Lately peace has become a priority for me.
When it moved to the top of my list, I can’t say. In the spirit of questioning priorities, (something we’d all benefit from) I’ve been asking myself some basic questions about the often elusive state I call peace. Since, like many of you, I am not practiced in peace as a way of being in the world, I plan to jot down what comes to mind when I think of peace. I want to understand when and how these moments of feeling calm, centered and grounded come over me.
I want to learn how to invite more of this sense of total comfort in to my life. This deeply personal state of being is different for each of us, so it’s important for you to think about how these harmonious feelings happen in your life.
I’m interested in exploring what gets in the way of being more peaceful and what opens the space for more of my peaceful nature to emerge. I’ve made an assumption here which you’ve undoubtedly picked up on – that we have within us – barring trauma or illness – the capacity to be at peace. Mostly it’s a matter of moving away the mental dross that stands between us and peace. It’s tricky – this idea of peace, sorting it out from ideas about happiness. Happiness often seems tied to external events that benchmark our hopes and dreams but are transitory. Peace is a very different place that we carry within but rarely seem to reach.
Peace is Not a Destination
The problem is that peace often feels fleeting. So to find peace we often try to build peace from the outside-in. If we can (and these are classic first-world problems) we look for the perfect peaceful spots, turn off the exterior noise, play soothing music, get a massage or practice meditation to enable peace. These are all wonderful, useful things but unless we build the inner structure for peace, our relief is only temporary.
In her book, Shortcuts to Peace, author, Ashley Davis Bush writes, “Most of us make ourselves literally sick from our responses to life. It’s as if we float on the surface of life, caught in the choppy waves of circumstances. Little do we know that if w allowed ourselves to sink down, there would be calm.” But do we know that? Do we actually believe that below the noise and urgent to-do lists there’s an inner calm that we can not only access but cultivate? Bush points out that we think this “peace place” was caused by a sunset, ocean waves or silence, but these circumstances merely took you home to yourself.
Every time we make an effort to clear away the obstacles, we’re building a greater capacity for peace. From a neuroscience perspective, we’re literally rewiring neural networks that help shift our default networks. While this is slow, practicing peace is not a static process.
You don’t move mountains when you practice; the shifts are often tiny, even imperceptible. The more I practice, the more I realize that peace is a choice. It’s not the absence of conflict or inner chaos or drama, but the choice not to engage in it. I often worried that making the choice would make me apathetic. The opposite is true.
Staying peaceful does not dim my passion or enthusiasm or distance me from things that are hard or challenging. In fact, the view from a more peaceful state creates greater clarity and courage. When I choose a more peaceful state, I’m taking myself off the emotional roller-coaster of reactivity. Take the practical advice from the great Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, “Every day brings a choice to practice peace or practice stress.
It’s your choice. Here are 10 things that help me:
Finally the question becomes how much do you want peace? Imagine organizing your life around peace instead of fitting peace into a time slot amidst the chaos and rush. Michael Singer, author of the wonderful book, The Unthethered Soul, reminds us, “Realize that you are in there. You must first come to realize that you are in there. From deep inside, you are experiencing the world. You are experiencing your physical body, your thoughts and your emotions. You are conscious and you are experiencing what it is like to be human.”
Realize that you are in there. Ultimately peace is an act of self-love, a precious gift that makes everything in life feels “right,” even for a little while.
Thanks for reading,
Louise Altman, Intentional Communication Consultants
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