let go of the anxiety.
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” St. Francis de Sales
So these are the long term works that lead to inner peace, but what steps can you take this moment to change the balance of your tilting life?
- Set limits and learn to say no. Cut your list of commitments in half if you’re overwhelmed, or add to it if your a couch potato. Give into someones life. If your limits are being violated by your family, sit down and talk like a mature adult about the situation, and divide more evenly the workload.
- Come to a place of balance. Know your faith and practice it. Let it root deeply inside you. Find a relaxation technique that really works for you. I meditate to theta music, or if I have to much energy, I turn up Linkin Park and dance. I like deep breathing, and making things like lotion and bath salts. What works for you? I take long walks, listen to music, practice yoga and when possible, enjoy the sun.
- No drama. Don’t make mountains out of moments, especially if your prone to be a little manic. How not to? Ask, what does this mean five years from now? Am I reacting in trust or from emotion? Have I really thought this through? I make myself hush for a few minutes before I react in anger. Usually, I have found myself realizing that I’m the drama queen in the situation, and that in five years, I will just regret being an idiot if I continue on my track. I’m actually very capable and can handle most problems as part of this couple without the sky falling in. So, we pray and stay in grace.
- Clean it and toss it. If your desk is clear, so will your mind be. There is a reason that I write in my office, Brian relaxes in his newly redecorated man cave and the baby has her own play living room with every Disney movie known to man. We have our physical space created to balance our persons. Mine is full of books and art. Brian’s is a flat screen tuned to golf, cherry wood and leather couch sorta place with no fluffy stuff. The baby’s living room looks like a collision between a toy store and a art supply place. Just take 5 minutes to clean your workspace and your mind. A non-cluttered, simplified and ordered space around you brings clarity and order to the mind. So don’t stop at the workspace. Declutter, simplify and organize your home and life to live in a more relaxing environment. Keep a box to send to Goodwill on hand ~ mine is under the table in the kitchen ~ and fill it up at least twice a month. Get rid of what is broken, or that you don’t use. A clean house will change your attitude toward life.
- Stay sane. If at all possible, refrain from being one of those people that begin to pin their problems upon a star. Another words, what is wrong with you is actually just life. Perhaps it’s years of theological training coming to bear, but I can tell you that your present problem doesn’t usually have a deep spiritual root. It’s not a demon coming against your family, or a cosmic Karma coming to seek revenge. God gave you a brain, so use it. What are you holding out on and why? What is scaring you? What is it that you can not say that is tying you in knots? If you are over committed, say so. If you’re an addict, an ass, a deeply unhappy person….say it. It’s not a license to hurt yourself or others. Hurting others shows that you’re an immature person in your mental and emotional development. Do yourself a favor: own up. Get the monster out of the closet and out of your life. Know where you are, and where you’re going. Then, do what supports that outcome within those normal boundaries. Another words, no holding up a bank to be a millionaire. Two pieces of advice: other people aren’t living your life. Make your own decisions. And, it’s rare that things are as bad/crazy/hopeless as they seem.
- Learn to accept and let go. There are people and things in my past that still come up now and again, past loves, jobs, friends, even people in my extended family. I have a life that I cherish and love; anything negative from the past, those words, emotions, actions levied both out of and toward me, they are all laid to rest. I accept that it was there, forgive, and it loses it’s power. I am free of all entanglements, all ties. The facts may still be there in your head but they have no power over you, and you no longer desire any part of them. Once looked at in the strange light of day, with a clear head, you will find that your wish vision about that person, place or thing was not telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s more like “I really want that chocolate cake.” Direct your focus to the present moment and to the life at hand.
- Take an internal siesta. I love to read, soak in a deep steaming bath tub, work out, and watch one of my all time favorite movies.
- Multitasking is for losers. My life coach, Tim Shurr, says that multitasking splits your focus and leaves you with mediocre results on all fronts. Do what you do well and stop trying to run the world by being scattered. The truth is that emotional maturity asks you to be present in mind enough to balance your life; that is where you find peace. When you do a thing do just that. Be all in, present, there. A man cannot ride two horses at one time without being part of the circus.
- Make that change or solve a problem. Make an informed decision, fix what is broken, make that life choice. Maybe it is a huge one. Maybe you do need a six month separation from the spouse you cannot connect with and find overwhelming stress in. That beats a divorce. If you’re that unhappy, you are most likely just as toxic to the situation at home as anyone is. Maybe you need to make a decision about that job and go after either training or a new position if this one is toxic to you. Maybe your house isn’t home, and you do need a change. Or maybe you just need to fix the leaking faucet under your kitchen sink that is stressing you out (my current dilemma). Solve your problem and release it, and you will find that your peace will enhance. Pray and meditate. You probably already know what to do, you are just not doing it yet. But the longer you wait the worse the tension inside becomes.
Today is the day for your peace of mind. Chose that you’re going to have it now, this minute, and don’t let it go.
Inner peace music can be found at: http://www.innerpeacemusic.com/prod//highcoherencedeeptheta.html.